Friday, September 11, 2009

Students Can Apply Spanish CSL Technology in Jobs

by Ann Abbott

Using Web 2.0 tools for my Spanish community service learning (CSL) courses saved my health.

Seriously. When I first started with Spanish CSL, I scheduled the students. It wasn't too hard. I just had twelve students and one community partner. Still, the students' schedules are not set in stone at the beginning of the semester, so every time they changed something, I had to do more work.

The next year I had 24 students and two community partners. And I was still scheduling the students. I hired an undergraduate to help me (Royce, you were/are a saint!), but that just meant that two of us were stressed out. I wasn't sleeping at night. And I got backaches. Talk about stress!

Then I tried a website. Students had to e-mail me with their #1 and #2 choices. Students could see what slots were available, but I was still a slave to the e-mail and the computer. If I didn't update frequently, some students couldn't get either one of their choices because, unbeknownst to them, someone else had e-mailed earlier and gott their spot.

Now I have around 100 students per semester and a dozen community partners. A new system was obviously necessary.

I started out with Google Docs. This was a good system, but you can only invite 200 people to be part of a document. With all the students, community partners and TAs, I quickly went over the limit. And I invited them, and then un-invited them when they dropped the class. Still too much work. Most students had never heard of Google Docs. A lot of them would write to me telling me that they couldn't use it, for some mysterious reason. I had to intervene a lot.

Now I use a wiki so that students can truly self-schedule. Community partners can see, at a glance, and updated version of the schedule. There are downsides. Again, most students have never heard of a wiki. Sometimes students write me and swear that there must be some problem because they can see the information, but it won't let them type their own information on the page. I still have to send e-mails saying, "It sounds like you are on the 'View' tab. Please hit the 'Edit' tab." Some students accidently erase whole swaths of the wiki! Most don't even realize they've done it. If they do realize it, most don't know how to hit "Page history" and fix the problem.

So, yes, there is a learning curve for the students, and I'm sure there are many students who think, "I signed up for a Spanish class, not a computer class."

But for a long time now I have been telling students that these "computer" skills are important, transferrable skills that they will take with them to their jobs. (Even though I ended up shelving the YouTube assignments for video reflections; a handful of students always had problems, and they got angry!)

That is why I was thrilled to get a message from Carolina Kloecker to tell me that she had put her knowledge of wikis to use at her summer internship at ACCION Chicago:

"También queria decir gracias por la experiencia con el 'wiki' en tu clase, acabo de crear uno para ACCION Chicago, donde tenemos nuestros policies, procedures, y unos 'How to's'. La experiencia usando un wiki en Spanish in the Community me he ayudado mucho! (Nosotros tenemos wikispaces en vez de pbwiki, y no se si quieres cambiar, pero a mi me gusta wikispaces mucho.)"

Her bosses at ACCION Chicago asked the interns who wanted to work on the wiki project, and Carolina jumped at the opportunity, in part, just because she's such a go-getter (I love that about Carolina), and in part because she already knew what a wiki was only because she had to use it to self-schedule for her Spanish CSL work. Imagine what kind of impression her bosses had of her know-how and her can-do attitude.
What technologies are you teaching your students that will make them valuable employees after graduation? What other transferrable skills do your students pick up while doing their Spanish CSL work?

1 comment:

  1. Heh, muchas gracias! I also want to experiment more with Google Docs, maybe for something at the study abroad office for the Peer Advisors.