Anyone who knows anything knows that a world language program does not simply acquaint its students with an unfamiliar language. The teachers of Spanish, German, French, and Chinese in Sylvania Schools take their students on virtual (and sometimes actual) explorations of world cultures, histories, and geographies. They help students feel what it’s like to roam the countryside of Castilla-Leon or visit the waterfall at Saut d’Eau. That dimension makes world language education truly rich. But, the ever-apparent fact that we live in Northwest Ohio, with limited opportunities to visit these faraway countrysides provides world language teachers with a recurring challenge. How can they bring their students to those distant regions of the world without actually going there?
Of course, technology has been providing answers to this question for generations, and recent developments in Internet technology have brought a variety of opportunities to world language teachers. From Google initiatives like StreetView Treks and Cardboard to simple video conferencing tools like Hangouts and Skype to interactive websites, new or improved tools exist to make the world a little smaller and acquaint Sylvania students with their cousins in distant lands.
Claudia Fischer, Northview French teacher, is using some of those simple tools to help her students explore the geography of French-speaking nations. Claudia has taken the newly-revamped Google Sites and guided her students through the creation of their own showcase websites for the island communities of Haiti, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, and Guadeloupe. On the websites, students posted images, videos, and descriptions of geographical and cultural characteristics of their chosen island nation, but the sites provided expanded opportunities as well. Students used pages in their sites to demonstrate their grasp of vocabulary and reflexive verbs. Students received a grading rubric and explored a model example site produced by Claudia. Through in and out of class work, they developed the sites and shared them for fellow students to peer review.
Last year, Claudia’s students created paper brochures to explore their chosen island, but Claudia notes that “You can add so much more to show what you have learned than in a brochure.” The sites created by her students represent a small step in terms of web design, but they have jumped miles ahead of the paper brochure stage. Many of Claudia’s students had never built a website before, and even more had not yet experimented with the new Google Sites. Now, with this initial experience, students are ready to continue in multimedia web design, allowing them to explore their world in ways that paper never could offer.