This exchange involved future Primary-School teachers at the University of León, Spain (B1 level in English) working with students of Spanish in Missouri, USA (B1 level of Spanish). The exchange was located on a NING platform.
What is a NING? Ning is an online platform for people and organizations to create custom social networks. Ning offers users the ability to create a community website with a customized appearance and feel, feature sets such as photos, videos, forums and blogs. Your NING can be password protected so, in this sense, it can be a perfect ‘ closed environment’ for your online exchanges.
The exchange lasted for one term and it has been repeated with different groups of students at the two universities over the past three years.
University of León
León-Missouri Language Exchange Project
Dominant form of language production:
These tasks and the NING tool can be adapted easily to other classes quite easily. The students in León were future teachers of English as a Foreign Language in Spanish primary schools. However, there is no reason why this platform and these tasks could not be used with other groups of learners.
How long did the project last?
How was the project organized?
The teacher at the University of Missouri set up a NING platform for the exchange. Following that, both teachers designed the NING to allow for forums, photos and other functions.
The NING was password protected so the students were sent automatic invitations to join. This meant that only the students participating in the project could access the platform and see what was going on. When the students had joined the platform, ech teacher showed their students how the platform worked and explained the different tasks and assignments to their students.
The American students started their term before the Spanish group. For this reason they carried out an extra task – creating videos where they explained some colloquial English expressions to their partner group.
At the end of the exchange, the Spanish students were asked to submit a formal academic essay reflecting on what they had learned from the exchange and how such a project could be dapted and integrated into primary classrooms.
|Creating Blogs for your partner class|
The exchange involved four basic
- Make a short video teaching your partners some expressions in your mother language.
- Upload a photo or video which tells the other group something about your home culture.
- Participate in two discussion forums &ndash one in English and one in Spanish. These discussion forums were based on questions such as " Where do you see yourself in ten years time?"
- In groups of four, create a blog with images, text and links about an aspect of life in Spain/USA. Post your reactions and some language corrections to your American partners’ blogs.
How were the students assessed?
The students in Spain are given the following essay-writing task at the end of the exchange:
Over the past weeks you have created a blog for communicating with partners in Missouri in the USA. You have also been reading their blogs about life as a student in the USA and you have participated in online discussions with them. Based on your experiences, write a report (approx. 600-700 words) on the following topic:
" What I have learned in this online exchange about American student culture and about the differences between Spanish and American culture and lifestyle."
You should discuss the Americans’ attitudes to different topics, what appears to be important to them and the way they communicate. Whenever possible, you should give examples or some short quotations from the American messages and blogs to support your ideas. You should also discuss how an activity like this one could be used in primary schools. How would you organise an online intercultural exchange when you become a teacher?
Be sure to explore our NING platform carefully, reading the messages and blogs and looking at their photos. You can try to contact them with concrete questions if you still need to clarify something. You will receive a mark for your essay which will be part of your final mark in January.
An example of the language videos made by the American class can be seen here.
What worked well?
What did students think of the project?
Here are two representative examples of Spanish student feedback about the exchange:
- My opinion about this Exchange is very positive it has made me consider to use it in my future English classes with my students. These months sharing opinions have given us a very different view of the United States, which we had idealized, and that, from this we have taken note that are not so different to our countries and that American films us had deceived with respect to reality. The most important thing I’ ve learned in this Exchange has been not to judge a society without first speak with one of its citizens&hellip
- I really enjoyedmeeting new peopleand talk with them.I think it wasa good experience. I also think that learning English with this online exchange is fun for people who don’ t like English and itis an alternative wayof learning English.
What challenges did you face?
NINGs can cost money – although there are special fees. Consult the prices of the different plans here: http://www.ning.com/compareplans
Students can be intimidated by using a new tool such as the NING but it is quite similar to facebook and other social networking tools so they quickly get used to it.
What did the teachers think of the project?
What kind of institutional support did you receive?
No institutional support was necessary in this case. However, institutions outside of the USA may need financial support to set up a NING for the exchange. Of course, if this is not possible, perhaps a free platform such as Moodle could also be used for such an exchange.