Digital Tools and Adaptive Technology


Zaid Shoorbaje asserts that adaptive learning tools can be effective for ELLs (English Language Leaners) as well as for students with disabilities. In Adaptive learning can help students learn English, but few schools are using it (6 Dec. 2017), he cites a study by McGraw-Hill that shows that while teachers understand this, many schools are not implementing it.

In Making Digital Communications Accessible (11 Dec. 2017), published on Edutopia, Anne Obrien offers support for Shoobaje’s assertion of the effectiveness of accessible and adaptive learning tools and provides practical tips for using digital tools creatively in the classroom. While useful for all learners, they are particularly useful for ELLs and students with disabilities.

Brian Fleming makes a case for using adaptive technology in higher education in his article, Adaptive Learning Technology: What It Is, Why It Matters (1 Apr. 2014). He asserts that this type of technology can be useful for all students, but especially in remedial classes.

Zach Posner, in What is adaptive learning anyway? (5 Jan. 2017), explains it as giving “every learner their own personalized course, made specifically for their strengths, weaknesses, goals, and engagement patterns…. a course that [adapts] in real-time to their activity and [adjusts] moment by moment to their performance and interest level.”

Digital Storytelling and Authenticity

Whether creating lessons for social studies or science, designing activities for developing library skills or planning lessons with ELLs (English Language Learners) in mind, authenticity and relevance are key to effective learning. The purpose of authenticity and relevance in learning is that learners are engaging in “real world activities which apply directly to a student’s experience” (Finch & Jefferson. 2013).

According to Ozverir, Vanci and Herrington (2017), “[a]uthentic learning is an instructional approach that provides learners with opportunities to develop knowledge ‘embedded in the social and physical context within which it will be used’ (Herrington et al., 2010, p. 15)” (p. 262).

With this in mind, Stansbury presents her case for using digital storytelling to provide authentic opportunities for ELLs to use English in relevant and meaningful communication in Video of the Week: Amplify Your ELLs’ Voices with Digital Storytelling. Although aimed at teachers working with ELLs, the idea of building on learners’ strengths through digital tools is relevant to any subject area. Be sure to click on the resources link.


Finch. J. & Jefferson, R. (2013). Designing authentic learning tasks for online library instructionThe Journal of Academic Librarianship, 39 (2), 181-188.

Ozverir, I., Osam, U. V., & Herrington, J. (2017). Investigating the effects of authentic activities on foreign language learning: A design-based research approach. Educational Technology & Society, 20 (4), 261–274.

Stansbury, M. (2018). Video of the Week: Amplify your ELLs’ voices with digital storytellingeSchool News.

TCC Worldwide Online Conference 2018: Call for Proposals

By Bert Kimura

The theme for the 23rd Annual TCC Worldwide Online Conference, April 17-19, 2018, is “Navigating the Digital Landscape.” Participation in this event is entirely online. All sessions are delivered online in real-time. Sessions are recorded for later viewing.

Please consider submitting a proposal for a paper or general session related to all aspects of learning, design, and technology, including but not limited to e-learning, online learning communities, collaborative learning, social media, mobile learning, emerging technologies, international education, and professional development.

The proposal submission deadline is December 15, 2017. The submission form is available at

For a list of suggested topics and more information, see Call for Proposals.

TCC Hawaii, LearningTimes, & the Learning Design and Technology Department, College of Education, UH-Manoa collaborate to produce this event. Numerous volunteer faculty and staff worldwide provide additional support.

Contact: Bert Kimura ( or Curtis Ho (

Hashtag: #tcc23rd

To subscribe to the TCCOHANA-L mailing list, see:


St. George’s University MOOC Has 60% Completion Rate

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

Completion rates for MOOCs are notoriously poor, with a median rate of 12.6%. But there are exceptions. Dr. Satesh Bidaisee’s MOOC, One Health, One Medicine, had a 60% completion rate. Bidaisee is a professor at St. George’s University, Grenada, West Indies. The following is a transcript of our interview from Aug. 7 through Oct. 3, 2017.

ETC: What made you decide to offer this course as a MOOC?

Bidaisee: Chancellor Charles Modica’s vision is to provide access to an SGU education to as many students as possible. Chancellor Modica is the founder of St. George’s University and has spent his life working towards educating a global community of students and alumni. The advent of online technology provides another avenue for SGU to provide educational access to a wider audience.

I am also passionate towards education. A background as a survivor of a motor vehicle accident, a ruptured aneurysm, and testicular cancer have provided sufficient experience to motivate me to contribute to the learning development of others as a purpose in life.

ETC: One of your course objectives is “To demonstrate effective oral skills for communicating with different audiences in the context of human, animal and environmental health.” How do students “demonstrate oral skills”?

Bidaisee: Through live seminar sessions, recorded presentations.

ETC: Can you give us an example?

Bidaisee: Students prepared, presented and recorded oral presentations, which were shared with the course community and peer assessed by colleagues. Diseases such as Lyme Diseases, West Nile Virus, Ebola, etc. were discussed in the context of having applications for human health, animal health and environmental considerations.   Continue reading

Bring the World to Your Classroom: Videoconferencing

By Bryan A. Upshaw

My worst grade in high school was in Spanish I. Our teacher was tough, and the pace was blistering. I struggled to learn the vocab, grammar, and odd verb conjugation charts. I found the culture interesting, but the rest of the class was just frustrating and seemingly pointless to my future. Guess what subject I mainly teach now? That’s right – Spanish. What turned my worst grade and most frustrating class into my career?

Getting to see the world outside my little East Tennessee community and building relationships with people who at first seemed so different from me changed the way I saw the world. I was inspired to travel abroad, learn a language, join a local Hispanic church, and live with an undocumented family my last semester of college. Those relationships and experiences made language learning fun and transformed pointless grammar exercises into real-world challenges that unlocked boundaries that separated people.

How can I show them the world when we can’t leave our classroom?

I share my stories with my students and perhaps it inspires some to consider traveling one day, but how can I motivate students right now? How can I show them the world when we can’t leave our classroom? In my opinion, one of the most underused tools in education is videoconferencing. While expensive systems with fancy cameras and monitors can make it seamless, most teachers already have the resources to videoconference. If they have a smartphone, tablet,  or computer, then they probably have everything they need!

As a foreign language teacher, I use videoconferencing in my classroom in many different ways. For example, my friend in Nicaragua, Emanuel, converses with my students. My sister shares stories about her semesters abroad in Nicaragua and Honduras. Another friend, Garret, has talked from Germany about his year abroad in Argentina and how it helped him to learn German and get a job with BMW. My students love hearing stories from guest speakers projected in the front of the classroom. They have fun asking questions and always learn something new. Continue reading

5 Back-to-School Teacher Tips for a Brilliant Year

By Angel Rutledge
CMO and COO of SignUpGenius

With young minds to inspire and lessons to plan, every moment in your day is valuable. As you prepare to welcome your new students, plan ahead for the year. By tackling organization before classes begin, you’ll ace the back-to-school transition and be ready for what’s next. Check out these tips to save time and stave off stress, and you’ll get the year off to a genius start.

1. Think Beyond Back-to-School

Sounds simple enough, but planning ahead can help you focus on the things that matter most throughout the year. Create a back-to-school checklist for the first month of school and a master calendar with holidays, vacations and important dates such as parent-teacher conferences, field trips, teacher training and early release days. Plan your curriculum around the calendar, and jot down ideas for classroom décor, bulletin boards, and fun activities.

Don’t wait until the sniffles strike to prepare for a substitute. Get a general plan together so things will run smoothly if you’re out sick. Include a few ideas for icebreakers, books for story time, and some games to review previous lessons.

2. Start Out with Strong Parent-Teacher Communication

Building trust with your parents is key to a successful year. Reach out to parents the first week of school to encourage questions and share your preferred method of communication. Invite your room parent for coffee, discuss a plan to accomplish your goals and ideas for the year, and communicate needs such as classroom volunteers.

When creating a wish list of classroom essentials or scheduling parent teacher conferences, forget the chain of reply-all emails. Instead, use an online sign-up service. That way you won’t have to worry about whether parents saw an email and the sign-up can be updated in real time as time slots are taken and lists are filled.  Continue reading

‘A Child’s Relationships with Technology’


Students Visit Other Countries – Without Leaving NZ from RNZ, 23 June 2017

High school students in New Zealand are piloting a virtual reality foreign language app. They can visit other countries and learn languages without leaving New Zealand.

When ELA Tools Can’t Adapt to Students’ Native Language by Jen Curtis, EdSurge, 29 June 2017

Curtis looks at some of the issues involved in creating translated online materials for English language learners. She focuses on Spanish/English and the difficulties of translation between these two linguistically different languages. Edtech companies are trying a variety of solutions, but even with good translations, there can be problems. Sometimes the level in the translated version may be beyond that of the original English text. Another issue is that some learners may not be literate in Spanish despite being Spanish speakers. Some online platforms have decided that good support in English is more useful than translations that may not be accessible to learners.

Navigation of Computer-Based Tests Matters for Young Students, Study Finds by Benjamin Herold, Education Week, 30 Apr. 2017

Herold reports on a research study conducted by American Association for the Advancement of Science, which found that while high school and college students showed no significant difference, elementary and middle school learners did not perform as well on computer-based tests that did not allow them to “skip, review and change previous responses” as they did on computer-based tests that do allow this and on paper-pencil tests.

The Role of Relationships in Children’s Use of Technology by Jeremy Boyle, The Fred Rogers Center, 23 Feb. 2017

Boyle looks at how the conversation about children and technology has shifted from whether children should use it to how they use it. Since the Fred Rogers Center focuses on relationships, Boyle makes the connection to a child’s relationships with technology and with other people.