Kate Ciulla, Department Chair for the Scituate World Language Program, sits down with Lingo Jingo to talk about their use of the online language learning and teaching program for their 750 middle and high school students.
Welcome Kate; why don't you start by telling us your viewpoint on learning languages?
I'm passionate about kids learning a second language, especially in this day and age, where there is talk about making children active members of a global society. And if you are going to be an active member of a global society you need to be equipped with language skills. There's so much focus on grades; did they get the A, did they get the B? But guess what, the real test is can they use it out on the street? If they go with their family to Mexico can they hold a conversation?
What is the most important factor when learning a language?
Repetition. If they are not reinforcing and practicing what they are learning in the classroom they are losing serious knowledge and skill.
That's quite a challenge, especially when students are out for a couple of months on summer break. How do you overcome that?
We implemented a summer language program to make sure that students are still practicing their skills over the summer. We developed packets of worksheets from textbook resources. We gave them out to each student and even made extra copies in case they lost them.
And how effective was that program?
We hit snag after snag; kids lost their packets, didn't do them, or only part of them, but the most frustrating thing was that they didn't even try and they didn't have the resources to look up to help them complete what we were asking them to. They weren't invested and they weren't engaged.
How did teachers feel when they graded the papers?
We held the students accountable for their work. Teachers had to go through and grade papers based on a full year's curriculum. They spent hours grading kids on packets that were incomplete, or not done at all, so it was a complete loss of time on the teachers' part and the students'.
What appealed to you about Lingo Jingo?
When you guys talked about retention, practicing skills and reinforcing skills learned in the classroom it really caught my attention. I immediately thought this will be much more engaging, much more reflective of the 21st century where kids are online, interacting. It has the visual support as well, which is great for reinforcement. It supported what we were trying to do and made it better.
What did you notice about engagement rates with Lingo Jingo?
We have to talk about how you prompted these kids to get their work done. Those weekly email reminders were fantastic; I heard from parents saying thank you. I had a dad email me every day this week asking how his son had done over the summer. That's what Lingo Jingo can offer. When we don't have contact with the kids over the summer that's a challenge for us that Lingo Jingo bridged.
How was it working with Lingo Jingo?
We are very satisfied. Sometimes companies come in to sell you world language programs and it ends up being more work for us. You took it all on. You collaborated with us; you took our advice on different aspects; we asked you to change things and you changed them. Your customer service was unbelievable. I can't get that with the online text series we use; I don't get that with other technology programs we use here.
I am really excited about the engagement rates. The number of students that logged on and did the work was impressive, and teachers have said that it has helped. They are able to get through the review material so much quicker.
Would you keep using Lingo Jingo?
We'd definitely do this more. You've forced us to look at things through a different lens. We are having conversations about student data, and student growth; we weren't having those conversations so much before; we're having conversations about curriculum development now. I welcome any opportunity for us to grow and engage our students. So we're winning in both arenas; the kids are engaged and motivated and we're able to look at ourselves in a different way as well.
Any last thoughts to share?
It's a wonderful resource for middle school kids, it's a wonderful resource for vocabulary learning and the greatest benefit we saw was what it did for our kids over the summer.
You can watch the interview with Kate Cuilla here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oh7JbFUMbPc