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by Erica Fischer on Mar 25, 2013

Creating Global Connections for World Language Teaching

#langchat discusses some ideas for taking advantage of the increased
access to global language sharing.

Even though Spring Break is closing in, #langchat participants shared a wealth of great ideas on how to use the global language teaching community to help students acquire new skills. Many teachers focused on creating personal connections between classrooms in the US and abroad. Great ideas focused on using language teaching technology and experiential learning to inspire global competency in language students.

Language Teaching Through Interactive Exchanges

One of the most popular ways that participants discussed expanding their students’ language experiences was through classroom collaborations and exchanges via online communication. Teachers have been able to connect with classrooms around the world because of the access the Internet has provided. Teachers like @crwmsteach have a “sister city” exchange in the second language. @eonsrud said, ‘I’m lucky to have a partnership that started with the state of WI. We exchange every 2 years.’

Not only is technology good for setting up language teaching exchanges, it provides access to countless small exchanges between individuals. Many #langchat teachers have used Twitter, Wikispaces and blogging to connect personally and professionally with other world language teaching professionals. These same tools can be incredibly effective for students if used appropriately and with supervision.

Some great resources for setting up these types of technological language teaching exchanges were mentioned by several teachers.

Edmodo – @GJuradoMoran, @vialjando and many others suggested that Edmodo was a great place to connect with other classrooms. @msfrenchteach said, ‘Sometimes teachers do short or long term projects w/other classes in the US. Makes learning more interesting.’

Skype – @crwmsteach said, ‘[We] also have good link via Skype. Only need teacher’s computer and large monitor or smart board.’

Epals – @abbrugiati suggested using Epals as a good way to connect for students, as well as support professional development. She exclaimed, ‘Great experience for SS and for me!!’

Online Blogs or Message Boards – @natadel76 said, ‘I came across a blog type site where two schools posted written and recorded messages for each other.’

Twitter – @Whoisasking said, ‘I do Twitter [as a] whole class with my laptop/projector. Not as nice as 1/1 but still works. Students dictate I type. They are always so amazed to discover that there are places where kids only speak French.’

Mixxer – @MmeCaspari said, ‘Has anyone had students use Mixxer to get Skype partners? I’ve used it, but not w/kids.’

Problems with Technology Over-Protection

Despite all of the wonderful new avenues for bringing global language teaching and learning into the classroom, many #langchat teachers still admitted that many of these tools are not allowed in their schools – not even to be used by staff. @natadel76 shared, ‘Our IT doesn’t approve of Skype due to security reasons.’ @MmeCaspari agreed: ‘Our school has enough tech hardware, but the usage rules and filter block us from some opportunities.’

Other language teaching professionals discussed ways to avoid the protective barriers put up by some school district through a “Bring Your Own Device” policy, but this has drawbacks as well. Schools in lower economic areas may have a difficult time if students don’t have access to their own devices. Other districts, are moving away from a “BYOD” policy or are just not putting it into effect. @Whoisasking said, ‘There is a district BYOD policy but our school hasn’t embraced it yet.’

The solution? Patience and prodding. @msfrenchteach suggested, “If you aren’t allowed to use social networks or videos in your school district, consider preparing a presentation for the Board. Use P21 Framework.’

Off-Line Global Connections

Despite the focus on online communication, there were a number of language teaching professionals who found that traditional off-line connections are just as effective. Pen-pals, authentic speakers and mentorships were cited as being highly effective due to their personalized approach.

Community Speakers – A number of language teaching professionals suggested using community members who have traveled in countries that speak the target language to motivate students. @eonsrud said, ‘We’re also lucky to have UW-Madison building a network of graduates/French teachers to connect us.’ @MmeCaspari encouraged teachers to find former Peace Corps speakers. @viajando_kj said, ‘Maybe even businesses to support topics in class. (a nurse, banker, chef, travel agent, police, etc) Hello careers!’

Former/High Level Student Presentations – Others mentioned the benefit of having students learning from their peers. @kvisconti added, ‘Even inviting in higher level speakers from other classes can start building communication beyond your classroom.’ @Whoisasking said, ‘We have oral speaking events where students get the opportunity to listen to higher level speakers. Great learning.’ Recent graduates are also a great way to get students to personalize learning. @eonsrud said, ‘I do use FB to connect with students after they graduate.  They’re a great resource.’

Mentors – Mentors provide guidance and positive adult role models, which is key to long-term success in life and language. @kvisconti said, ‘Our Spanish club has college level Spanish major mentors. Definitely builds communication. When they are abroad…even better!’ @msfrenchteach shared her experience with helping high school students become more comfortable with this type of personal communication: ‘My students were a bit shy but enjoyed it a lot! When university students visited my upper level class recently, we divided them up in small groups (rather than panel) to put students at ease.

Faculty Guests – One of the most underrated resources that language teaching professionals have is the faculty they have at their own schools. @crwmsteach suggested that teachers send out an email to the faculty to see if someone might share in class. ‘You might find some who have traveled and/or spk 2nd lang.’ @emilybakerhanes said, ‘I’m working on trying to get one of the principals who grew up in Mexico to come in. 🙂 But yes, great idea!’

Community Involvement – Another great way to help students expand their worldview is through service in the second language. @kvisconti said, ‘I have my students volunteer with an after school program for Hispanic elementary students. One of the kids even came and spoke! @eonsrud agreed: ‘Advice: try a service learning project to build connection and enthusiasm.’

Educational Travel – The Ultimate Global Learning Experience 

Finally, the best way to help students get a feel for a language is by immersing themselves completely in it, through travel. This can pose problems, though, as many language teaching professionals are uncomfortable with the amount of liability such a trip can entail. @emilybakerhanes said, ‘[I] teach a lot of culture, but will not travel with students.  Too much liability for untenured teacher.’

For those who are ready or thinking about taking students on a trip to where the target language is spoken, there are some important things to remember:

1. Travel with Veterans. Especially if you have never travelled with a class before, it is a good idea to go with another language teaching professional or advisor who has. They will have good strategies for keeping kids appropriately engaged so that they don’t have time or desire to get into trouble. @eonsrud said, ‘Traveling with veterans first is SO helpful.  I had a chance to do this and learned a lot. Great mentoring.’

2. Provide Lots of Communication with Home. Parents want to see that their students are safe and focused on educational goals. A great way to do this is with a trip blog or Twitter hashtag designated for the journey. @msfrenchteach suggested, ‘You could keep a blog as you go, or, ideally, have students post to it while there.’ @natadel76 added, ‘May be even trip twitter acc?’ @sonrisadelcampo also shared that some tour companies provide blog addresses for groups.

3. Be a creative fundraiser. All trips require funds, and many language teaching programs are competing with more well-known activities like music and sports. @sonrisadelcampo said, ‘Teacher at our school organized a golf tournament.’ Other teachers suggested using food as a way to make more money. @emilybakerhanes said, ‘Our German club is very successful with a coffee cart.’

4. Make long-lasting memories. It is beneficial students, volunteers and language teaching programs to create images or videos of their trips abroad. Not only does it serve to remind students of the concepts they learned and the people they met, but it can be a great recruitment tool for future students. @abbrugiati encouraged teachers to take pictures of students interacting with others, or make videos as they interact with native speakers.

Other Ideas and Advice for Creating Global Connections

  • @crwmsteach said, ‘Show students global business connections w/ chamber of commerce or state lists of international business or career builder.’
  • @cadamsf1 said, ‘Consulates often have people available and happy to speak.’
  • @eonsrud said, ‘Advice for global connections…be patient as you work out the kinks.’
  • @viajando_kj said, ‘Advice: Ask your coworkers for contacts.’
  • @eonsrud said, ‘Advice: start with small projects and expectations.’
  • @viajando_kj said, ‘Advice: Some schools need a background check bf speakers can come in. Plan accordingly.’
  • @viajando_kj said, ‘As @twelchky says, if you don’t have failures, then you’re not being innovative. Try, try again!’
  • @abbrugiati said, ‘Clear goals and expectations. If it does not work with one teacher do not give up!! There is always somebody else [to communicate with].’
  • @eonsrud said, ‘Advice for global connections…be patient as you work out the kinks.’
  • @Spanish_Simply said, ‘I just attended a great webinar put on by NNELL on digital storytelling, I love student driven creative use of technology.’
  • @natadel76 said, ‘Our AFS Club hosts “show and ask” for exchange students from the area.’
  • @CoLeeSensei said, ‘My district often hosts students coming to learn English – and we do an ‘afternoon’ visit with my students.’
  • @msfrenchteach said, ‘Try to follow as many WL teachers as you an on Twitter.You’ll most likely meet lots of educators who’d like to connect.’

Thank you!

Thank you again to our moderators for encouraging us to become better language teachers. Also, thanks to everyone who came out and actively participated. We love to hear your great ideas for becoming more involved in the global language community.

We love to find ways to help you learn as a language teaching professional. Please help us know what to talk about during #langchat by sharing your topic ideas for upcoming chats with us. You can also find a complete transcript of this chat online.

Additional Resources

TwitClases on Posterous – (@Whoisasking)

Digital Storytelling (@Spanish_Simply)

Digital Storytelling Links by Proficiency Level (@Spanish_Simply)

Elementary in Spanish
Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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