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February 20, 2015

Surface supporting bilingual education

Learning in a language that isn’t your native tongue is hard. Anyone who’s had the experience of sitting in the back of a classroom only catching every few words as the teacher explains a concept, and seeing the rest of the class nodding their heads, knows what I mean. Language can not only be an impediment to learning, but it can also erode a students’ sense of self-confidence. And it is this sense of “I’m not good at school” that can persist, even after a student has mastered the language.

One of the benefits we’re seeing with more and more technology being brought into the classroom, is helping ‘language learners’ assimilate more quickly into class instruction, by removing this language impediment.

A great example of this is at Cicero School District, just outside of Chicago. More than 50 percent of the Cicero’s students speak Spanish as their first language and are learning English as a second language while attending school.

Cicero’s Superintendent, School Board members and Administration were looking for innovative ways to help their ESL (English as a Second Language) learners not only keep up with classwork, but also give them an advantage in the competition for the jobs of tomorrow. They looked at various technology solutions with the objective of finding something that would easily augment their existing bilingual education program with video, audio, and visual learning, while simultaneously helping teach students real-world technology skills they will need in the workforce of tomorrow.

Watch their story here:

Some of the language solutions called out in the video include:

BrainPOP ESL – a comprehensive English language learning program that uses engaging animated movies to model conversational English.


Read&Write Gold – With Text to Speech, content is read aloud with highlighting. Individual words are highlighted in one color as they are spoken while the sentence is highlighted in another color.


World Book – World Book Discover offers engaging reference resources for reluctant readers, ELL, ESL, and adult literacy students.


OneNote – Embed audio, video, pictures, and text into your OneNote Classroom Notebooks. Allow students and teachers to ink, annotate, draw and highlight.

OneNote screenshot

In addition, there are many other tools that can help Teachers with differentiated learning when it comes to secondary language learners, including:

  • Translator – The Translator App by Microsoft is your companion when you need to quickly translate what you are looking at. Use your camera, say phrase or just type the text you want to translate.
  • Microsoft Accessibility – Accessibility features and settings are built into the Windows and other Microsoft software programs. These features can be adjusted to meet vision, hearing, dexterity and mobility, language, and learning needs. For example, in Windows 8.1, you can change the font size and color, and mouse pointer size, color, and movement options. Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Office 365, and Microsoft Internet Explorer include additional accessibility features and settings that can be adjusted to make the computer easier to see, hear, and use.

When it comes to personalized learning that caters to the individualized learning abilities of all students, including language learners, Surface is a great device option due to its versatility – students can touch, type, write, watch, speak and listen in a variety of different positions.

We’re excited to see stories like Cicero emerge, and eager to support schools doing amazing things with technology in the classroom to help their students realize their full potential.