Thursday, March 15, 2012

Interview with Radio Ambulante about Using their Podcasts with Spanish Community Service Learning

Listen to great stories in Spanish.
by Ann Abbott

As soon as I listened to the podcasts at I fell in love.

I shared the link with my Facebook friends and wrote, "It's 'This American Life' in Spanish." I pinned the site to one of my boards in Pinterest with some vague idea about how I would use it in my teaching. After I actually used it in class, I blogged about the lesson plan and how it incorporated Facebook. Then I shared that blog link on Radio Ambulante's Facebook page. I looked up Daniel Alarcón, the founder, and became intrigued about his award-winning writing. After I post this, I'm going to order his books at Amazon. Oh, and I also donated money to Radio Ambulante through Kickstarter. That is a lot social media sharing!

But I also had a dialogue with Radio Ambulante via "old-fashioned" e-mail. They are preparing a blog post about how educators have used Radio Ambulante, and below you will find my answers to their questions. I hope that you will listen to Radio Ambulante's stories. If you use it in a class, I'd love to hear about here. Or share your experience directly with Radio Ambulante--they are listening.

1. RA: How did you come across Radio Ambulante?
Ann Abbott: I honestly don't remember! It was probably through Twitter. I then put the link on my Facebook page and on my Pinterest board about teaching Spanish & social entrepreneurship to share it with others.

2. RA: What made you think of it as a teaching tool?
Ann Abbott: First of all, I am always looking for examples of authentic language and culture to bring into the classroom. The stories that you already have up are great examples of that! I want my Spanish students to be able to see the world through the cultural perspectives, practices and products of Hispanic cultures. Each of your stories are like a window into a very specific world. Second, because I teach social entrepreneurship in Spanish, I knew that Radio Ambulante as an organization would be a wonderful "case study" for my students. We were able to examine your mission statement and compare it to your actions; we examined your use of social media marketing and calls-to-action; and after spring break we will look at income-generating possibilities that build on Radio Ambulante's existing capacities. En resumidas cuentas, Radio Ambulante had it all: it's a fascinating organization offering high-quality cultural content.

3. RA: What was the most surprising response to the material that you got from the students?
Ann Abbott: I had listened to "Palabra prohibida" several times while preparing my lesson. I loved it. I knew my students would love it because it was about being a student, fitting in, going through culture shock, all things that they can relate to--especially those who have studied abroad. So in class, I gave them some time to explore the site, and then I played "Palabra prohibida" for all of us to hear. I faced my 30 students, and I saw them smile and heard them laugh and say "Awwww" in all the right places when the speaker tells about walking into his new classroom. Then, when the story switched to high school and he started talking about the word "nigga"--the vibe changed. Talking about race is so awkward in the United States! It was if people didn't want to make eye contact with any of the students of color in the room while we were listening. There was absolute silence and only a few nervous giggles at time. After the piece finished, I put them into small groups to talk about their reactions to the story and their own "palabras prohibidas" when they work in the community with Spanish-speaking immigrants for their community service learning work. The room exploded with conversations! The volume was louder than what was coming out of the speakers when I played "Palabra prohibida." It was like they were so glad to be given permission to talk about race and to be given "safe" parameters for the discussion.

4. RA: What benefits do you see to using material like RA as opposed to a more traditional curriculum?
Ann Abbott: When you teach things like my courses--"Spanish in the Community" and "Spanish and Social Entrepreneurship"--there simply is no traditional curriculum. Examples from leaders in the field, like Radio Ambulante, are all I have to work with. But it's enough! My students read about the basics of social entrepreneurship, but with examples like Radio Ambulante they can see and hear what those abstract concepts--like linguistically and culturally appropriate programming; autochtonous solutions for locally-defined problems; mission-based management; strategic alliance building; etc.--mean on the ground.

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