Webconferencing across the Americas

I teach Spanish at North Charleston High School in North Charleston, South Carolina. Since many foreign-language students have some hesitancy about standing up and speaking the language in the classroom, I look for ways to get them involved outside the school setting. I have found that enlarging the students’ learning experience encourages them to speak Spanish because they see how the language can actually be used in the “real world.”

For a recent Introduction to Spanish class, I had my students create a survey, in Spanish, that we could use to collect information from three disparate student groups. In addition to the Spanish-language students at our school, we decided to survey native Spanish-speaking students at two schools in South America: SEK-Quito school in Quito, Ecuador and Colegio Bolivar in Cali, Colombia. All told, the survey included 52 North Charleston High students from ninth-graders to seniors; 23 sixth-grade Ecuadorian students; and 81 ninth-grade Colombian students.

My students prepared a Spanish-language letter of introduction and a results table to accompany the survey. In the letter, the students introduced themselves, explained the purpose of the survey, and described the results table (simply a form to help the students easily record their survey responses and return the information to us). Crafting the introduction letters in Spanish helped my students practice a real-life skill—i.e., writing Emails to real people—and soon enough the letters, surveys, and results tables were on their way, via Email, to the Columbian and Ecuadorian students.

My students became very involved in the process, eager to check the Email in-box for survey results each day. The survey concerned how students spend their free time. We asked about computer use, sports—both watching and playing—reading, seeing movies, watching television, shopping, helping around the house, and volunteering. Students could respond “frequently,” “sometimes,” and “never.”

As the information came back from all three sets of students, we captured the data as bar graphs in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, which we imported into PowerPoint. My students then analyzed the data and compared the results from the three groups.

To present this information to the SEK-Quito, Colegio Bolivar, and North Charleston High students, I first downloaded the content to my computer. Breeze Live enabled me to invite all the students to the presentation as well as respond to their comments and individual questions. The interest was high among North Charleston High’s Spanish-language students: I accommodated one student at each of the sixteen computers in my classroom plus dozens more in two computer labs at our school’s media center.

We were able to share the survey information in real-time using Breeze Live. My students were nervous about using their limited Spanish skills with native speakers but grew more relaxed as they realized they could, in fact, communicate just fine. The South American students were happy to share information with us, though a little nervous about revealing their likes and dislikes.

Using Breeze Live, we conducted an on-line poll and discovered the majority of students—both at North Charleston and abroad—were surprised at how similar their interests were. The biggest difference, also a surprise, was that the Colombian and Ecuadorian students helped out around the house much less frequently than my students did. The teachers at Bolivar and SEK—Quito observed that most of their students come from wealthy families—so a large number are able to hire people to perform their household chores.

My students also used Breeze Live to interview Colegio Bolivar’s principal, Georgia Costanzas. This was a little intimidating for many of them, but the interview went well. In fact, Costanzas remarked that she had really enjoyed talking with our students.

I was amazed at how eager my students were to participate; teachers at Bolivar and SEK—Quito reported having the same experience. By expanding the Introduction to Spanish classroom to include students in Colombia and Ecuador, my students gained a stronger desire to learn the language. They spoke the language more and experienced the excitement that comes from using and applying their knowledge—thanks to Breeze Live. You can bet we plan to further explore the relationships we have begun with the Bolivar and SEK-Quito students.

Email: Thane Williams
Website: http://nchs.ccsdschools.com/