Learning Language and Culture through Interviews


Students speaking with Spanish guest speaker

Among the different things related with technology that I have implemented in my classes in the last years, interviews that students in my SPA 250, Spain: A journey through history and culture conducted via Skype with people in Spain has been one of the most successful and popular.

The original idea was to interview three different people in Spain. I hoped to connect with someone related with Spanish politics, with a person in higher education, and somebody connected with social movements in Spain. The goal was to provide my students with a first hand glimpse of the most important issues in contemporary Spain.

“The interviews with the people in Spain were the most stimulating because they gave us an opportunity to connect face to face with the country we are studying.” – student evaluation

I was able to secure the participation of Jose Luis Blanco Moreno, socialist mayor of my native town. A few weeks later we chatted with Carlos Martinez Soria, the equivalent to the Dean of the College at the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Cuenca. Unfortunately, even though I was in touch with one of the leaders of a feminist organization, scheduling problems prevented a meeting with her. Our class met Wednesdays and Fridays 2:45-4:00, which unfortunately meant the interviews took place at 9:00 PM in Spain.

Preparing for Skype interview
Preparing for Skype interview.

In order to maximize the outcomes of the activity, I created a Google Doc in which each student added a question that we would ask later. Before each interview we spent time reviewing the questions, correcting them for grammar, and assigning students questions to ask. In both cases this worked very well and we were able to keep the conversation to about one hour.

“My favorite activity was video chatting with various Spanish professionals.” – student evaluation

I was a little bit worried about the possibility of technical issues, but in both cases the connections worked very well. I borrowed a web conferencing kit from Mike Dreimiller in the DSCC in order to improve the audio and video quality. My students, our guests, and I were very pleased with the activity. My class was held in the new Dilley Room, which is well suited for this type of activity.

“… the Skype interviews with Spanish leaders really helped with my comprehension and listening skills in a language other than my own.” – student evaluation

Based on the positive response of my students, I intend to expand this activity next semester by having up to 4 guest speakers in my class. I can’t wait to see my students using their language and cultural skills with “real” people, because, as one them mentioned in the evaluations, “Connecting with outside sources in Spain challenge students to utilize Spanish as well as seek distinct perspectives from the country in comparison to the U.S.”


Shain Reopening Events for Faculty

IMG_0255If we have been quiet on the blog it can be attributed to the busy, final preparations to reopen Shain Library a full five months early! We are very excited to welcome everyone back into the building (it is lonely in here!) and share all the new and exciting changes. After break we will offer several events for faculty to show off the new spaces, technologies and services available to you and your students. Register for and add these events to your calendar before the break!

What’s New in the Library!
Friday, March 27, 2:30-3:30 pm –Register here
Thursday, April 2, 9:30-10:30 – Register here
Davis Room, Main Floor, Shain Library
Faculty, please join Chris Penniman, Carrie Kent and Information Services staff for refreshments and a tour of Shain Library. The library will have many new exciting spaces, technologies and services available to you and to your students. We will focus how the renovated library can best serve you in your research and teaching endeavors.

Introducing the Visualization Wall
Wednesday, April 8, 11:30am -1:00pm – Register here
Location: The Visualization Wall, Technology Commons, Lower Level Shain Library
Join us at the brand new Diane Y. Williams ‘59 Visualization Wall for a demonstration of some of its exciting capabilities, including a visually dazzling high-resolution display, touch-enabled interactivity, and simultaneous display of up to five computers or devices. Bring your laptop or mobile devices to experiment with connecting to the wall. We will answer questions, demonstrate various uses, and discuss ideas for projects and events, as well as future capabilities we hope to explore. Organized by Lyndsay Bratton and Mike Dreimiller.



Expand Your Classroom Using Teleconference Technologies

cassinispace1_2Teleconference technologies offer great potential to the small liberal arts classroom. Invite experts into your classroom, expose students to a classroom in a different culture or language, or broaden your departmental course offerings. During our next workshop, Expand Your Classroom through Inter-Campus Collaborations, we will hear from faculty who have used teleconference technologies, including Andrea Lanoux, Joe Schroeder, and Hisae Kobayashi. We will also use our videoconference technology to include colleagues at Trinity College. Come learn how to use the technology, consider potential uses in your own teaching, and learn from colleagues who have implemented it. See you there!

Expand Your Classroom through Inter-Campus Collaborations
Thursday, October 2
3:00-4:00 p.m.
Olin 107

Registration not required but recommended. Fill out the registration form or email Jessica McCullough.

Globo terrestre / delineato sulle ultime osservazioni con i viaggi e nuove scoperte del Cap. Cook, inglese ; Gio. Ma. Cassini C.R.S. inc. Roma : Presso la Calcograf[i]a cam[era]le, 1790. Accessible via David Rumsey Map Collection.

Do we have Photoshop? Or, Computer Lab Software

Do we have SPSS? Photoshop? Audacity? iMovie?

If you use, recommend, or require students to use a specific type of software, consult the Computer Labs Software page. This page lists all the software available in the computer labs that are open to all students, the Neff Lab and the PC Classroom.  As a reminder, the PC Classroom is located in the Knowlton Dining Room and Neff Lab is now located in Main Street East, Harris.  The labs are open to students during the library’s regularly scheduled hours of service: M-Th, 8am – 2am; F, 8am – 10pm; Sat, 10am – 10pm; Sun, 10am – 2am.

If you need software that is not on this list, the deadline for adding new software to the labs for the spring semester is November 1st (for this fall it was June 1). Simply fill out a Help Desk Ticket to get the process started.maclab (1)

Computer labs

Embed from Getty Images

It seems hard to believe, but now is the time to start thinking about reserving lab space for next year.

  • Requests for new software should be made by June 1, 2014 to ensure that is added for the fall semester.  For spring semester the deadline is November 1.
  • Not sure if the software you or your students need is already installed? Check the software list for each lab.
  • Remember, next year the PC Classroom will be located in the Knowlton Dining Hall.  The Neff lab will be in Harris Main Street. The Davis room will be unavailable for the 2014-15 academic year.

Have any questions?  Contact your Instructional Technology liaison.