When you take a peek into Raul Gonzalez’s classroom at Palmer Trinity School you might find students sitting on couches, engaging in discussion with other classes via video chat.
You may be surprised to learn that these students actually are a part of an international education program featuring six schools — three in the U.S. and three in Spain — that use film as a teaching tool in the classroom.
In Mr. Gonzalez’s Hispanic Cinema class, students learn about history, culture, film and language.Each school year, the students watch and discuss 50 films based on different Hispanic countries. Last year, Gonzalez joined with Palmer’s sister school in Salamanca to teach students about Hispanic film.
IneveryCrea — a creative educational community in Spain — was so impressed by the success of the program that they approached Gonzalez about expanding it.
“They loved the idea and said that if I could get three schools from the United States, they would get three from Spain to work around a film,” Gonzalez said. All six classes watched Camarón, a film based on a famous flamenco singer from Spain. Then, using the video chat program Google Hangout and educational social networking tool Edmodo, students discussed the film together. Classes from the U.S. spoke in Spanish and classes from Spain spoke in English.
“The interesting thing is that the students would correct each other in the language instead of teachers being involved, which I thought was very impressive,” Gonzalez said.
Each instructor used the film to teach a different curriculum based on his or her goals for the classroom.
“My students were focused more on the film elements; some students were focused on the language and others were focused on music,” Gonzalez said. “The beauty of a film is that you can use it to teach so many different disciplines.”
Students got a special opportunity to chat with the film’s director, Jaime Chávarri. Chávarri took questions about the film, answering in Spanish for American students and English for Spanish students.
“This is a director that has directed many films and he is also a film professor at a university in Spain,” Gonzalez said. “So for the students, it was a real ‘wow’moment.”
Gonzalez joined the World Languages Department at Palmer Trinity School in 1999. During his time at Palmer, Gonzalez completed a master’s degree in language and culture at the University of Salamanca in Spain. His thesis focused on using film as a teaching medium.
IneveryCrea and Gonzalez plan to continue the cooperative teaching program in the future, adding more schools in different ways.
“I think that we need to think outside the box. We need to take risks and we need to understand that our students are so versatile when it comes to technology,” Gonzalez said. “There are no more borders in terms of connection when it comes to using the Internet and the children have so much to learn from each other.”
For more information about Palmer Trinity School, visit online at www.palmertrinity.org