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East Kingston Elementary School

Case Studies - East Kingston Elementary School

About East Kingston Elementary School

East Kingston Elementary School is located in East Kingston, NH. It's led by Principal Jim Eaves and currently enrolls 183 students. The school facilities consist of 12 classrooms, a multipurpose room, library, computer lab, and extensive grounds. Heather Reed, the Technology Coordinator and Foreign Language Lead, oversees all technology and language initiatives in the school. She places emphasis on cultural studies and on helping students build critical skills for a globalized world.

The school is committed to facilitating innovation that will positively impact instructional effectiveness: "School personnel who utilize and analyze information about the school community make better decisions about what to change and how to institutionalize systemic change. Research shows that when school personnel understand the needs of their students and community, they are more successful in implementing changes and remain more focused during implementation. Information and analysis work hand in glove with a comprehensive school improvement process, and is a critical element in planning for and determining the effectiveness of change."

Challenge

The mission of the school prioritizes language learning, but the school lacks the budget to employ multiple language instructors. Additionally, students show interest in a variety of less commonly taught languages, and it can be difficult to find local instructors in some of these languages. Principal Jim Eaves wanted to make sure that students had choice about the languages they studied in school, which he felt would keep them engaged. For instance, some students wanted to study Vietnamese, but East Kingston didn't have enough money or demand to hire a full-time Vietnamese instructor.

East Kingston previously used Rosetta Stone in its language lab to cover the students' diverse language interests. Initially, the students were engaged, but the Rosetta Stone program was repetitive, causing the students to become unfocused and tired of the program, according to Reed. Without engagement and conversation, students failed to see the value and purpose of learning a language, losing motivation very early in the school year. Staff at East Kingston felt that the students needed dialogue with an instructor in the languages they were studying, but the idea was cost prohibitive with Rosetta Stone. The school needed a program that was more engaging, as well as more conversation-oriented.

Solution

Students at East Kingston began working with Transparent Language's Connect program in the fall of 2012, piloting an online language-learning program. This program leverages Transparent Connect's live instructors and pairs them with students in a virtual classroom, while also using the Transparent Language Online self-guided system for additional study outside of class sessions. The students follow a modified "flipped classroom" approach where they complete self-guided learning activities in Transparent Language Online before each live session. This strategy familiarizes them with the material before each instructor-led class. Students arrive to the virtual classroom more confident and ready to communicate with the teacher and their classmates. This helps keep students motivated and eager to learn.

School stakeholders decided to pilot the program with their students in grades 3-5. The school ran a survey to track which languages were most appealing to their students. Based on responses, they chose to run classes in French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Vietnamese. Students' interest stemmed from a variety of backgrounds, including family heritage, and goals, such as places they want to travel to, interest in culture, and careers that require knowledge of a second language. The program is facilitated by East Kingston's Foreign Language Lead, and this one instructor can be leveraged across more languages than she could instruct on her own.

Results

Thus far, the pilot program has produced remarkable results. Reed has noticed that students come into the language lab excited about the online classroom with Transparent Connect instructors. When students work on the self-guided lessons, they know what they need to do and they enjoy working on those activities that will help them in subsequent classroom sessions. If the students finish early, they complete extra vocabulary lists or assignments. Lead Instructor, Karen Olson, organizes fun, interactive activities for class sessions. One of the students' favorites is "Peer Interviews," in which students interview one another and elicit responses in the target language. Olson comments: "it's exciting to hear the students engaging in dialogue in a new language in just a few short weeks."

This program has allowed East Kingston to get more bang for their buck. They now get the Transparent Language Online resources and Transparent Connect live instruction for about the same price they previously paid for just online resources from Rosetta Stone. Reed also notes that "we have done a real life head-to-head comparison in our classrooms and found Transparent Language's program far more effective than Rosetta Stone's."

As students progress, they are learning language, but they are also learning how to use technology in new ways. Students have grown very comfortable with the virtual classroom arena, and they enjoy using the self-guided online courseware. Last but not least, they are learning critical behavioral skills, in terms of their familiarity with online etiquette, increasingly important in this age of digital communication.

Reed raves, "We are really pleased with the Transparent Connect program. Karen and her team are always prepared. When students are in the online classroom and doing their lessons, they are having a great time and they are excited about it. It is great to see the students progressing, understanding, and comprehending. Transparent Connect has helped us achieve our goal of offering multiple languages to students and we would be happy to recommend it to anyone."