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From Snail Mail to Live Chat : : How Technology and a Pen Pal Program in the Classroom Intrinsically Motivates Deaf Student's ASL and English Development


Most deaf students do not read English at grade level because they struggle with the nonnative language and are turned off. The idea is that if the students are intrinsically motivated to read and write through social interaction- their fluency, reading comprehension and writing quality will improve. A digital pen pal curriculum was designed and implemented based on writing and reading letters between deaf students in American Sign Language and English. Students had opportunities to learn about other deaf peers by corresponding with letters, emails and video phones. The students created a cooperative learning environment, while gaining independence in their reading skills and confidence in their writing and presenting skills. Students kept chronological reflective journals about their pen pals, their appreciation of the technology used and their overall feelings about reading and writing throughout the curriculum. At the end, students had to analyze their entries to create a poster about their experiences through the pen pal program. The results showed the students developed linguistically, academically and socially. The students : (1) began to separate English and American Sign Language while reading (2) gained confidence and enjoyment from reading and writing (3) socially connected with their deaf pen pal as well as fellow classmates (4) appreciated technology as a way to communicate with others (5) developed higher level thinking skills. These findings, supported by data collected by field notes, student artifacts and student self-evaluated rubrics suggest the curriculum was effective in enhancing students' aptitude for reading and writing

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