This text was initially published by Profweb under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence, before Eductive was launched.

International Baccalaureate (IB) students are generally motivated or they would not have chosen to go into such an intensive program. I wanted to give these students an experience where they would be working on their own, at their own pace and speaking with authentic Anglophones, a rarity in Trois-Rivières in order to deal with the multiplicity of language skills in my IB class. I knew that the Entente Canada-Quebec could provide a grant which would enable an actual immersion trip. All manner of information technology including Facebook and chat as well as a willing partner in a French as Second Language course at Cégep de Gaspésie des Îles made for a great way to realize these goals.

Facebook and Chat to Build Greater Goals

I wanted a hook to get students to use language in an authentic manner. Working with partners from a French Second Language (FSL) class at the Cégep Gaspésie des Îles to practice each other’s language with the goal of developing a common project would not only build language skills but develop a cultural linguistic bridge between the two languages and cultures.

To begin, I started a Facebook page for my IB class. Every member of the class was friended. This included even those that had never used Facebook before. Some students didn’t want to be on Facebook because they said it was too public, so we had to look at all those ethical issues. Everything was done in English in my class. We’d studied the ethics of what it means to be on Facebook. We’d written our guidelines together. Students had to create a rulebook about what would be allowed and what wouldn’t be allowed. And then they had to chat with their partners in Cégep de Gaspésie des Îles as to what they thought could be allowed on Facebook. In most cases, this was using their own accounts on Facebook or the IB Facebook page. Lise Chartrand, the FSL teacher in Gaspé, had her Anglophone students do everything in French.

Caption: Explore this Prezi about the project made at the 2014 AQPC Symposium

We originally didn’t want to have buddies, but then we realized that students had to interact directly with at least one person. Students were asked to put their profile up with a decent picture. They had to write a profile about themselves in their target language. Lise and I matched our students up, based on their profiles. Once they were matched, the goal was for students to meet for a minimum of ten times. Lise and I had chosen themes together including science and technology, leisure, social relationships, current events as well as media and communications. Based on these themes, students summarized an article, put a link to it and had to post a discussion question based on the article to their partner. And then there was the editing process, where they had to go and edit each other’s work as well as make corrections and suggestions. After that, they also planned an immersion trip, choosing the destination and creating activities. Students had to do surveys to figure out what kinds of things they could eat and what kinds of activities they wanted to do.

Lise’s students were multilevel in their second language as well, but from every program imaginable that the college offers – a true melting pot. Lise’s mix included students specializing in adventure tourism, and she was able to create an amazing project involving talks about the Gaspé landscape and what you could do to survive there if you got caught in an avalanche. They had to give survival information. It was very interesting. And, they taught us how to make bannock and other things in the snow such as taffy for emergency survival.

A Prearranged Success

It seemed predestined, although it wasn’t planned, that my students would go to Gaspésie to meet with Lise’s students on an adventure tourism weekend. It was a very short trip. We had a day for driving up, a day for driving back and then the weekend. Even on the bus driving up, my students had to have activities to participate in on the bus trip in a second language.

My students had to also create activities on arrival including outdoor games. They spent a great deal of time in class organizing these on their own first, giving them to me for approval, and then it was a surprise once we got there. Because half the students went up Mount Albert in a snowcat, and the other half stayed down, my students prepared activities for the students who were at the base, and Lise’s students did activities up in the mountains. The experience was memorable for everyone.

Caption: This commercial video shows the ‘magic’ of cat skiing in the Chic Chocs

The work on Facebook helped make the experience richer because students already knew one another. It was really exciting for them to meet when they finally got together. It was as if they had been friends for years. Even though it was virtual, they had been chatting, and when they got there, they would go to the icebreaker activities and try to find out about the participants that they hadn’t chatted with. They had their buddy, but then not all buddies stuck together. They got to know other people.

The Meaning of Success

At the end of the semester, we did a survey, comparing my students’ English level before they came into the project and at the end of the project. Did they feel that it had enhanced their learning? They said they thought that they had learned a lot, not just in linguistics, but that they grew as people. They loved organizing the trip, enjoyed the activities and stayed in contact with their new friends. So not only did we get the language up to par, interacting with true Anglophones, but my students learned content that went out of their comfort zone, dealing with experiences that they’d never had before. The other students were laid back, into adventure tourism and nature, and this experience provided another way of looking at the world while respecting nature and improving their second language. Lise’s students were equally enthusiastic in their responses. So, to me, that’s a true success.

About the author

Gina Lavine

Gina Lavine has been teaching for over 30 years, 22 of these at college level. She integrates technology through various projects.

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