By Lynn Zimmerman
Editor, Teacher Education
[Note: This interview was prompted by an email, sent by John to Lynn, re her article “Technology Advice for First Year International Students in US Colleges. -Editor]
John Wasko, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Samoa, is president of American Pacific University in Pago Pago, American Samoa. Part of the university’s mission is to help foreign students develop academic English language skills and cultural competence so they can successfully complete study at colleges and universities in the US. Mr. Wasko commented that “too many foreign students come to the US unprepared to face an American classroom.” A commitment to using “21st century digital learning tools and resources” helps students accomplish their language and cultural competencies.
LZ: What are some of the social media online resources you use that have been effective?
JW: The most popular chat rooms in Asia and Southeast Asia are Wechat, QQ and IMO. I use them all to teach the kids English. First, they have automatic translators built in. Secondly you can share audio files for pronunciation. Third they have live video chat. You can talk and see the student in real time. Fourth they work great on mobile. There are even more chat sites specific to different countries. Zalo, for example is specific to Vietnam.
LZ: How do you use these resources in your teaching?
JW: I am now improving my teaching strategies by developing text modules and practical scenarios. Each builds on others to develop more complex sentence structures, vocabulary, contextual speech, jargon and slang. Using Google images in concert with text and audio messaging helps a lot and can be done on the fly.
LZ: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
JW: Here is the great thing. You don’t need any special set up or call center or anything like that. Just a smartphone. I use an iPhone 4. Works great. If we can develop mobile techniques to help these students, every university will knock on their door.