The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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Sunday Profile

November 24, 2012

Students learn Spanish with iPads, Rosetta Stone

Teaching with technology

— One Spanish II class at Raleigh County’s Beckley-Stratton Middle School is taking foreign language learning into the 21st century.

Vickie Webb’s class of eighth-graders is using iPads equipped with Rosetta Stone software to continue their language education despite the lack of highly qualified foreign language teachers across the state.

Kenny Moles, Raleigh County assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, explained that schools across the state and nation are having a tough time filling foreign language openings.

“What we have here is a great teacher who makes great relationships with her kids, but is not a Spanish teacher. So this software and hardware is enabling her to help these kids continue to learn Spanish,” he said.

Webb’s Spanish II is the first class in the county to learn language with Rosetta Stone via iPad, but it is a model the county will consider in other schools where they can’t find teachers to fill openings, said Moles.

This model may be used at Shady Spring High School to offer French I and II next year, he added.

“No software could ever replace a good teacher, but this allows a good teacher to facilitate a subject that is specialized, like foreign languages,” he said.

Webb said she has been working and learning Spanish alongside her students and boasts a 96 percent average herself.

“It has been awesome to learn with them,” she shared.

These students took Spanish I in a traditional setting, which gave them a firm basis to continue digitally, and each student must reach a benchmark of excellence, 90 percent, before continuing to the next lesson, explained the teacher.

Principal Rachel Pauley reported that the students have responded well to the introduction of the iPad.

“They tell me they are not bored and that they like being able to work at their own pace,” she said.

Student Sarah Greene said being able to work at her own pace was the most important feature of the program.

“You get to listen to the lessons yourself. Instead of having the teacher repeat a lesson or give you extra help, you can review the lesson yourself on the computer,” she explained.

Likewise, student Jessica Spearing agreed this format for language learning felt “more one-on-one.”

She expressed the importance of learning a foreign language and said she expects to use her Spanish to communicate with patients when she becomes a physician’s assistant.

County Technology Coordinator Mary Ann Foster explained that Beckley-Stratton Middle School had 25 students who had taken Spanish I and were interested in moving forward with the language and the county wanted to provide them with a format to do so.

“We were looking at alternatives like virtual school, but Mr. Moles discovered Rosetta Stone is emerging as an educational tool, not just for individual learners, and we thought this was the most feasible alternative,” she said.

Foster sees this class as a prime example of truly integrating technology into the classroom, not just using it for its own sake.

“And most of all the kids love it. You can ask a student to do something the old-fashioned way and then have them do it using a piece of technology like an iPad and they’d much rather do it with technology. It makes learning more fun,” Foster added.

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