In the not so recent past, local elementary schools had computer labs filled only with buzzing Macintosh computers with games that would seem weirdly ancient to today’s students. More astonishing to them would probably be the fact that the Internet didn’t exist, including such mass communication programs as Skype.
Times have changed, though, and the Kyrene district has taken student engagement to a new with other classes around the world.
The program couldn’t be a better fit for the dual-language Spanish immersion program at Kyrene de losNiñosElementary School, said Jacinta Sorgel, education technology specialist for the Kyrene district.
Kindergarten students in dual language teacher Patricia Fernandez’s class have been talking in Spanish to third-graders inPeru, via Wimba, a program similar to Skype.
“It’s pretty amazing, because it provides the kindergarteners an authentic opportunity to practice speaking Spanish,” Sorgel said. “And, I think for the students inPeru, it does the same with them for English.”
Fernandez, who is fromPeru, contacted a cousin who is a third-grade teacher there with the idea of further engaging students in the dual language program.
“Once she set up that connection, she (Fernandez) contacted me and we set her up with Wimba, a webcam, and everything she needed to hold the sessions,” Sorgel said.
“They’ve done three or four sessions so far, and the plan is that they would do it twice a month, with each session centered on a theme.”
During the most recent video chat between both classrooms, the kindergartners in Fernandez’s class individually stood by the webcam, holding up pictures they drew of their family and asked questions to the Peruvian students about their family in Spanish.
They also responded to the third-graders’ questions about their families confidently in Spanish.
Ana Gomez del Castillo, principal of Niños, also used the program to chat with the principal of the school inPerubefore students used the program.
“I had the opportunity to meet the principal ofPeru, and I talked to her in Spanish and she responded to me in English,” she said. “Of course, the kids are just so anxious to be talking with the other students. They enjoy it so much.”
The Wimba program is similar to Skype, but also provides more tools in a secure setting.
“With Wimba, you have to have an invitation; it’s not open to outside access,” said Gina Meade, also an education technology specialist for Kyrene. “We can make sure the students are protected.”
Wimba also provides other tools for students to use while talking with each other.
“There is a whiteboard to send messages, and you can present and share PowerPoint presentations with one another.”
Gomez del Castillo plans on bringing the opportunity to all dual language classes at her school in the near future.
“Right after fall break, we are going to get the two other classrooms up and going,” she said. “It will be all three (dual language) Spanish classes then.”