Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What Are Your Sound Bites for Your Spanish Community Service Learning Program?

by Ann Abbott

In my job, I concentrate on several things:
  • Spanish community service learning (CSL).
  • Entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship
  • Business Spanish
  • Social Media
In my mind, these four items are seamlessly linked. But for most people I encounter, they seem like four disparate elements. Many times people in my field aren't event familiar with all the terms on that list, let alone how they can work together.

Long ago, I realized that I need to find a catchy phrase that expressed what those elements are and how they are linked in Spanish & Illinois. Well, I'm still searching for that catchy phrase!

Sounds bites have a bad reputation, for many reasons. They oversimplify complex issues, and they can be used to manipulate public discourse. However, it seems to me that they do have a use. For example, I can't begin to have a nuanced discussion with someone about the issues I deal with if they haven't first understood what they are. We need to make sure that we are indeed talking about the same things. And making the sound bites catchy is a way to interest people in issues that they might not otherwise even pay attention to.

So here are a few sites I have glanced at to revisit my quest for a sound bite:

My friend and colleague, Liora Bresler, recently asked me to say, in four bullet points, what my CSL courses are about. It's a long way from being a single, pithy sound bite, but this is what I came up with:

*To create mutually beneficial relationships with community partners. My students use their Spanish and learn about Hispanic cultures; our community partners use my students' manpower and language skills to meet their organization's mission with local Latinos.

*To use class time with students to prepare them to work effectively in the community. They need the linguistic, cultural and socio-political knowledge that will allow them to contribute to the community and to better understand what they observe.

*To ask students to reflect on their experiences in the community. This improves their oral and written communication skills and consolidates their learning.

*To help students build pre-professional skills while working in the community. In their CSL work they are providing culturally- and linguistically-appropriate services to Latino stakeholders; working effectively in multicultural teams; using technology (including social media) to solve complex problems; researching; and thinking critically about the broader context of the individual problems they observe.

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