#HowIBoomalang is a series of interviews with educators sharing how and why they implement Boomalang conversations. Below are selected quotations from the interview.
"I liked that my students were speaking with people more or less their age."
Classes: Intermediate Spanish 2
Franklin & Marshall Professor Dr. Ashley LaBoda is very familiar with integrating technology in the classroom. She has used another conversation platform in the past, but was looking for a fit for her intermediate students to hold short conversations of relevance to them. "I liked Boomalang's format and that my students were speaking with people more or less their age."
With the use of tech, Ashley was hoping to bridge a cultural gap as well. "I wanted their Boomalang conversations to serve as extra practice with real people who are Spanish-speaking and live in another country. Not all students get to study abroad, so I wanted them to have Boomalang be a cross-cultural experience for them as well."
"This conversation and composition course is a bridge course between the lower and intermediate level grammar and before students really dive deeper into the Spanish major requirements. We have the students do 4 conversations that corresponded to different topics in the textbook. For instance, the textbook had topics like pop culture and trends.
I didn't assign them super specific topics, but basically the idea was to be able to use the vocabulary that they were learning in class to get information from their conversation partners about some of the cultural aspects that they might not get in the classroom."
During Boomalang conversations, students are instructed to ask questions such as "What is trending in Venezuela?" and report back in their written reflections.
"After the students complete the conversation, I ask them to listen to the playback and choose 3-5 minutes for me to listen to and evaluate their speaking. I check that they are at a conversational level that is appropriate for the course. I don't require any grammar sequences or take off points for mistakes. I'm mostly checking for fluency. What I look at more closely is the reflection that they have to write. After every conversation, they reflect on their own speaking and improvements since the last conversation, reflect on their comfort level talking to a native Spanish-speaker and the information that they were able to get from their Boomalang conversation partner."
"The reflection and playback assignment force them to listen to themselves and see how much they've learned over the course. It made them realize that they were carrying on good conversation and they gain confidence for their next [Boomalang assignment]. By the fourth conversation, they were friends with their conversation partners!"
Not only did students grow their confidence in their speaking abilities, but also similarities students can share across the globe.
"My students were surprised that they had so much in common with their conversation partners. They were going into these conversations thinking that they wouldn't be able to connect on a personal level with a lot of the speakers because of the cultural differences, but they were surprised that they had the same taste in movies and music.
For those interested in bringing this to your class, it really doesn't take much time and planning from the professor's end. I really appreciate the time that Boomalang puts in to setting it up and making it easy when troubleshooting. And once I give the assignment to students, I don't really have to do anything more to monitor students' progress. It's definitely user-friendly."
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Alison, Community Engagement