Plug In or Power Down: Educational Technology Usage by K-12 ELL Teachers during COVID-19

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Brief Abstract

This presentation will highlight results of the authors’ quantitative study that investigated how K-12 teachers of English Language Learners (ELLs) incorporated educational technology tools in their remote classrooms, and the access issues they encountered, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings can inform instructional decisions to better leverage modern technologies and improve learning outcomes in the ELL classroom.


Lergia Olivo is an Instructional Design Manager at FIU Online, managing a team of instructional design professionals and collaborating with online and hybrid FIU faculty. Together, the team works to create and support high-quality, engaging courses that meet rigorous quality standards and ensure the educational success of FIU's diverse population of student learners. Lergia is also QM-certified peer reviewer and a 2019 alumna of OLC's Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning (IELOL). Lergia has been a part of the FIU Online team since December 2011, but a Golden Panther since 2006, holding a Bachelor of Arts in English, and a Master of Arts in Linguistics. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Teaching and Learning from FIU's School of Education and Human Development. Additionally, Lergia serves as an adjunct instructor for FIU's Honors College and English Language Institute.
Kaitlin Alexander is a global teacher for ESL students pursuing American high school worldwide. She also works as a program coach with the non-profit Springboard Collaborative, supporting school teams as they implement a virtual family literacy program with their communities. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Florida State University and a Master of Arts in Reading Education. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Teaching and Learning from FIU's School of Education and Human Development.

Extended Abstract

Background and Overview

The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people around the world live their lives; in fact, every facet of everyday life has been disrupted, including education. Administrators, teachers, and students have all had to adjust to a “brave new world” of remote learning, almost overnight. While remote learning options were already prolific, the abrupt shift into this method of instruction and the instant closures of the traditional classroom models across the world was unprecedented. Expectations for students and teachers shifted as they attempt to match traditional learning experiences more closely with the digital life outside the classroom. The fact that there is little consistency in the integration of technology in public schools has probably deepened the crisis of converting traditional schools to online schools in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

This study explored how teachers faced and overcame these unique challenges by using educational technology, as they struggled to meet their expectations when their delivery mode is switched to remote teaching. We sought to identify what proportion of ELL educators used educational technologies, outside of learning management systems, to assist their students in meeting their learning goals during remote teaching brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. For our purposes, educational technologies include software, apps and programs created for use in the realm of education. There are hundreds of options available for teachers, and our study asked teachers which they used and whether they found these learning tools effective in improving outcomes for ELLs when teaching remotely.

We also explored the prominent issue of the “digital divide,” or inequitable technology access for students, which has been exacerbated with mandatory remote learning. Did teachers report technology access issues with English language learners? Did students or teachers struggle to learn to use technology in order to adapt to remote instruction? We asked teachers what barriers they encountered when educating English language learners remotely during the pandemic’s school closures. From integrating certain educational technologies into widely used learning management systems, to improving teacher training, we hope the results of this study can assist ELL teachers as they learn how to best incorporate educational technology into the curriculum of their ELL classrooms, during the current COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

Who Will Benefit

This session should appeal to anyone involved in the creation, promotion, or implementation of ELL curriculum in remote and/or online learning environments. The authors will share the steps they took to investigate the issue, provide data analysis and lessons learned, and promote a discussion of issues surrounding what educational technology tools work best for ELL remote and/or online classrooms. With these session outcomes in mind, the presentation should appeal to a broad audience and be of particular interest to K-12 teachers and administrators, education researchers, education