VIA supports learner and teacher effectiveness related to the acquisition of foreign language skills and cultural knowledge by leveraging technology enablers and using virtual environments to reach K-12 students.
What is VIA?
VIA is a global professional, educational, and social network for teachers and students.
- Video Conferencing
- Virtual Classrooms
- Interactive Immersive Gaming
- Synchronous Correspondence
- Project-based Learning
- Online Curriculum
VIA creates a virtual bridge between our high school in Vermont, and schools abroad. It is a portal for student and teacher collaboration. Teachers correspond and collaborate through videoconferencing, Skype, and teaching within virtual classrooms. Students communicate through blogs, Twitter, Tumblr, Vimeo and Facebook. Students access immersive, interactive games in which they learn the target language using life-like contextual clues to solve a mystery or embark on an adventure. Teachers and students access online interactive courses. Ultimately, students in Vermont participate in a virtual international cultural exchange with students in France and Belgium.
This is a way of recreating the classroom so that learning can take place beyond the traditional block of time allotted to one academic discipline within a school day. VIA makes professional, educational and social connections that encourage students to be intellectually curious about and appreciative of other cultures. And it allows teachers to share resources, philosophies, and ideas.
In 2009, two Vermont educational philanthropists, Barry and Wendy Rowland, created the Rowland Foundation. They wished to make a positive contribution to public education in the state of Vermont, and believed teachers were the best people in whom to invest. The Rowland Fellowships, awarded annually to Vermont teachers, support innovative educational projects in Vermont schools. One word of encouragement in the grant application is to ‘think big.’
In 2012, Jill Prado, an Essex High School French and Spanish, was awarded a Rowland Foundation Fellowship for a project to create an international virtual exchange called Virtual Intercultural Avenues. VIA leverages the tools of the 21st century to permit an intercultural exchange. Students experience the richness of a cultural exchange without the expense of international travel. Socioeconomic barriers do not preclude students from having an experience that is so important to helping them navigate globally in the world market. VIA provides mobility and experience through technology.
Who can use VIA?
Virtual Intercultural Avenues is an online tool to improve the effectiveness of teachers and students related to the acquisition of foreign language skills and cultural knowledge, while leveraging the virtual environment and 21st century technology enablers that engage the Next Gen learner. The project was designed, first, for U.S. students learning French and for French speaking students who are learning English. But the project has many corridors—many avenues—to connecting students in the U.S. and in other countries around project-based learning that crosses disciplines, languages, and countries.
VIA-Connecting Schools Internationally
Though we are building a virtual bridge, the connections I’ve made began in person. Supported by the Rowland Foundation grant, I spent the fall of 2012 in Brussels, where I worked with Athénée Emile Bockstael. I then traveled to France to work with Lycée Fénelon in Lille, and Lycée Diderot in Narbonne. In each school, we formed a team of teachers, technical specialists, and administrators who would be able to support the partnerships in Belgium, France and the U.S. I also met with the European Commission in Brussels to talk about ways in which we could collaborate at the secondary school level. There, we discussed a creative path to creating a first phase of our partnership through eTwinning. The outcome of that meeting was the first EU-U.S. connection through eTwinning.