Don’t make your students wait until college to study abroad.

University of Salamanca, the oldest Spanish university in existence founded by Alfonso IX in 1218.
University of Salamanca, the oldest Spanish university in existence founded by Alfonso IX in 1218. How can we provide more ways for today’s students to experience virtual study abroad experiences at school?

Already Read? Click Here For Update From Mr. Engelhard’s Class

 

Sto-Rox Middle School (Pittsburgh, PA) teacher Ben Engelhard and I met back at Penn State after learning we were to be roommates in Salamanca, Spain for a 1999 study abroad trip.  We haven’t seen each other since, but we haven’t lost complete touch due to social media.

I often look back at that amazing six-month trip wishing I had a kept a diary or blog to recount the memories and daily learning I experienced. We lived with a host family and walked to and from the University of Salamanca each day.  We took siesta every afternoon, participated in holidays and customs and spent many late nights and mornings enjoying the many discotecas near Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor. I learned a lot about myself on that trip and believe living away from the U.S. while learning a new culture and language gave me the confidence, independence and communication skills I needed to enter the “real world” of education. Aside from traveling the country of Spain, we also visited northern cities in France and the Netherlands during our time away. As our @MCDPEL team continues to plan our #PennAlaska14 trip this May, I’m reminded of how much we learned last March while spending a week in Finnish schools and the City of Helsinki. Studying abroad is something I’ve always enjoyed offline, and IMO there is no clear substitute, but now we’re starting to see more tools that allow today’s students to learn other languages and cultures from their classrooms and homes.

Today I looked on my Facebook wall, where I keep up with friends of new and old, and saw Ben’s post about supporting his class’ new effort to purchase enough headsets and webcams from CDW-G to allow the class to learn Spanish from native speakers using the WeSpeke interface. WeSpeke is global community (free) to practice languages, share interests and make connections.  What do you need to use it? Hardware (embedded proposal), network capacities (Be has and many more across US will with new DOE initiatives) and an edu-trusting policy in place to allow your classroom walls to span the globe.

Help Ben’s Classroom Connect

Below, please join me in sponsoring Ben’s Spanish class who is looking for a few more dollars to purchase what they need to innovate within their classroom. (UPDATE – Success!)

Click Picture to Help Out At Donors Choose
Click Picture to Help Out At Donors Choose

Aside from leveraging applications like WeSpeke, funding this project will equip Ben’s students the necessary hardware to connect his classroom to the world. Ben isn’t on Twitter yet, but when he does join I’m guessing he’ll be following hashtags like #MysterySkype & #Comments4Kids.

What are you doing to open up doors for YOUR students today?

Thanks for inspiring me, Ben. Hope all is well with you and your family. I love seeing your son growing up on Facebook and how proud you are of his accomplishments.  Hope to see you on Twitter sharing your students’ work on WeSpeke.

 

UPDATE From Mr. Englehard’s Class – SUCCESS!

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What is WeSpeke?

Comments

  1. says

    Joe,

    You continue to amaze me. Thank you so much for posting this. It means the world to me. You are truly an innovator in the field of education and I thank you again for you support.

    I will always be grateful for the experience in Salamanca and that is in no small part due to you and the fun we had.

    I hope my kids can get the experience they need to boost them out into the world through this project. They certainly need every chance to get those life-changing experiences learning from others around the world.

    Thanks again! We need to get together soon.

    -Ben

    • says

      Ben,
      Thanks for the kind comments. Happy to help out and excited for your students. Think about starting a blog to capture the work you’re doing with WeSpeke and other collaborative learning tools.

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