Texting and Teachers Experimenting with Technology: 10 Resources

Part of the series: Teacher Development Reflections

Texting with refugeesIn a previous post, I mentioned how I was teaching refugees in Athens, Greece as part of my CELTA certification training. Luckily! I received my CELTA certification! Thanks again to my tutor, Marisa Constantinides. Marisa runs the CELTA center and encourages the educators taking the course to effectively integrate technology in their lesson plans.

For many educators, technology tools can be daunting. In my CELTA course, most of the educators were very new to technology. However, the teachers I worked with had a great attitude towards the technology. It isn’t that they embraced it with wide open arms. They recognized their time constraints. What I really admired is how many tried in their lessons to integrate different technologies when it wasn’t a requirement. They tried something new they admitted they feared. They were digital immigrants with very little technology experience in some cases, yet, they ventured forth and I admired them for their bravery.

Texting with Refugees

One example that really amazed me was when one of my colleagues taught our beginners how to create text messages in English. The topic was Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) which might seem tough to teach to our group of beginners. Our beginner group consisted of several refugee students who lacked reading and writing skills as well as English skills. They had struggles in their daily life with work, affording clothes, to eat, and so forth. Towards the end of the lesson, my colleague asked the students to raise their hands if they had a cellphone. Surprisingly, the majority did. I can only imagine that many people see cellphones as a staple.

Barriers That Chain Us to Our Comfort Zones

Sometimes, I think we imagine the barriers that prevent us from trying innovative practices are much bigger than they really are. During #EDChat, many educators often say they don’t try using technology due to equal access. Unfortunately, every student in the world will never have every resource we want to use. Schools just don’t work that way. The teacher in this case didn’t worry about the students not having the technology. Instead, she encouraged them to share resources. We worked with refugees who hardly have shelter and food but they shared the resources and enjoyed the lesson. When the teacher asked them if they owned computers at home, some replied they access the Internet at cafes. I think that many learners in the world do access the Internet at cafes, public libraries, or community centers. Lack of resources should never be an excuse when students can learn to collaborate and share the resources they do have. In my class of 10 we often share technology. We share one Iphone, one Macbook, and a few audio recording devices. The children learn how to collaborate and I have learned how to manage a small amount of resources. Each one has a role and I love having stations where they can use the various technology at the same time and I facilitate the learning. We don’t need 10 separate computers or Iphones. I think we should keep trying to find ways to implement the effective use of technology. We can all gain access to a few computers for students to share. Most students want to bring their laptops, smartphones, Ipods, and cellphones to school. We can all assign them roles and teach them how to collaborate and problem solve in groups using the technology.

Why Teach with ICTs?

Our students already enter a workforce in which they receive ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) to communicate with colleagues worldwide, yet many never have been trained to do this effectively. This will become more necessary in the future and we cannot prevent or change this. Change and the continuous advances in this technology revolution are constants. We may long for technologies of the past or a world of the past, but we cannot teach our students to live in this world we want. I hear from adults daily that text messaging ruins students writing or how students should play outside more instead of being on the computer or stuck to their video games. Yes, we can make our students aware of this but not teaching them how to effectively use the tools of their world means we aren’t doing our job. We aren’t preparing them for their world. We have to teach students to live in the world they will need to make responsible decisions.

I think many of the problems with the world are because schools don’t teach these important skills. They are stuck in teaching effective bubble test marking but when do we teach students about digital citizenship, ethics, collaborating worldwide, and applying their learning to finding worldwide solutions? We have wars due to the lack of ineffective communication worldwide. We have countries who treat immigrants and foreigners terribly because students hardly ever communicate with students worldwide. We have problems agreeing on an effective worldwide policy to save the environment because our world leaders cannot agree. Without this collaboration in schools, students continue to hold their stereotypes and misconceptions of others. We are raising students worldwide who only care about their own problems and are stuck in their own microcosms. They hold steadfastly to their beliefs and can’t understand another culture’s beliefs, religion, traditions, or way of life. They won’t even tolerate them. Do we really want to continue to be part of this problem or do we want to be part of the solution?

10 Texting Resources

  • Watch the video, which prevents both sides of the argument for students using cellphones in schools. Most students have cellphones so we can begin helping students collaborate and communicate with them. Here are a few more resources to help you along the way:


Find a way to get your students using ICTs to collaborate and problem solve!

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Struggling With the Dialect

Part of the Children of Immigrants series

When I was one

Today, the Teacher Reboot Camp blog celebrates its one year birthday! To commemorate, I started the Children of Immigrants series in an effort to share my personal experiences growing up as a Mexican American. The majority of us will teach immigrants and I am hoping my experiences help shed light on the difficulties these students face. Originally, I wanted to name this post, Yo soy Chicana y mi lengua is ChE (Chicano English). However, I want the focus to be on the various dialects children grow up learning, especially in low-income neighborhoods. As noted in a previous post, these children struggle with achieving academically and often drop out of high school, thereby, continuing the poverty cycle that enslaved their ancestors.

Shelly with Dad & Kim

I was one of those children. We lived in a small house my grandfather built with his own hands, because we could not afford to pay rent. This house was located next to my grandparent’s house that was also built by my grandfather. I was a very happy child who had parents who wanted me to have a better life so this isn’t a sob story. However, I believe it is important to realize that a students’ home environment greatly impacts their learning. Usually, the delinquents most administrators and teachers write off as trouble are the ones who come from these environments. Our house was small. My four sisters and I shared one bed and rats and flying cockroaches were the norm. Lice was common among the students in our school. At night we had to turn off the lights and could not look out the window because there were shootings. I remember a girl actually dying in my neighborhood from a stray bullet. The families across from us lived in the projects, which were publicly funded housing developments for low-income families.

Chicano English (ChE)

In my neighborhood, we didn’t speak Standard American English. I grew up speaking a common dialect spoken in most Mexican American barrios (neighborhoods) around the United States, Chicano English (ChE) (Fromkin, Hyams, & Rodman, 2003). One of the most notable characteristics of ChE includes pronunciation errors, such as speakers rolling their “r’s,” mispronouncing the vowel “i” as a strong “e” sound, and mispronouncing “sh” as “ch” (Goldstein, Fabiano, & Iglesias, 2004). Furthermore, in Latin English a schwa is inserted before initial consonant clusters, consonants are devoiced, word-final consonant clusters are simplified, past-tense suffixes are deleted, the third-person singular agreement is deleted, different syllables are stressed, /t/ is substituted for /T/, and /d/ is substituted for /D/.

I hadn’t realized my English was different until the second grade. My father wanted to make sure we received the best education and knew the best schools were in the richest neighborhoods. Therefore, he faked our mailing address to get us into a school in a wealthy neighborhood. At this school, I quickly realized I was different. My friends were not all the same skin color. In my neighborhood, 99% of the population was Hispanic. The new school was more culturally diverse. When I started at the school my new friends quickly noticed by pronunciation problems and high pitch voice. The joke was for my friends to ask me to say “chicken” and “chair” knowing I would say “sheakin” and “sher.” I was often corrected for saying sangwitch and liberry. Also, I tended to spit when speaking. I remember feeling as if I didn’t measure up. I was very insecure in school and stuck to reading zealously, writing, and studying. I learned how to keep my friends at a distance and not share much about myself.

Learning to Speak

Sometimes I marvel at how far I have come. I regularly present and feel quite comfortable giving presentations. I volunteer for them, but there was a point in my life where I hated public speaking. I was always picked on for my Michael Jackson voice, my accent, or my mispronunciation of words. In high school, my father forced me to run for class president. Somehow, I won. I attended a magnet school, therefore, I often had to give speeches to the top business leaders in my city to convince them to fund our school programs. I learned how to speak properly with the help of my incredible Speech and Debate coach. She helped me enunciate by having me say my briefs with a fat marker in my mouth. This helped me to stop spitting. She helped me with my pronunciation, my pitch, my tone and my accent. She recorded me giving my presentations standing in a trash bin with my hands behind my back. When I memorized my presentations, she had me practice my gestures in a mirror. Later, I joined Toastmasters and learned more.

The Educator I Want to Be…

A great part of my growth and my personal beliefs is owed to the teachers and mentors who cared enough to help me overcome my insecurities of where I came from. They didn’t discount me because I didn’t speak English correctly. They made me believe in myself when I did not. I want to be that kind of educator to my students. I want to make them believe in themselves and notice that they can overcome the obstacles in their lives.

Sometimes we do not realize how much our students struggle due to the dialect they grew up speaking. Not only immigrants, but many students worldwide come from neighborhoods where various dialects are spoken. In Britain, people speak Cockney. In southern Germany, where I currently reside, people speak Schwäbisch. Many of the people who speak these various dialects are stereotyped as not having a proper education. Often, jokes are made about the people who speak these dialects. If a student does not learn how to speak standard English then they may not receive the same salary scale or may have a difficult time finding jobs. Most students do not have parents like mine who made us transfer to a better school. These children grow up speaking a dialect and are rarely given the help they need to overcome the differences. I believe in the notion of English as a Lingua Franca. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world if a student does not speak English a specific way then the student is stereotyped and prevented from many opportunities. How do we help these children?


Fromkin, V., Hyams, N., & Rodman, R. (2003). An introduction to language (7th ed.) Boston, MA: Thomson, Inc.
Goldstein, B., Fabiano, L., & Iglesias, A. (2004, January). Spontaneous and imitated productions in Spanish-speaking children with phonological disorders. Language, Speech, & Hearing Services in Schools, 35(1), 5-15.


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Which dialects are spoken in your area and what stereotypes are associated with them?

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Social Injustice and its Impact on Education

Part of the Children of Immigrants series

Recently, Arizona passed three measures that have offended many Hispanic Americans and minorities of various ethnic backgrounds. In April, Governor Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070, which allows police officers and agencies to ask people they are suspicious of for proof they are legally in this country. In May, the Arizona Department of Education told schools they would lose funding if they kept their Ethnic studies courses or had teachers with accents teaching English. Passing all these measures within a month sends a strong message to minorities and their children. If they aren’t Americanized, then they are not welcomed in the country. I find this message extremely damaging to English language learners and those of various ethnic backgrounds. Also, this is quite ironic considering America was founded by immigrants.

My Story

However, these laws are not a first for many American states. In this guest post for Ken Wilson’s blog, Children of Immigrants, I wrote about the continuous struggles children of immigrants face as they try to balance both cultures and assimilate. This subject is very dear to me, because I am Mexican American. My grandparents were born in Mexico and my maiden name is Shelly Mendez Luna Sanchez. I have been writing this blog for nearly a year now. I celebrate my one year birthday on May 26, in just one week. To commemorate I want to share my personal experiences and Master’s research on this important subject. Therefore, I have decided to start a new series entitled, Children of Immigrants. In this series I hope to shed some light on the various struggles children of immigrants face worldwide. My experiences are limited to the United States and Germany where I have lived and taught. Currently, I reside in Germany and have experienced the present challenges with immigration and its impact on education. Due to my limited experience, I welcome you to share your experiences also, either through comments or guest posts.

Why Should We Care?

Several of us will teach children of immigrants. Often their struggles with the language and assimilation will warrant a certain understanding, skill set, and pedagogy from educational stakeholders. In my experience, many school officials and educators lack the skills to help these children. For this reason, many of these children are part of the wide achievement gap. This means these children are left to struggle with poverty the rest of their lives. For many immigrants, this poverty cycle lasts several years. In my family, this cycle still exists. My four sisters and I are the first ones of our generation to graduate from college. However, this is not the reality for our aunts, uncles, cousins, and their children. Many of them still live with their parents and so do many of my friends. I graduated from a public high school of over 2000 students. Teenage pregnancy was the norm. Texas at the time was ranked as having the 2nd highest teenage pregnancy rate in the United States. In my school, the majority of the population was Hispanic.

Background Research

During my Master’s research, I came across these heartbreaking findings. In 2005, more than one million immigrants, ages 16 to 24, were reported to be out of school and had not earned a high school diploma or equivalent (Laird, DeBell, Kienzl, & Chapman, 2007). In addition, 83% of Hispanics, between the ages of 18 to 24, who were born in the US, completed high school, whereas, only 56.8% of foreign-born Hispanics, in the same age group, completed high school. Minorities continue to be a vast majority of the students who are not achieving academically, failing standardized tests, dropping out of high school, on welfare, and in prisons. Students without documentation cannot receive any scholarships no matter how well they do in school. Many English language learners are required to stay in an ESL program for many years until they pass the standardized tests in every subject. Even if they excel in one subject, they are still not allowed to advance. For many, this means they will not receive the credits they need to attend college. Millions of immigrants enter the US each year. In January 2009, the Department of Homeland Security reported there were 10.8 million unauthorized immigrants living in the US with 62 % coming from Mexico. Our school systems are failing these children. It is ludicrous for states to believe that the solution lies in shipping millions of children and their parents out of the country. In reality, this issue has many gray areas. We continue to take away the tools these children need to exceed. We continue to allow ignorant politicians to pass laws that bar millions of children from achieving academically. If they are not given a chance to graduate from college, then how can we expect them to break the poverty cycle?

I am taking a stand against this social injustice and trying to find solutions that make sense. I will share with you how my parents managed to help my sisters and I break the poverty cycle. We struggled with poverty, learning proper English, ridding ourselves of accents, stereotypes, assimilation, peer pressure, and more. This is the reality for minority children of various ethnic backgrounds and skin color. I hope this series will open our eyes and help us find a solution.

I would like to thank Ken Wilson who listened to my story in Paris and encouraged me to blog about it.


Laird, J., DeBell, M., Kienzl, G., and Chapman, C. (2007). Dropout Rates in the United States: 2005 (NCES 2007-059). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC:National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch

Read the rest of the poem, Yo Soy Joaquín.


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