Once a week this July, high school students in Penn’s STARTALK summer program came here to our group study rooms to converse, in Hindi or Urdu, with global friends. The program, federally funded as a National Security Language Initiative (NSLI) by the U.S. Department of State, and sponsored at Penn by the South Asia Center and the Center for East Asian Studies, aims to provide high school students with fundamental skills in “strategically important world languages,” as Jacquie Posey reports in a recent Penn News article. Students also partook in field trips and were exposed to various aspects of the cultures they studied, such as yoga sessions and meal preparation.
The students used Skype on our iMacs to speak in real-time with counterparts around the world, reinforcing language skills learned in the classroom. Cait Gerrity reported an abundance of palpable energy and enthusiasm flowing from the group study rooms each week. Curious about how this works? Dr. Shaheen Parveen, Director of the Hindi StarTalk program, has shared Skype videos from the past two years on the program website.
Skype has become a popular instructional tool for courses at Penn. Many groups have taken advantage of the iMacs in WIC’s group study rooms to connect with students in other locations or just to interview students in their own classes from different study rooms around the Commons. Now that our iMacs are set up for Skype in group study rooms, groups will be able to collaborate with each other easily. Larger groups (up to 35 people) can take advantage of the wireless microphones and mounted videocamera in the WIC Seminar Room to enhance their Skype experience.