Student Reflections on a Skype Learning Experience

As I research more and more into second language acquisition, acculturation, cultural awareness education, as well as the educational applications of various Web 2.0 technologies, I have become even more convinced that in the right circumstances, Skype (and other tools like it) can be somewhat of a holy grail for language learning and cultural exchange, particularly for true EFL environments.

Today I co-conducted two Skype lessons at the junior high level which were an outstanding success.  My co-teacher called them “epic.” More on those and the interesting technological setup we used later.

In this space, perhaps just for posterity, I want to put up some feedback that I got back from 5th grade student questionnaires after a class-to-class Skype session in March of 2013. It’s interesting what the students had to say. (note that some of these points were repeated by many students across questionnaires – this data does not weight any of them over the others, rather it is merely a cross-section of the types of thoughts and feelings students took away from the activity.)

It was good that…

  • Everyone spoke in big voices and the Alaskan kids weren’t shy at all, and easy to understand.
  • We got to people in Alaska. It was really great.
  • Everyone used big voices in their presentations, and the students in Palmer understood us.
  • We used big voices and were easy to understand
  • We weren’t shy.
  • We were able to speak loudly and be understood.
  • We got to do Skype sessions with Sherrod twice in the year.
  • We spoke loudly without being shy.
  • That we stayed in Japan but were able to talk to people in another country.
  • The gestures were easy to understand and we all used big voices.
  • We worked together to speak in English and the people in Alaska understood us.
  • We presented in big voices.
  • We presented in big voices.
  • The gestures of the Alaskan students were easy to understand.
  • That we were able to speak easily over the TV.
  • That we were able to communicate the English that we studied to Palmer, and that the students there understood us.  We had fun talking.
  • I spoke to people in America.
  • We presented with good attitudes, and the students in Alaska had really good and funny reactions to what we said.
  • We were able to speak in loud voices.
  • We got to talk to people in Alaska on the TV.
  • Students in Palmer were so friendly and spoke clearly.
  • All the groups did a good job and we sang our song well.
  • We got to speak to students and have fun with a quiz and song.
  • None of us were shy.
  • We used clear voices and the students in Alaska spoke at a tempo that was easy to understand.
  • We presented in big voices.
  • We spoke in clear voices.
  • The foreign students spoke to us in clear voices.
  • We presented in big voices.
  • Our pronunciation was good.
  • We spoke loudly.
  • When we said “see you” we said it at the same time.
  • We presented in big voices.

I learned…

  • Kids in Alaska go to school for more than eight hours
  • Alaskans are good at gestures.
  • Japanese and English are different languages.
  • Kids in Alaska are really tall.
  • The time difference between Palmer and Saroma is 18 hours.
  • Students at Sherrod can eat breakfast at school.
  • In Japan we call our language “kokugo” (country language) but in Alaska they call it Japanese.  So, in Alaska, they call English “language”.
  • There are two ways to say 体育 (taiiku): gym or PE.
  • That the “national language” they study in school is English.
  • That Alaskans call “kokugo” English.
  • Alaska’s national language is a foreign language for us and they call it English.
  • There is a big time difference between Japan and Alaska.
  • All about how to say different subjects in English.
  • That what we call our “language” in Japan is Japanese, but what Alaskans call “language” is English.
  • The national language over there is English.
  • They study different subjects for different lengths of time.
  • That we study a lot of the same things here and in Alaska but that we have different names for them.
  • That between the time students come to school and when they have lunch, they only study two subjects.
  • That students go home close to 4 o’clock.
  • When students in Alaska study for an hour, they really study for an hour.
  • That what we call our “language” in Japan is Japanese, but what Alaskans call “language” is English.
  • That they had smartphones.
  • That students in Alaska can eat breakfast at school.
  • That students in Alaska have a class called technology.
  • The gym there is really big.
  • That what we call our “language” in Japan is Japanese, but what Alaskans call “language” is English.
  • School in Alaska starts later than school in Saroma.
  • The names of the days of the week and subjects.
  • That Alaskan students use smartphones instead of computers to study.
  • How to say the days of the week in English.
  • How fast people in Alaska speak English.
  • That I can speak English a little.
  • Different subjects have different lengths of time.
  • The gym and classrooms were large.
  • They learn math just like we do.
  • That I can understand English.

I didn’t understand…

  • when Sean and Mr. W (teacher in Alaska) talked to each other.
  • when Alaskans spoke English really fast.
  • how many students were in their class.
  • their voices sometimes.
  • how they say “yasumijikan” in English (recess).
  • their quiz question about “reading” but I thought that the book was maybe Cinderella because it had a picture of a pumpkin on it.
  • what Sean and Mr. W were saying to each other.
  • what the Alaskan people said.

I was happy…

  • when I was able to talk to the students in Alaska
  • when they listened quietly to us, and clapped for us when we were done.
  • that we got to have such a great experience talking to people in Alaska.
  • about the fun quiz that they gave us.
  • when they clapped for us after we sang our song “Mata au hi made” (See you again).
  • when they gave us a fun quiz about subjects.
  • when my english was understood.
  • when we spoke, they listened quietly to us, and clapped for us when we were done.
  • that even though we got some questions wrong in the gesture game, we were able to use English.
  • when they clapped for us.
  • that the students in Alaska were good at gestures.

I was surprised…

  • when Mr. W suddenly showed his face on the screen.
  • that when Alaskans study “Language” they are studying what we call “English.”
  • when the time difference in the video made everyone laugh.
  • when I saw how big Alaskan people are.
  • by how big Alaskan people are.
  • that students eat breakfast at school.
  • that everyone had smartphones.
  • by how long their recess is.
  • by how much later it was in Alaska.  I thought that was so great.
  • that the schedules at our schools are totally different.
  • that sometimes they study some subjects for a really long time.
  • that Alaskans are so tall.
  • she I saw that there were oranges in the hallway.
  • by how fast the people in Alaska spoke.
  • that they get to play with balls during recess.  I’m jealous.
  • by how tall people were.
  • how tall students in Alaska were.
  • that a student there played the clarinet.
  • that they had smartphones.
  • that students in Alaska are tall.

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