Opening Doors to a New English Lab and Better Futures

  • Education
  • Youth
  • Technology
  • Ecuador
This project is led by Cullen Thomas O'Donnell, a Volunteer from Florida

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This project was requested by a majority of the 10 English teachers at the local school. This school serves approximately 1,900 students between ages 12 to 19. The idea for this project was originally presented to a Peace Corps Volunteer, who has co-taught and worked with the teachers at the school for almost three years, by one of the Ecuadorian English teachers. The idea was further supported by teachers from both morning and afternoon shifts, who would like to be able to have more dynamic, student-centered classes in the English Lab. The main objective of this project is to create a space that allows students, teachers, and other community members to further develop their English language skills through technology and hands-on resources. For example, the Peace Corps Volunteer has already created an English library with technical and non-technical books, but the remodeling of the English Lab would give students more access to the resources in a more-welcoming environment. The Lab will also give teachers an opportunity to carry out pre-designed lessons that are more student-focused. Additionally, it will be used for professional development sessions and extracurricular activities such as an English Club carried out by the Peace Corps Volunteer and his counterparts. By updating the sound system, teachers will be able to take advantage of technology-based lessons as well, while also using the laptop computers provided by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education and the projector provided by the high school. The PCV will train all teachers on the use of the technology, as well as "book-keeping" practices related to the library. The community has already contributed by providing English books for the library, and will further contribute to this project through direct labor and the donation of other materials. By opening the doors to this new English Lab, we will also be able to open up doors to better opportunities for students, teachers, and community members.

The community is comprised of students, teachers, authorities, staff, and parents. Seeing as the Ecuadorian teachers brought up this need to the Peace Corps Volunteer, they are obviously invested in the project and its outcomes. All members of the school community recognize the need for this project and the potential benefits. The students express their interest on a regular basis to learn more English by participating in extracurricular activities like English clubs, summer camps, and community projects. Therefore, they will use the English Lab as often as possible to continue improving their knowledge of the language. Teachers at the high school have also mentioned in conversations with the volunteer over the past several years that they feel they lack the space and resources necessary to make their lessons more engaging and student-centered. Furthermore, through their commitment to donate time, labor, and materials, the community has shown that they can be the driving force behind the remodeling of the English Lab. By already setting this space aside as a "foreign language laboratory," the school authorities and staff have placed importance in the English language-learning process. Parents and other community members have already donated books and DVDs to the library, and custodial staff have committed to making repairs to the door, doing a "deep" cleaning, and re-finishing the hardwood floor. Students and parents will help with the painting process and the purchasing and installation of new curtains.

The Peace Corps Volunteer will be training all of the teachers in the use of the English Lab, including its technology and resources, the community will be able to sustain the activities and continue benefiting from the space long after the Volunteer leaves. Teachers will be trained on how to use the projector, PowerPoint presentations, and the speakers. They will also be provided with a multitude of lesson plans that focus on a student-centered teaching approach and include group work activities. Once the teachers have been trained and given access to the training manual and lesson plans, the PCV will continuously observe and evaluate the teachers utilizing the space. The Volunteer will provide constructive feedback and offer suggestions on how to better utilize the space in the future. All teachers will also be trained to facilitate future trainings for new teachers who come to the school after the PCV has left. The head counterpart teacher will make sure that all teachers pay attention during the training sessions, and will continue to remind the area to explain everything about the Lab to new teachers who arrive to the high school. All but one of the current teachers have tenure, so they will most likely be working at the school for many years to come. Future teachers will also always have access to the training manual and lesson plan booklets. Finally, the authorities will ensure the use of the English Lab and the fulfillment of its goals by requiring teachers to use the space a minimum of three times per semester and open the library/reading corner during recess on a daily basis.

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