The mission at SLIC Network Solutions is to connect communities to the world, so you can imagine the excitement we felt when we heard that Joseph Boyle, Spanish Teacher at Massena Central, uses the school's SLIC Internet connection to allow his students to communicate with a gentleman in Bolivia.
Bolivia is located in South America, and is 4,286 Miles from Massena, NY; yet Mr. Boyle gets his students there in mere seconds. I had the opportunity to ask Mr. Boyle about what he was doing, and how he felt the experience affected his students.
SLIC: How and when did you begin using the Internet and Skype to enhance your classroom lectures?
Mr. Boyle: I just started using Skype in the classroom to reach out to people in other countries. That's the easy part. The difficult part is finding people that are available to talk to you live from other countries, that understand what it is that you're trying to do and can work with you in the language.
SLIC: Would you say that you get a favorable response from your students using these methods to teach?
Mr. Boyle : Even though the students were nervous they were very excited to speak to someone from Bolivia. I think the response was outstanding. It's hard for them to put it into words. What is really exciting is that they actually spoke with a person from another country that doesn't speak English, that person understood them and they understood what the other person said. That is tremendously exciting. This experience opens up new doors that could never be opened just by learning grammar or vocabulary.
SLIC: What is one of the most interesting things you have encountered or learned by hosting Skype calls with people in Spanish speaking/other countries?
Mr. Boyle: What we did was have face-to-face conversations with a young man named Basilio Vargas from Bolivia. He is the main character in the film "The Devil's Miner" I showed in class . This film is about child labor and the Silver Mines of Bolivia and deals with real people living real lives. I first reached out to Basilio through Facebook in order to get to know him better and with the hope of talking with him with my students and learning something. It was fun meeting Basilio's Mom. The first thing she said was "When are you coming to Bolivia to meet us?" So we experienced South American hospitality first-hand.
* You can rent "The Devil's Miner" and stream online here.
SLIC: If other educators were interested in using similar methods in their classrooms, how would you suggest that they begin?
Mr. Boyle: One of the advantages I have here at Massena Central is that our tech department is outstanding. They provided me with a webcam and a great Network that supports this type of communication. It's super easy to get ready. All you need is a webcam, a projector or a display and a Skype account. I recommend getting to know the people you want to communicate with first, testing out all the equipment, and preparing the students by having them create questions and comments before connecting online. That minimizes any glitches with technology and maximizes the efficiency of the use of time.
SLIC: What is the largest benefit you feel that your students gain from these calls?
Mr. Boyle: The largest benefit is not from the information that we learned, although that is beneficial, but rather from creating a passion in students to utilize the Spanish language in real life and creating enthusiasm to meet new people and communicate cross-culturally. Not everybody can travel to foreign countries to talk to people and use their Spanish but we can bring those countries into the four walls of my classroom.
Access to high speed Internet is revolutionizing the way that rural areas like ours connect to the rest of the world. Here at SLIC we are so proud to be a part of this revolution, and our hope is to continue to connect homes, businesses, schools, and other organizations so that they can expand their opportunities as well.
Mr. Boyle also provided us with a video of his students communicating Basilio Vargas that can be watched below. Thank you to Mr. Boyle and your students for allowing us a glimpse into your classroom!