By Elyana Schosek
Learning as a whole has changed in the past couple of decades. Even from one generation to the next, parents and their kids can have very different learning experiences throughout school.
Kids who are in school now are used to using Google applications like Google Docs or Slides for projects. Many teachers use Google Classroom to communicate with students via email and post online assignments.
The point in all this being that these things didn’t really exist in classrooms 20 years ago — as technology changes and evolves, so does education.
Although most teachers have adapted to these new features, some have taken it in stride like Madame Brown, who teaches French at SGI High School. As many teachers do, Brown uses Google Classroom to keep her students informed. She has an innovative style of teaching that keeps her students constantly engaged.
Despite the fact that a lot of her students say they never do work in French, they are all completely capable of maintaining a somewhat coherent French conversation with a native speaker.
In fact, this is one of their most important assignments of the school year. All of the juniors and seniors currently enrolled in French are required to complete three half an hour online conversations with a native speaker.
None of these speakers are American, and although some do know English, the use of English is not allowed during the conversation.
The website that the students use allows them to read a biography about each of the speakers, which includes where they are from and some of their hobbies or interests. This feature lets students choose someone they might have things in common with or someone that just sounds interesting.
These bibliographies show where the speakers live which includes places like Canada, France, Tunisia, Morocco and the Ivory Coast. Talking to someone from somewhere like Tunisia or the Ivory Coast is a great experience. Students are able to learn about their culture or what the weather is like where they live.
One of the biggest parts is the fact that some of them have never even seen the snow. This would give students a chance to talk about what they do during the winter.
Students are only required to touch on a few topics which are usually relatively basic or are things they’ve spent time discussing during class. The rest is up to them.
Brown, of course, does her best to prepare her students. She gives them all a packet full of helpful phrases and sample questions. She does advise that they create some questions of their own after choosing their person but not everyone does that and many regret it after.
Although they were all nervous beforehand, Brown spends much time reassuring them. One of her biggest points is that it would be awkward to have a 30-minute conversation with someone in English even if you knew them, so of course, it’s going to be awkward.
For the students worried about taking too long to answer the other person’s questions, it’s important that they remember it takes time to process information even in English.
“Expect to have pauses,” Brown said.
The site that students were using allows the student and the speaking partner to see each other, kind of like Skype or Facetime, which meant they could use hand gestures or act things out. In addition to that, both people were able to type out words at the bottom of the screen albeit they had to be in French.
Both Brown and the students can listen to their conversation afterward. For the first two, she is required to listen to at least 10 minutes but she said she couldn’t help herself and listened to more than that for some. She is required to listen to the last one in its entirety.
Although they are supposed to fill out a sheet after and get feedback from Brown, there is no “grade” for it. All they have to do is complete all three and students will receive college credit.
Brown has noted that she was given two options to get her students college credit: these conversations or the completion of a grammar workbook. She finds that these conversations allow students to have a more beneficial experience than filling out blanks in a workbook.
Once everyone has done one of these, they feel accomplished. After talking to a foreign person in a different language for half an hour, it feels good, you can’t help it.
Technological advances have moved teachers to change how they teach and Madame Brown is a great example of it. Her junior and senior students are capable of having a 30-minute conversation all in French with someone from a different country.