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Vocabulary and Technology Integration Series – Post #1

Technology Blog

Technology Integration and Vocabulary Instruction

Part 1

This is the first in series of posts on the importance of vocabulary instruction, and how technology tools can be used effectively to support growth in student vocabulary. In subsequent posts following this introduction, I will share several examples of ways teachers are incorporating these strategies along with some of the specific digital resources used by teachers and students alike.



Teaching vocabulary was not a strength of my practice. I do not remember it being highly emphasized in my teacher training program, and I did not make it a focus of improvement early in my career. It turns out I am not alone. There is mounting evidence indicating that teachers need more guidance and support in order to teach vocabulary well, especially in specific content area instruction. The findings parallel a body of evidence suggesting that teachers also need more training and support to effectively integrate technology. Like vocabulary instruction, technology integration should be purposefully implemented in order to have the desired impact on student learning. Handing students flashcards with words, their definitions, and even pictures will not increase student vocabulary in the same way that providing a student with an electronic device will not, in and of itself, lead to greater outcomes.

Teaching vocabulary was something I didn’t think I had time for; however, I have learned more and more about the necessity for high quality vocabulary instruction, and that a strong vocabulary is critical for student success. Students who have lower academic vocabulary can greatly improve with effective, targeted instruction; they can even close the learning gap between themselves and students who have greater academic vocabulary. In fact, students who gain important skills and knowledge through effective vocabulary instruction continue to increase their vocabulary through wide reading and exposure to text. In other words, students who build a solid foundation in academic vocabulary and vocabulary learning strategies can independently improve their vocabulary even when this instruction is not taking place.

Photo credit: Sean Nash CC license 2.0

My interest in using technology with vocabulary instruction began in a SIOP training early in the year. One strategy we used in the training was to create a word wall, and as I often do, I began to think “could this be done digitally? Would there be a benefit to students if they could access this content on a computer or mobile device?” My answer, as it often is, was “yes.” By creating a digital word wall, students are learning and applying important technology skills. They are also creating a resource that can be easily shared with others. If they have access to digital devices outside of school, it is a resource they can potentially access any time, anywhere. Using a variety of digital tools, students can create a product that addresses cognitive, visual, and auditory needs.



Our objective was to create a word wall about SIOP, English Language Learners, and the Common Core State Standards. Once the analog word wall was created, I went to work. First, I took pictures of the drawings groups had made representing their thoughts about SIOP, English Learners and the Common Core State Standards (click here to read about getting images off your mobile device and onto your computer). Next, I asked if I could record someone in the group explaining their drawing. I made the audio recording using an app on my phone (Voice Memos or Audio Memos are two apps I recommend). To put all the pieces together, I used a digital “sticky note” site called Padlet. Check out the final product here:

In the next post, I will share a few digital resources you can use teach students vocabulary. Included is a free website to make digital flashcards and games your students will love to play.

Until next time. Be good humans.



For more information about digital word walls visit The Ultimate Word Wall and the ThingLink Teacher Challenge.

Want to read more about effective vocabulary instruction and educational technology integration?

 Berne, J. I., & Blachowicz, C. L. Z. (2008). What Reading Teachers Say about Vocabulary Instruction: Voices from the Classroom. Reading Teacher, 62(4), 314–323.

Biemiller, A., & Boote, C. (2006). An effective method for building meaning vocabulary in primary grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(1), 44–62.

Colwell, J., & Hutchison, A. C. (2015). Supporting Teachers in Integrating Digital Technology Into Language Arts Instruction to Promote Literacy. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 31(2), 56–63.

Dalton, B., & Grisham, D. L. (2011). eVoc Strategies: 10 Ways to Use Technology to Build Vocabulary. Reading Teacher, 64(5), 306–317.

Leacox, L., & Jackson, C. W. (2014). Spanish vocabulary-bridging technology-enhanced instruction for young English language learners’ word learning. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 14(2), 175–197.

Marzano, R. J. (2009). Six Steps to Better Vocabulary Instruction. Educational Leadership, 67(1), 83.

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