Board of Education approves digital program for world languages

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Tuesday, December 8, 2015 10:34pm
  • News

The teaching of world languages in local classrooms is taking a digital turn.

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District students enrolled in Spanish, French, Russian or Sugt’stun will be leaving physical materials behind and adopting electronic resources for language learning next year. The Board of Education approved the purchase of the Vermont-based Middlebury Interactive Languages digital learning program Monday.

“It is such a well rounded program in so many ways,” said Curriculum and Assessment Coordinator Melissa Linton. “Teachers have been very supportive from feedback I have gotten, and they are ready to roll.”

The program was chosen and recommended by the school district’s World Languages Committee, which has been completing the board policy-required seven-year review process.

Middlebury also expands the number of students world language curriculum will reach.

In the school district, world languages are considered electives, and not required to graduate, but are a requirement for admissions into most four-year universities, said Assistant Superintendent of Instruction John O’Brien in a previous Clarion interview. The school district does not have plans to change the current requirements, he said.

Educators working with sixth- through twelfth-graders will be able to use the new materials, Linton said. Right now though, the majority of middle school students taking language courses do not receive language credits, she said. They are usually 6-8 week courses and apply to other electives.

The program also falls in line with the board’s initiative to implement blended learning, or the mixing mediums for academic purposes, through the annual instructional review process, which includes math and English among others.

“We are looking at going in a different direction when it comes to world language delivery,” O’Brien said. “We are going to expand current languages, and fit nicely into digital technology initiative.”

O’Brien said program saves a significant amount of money per student, but numbers are not yet available. The materials are also up to date, more so than any of the physical materials the committee was considering, he said.

In fact, the competitor textbook was already seven years old, O’Brien said. Middlebury content is revised every year to include current events and new videos, O’Brien said.

“It is always 100 percent fresh,” O’Brien said.

A date has not been set for implementation, Linton said. The school district still has to purchase the program and “teachers will need introductory professional development,” she said.

The committee had to ensure that any chosen materials followed standards set by both the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages and the Alaska Department of Early Education and Development, which Middlebury accomplishes.

Middlebury also offers support with professional development for educators, Linton said. It can be easily integrated into what teachers are already doing, she said.

“It has an abundance of vocabulary and practice activities,” Linton said. “What I really found that just blew me away were the cultural aspects that our students don’t have. Our students don’t have a lot of opportunities to take trips Mexico and Miami to see the language in real life.”


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