Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Liz: Last Thoughts on Spanish Community Service Learning Course

For most of my other James Scholars projects I have had to write research papers or term papers. Although last year I also got to help design the new Spanish advising website, I would still say that this has been my favorite project! It was great because I got to share with other people my experiences from the community. It also gave me the opportunity to learn about new things like SpanishPod and Global Youth Service Day. I really have loved meeting so many wonderful people! I am so glad that I signed up for this class and I really feel connected with the students at Central High School. This blog has given me a great way to reflect on my time with the students and I think that I have truly grown to appreciate all of it. My experiences with the students at Central will stay with me for a long time and I know that they will have more of an impact on my life than any paper I could write. Hopefully other students will take the opportunity to write in this blog in the future. I would love to see what next year’s students have to think about the program! I hope you all have a great summer! I really have enjoyed writing here, thanks to all of you that have been reading! Take care, ¡adios amigos!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Update on former Student, Jessica Polos

The last time I posted about Jessica Polos I emphasized her as an example to other Spanish students: her volunteer work in the Latino community, her job experiences, and her decision to go to grad school after working for a few years.

Today I received a note from her saying that she was accepted at six of the universities she applied to, and she decided to attend the Harris School at the University of Chicago. Even better news: she received a Harris Fellowship to cover her tuition and a $10,000 stipend.

Students who work in the community truly stand out.

Congratulations, Jessica!

Chris: Final Reflections on Spanish Community Service Learning, Blogging and Honors Credit

This James Scholar project is much better than the other ones that I have completed. I usually write a research paper about a topic that is not very interesting. Writing papers becomes boring after a while, and therefore this project is a breath of fresh air. This project is not too much work and it requires constant attention, rather than a research project that is usually put off until the end of the semester. This project also allows the student to reflect on his or her experiences in the community, and such reflection is very useful. I know that I have learned more about the Hispanic community in Champaign-Urbana as a result of writing these blog posts. I have tried to convey the actual experience of Spanish 232 to the readers of this blog. I think that if students read this blog and are able to see that Spanish 232 is fun and helpful, the program will expand. I would continue to assign this project to students because it helps them to learn more about the community and it is a fun way to get honors credit. Additionally, I think that it will be interesting to compare the blog posts of students in Spanish 232 throughout the years- perhaps the behavior of students in the community will change over time. One of my favorite posts was when we were asked to give our opinions on the increased usage of social networking media in Spanish 232- I think that the future James Scholar students will enjoy answering opinion-type questions such as this one in the future. All in all, this is definitely one of the most innovative and helpful James Scholar projects that I have been allowed to complete.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Global Youth Service Day & Spanish Community Service Learning

> In the Foreign Language Building at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, we had a very special celebration of Global Youth Service Day. Laura Christiansen (right; Liz Girten, our wonderful student blogger is on the left) received a grant from State Farm and Learn & Serve to organize a program allowing our local refugee and immigrant children to come to the university to teach UIUC students about their cultures. Laura took SPAN 232, studied in Mexico for a semester, did a Spanish & Illinois Summer Internship at the Refugee Center, was hired part-time by the Refugee Center after the internship, is graduating next month, and planning to live and work in Mexico for the next year.

The Refugee Center runs a Saturday morning tutoring program for immigrant and refugee children. During the last few weeks the children have prepared posters with cultural information about their home countries. The UIUC students who attended spent time reading the posters and looking at the drawings and pictures they included. Students came from the Spanish community-based learning classes, other campus service organizations (like APO), students who help run the tutoring program, and friends. The children's posters described the weather in their countries of orgins, what school was like before moving here, their talents, their hobbies, their families, their homes, etc. (Click on the pictures to see a larger version of the photos; you can see some of the poster details that way.)
The children and audience included people from Asian, African and American cultures. I saw a familiar face from the fourth floor of the Foreign Languages Building, a TA who teaches one of the African languages. She came with her daughter. She is studying curriculum and instruction and has been observing the Saturday morning tutoring program for a research project.

Spanish Community Service Learning Students Read and Played with Children from Many Cultures

The MOthers Prepared Authentic Vietnamese Egg Rolls

Both the children and some of the UIUC students had trouble waiting to eat home-made egg rolls and other dishes, the smell was so enticing. But the children had to wait even longer because when it was time to eat, Madame Ho announced, "In our culture, elders go first; the children will wait." After eating Ha explained that we had eaten Vietnamese, not Chinese, egg rolls. I also learned the difference between egg rolls and spring rolls.

Event Concluded with Short Speeches, Songs & Awards

Madame Ha, as she is known, directs the Saturday morning tutoring program. She described the program to the audience then led the children in songs sung in Vietnamese, French, Chinese and English.
Jennifer Hixon, a Refugee Center Board Member and Multicultural Director at King School in Urbana, emphasized the importance of languages. She exhorted UIUC students to learn languages and the children to maintain their first languages as they developed their English.
The audience voted for the best posters, and Madame Ha presented awards to the winners. All children got to take home prizes in the end, and the Saturday morning program bought many art supplies with the grant money. Although as Ha said during the program, "We had to work for this money!"

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Success

The goal of the grant was to show UIUC students a broader picture of immigration patterns to the US and to Champaign-Urbana. Too often, the discourse on immigration in the country centers solely on movements northward from Mexico, Central America and South America to the US. Instead, we are lucky to have people from Asia, Africa, Europe and America in our community. With the children's posters, songs, food, and the displays of clothing, books and crafts from different countries, we definitely met our goal.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Message from Leal School to Spanish Community Service Learning Students

Next week is designated as National Volunteer Week and I would like you to encourage your students to come in that week to volunteer or at least to pick up a treat in the office near where they sign in. Some students and classes are making thank you notes, too. Please let everyone know that their time was greatly appreciated and I hope they will consider volunteering next year even if they are not taking a class that requires them to. All fingerprinting will be good for next year and all they need to do is touch base with me and I will review the procedures and get them started. Thanks so much for your help in making all this possible!! Jane Cain

Liz: Dancing in Champaign-Urbana Community and Ecuador

I went to the Salsa night last night at the Canopy Club! The music was really up beat and interesting and they taught us some new steps that I didn’t know before. I remember how important dancing was when I was in Ecuador. It seemed like almost everyone knew the basics of salsa, merengue and bachata. I remember when we went to visit indigenous people they would always teach us a traditional dance from their pueblo. The picture here is of me trying (and failing) to dance to one of their traditional songs. When I came back to the States, I really noticed how little we dance here. If you really want to connect with the Latino community in Champaign-Urbana in a more casual setting that with the community partners, a great idea would be to take some dance classes and head out to Radio Maria. They play salsa music on the weekends and I’ve heard it’s very fun and energetic. I know there are lots of Latinos that go there, so I’m sure it would be great way to practice and to get to know native speakers of Spanish. Plus they have great tapas! I went there for lunch and the food was unique and tasty. I’m also interested to see what the kids I work with at Central listen to. I know some of them like to listen to music from the US, but I’d be interested to see what they think of Spanish bands. They could probably teach us a few steps too!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Spanish Community Service Learning Article in New Issue of MIchigan Journal of Community Service Learning

I was very happy to receive the new issue of the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning in my mailbox today and see the article that Darcy Learn and I wrote about Spanish community service learning. Here is our abstract:

The professional standards int eh field of foreign language pedagogy focus on communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities. Using those 5 C's as a framework, the authors examine student success at satisfying those disciplinary standards through community service learning (CSL). Data is used to present a qualitative case study. This case concentrates on the standards for foreign language learning, but the results hold meaning for CSL instructors of all disciplines, suggesting ways in which CSL can help students achieve the national standards of other disciplines and highlighting the fact that all CSL facilitates student learning about these 5 C's.

As always, it was wonderful to work with Darcy on this project. Many thanks to Jeffrey Howard, MJCSL's editor, and our reviewers.

In the coming days I will post comments on the other articles that appear in this number of the journal.

Liz: Study Abroad Hosting Salsa Night

I also wanted to let you all know that the Study Abroad Office is hosting a Salsa night at the Canopy Club in Urbana. It’s this Wednesday from 9:30 to 10:30 pm. There is no charge at the door and free dancing lessons when you get inside. Plus I heard they are selling pizza for 50 cents! The only requirement is that you speak in Spanish! I think it would be a great time for little to no money, plus you can practice your language skills and learn about an important part of the Latino culture!

Liz: A Woman's Place Needs Spanish Community Service Learning Students

Today I went over to A Women’s Fund for orientation. Everyone there was very welcoming and glad to have the help. The building is well organized and I am so happy that we have such a great program to support the women and children of our community! They do need help communicating with the Latino population though. When they get a new client, A Women’s Fund usually has them go over a packet full of information and documents they need to sign. It would be such a help to them if we could translate these documents into Spanish. There are so many services that the program offers, but because of communication problems they often cannot give the Latina women all the support they need. New clients are required to watch an orientation video, which they have had problems with because most Spanish speaking clients cannot understand it. They would like us to translate into Spanish for them and make a new video. I am going to try and help them as much as I possibly can before I go away for the summer. They really need our help, so if anyone is available to come in over the summer it would be a huge help! Even if you can only help for the last few weeks of school it would help so much! Please let me know if you would like to volunteer. I hope that we are able to keep in contact with them and continue to help them out. A Women’s Fund is a great candidate to be a community partner for Spanish 232 and I hope that it works out. If anyone else has ever been there and has any suggestions I would love to hear about it!

Another Useful Website for Spanish Community Service Learning Students and Community Partners

Unfortunately our community partnership with Christie Clinic's OB/GYN department did not work out this semester, but I do know that health information is very important to all our community partners. For example, the employees at the Refugee Center often accompany clients to doctor visits to translate.

While translated written instructions don't take care of all of a patient's needs, it is a good tool to have. Today I received an e-mail from the Latino Partnership's list-serv telling us about this very useful site:

In a grant proposal I am working on, I propose that students can use social bookmarking to help community partners in rural areas better serve their Spanish-speaking clients. This is a good example of a site that should be brought to the attention of many clinics and social service agencies in general.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

End of the Semester Reflections on the UIUC Spanish Community Service Learning

(Wow, I look like a crazy person in this picture!) In my previous post I wrote about student and TA feedback and how I planned to respond to it. Most of those issues revolved around new elements in the course and the need to fine-tune them. Using YouTube for students' diarios digitales and working with new community partners were challenges that accompanied the wonderful growth in the program.

In this video I reflect on other challenges and successes:

  • Sustaining/Changing existing partnerships. Just as Spanish & Illinois changes and grows, so do our established community partners and partnerships.
  • Responding to unpleasant events in the community and with our community partners.
  • Launching this blog and highlighting student bloggers, Liz and Chris.
  • Adding team community projects to the SPAN 332 (Spanish & Entrepreneurship) curriculum.

In general, I realize that one of the main duties of my job directing and teaching these courses is to continuously reflect on their successes and failures, exactly in the same way that I ask my students to reflect on their learning in the community. Reflection doesn't just happen at the beginning and end of a semester, and it's never "done."

Responding to my own reflections as well as student and TA feedback is part of what I love about this job, but it does create pressures for me. I cannot respond to every feedback I receive, and I have other duties to perform as well. Furthermore, I don't believe that a community service learning course instructor/coordinator should be more concerned with reflection and responding to feedback than instructors/coordinators of other types of courses, although I think that is often the case.

It's a balancing act: asking students to construct the course with you and at the same time maintaining a course curriculum that responds to research and sound pedagogy.

Chris: His Spanish Community Service Learning Work Chris Helps Lessen Stress for Client

I recently had to complete an accident report for a woman at the Refugee Center. This is the intersection at which the crash took place. The person who I was helping was traveling North on Lincoln avenue (right on the picture) and she was stopped because a car in front of her was waiting to make a left turn. While stopped, a car rear-ended her and caused a great deal of damage to both of their cars. Luckily, both people were okay but this woman now has to deal with a lot of paperwork and other things in addition to her job and taking care of her family. I was glad to fill out the accident report and I was able to improve my Spanish by serving as a translator. It was actually kind of hard to translate this sort of project because it involves a lot of directional terms, like ‘forward’, ‘across’, etc., which are kind of hard to understand.-Chris

Friday, April 18, 2008

Interesting Website for Spanish Community Service Learning

CIRCLE (Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement) has a wealth of information on its website.

I'm in the process of writing a grant proposal now, so I see this as a great resource for data that can be used in a proposal.

Darcy Lear and I are working on a paper that draws connections between millennial students, technology and Spanish community service learning, and CIRCLE has a publication titled Millenials talk Politics.

In short, this site is full of very useful information. Thanks to Pattsi Petrie for pointing it out.

Student Feedback on Spanish Community Service Learning

Yesterday afternoon one of my SPAN 232 TAs stopped by my office to pass along some student feedback on the course. As is always the case, some feedback is very useful and I can act upon it, but not all. Here are the main points that I will tackle for next semester.

Problem: Some students don't feel they benefit from doing the diarios digitales (students speak into a web cam for five minutes to reflect on a specific topic related to their community service learning, record it, and turn it in to the instructor).
Solution: Create a lesson plan so that students can discover that in this course we work on the four skills--reading, writing, speaking and oral comprehension--and why. Some students suggested doing oral exams instead of the diarios digitales. The diarios digitales are oral exams. I have successful course materials that walk students through the basic tenets of community-based learning, the 5 C's of foreign language learning, and now I will add something about the four skills in language learning and relate the various course components (including the diarios digitales) to them.

Problem: Some students had trouble posting their diarios digitales to YouTube.
Solution: This semester was the first time we used YouTube to turn in the diarios digitales so I'm not surprised that there were problems. We documented the most frequent problems/solutions (many thanks to Marcos Campillo for his help with that!), but that obviously wasn't enough. I will contact our tech department to see if we can set up an orientation session about posting to YouTube and/or a help desk or office hours for students who have trouble posting.

Problem: Some community partners asked students to use English all the time, thus defeating the "mutually beneficial" relationship between students and community partners.
Solution: Students are in the class to learn Spanish and thus need to speak Spanish during their community service learning. Not all the time, but certainly not never. This happened with a new community partner, so again, this is a case of working out the kinks in something new. In this school, I communicated with the volunteer director, but not directly with the teachers. I can't take up the teachers' valuable time, but I will come up with a brochure that the volunteer director can give to all participating teachers. The brochure will include a brief explanation of community service learning, including the benefit that my students need to get from our relationship. I will also try to include examples of how other teachers have used the students to their own benefit in their classrooms.

Problem: Some students use only English because the Spanish-speakers they work with switch to English.
Solution: Again, I'll create brief course materials on this. It is true: when someone switches to English on you, your self-confidence falls to the floor. The important thing is keep going with Spanish. Or simply state that you'd like to speak Spanish. Some students are capable of doing that on their own, others obviously need a little push.

Problem: Some students aren't really engaged in their community service work. They sign up for the course simply because they need a Spanish class, any Spanish class, and they treat their work in the community as if it were just a homework assignment.
Solution: Honestly, I don't know how to solve this one. Even if I could have a very tough pre-screening process, how do you really know how students will perform? And students who take the class without strong convictions from the beginning often end up performing great in the class and in the community. Right now, I give students lots of information ahead of time about the course. I send them e-mails after they have registered for the course. The Spanish advisor screens the students. I'm not sure what else to do about it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Chris: Translating Official Documents Is Part of Spanish Community Service Learning

This week I spent a lot of time doing translations. Pretty much everything that I translate is either a birth certificate or a marriage license. Although such work is often tedious, it is beneficial in many ways. First of all, it teaches me new vocabulary. The word “witness” is something that I never knew how to say in Spanish. Secondly, it teaches me a bit about how things are done in other countries like Mexico. They do not create their birth certificates until well after the child is born, for example. One of the forms that I translated was not created until eight months after the boy was born, named, etc. Lastly, translating such documents makes me feel useful because I know that it is an important task. People need to be able to present an accurate birth certificate or marriage license, and my work is instrumental in helping them to do so.


Liz: The Benefits of a Paid Subscription to

I was very excited to see that SpanishPod posted a response to my blog about their web site! You can see what they wrote if you go my last blog and click on comments. JP said that we could write to them and put in requests so that the lessons would be related to what we are talking about in class! I thought this was a great idea! I’m very excited because I think that this would make the podcasts much more useful to our class! I was also looking into more detail at the website to see what the lesson plans are like. You can listen to the podcasts for free any time you want but if you want to look at the lesson plans you have to have a paid subscription. With the voucher Ann Abbott gave me, I was able to get access to the lesson plans. Each podcast has its own lesson plan that is divided into five sections:

The first is Discussion, which is actually available to anyone. Under this part of the lesson plans, you can post a response to the podcast or start a conversation on a related topic. It’s very interesting to see what other users think. There are actually quite a few people that respond, it’s as though the program was more like a blog than a podcast. Check it out if you want because you don’t have to be a paid subscriber to have access to it.

The second part of the lesson plan is called Dialogue. This part is interesting because it is a list of all of the important questions and points that came up in the podcast. All of it is written in Spanish so that the students can practice following along if they need to. I thought the greatest part of this section is that when you move your mouse over a word, an English definition automatically pops up! I really like this idea because then the students know instantly what a word is and they don’t have to stop the podcast or miss out on part of the dialogue by trying to look up a word. Plus they have sound bites of native speakers repeating the phrases so you can listen and practice pronunciation.

Then there is a lesson section for vocabulary. This part is pretty self-explanatory; there is a list of important words you need to know related to the topic and of course the English definition. The cool thing is that they also include supplementary vocabulary so that the students can see the more challenging words and use those if they want to. This part also includes sound bites.

The Expansion section is actually an extended version of the vocabulary. This time the vocabulary words are used in a sentence and multiple examples are provided for each word. This section provides the English translations of each sentence and an example of a native speaker of Spanish saying the phrase.

The last section of the lesson is called Exercises. This part usually has some sort of multiple choice quiz where the students can test their progress and see which language skills they need to work on.

The lessons are very helpful and I think that they could be very useful tools with a class like Spanish 232. It would be great if we could incorporate it into our program! I understand that most students do not have the money to subscribe to get the lessons, but even so I would say that the podcasts are worth listening to, and they’re free! I think the class could use SpanishPod as a listening exercise similar to Nuevos Horizontes. Plus for some of the Diarios they could post comments the Discussion section. If anyone else has any comments, I would love to hear what other students have to say about SpanishPod!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Liz: Using Fits with Some Topics in the Spanish Community Service Learning Course

I have just been listening to several of the podcasts on I really liked it! It was comparable to the Nuevos Horizontes, the radio clips we listen to for Spanish 232. Nuevos Horizontes usually focuses more on the Latino community here in the Champaign-Urbana and the United States, which is perfect since that is the focus of our class. The problem with SpanishPod is that some of the podcasts are relevant to the class and others are not. For example, I listened to one that was about finding an apartment and what kinds of questions you should ask. We were just talking about this in class and I thought the podcast presented useful vocabulary and information on the subject. On the other hand, there were podcasts on restaurants and how to order food that we wouldn’t be able to use for Spanish 232. Another problem might be that we don't necessarily have any idea what the future topics of podcasts will be. So there may not always be a podcast that is directly related to what we are talking about in class or with our community partners. Overall, I really liked the fact that the lessons were organized by level of skill. I listened to lessons at each level to see what the differences were to see which one would be best for our class. The Newbie, Elementary, and Intermediate levels used quite a bit of English. The Spanish vocabulary was repeated many times and it was mostly words that students should already know by the time they are in 200 level classes. I found the upper Intermediate and Advanced levels to be more appropriate for our class. As for students who studied abroad, they should find the Advanced levels to be quite easy to understand. The website is very well organized and useful but I think it would probably be better for a 100 level Spanish class than for Spanish 232.

Monday, April 14, 2008

New Community Partner: A Woman's Place

I just got back from a meeting with Deb and Danyale at A Woman's Place (Urbana). What wonderful women, and what a great service they are providing to our community. Their vision now is to better serve their Spanish-speaking residents, and with the help of our Spanish community service learning students I think that they can make strides in that direction.

In a previous post I wrote about their organization's need to help two of their current Spanish-speaking residents. They weren't full-fledged community partners at that point, but I put the call out to our students to see who could help.

Today they told me that they were extremely pleased about all the e-mails they received and the students' willingness to help them out with whatever they needed. (Thank you, students!)

Today's meeting, then, was to set up a community partnership so that our Spanish community service learning students can work with them on a consistent basis every semester. Whenever they have Spanish-speaking residents, then the students can work with the case managers to open communication and help with the children. These are the other projects they have in mind for students to work on if there are no Spanish-speaking residents at the time:

  • Translating their documents.
  • Putting signs in Spanish up around the facilities.
  • Community outreach--going to plants and churches in the community to inform the community of their existence and services.
  • Helping residents with life skills (e.g., resume writing, e-mail, basic computer literacy, etc.)
  • Creating videos in Spanish to welcome new residents, inform them, and help them through the necessary documentation.
If the basis of a solid community service learning program is mutually beneficial community partnerships, I feel that this is a very important partnership for Spanish & Illinois. A Woman's Place will be able to fill a need within the local Latino community, and my students will have an enriching and supportive learning environment. Creating these powerful partnerships is one of the highlights of my job.

Sunday, April 13, 2008 and Spanish Community Service Learning?

Going to conferences is great for networking, picking up teaching ideas, spotting trends and viewing the latest commercial products to come out on the market. At the 2008 CIBER Business Languages Conference that I just attended, I was able to do all of those things, and I wanted to share one commercial product in particular:

Orlando Kelm (University of Texas) was on the program to talk about using course wikis. However, he couldn't make it due to American Airlines' mass cancellations. Still, his colleague presented his talk, and the basic take-away was: using a wiki to post students' work means that each semester's cohort doesn't have to start from scratch; they can build on each other's work. I think we've all been frustrated by "losing" the great work that some students do for our course, so his wiki was a good demonstration of providing continuity as well as a service to others searching for cultural and language content on the web.

At the end of the session we were given vouchers for a free month subscription to, worth $30. I just now had a chance to look over the site and found it very interesting. You can listen to the podcasts for free, but you must subscribe to receive the accompanying teaching materials.

Although I wouldn't require my students to subscribe to the site, I will certainly bring it to their attention; many may actually decide to subscribe on their own.

I was particularly glad to see lessons at the advanced level. That is where my Spanish community service learning students are, for the most part. However, I was disappointed to see that most of the topics and functions for each lesson do not necessarily correspond to using Spanish in community contexts. Several of the "Upper Intermediate" Lessons would be more appropriate for the language functions that my students have to carry out in the community.

En fin, this is an on-line resource that I will investigate further and consider integrating in some way into my teaching.

I have two vouchers, and I will give them to two students and ask them to blog about their experiences with it.

Friday, April 11, 2008

CIBER Business Languages Conference in St. Petersburg, FL

The 2008 CIBER Business Languages Conference just ended. It was a great opportunity to learn what other universities are doing in their Business Spanish classes and to highlight what we are doing at the University of Illinois.

Maida Watson (Florida International University) and I collaborated on a presentation titled, "Site Visits, Standards and Scaffolding: Creating and Teaching Cases for Business Language Learners of All Levels." We talked about three kinds of site visits: international faculty development programs, visits to local companies, and web"site" visits. We then shared cases, other teaching materials and assessment items built around those site visits. Maida directs a CIBER faculty development program that takes Business Spanish instructors to Spain every summer, and several of the cases we presented were based on site visits from that program.

But my second session was the most exciting because my students presented with me. The title was "Undergraduate REsearch in Business Languages: Strategic Plans for Campus and Student Success." I presented how senior honors theses in Business Spanish coincide with UIUC's strategic goal of "Leadership for the 21st Century" and it's strategic initiatives. Then I described the senior honors theses that my students have written. Melissa Dilber and Jennifer Mull, my current thesis students, then presented their project. In their thesis, Melissa and Jennifer describe the tasks they had to perform in their international internships; categorize the skills they needed to succeed in their interships according to language proficiency, cultural knowledge and professional skills; compare their internship needs to what Spanish textbooks teach.

I and other professors in the audience were very impressed with their work and how articulate they were. I think they were the hit of the conference! They certainly showcased the innovative work taking place at the University of Illinois. Thanks and congratulations to Jennifer and Melissa. Thanks as well to Lynnea Johnson (pictured) from the UIUC CIBER who supported our attendance at the conference hosted by the University of Florida in St. Petersburg.

Liz: Social Media Could Be a Good Idea for Spanish Community Service Learning

I know that I speak for myself, as well as many of my class mates, when I say that my main social network is through Facebook. It’s an easy way to keep in contact with all your friends no matter where you are. I would say that most students here at the U of I use Facebook instead of other cites like MySpace that are more centered around blogging. Facebook does offer an application where you can add “posts” or “notes” that I would compare to a blog. Most students do not use this application but it would be easy to add for a class project. The good thing is that most students update their Facebook on a regular basis and check other people’s profiles frequently. So, there would be a lot more people reading the blogs and responding to them. I also think it would be a great idea to get more students involved in community based learning project. If the students posted notes about their personal experiences in the community and reflected on what it means to them, I really think that more people would become interested. As far as delivering services to the community, I think that would be a bit more difficult. It might be a good way to contact some one if you don’t know where to go. But for example, I think it would be much more difficult to help the students in ESL classes through a social media. The students usually have specific questions on homework or projects at Central and I know they would prefer that the students come to the class in person. I could see making video blogs, kind of like what we have been doing with the Youtube videos, to give instructions on how to fill out paper work at the Refuge Center. I could also see making something similar to explain to Hispanic families how to register their kids at Central High School. We would have to figure out a way to get the community involved and contributing to the project. It would be great if Spanish and Illinois could get this grant! The program already has all of the elements we just need to bring them all together. If anyone else has any ideas, don’t hesitate to let us know!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Chris: Social Media Not a Good Idea for Spanish Community Service Learning

Of all the social media listed, the only forms that I actually produce are blog posts. However, I am definitely in the minority in this area: facebook and myspace are ridiculously popular and most students use them on a daily basis. In terms of consumption, I also only read blog posts, but it should be noted that most students are constantly reading other people’s facebook and myspace pages. On another note, I think that it would be risky to try to use social media in community-based learning. In order to recruit other students into the program, participating students would have to post pictures of themselves at their service location on facebook or myspace. Such pictures would inevitably include non-students and minors, and I think that the program would run into privacy issues. Simply put, I do not think that the pictures of non-students should be plastered all over facebook and myspace, and this seems to be an unavoidable outcome of increased usage of social media. Furthermore, I think that many forms of social media are kind of complicated to use. Podcasts, for instance, are something that most students are not used to creating. If students are forced to use social media to which they are not accustomed, they will become very frustrated and probably do a poor job. Tons of the Spanish 232 digital diaries are completed late or never done, for example, because many students will not put forth the effort to correctly use a digital camera or youtube. In all honesty, I do not think that social media can help us provide services to the community. All of our work requires face-to-face interaction. Social media is a great resource, but I think that it might be overkill and more trouble than its worth for what we need to provide for the community.

Attached is a picture of me reading one of the many sports-related blogs on the internet. Thanks!


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Nick Ludmer: Spanish Community Service Learning Student and Social Entrepreneur

We have so many talented, dedicated and busy (!) Spanish students. I love it when I have the opportunity to discover some of the many facets of a student.

Nick Ludmer is the young man on the right in the picture. I first met Nick in the summer of 2006 when I took a group of students to Barcelona with me for my course, "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities." Nick wasn't in the course with me, but he was with another group of UIUC students studying abroad in Barcelona. Even then, I admired his maturity and positive attitude.

Then early this semester I received an e-mail from him saying that he would like to do an honors project for one of his Spanish courses by working at Booker T. Washington Elementary School in the bilingual education program. I didn't recognize his name on the e-mail, but when he stopped by my office to work out the details for the project, I recognized his face. He told me that he had taken "Spanish in the Community" last semester, really enjoyed the classroom experience and wanted to continue. That alone impressed me because few students actually follow through on their desire to continue working with their community partner after the semester ends.

When I contacted Ms. Julie Healy, the Volunteer Coordinator at BTW, to set up Nick's work, she told me that the teacher Nick had worked with the previous semester was absolutely delighted to have Nick back again this semester. That is absolutely the strongest testimonial for a student's responsibility, character and performace: when the community partner would be happy for him/her to continue working with them.

So this semester I have had the pleasure of reading Nick's reflective pieces about his work in the classroom this semester. I particularly recall his description of returning to the classroom; he was nervous because he had said goodbye to the children, but they welcomed him back with open arms and were truly happy to see him again.

This weekend I was driving on campus and came upon a long line of bicyclists. I slowed down to let them all make their turn and observed the cyclist at the end of the line who was communicating to the others about the traffic and looking out for their safety. Then I told my kids in the back seat, "I think that's my student!" Yes, it was. It was Nick. He's the Co-Director of Illini4000, an organization that bikes across the US and raises money for the American Cancer society. Here is what Nick has to say about it:

"I've attached a picture from our training ride on Saturday of myself and my co-director Jon Schlesinger.

"Ese grupo es una organización que mi amigo y yo empezamos el año pasado. Cada verano, atravesamos el país en bicicletas para ganar dinero para La Sociedad American de Cancer (American Cancer Society), y estabamos entrenando. Fuimos a Allerton Park.

"Es muy divertido. ¡Ud. debe visitar nuestro sitio de web, es completamente nuevo! En el menú de “Media,” hay un extracto de un documentario hecho durante el año pasado. Vamos a mostrar el documentario aquí en campus el 17 de Abril si quiere venir."

Take a look at the great documentary clip Nick mentions.

I plan to donate. I hope you can too!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Liz: Movie at Latin American Film Festival Highlights Indigenous Cultures

As you can see from my pictures, I went to the Latin American Film Festival this weekend! It was a lot of fun and I hope that all of you get a chance to see one of the films before Wednesday. Also! While I was there, I saw a poster for “La misma luna” and it’s coming to the Boardman’s Art Theater at the end of April. I highly recommend it!

This weekend I actually went to see the movie “Madeinusa.” I thought that it was a very interesting movie although it was much more violent and dark than I was anticipating. The cinematography is beautiful, and there are lots of interesting colors and themes throughout the film. I thought the director portrayed indigenous life in a very fascinating way. I visited several indigenous communities when I lived in Ecuador, and they looked very similar to the village represented in the movie. Also, the director highlighted the sense of isolation in the town and how many of the people felt disconnected from everyone else in the country. I think that is true for many rural indigenous communities. One particular example emphasizes the situation. Madeinusa’s sister tells a story of how she had to walk three days so she could get to a telephone to order a pair of shoes she wanted out of a magazine. When she told them where she lived, the sales person said it was impossible to have the shoes sent to her because it was entirely too far away. It really shows how difficult it is for these people to communicate with others outside their own community.

Another interesting thing about the movie was that many times the characters spoke in an indigenous language. I was trying not to look at the subtitles during the movie to practice my Spanish. But sometimes in the middle of a scene they would switch languages and all of the sudden I wouldn’t be able to understand it! It was very cool to hear the indigenous language come out and to see how the people switched back and forth from Spanish so naturally.

Overall, I thought the movie was very well done. I will warn people though, that the movie is very dark and it’s by no means a light hearted movie. But in any case, if anyone else went to the film festival I would love to hear your responses to the movies you have seen!

More Than Just Having a Baby: A Test of the Spanish & Illinois Infrastructure

I don't usually post personal information on this blog, but this bit of personal news will have an impact on the community-based learning Spanish courses for the fall.

I'm expecting a baby boy in mid-August.

Aside from the thrill--and anxiety--for my family and me, the anxiety (and excitement, I must admit) about my work duties are equally present.

I am anxious. I run this program by myself. I have wonderful TAs, but I run the program. What will happen when I am unavailable at the beginning of the semester? I deal with student scheduling, students dropping, students adding, getting them all the documents they need for criminal background checks, answering their questions, etc. Despite my best efforts to have all information availabe on this website, I still have to deal with individual student requests, problems and changes.

I am excited. Can I find new and more effecient ways to organize things? Can I find a good person to replace me for those first few weeks of the semester? I always receive hundreds of e-mails each day at the beginning of the semester--can I re-route them to others?

We'll see. I'm coming up with a plan to decide what I can accomplish before the baby arrives, and what must absolutely be handled in the moment.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Should Spanish & Illinois Apply for a Federal Grant on Service Learning?

That's the question that I am asking myself right now.

The Corporation for National and Community Service has an RFP for a "College Student Social Media Initiative," and the proposals are due May 7. The purpose of the grant is to: " the facilitation of better engagement of college students in service through social media.
Some examples of social media include: social networking (i.e. Facebook, MySpace, Ning, or integrating social networking capacity into existing sites), wikis, podcasts, blogs, RSS feeds, mashups, social bookmarking, widgets, etc. Successful applicants must demonstrate how their program can use these tools to engage increased numbers of college students, especially in partnership with other nonprofit or for-profit entities."

On the one hand, I feel like this is a perfect fit for Spanish & Illinois; we have this blog, student reflective writing is done on a blog, and oral student reflections are posted on YouTube (privately). Ann Bishop is a very supportive colleague and could potentially provide consultation from her expertise in community informatics. ATLAS (our college's tech team) could provide technical support.

On the other hand, it's a short time period to get all the elements pulled together--a partnership with not-for-profits, matching funds, and institutional support. I also need to learn some more about all the types of social media mentioned in the rfp.

Another curve: Marcos Campillo Fenoll, a SPAN 232 (Spanish in the Community) TA who is an active blogger himself, recently sent me an e-mail telling me that he discovered amongst his students in the community-based learning course that they don't blog and don't read blogs. (Read his post on this subject.) And, horror of horrors: I only have one subscriber to this blog--Marcos himself! However, he also wrote about professors and students using Facebook, which gives me a little more hope that using social media could in fact increase the number of college students engaged in service: the grant's goal.

So, I have my ideas about using social media to engage college students in service. Marcos, a TA, has shared his perspective. Now I'd like to see the students' perspective. I would like my student bloggers--Liz and Chris--to comment on the following in their post this week:

1. Of the social media listed in the grant rfp (see the second paragraph of this post), which do you actually produce (write, upload, etc.)? Which do you consume (read, view, etc.)?

2. Do you think that we could use social media to "recruit" more students to engage in community-based learning?

3. Do you think we could use social media to actually deliver students' services to partner organizations and their clients/students?

4. If you can, include a picture of yourself at the computer producing or viewing a type of social media listed in the rfp.

I have included here pictures of myself blogging at my computer at home. I would like to use this blog to be of service to other instructors of Spanish who are doing community-based learning or thinking about it. And the grant--whether I get it or not--has me thinking about ways to use this blog--or something else--to actually engage the community partners and community members that our students are already serving and/or extend those services to new communities.

p.s. Thanks to Dean Karen Carney for brainstorming with me about the grant, and thanks to Val Werpitinsky for sending out great weekly e-mails about service learning that include publishing and grant opportunities.

Update 1
Click here to read Liz's response and Chris's response.

Update 2
I did enter a proposal. We're supposed to find out the results in late July. I'm crossing my fingers!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Chris: Spanish Community Service Learning Students go to Champaign Public Library

The Champaign public library is frequented by many of those who come to the Refugee Center. Many of the immigrants bring their children there and practice reading books in English. I am told that the library has an extensive children’s section and is actually a fun place for young kids to hang out and play. In addition, the library has book reading events and children’s plays that encourage young kids to enjoy reading. I have not personally had to go to the Champaign public library with anyone from the Refugee Center, but I know a couple of student volunteers who have acted as translators for immigrants at the library.


Research on Spanish Community Service Learning

Darcy and I have an article coming out this month in the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, and we submitted a manuscript to Foreign Language Annals yesterday. We have another manuscript--about aligning expectations between students and community partners--that needs about one week of work, and then we can submit it as well. We're very excited to be putting our work out there!

In the spring of 2006 we collected data from the students in our first "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" course. The articles we're currently publishing and submitting are based on that data--student journals, exams, homework, poster projects, and correspondence with the community partners.

This semester we are collecting data from her students at the University of North Carolina and the SPAN 232 & 332 students from UIUC. Student reflections, exams and projects are a treasure trove of insight! I really enjoy reading (and watching--los diarios digitales) to see what students have to say, what patterns emerge from their reflections and assignments, and then thinking about what that implies for our teaching strategies.

Working with Darcy is wonderful in many ways, but one very important thing that she brings to our collaborations is her background in qualitative research. In my own experience, that research method isn't emphasized/practiced in most Spanish departments. But because Darcy's PhD is in Education, she received that training. That allows us to gather information and interpret it in very exciting ways.

My PhD is in Spanish literature, so I was trained in literary criticism. Obviously, that did not directly prepare me for the work that I currently do, but many elements of my graduate program did indirectly prepare me for it.
  • Literary studies made me an insightful reader of student work. I use the same skills when I read between the lines of what students write/say, read the "absences" as well as what is written, and to place the texts within a cultural framework.
  • Learning about second language acquisition gave me insights into teaching. All TAs in our graduate program in Spanish, Italian & Portuguese must take a pro-seminar in foreign language teaching the very first semester, just like I did. I had the great fortune to take the course with Prof. Bill VanPatten who taught us in exactly the same way he told us to teach others. He modeled the methodology (communicative language teaching) perfectly. And I had such fun teaching that way in the classroom because I could see that it really worked. I strive to bring that same approach to the Spanish community service learning exercises I create for the classroom today.
  • Supervising a course gave me experience in organizing people, information and events. I supervised SPAN 101 & 102 for three years in graduate school. I learned the importance of giving (and following!) precise and concise instructions, working ahead of time, delegating, follow-up, and showing appreciation for the talents of the wonderful TAs and students I worked with.

Darcy and I are very excited about sharing with others what we are learning about Spanish community service learning through our experiences and our research. I'll keep you posted on our progress!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Urgent Need for Spanish Community Service Learning Work

Yesterday I received an e-mail from an employee at A Woman's Place (Urbana) telling me that they had a few Spanish-speaking clients with whom they were not able to communicate well. Could my students help?


I identified one student to take the lead and work the most hours, then e-mailed all students to ask them to volunteer as well.

The woman with whom I spoke was obviously discouraged because she wanted to be able to provide her clients with full access to the organization's services, but the communication barrier was preventing that. She described difficulties in case management--setting goals for finding housing, employment, etc.--and daily living--e.g., finding family connections, arranging transportation, etc. This is an opportunity for students to have real impact in the lives of the organization's Spanish-speaking clients.

I have reflected on a few things that this sudden opportunity towards the end of the semester has shown me:

Which students will volunteer for an "extra" opportunity? On the one hand, I have students who are behind on their required 28 hours of community service learning work, for various reasons (some beyond their control, some within their control). For one student in this situation, I specifically told him that he needed to take the lead on this project. All others can contact the organization directly themselves. What I have observed so far is that the most interested and active students are actually those that have plenty of community service learning hours. They are not looking to "make up " anything; they are truly engaged and excited about doing this work.

How do you balance semester-long partnerships with urgent requests? To run a community-based learning program that integrates community work throughout the semester (as opposed to projects), you absolutely must form partnerships that provide regular work for the students. They need to be able to schedule their lives ahead of time, and you need to be able to plan your teaching curriculum. However, what I have seen from this current experience is that students--often the busiest students--will rise to the challenge of fulfilling an urgent request. I will also now work with A Woman's Place to see if they can be one of our permanent community partners.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Chris: Learning Outcomes from Spanish Community Service Learning

This week we had to make a digital diary about some of the things that we have learned through our work in the community. For starters, I think that I have learned a ton of new vocabulary. Financial and legal terms are always being used at the Refugee Center and I now know how to say things like “mortgage” and “insurance”. Additionally, my conversation skills have greatly improved. I know more everyday expressions and I can understand native speakers more easily. I am much better at speaking on the telephone as well. Finally, I have learned a lot about the Hispanic culture in the United States. I never knew, for instance, that many Hispanic-Americans put more or less equal importance on both of their last names. I also never understood how hard it is for some people to gain citizenship in the United States. All of the above is, of course, just a small sample of everything that I have learned at the Refugee Center.-Chris

Liz: Share Your Stories about How Community Members Arrive

Over spring break I went to see the movie La misma luna (The English title is Under The Same Moon). I recommend it to all of you! It was very interesting and I have been thinking about it this week in Spanish 232 since we have been talking about people’s stories and how they immigrated to the United States. It definitely makes me realize that I have no idea what it’s like to have to do something like that. To have to leave all of your friends and family behind so that you can move to a place that is very different and overwhelming in hopes of a better life. Although, I do think that this movie was a bit unrealistic at times. It would be very difficult for a nine year old boy with out any money to cross the border and make it all the way to Los Angeles. Even thought the movie is a bit idealistic, I think that the story is still interesting. I am really curious to see if anyone has any stories they have heard from people in the community. I know the students I work with at Central High School come from many different backgrounds. One of the students in the ESL class is actually an exchange student so she is living with a host family here and has a student visa. I’m sure her experience is completely different than the other students who came to the US on their own. If any one has heard an interesting story about how the people we work with in the community came to Champaign-Urbana, I would love to hear it! Please post a reply! Thanks and I hope you all enjoy the Latin American Film Festival this weekend!

Ann Abbott Named "Distinguished Teacher Scholar" 2008-09

I am very honored to have received a University Distinguished Teacher/Scholar award for 2008-09. I feel that this is a chance to spotlight not just my Spanish community service learning program, but all the wonderful work that is being done with university-community partnerships on this campus.

This award will allow me to pursue a project next year: a series of community-university summits to promote dialogue and action about our teaching strategies and outcomes. I have proposed to form a Community Experts Committee comprised of local business, non-profit and civic leaders. They would speak at a series of four or five "summits" with themes such as community service learning, entrepreneurship, leadership, undergraduate research and communication skills. After each summit, faculty members would attend a follow-up session to de-brief and imagine ways to act upon the community committee's insights.

I'm also excited that the other award winner is from linguistics: Rajeshwari Pandharipande. It is a Foreign Language Building year!