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Getting Started with Level Up Village Virtual Exchange Program: A Teacher’s Practical Guide

“I would love to try the Level Up Village Global Connection project but I don’t know where to start!!!??”

This was an email I received from a colleague seeking advice on how to best prepare her students for a virtual exchange program. After piloting a two-week Italian exchange, I was excited to share my thoughts and encourage her to try the program with her own students. She was a little apprehensive at first, unsure if she would be able to add this project to her already demanding teaching load. I assured her that LUV would be a positive addition to her strong curriculum and I advised her to attend one of the webinars to get more comfortable with the platform. As I was convincing her to look into LUV, I started to jot down a list of things I wanted to share with her. I am a firm believer that there is no need to reinvent the wheel and that teachers should do all that we can to make each other’s lives a little bit easier! So, I mapped out a few strategies I found successful with my own students. My goal was to help my colleague but I hope this helps other readers as well!

The first thing I did before presenting this project with my students was to create a student profile for myself. This allowed me to get to know the site and view exactly what the students would see on their end. I was able to look over the prompts and check out the camera function which really helped me get an idea of what the students might need BEFORE starting module one. I then created a model of my own to share with them. I answered the first prompt as if I were a student in my own classroom. This gave the students an idea of what I was looking for, but also set a standard for appropriate responses. After reviewing my response we discussed expectations and rules for creating videos. I was so impressed by the students’ level of interest and engagement from the very beginning stages of the project. I am not a technology wizard so I relied heavily on support and ideas from the students. Many students preferred to use the camera directly from the site, but others wanted to be more creative and used TikTok or Snapchat to create their videos. This was a learning curve for me—I have never used these forms of social media before. I can honestly say that my students proved that there is a place for social media in the classroom. They created video responses that included images, clips, emojis, and more. I was so excited to view their submissions, but I learned quickly that I need to pace myself and stick to a set schedule for viewing and approving the videos to insure I didn’t fall behind on my other responsibilities. With this in mind, we created a schedule: videos were due on Mondays; I would approve and submit videos before Wednesday; and on Fridays we would go in and view the responses from our friends. Did this work perfectly!? Absolutely not! But having a schedule helped us stay on track and modify when necessary. I found this to be a collaborative effort—my students and I worked as a team troubleshooting tech problems and learning from each other. The LUV team was readily available and I was able to email them with any question or concern. Knowing that I had a tech team behind me really gave me the confidence to dive into this exchange program. As the students began submitting videos, I realized how much I was getting to know about their personal lives. I really enjoyed watching their videos., I felt like I learned so much about their interests and was then able to incorporate their likes/dislikes into other lessons throughout the year.

One piece of advice I was sure to share with my colleague was a reminder: THIS SHOULD BE A PASSION PROJECT.  I wanted to reinforce the idea that a virtual exchange offers the students a glimpse into the real lives of their partners; many students showed their pets, their friends and families, and details about their own cultures. These speaking points encouraged students on both ends to use their language skills to share information that they felt comfortable discussing. One of my final pieces of advice was to use this speaking opportunity as a preparation for state or national testing. The topics of discussion align well with advance placement testing themes and help students build confidence in speaking. Overall this virtual exchange was a hit, I was able to connect with a teacher in Italian, and my students were given a safe and controlled environment to use their language skills in an authentic way. I found this project to be a wonderful addition to our curriculum and I look forward to our next Level Up Village Global Connection exchange.

About Gina

Gina Gallo believes that language teachers are superhumans who make the world a better, brighter, and more compassionate place. Gina is a proud SCSU alumna and Italian teacher at Bristol Central High School. She is currently enrolled in an amazing Italian Literacy and Cultural studies program at UConn and is excited to learn and grow. Gina is a lifelong learner of Italian, a Latin newbie, and a lover of Spanish. Gina’s goal is to foster a passion for languages to positively impact the world with all of our voices.