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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Supporting ESL learners’ language and content development in a digital environment Moore, Robert Richmond


The research question asked, can a Knowledge Framework based model of computer environments support English Second Language students in using Internet information to develop content knowledge and cognitive academic language skills? In the rapidly expanding digital world, students are able to locate and access vast amounts of information. The challenge to teachers and students is to select, organize and make productive use of this information. The research investigated student writing composed in a customized computer writing environment which included windows for instruction, graphics, text and Internet information designed to help students develop their academic language skills and consolidate their content knowledge. Analysis of student work explored how the students had used the resource windows to create their reports and graphics and how their writing evidenced "academic discourse'. Analysis traced the selection and transformation of information gathered from the Internet through the students' notes and graphics to their final product. The analysis considered the degree to which the knowledge structures inherent in the. information resources and graphic tasks were represented in the students' written samples. The study was based on an examination of regular school work undertaken by a group of ten elementary second year ESL students in a sheltered class. Students worked under the supervision of the teacher/librarian, classroom teacher and computer support teacher on a collaboratively developed Marine Mammals unit. Although the implications of this research are limited by the small number of students involved, the selection of a conventional content theme and the general issues of support for ESL students in developing language and content skills, as well as appropriate strategies for the educational use of Internet information expand the application of the results. The analysis of student work showed that ESL students were able to use the digital environment to successfully identify, record, consider and present collaboratively researched Internet content. In addition to teacher support and instruction, elements of the task design identified as most critical to students' content and language learning included the use of knowledge structure appropriate key visual tasks connected to notetaking and language supports.

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