In-person learning, hybrid teaching, social and emotional support, and more! How could teachers add one more thing to their plates?! These were all the thoughts that were floating through my head as I was navigating the 2020-22 school years. I was pretty sure I was maxed out on both my patience and my ability to juggle any additional teaching responsibilities. In the midst of one of the craziest years in history I stumbled upon an email from Level Up Village. I was immediately intrigued—my usual study abroad programs had all been canceled and there was a missing cultural and communicative link in my lessons. My first impression of LUV was, “I can’t take kids to Italy but this is the next best thing!” However, I was still feeling the effects of COVID teaching and I did not want to bite off more than I could chew! To learn a bit more about the platform I attended an informational webinar and then met with one of the LUV representatives.
Here were my top 5 takeaways!
- This platform would allow my students an opportunity to interact with peers across the world using a secure site. (Hmm, my admins will like this!)
- The program will help students showcase their language skills as well as their 21st century tech skills. (Yes! This sounds like our mission statement!)
- This takes the traditional idea of pen pals and levels it up to meet the needs and interest of today’s language learners. (This is snail mail on steroids!)
- Teachers are given pre-written prompt choices that best align with their students, saving teachers a ton of prep time! (We all need more time!!!)
- There is a tech team behind each pairing to troubleshoot problems or field any questions. (Wait..there is support to get this going? AMAZING, because I am a tech idiot!!!)
After the webinar I felt much more confident in taking on this global connection project. The first week was spent getting comfortable with the site and our own technology. We learned that the video responses could be created using the Level Up Village platform or student-preferred recording devices. This was exciting! All of a sudden TikTok and Snapchat had a useful place in the classroom!
The initial prompt was designed to get the students to know one another and the area they come from. My classes could not wait to hear the responses of their partners and were completely engaged in the creation of each video. My students shared tips and tricks on how to make the best videos—learning was happening everywhere! I found that our time dedicated to our virtual exchange became a reward; students wanted to finish any other assignments just so we could focus our energy on our responses. There was a positive buzz in the classroom, a feeling that has been missing since the beginning of COVID teaching.
I loved watching the class learn language and culture from an authentic source—this was not a workbook exercise or a fill-in-the-blank, it was real, authentic language use and it was FUN! Initially, I was concerned that this might be too much work, rather it became a passion project and I look forward to adding this to our curriculum in the future.
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.