Sunday, March 16, 2008
Many IEPs host special programs for groups of students from other countries. Programs may be only a few weeks in length, but tend to be very intensive, with English classes, field trips, and other activities. Lasting bonds may be formed among participants, but when the program is over, interaction with staff typically ceases. One way to make a program especially memorable and effective is to expand the interaction between participants and staff. Internet tools such as blogs, wikis, electronic mailing lists, online fora, voice discussion boards, voice email, and chat programs can enable program coordinators to begin interacting with program participants weeks before they arrive in the country and to stay in touch with them after they go home. (The same tools can also be used to enhance interaction with regular IEP students.) I will describe how I have used Yahoo!Groups, a popular electronic mailing list; the chat application at Tapped In, an online educators’ community; Facebook, a popular social networking site; a program blog; and individual participant blogs to link Japanese participants in a language/culture program at an American university with the program team and with each other, encouraging them to interact before, during, and after their trip to the United States.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
The two-week program, which takes place during the first two weeks of August, is very intensive. Students attend three hours of English classes in the morning. After lunch, planned activities include field trips, panel discussions, and lectures on topics of interest to the participants. There are informal activities available in the evenings and daytrips on weekends to places of interest in the surrounding area.
The program is staffed by two teachers (one of whom serves as the coordinator) and three mentors, University of Maryland students who spend afternoons and evenings with the participants and accompany the group on weekend field trips.