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Last week two of my ELLs unexpectedly returned to their homeland due to an illness in the family. I saw their hiatus as an opportunity to enhance learning for both my travelling students as well as those staying behind. Before they left I spoke with the brothers and their mother about the possibility of skyping with our class so long as it was not an imposition on their family. They were amicable to the idea and shortly after they arrived their mother emailed me to let me know that they were eager to connect with us.
One of these young men is in my first block ESL class and the other one has World History during the same block, conveniently located next door to the ESL classroom. When I asked the history teacher about joining us on a Skype call, he jumped at the opportunity as they had recently covered a unit on India.
During today's conversation, our students and their family opened up their home to us, offering a virtual tour both inside and out. They spoke to us about their culture, including marriage and family traditions, foods, studies and recreation. I do have to admit that initially the interaction was a bit awkward on the students' part and it took the mother's involvement to jumpstart the conversation. Regardless of the engagement level, students in the classroom were captivated by discussion.
This is not the first time my class engages in a Skype session, but it was the first time we had a video conference opportunity where non-ELLs were present in the classroom. I found it interesting that while my ELLs have been extremely social on other videoconferencing sessions, they froze today when presented with the chance to speak in front of the screen. They were curious and attentive, but engaged in very little conversation and questions were channeled through me.
While the visit was social in nature, today's session gave our students a taste of the global marketplace they are entering. Thanks to emerging technologies, video conferencing has become ubiquitous in many organizational settings. From halfway across town to halfway across the world, collaborating with individuals at a remote location is now somewhat routine. Moreover, 21st-century interactions, professional as well as personal, are increasingly filtered through some sort of technology device. Today's conversation on Skype was nothing short of a "real-world" experience.
If you are interested in video conferencing with my middle or high school ELLs, or my middle school Skype club who are not English Language Learners, please contact me. I am always seeking opportunities to tear my classroom walls down and travel the world. Won't you join us?
I look forward to hearing from you.