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New York City
August 2002

At Fieldston, Foreign Language Goes Beyond Hand-Outs
By Chrisitina Perpignano

Itís summertime at the Fieldston School in Riverdale and the campus, with its picturesque buildings and landscape, resembles that of Princeton University in New Jersey. Inside one of these buildings, foreign language teachers sit in a temperature-controlled computer room surrounded by 15 Macintoshes and 7 Dells. They are editing their own bilingual video on making guacamole. The three teachers, Esperanza Cano, Leticia Zervas-Gaytan, and Diane Russcol, volunteered to take part in a weeklong workshop designed to help them incorporate computer technology into their foreign language classrooms. Mary McFerran, the schoolís Academic Technology Administrator, guides the teachers and shows them how to create a homepage and a class discussion board, how to use Power Point and how to evaluate web resources.

This course provides a useful tool for projects, said Diane Russcol, who teaches French at the Fieldston Upper School.

Using a program called iMovie, the teachers edited their video using software that allowed them to enhance it with voice-over, music and visual elements. The teachers hope to master the program, so that they can create similar videos during the school year and enhance their foreign language curriculum and teaching techniques.

You have to practice a lot so you dont forget the steps, said Leticia Zervas-Gaytan to another teacher as she tries to learn how to edit a portion of the tape. Despite the difficulties they encounter, the teachers appeared willing and determined to learn and to meet the goals of the week, which, as outlined by McFerran, include: improving computer skills with Microsoft Office applications, learning how to make a grade book with Excel, increasing their knowledge of PowerPoint, and learning how to use PowerPoint as an assessment tool.

According to Cano, who has been teaching Spanish at Fieldston for 15 years and considers the method a valuable new tool, the iMovie method has the potential to enhance the cultural reports, which require students to focus on and study a specific country, an assignment she gives every year.

The kids are always fascinated by visuals. This will capture them, she said.

Russcol agreed. Students love to work in this medium, she said.

We will use these tools to learn language and hone our skills, said Cano. The teachers also learned how to post assignments up on the web so students could access assignments from home. They also learned how to make forums where students could discuss different topics. We are moving away from handouts to web-based instruction, said McFerran.#

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