New Applications for the ESL Classroom

World Lens

Jenna Zwang wrote an article for titled “10 of the Best Apps for Education.”  In this article, she talk about an application called World Lens.  Students, who speak English as a second language, often encounter signs that may be confusing due to language and other cultural differences.  This application allows students to translate the words on a sign into a second language.  This application uses the camera feature on a phone/tablet/iPod.

Dr. Thornburg said, “One of the logical questions that comes up around all these new technologies is whether or not we have a new breed of learners.”  My students have been spoiled by technology.  Many of them are very willing and ready to learn.  However, they are expecting a teacher who utilizes technology and enables them to be independent.  This application allows students to explore learning and their environment without constant feedback and dialogue with a teacher, utilizing the newest technology.  My students who speak English as a second language get most excited when they begin to explore their community and engage their peers independently.  This application allows this independence to occur in a more timely fashion.


I would love to send my students out on a scavenger hunt using this application.  I would give them directions to specific locations and have them use the application to translate the sign.  Lastly, I would have the students take a picture of them doing whatever the sign said.  For example, I may send them to School Crossing sign.  I would want them to take a picture of themselves crossing the street at the crosswalk.  Another idea would be to send the students to the grocery store.  The students would be responsible for taking pictures of and translating ten signs.  The students would present their pictures to the class and explain what each sign meant.


Today in History


This application lists important, past events and the names of important people “who were born or died on a specific date” (


David Cavallo once said students benefit from technology or classroom instruction, “Not by making it, everybody does the same thing at the same time, but really by making it such that every person is individual, and can you really build on what that person knows and loves and is interested in.”  Several of my students enrolled in ESL classes are contemplating citizenship.  All of them are interested in the history of the United States.  Often times, the history takes a back seat to teaching them language skills necessary to be independent in the United States.  With this application, students can learn history, work on their English skills and increase their appreciation of our culture at their own pace.  Not every student will want to use this application.  However, the students who are interested can study at their own pace.


I would utilize this application by asking the students, who are interested, to participate in a discussion group based on information gained from this application.  Students will compile facts or names of historical figures they would like to discuss.  The teacher would be the facilitator of the group.  Secondly, I may ask the students to use the application as a means of exploring possible research topics.  The students would then use that topic as the basis for a written and oral report.



Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2008b). The impact of technology on learning. Baltimore, MD: Author. (approximate length: 4 minutes)

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2012e). Using digital media for learning. Baltimore, MD: Author. (approximate length: 4 minutes)

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to New Applications for the ESL Classroom

  1. Janet Broadbent says:

    Hi Angela – love the idea of using the ‘world lens’ app in a treasure hunt. I’ve been using the students smart phone cameras for some time in various treasure hunts, but this app adds another level to the game. I also like your history idea, sometimes understanding the history of a country gives some students a new context to understand and remember new vocabulary. Janet

  2. Carole Voitko Boughamer says:

    Hi Angela – great way for all to remember and retain using this method! Did you ever give them the assignment of combining the best things that they have experienced with the best things from their native country and creating a fictional city? Or have you ever given them the assignment of taking the worst of the things they have seen and create a city no one would want to be in?

  3. Carole Voitko Boughamer says:

    Nice picture – it reminded me of a person willing to walk alone and not depend on others to show them the path to follow — It reminded of when I sent my kids off to college – I thought ok – kiddo the world is all yours and it your responsibility to take care of it!

  4. rkylekennedy says:

    Angela, the “world lens” app sounds really great. I remember when I was teaching at a refugee center a few years ago, we spent an entire unit learning road and safety signs. Your scavenger hunt idea sounds like a fun way for students to learn and quickly recognize these signs.

  5. ericaroark says:

    Angela, I enjoyed reading about both of your applications. I am especially intrigued by the “world lens” application. Do you know if the translation process goes both ways-going from the foreign language to English as well? Because of my background in and love of history I think it would be a very interesting assignment for any group of students to combine these two programs to create a historical landmark and marker scavenger hunt in order to engage students in both the history of the area and in learning the language through visual translation. The “world lens” program simply lends itself to the scavenger hunt type of activity and makes learning mobile, collaborative and fun.

  6. Pingback: Shared knowledge | ericaroark2013

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s