Using Skype in the Classroom

Sasha Shapiro ’15, Russian and Philosophy double major, prepares to connect with her Russian conversation partner

Sometimeslearning a language can seem like a theoretical game far removed from reality – but not at Dickinson. Students in the Russian department chat on Skype once every two weeks with undergraduate students at the Russian State University for the Humanities. All levels get to reinforce what’s been learned in the classroom in lively communicative situations.  Intermediate students get a chance to practice new material from class, whether by listening to native speech or by trying out new constructions and vocabulary with their conversation partners. This makes the material on the page of the course-book come to life and brings their Russian language skills out of the classroom and into the real world. Advanced students get the opportunity to discuss politics, literature or culture with students their own age, thus expanding their linguistic and cultural skills at the same time. These sessions lay the groundwork for study abroad in Moscow. For those who have just returned from Moscow, it is a chance to keep their conversation skills up to par.

For Mackenzie King ’15, a Russian major who will spend the 2013-2014 academic year in Moscow, “Skyping with Russian college students is always interesting. Last time, I was able to speak to a student about Russian and American politics. She studies American politics, while I study Russia, so we were able to exchange our different impressions of each other’s system of governance. Being able to speak with people our age who are also studying ensures we always have something to converse about.”

Leah McNamara ’13 will graduate this year with a Russian minor: “Skype exchanges may take you a bit out of your comfort zone, but it really instigates interesting conversations and practical and applicable Russian skills.”

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