“Since we had a huge influx of international students and we have all this racism happening, we tried to do something that would combat technology with technology.”
This is what Margaret Burke, assistant professor of elementary education at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College had to say about why she piloted a peer mentor video project last spring for her students in C I 280 (GH) Introduction to Teaching English Language Learners. Students in C I 280, along with international students in ENGL 100 English Language Analysis, came together to create videos that introduced different cultures and addressed the issue of surviving college, according to Burke.
At Penn State Behrend, there was an influx of approximately 300 international students last academic year, and international students were being harassed through YikYak, Burke said. According to its website, YikYak is a free anonymous social media application for iOS and Android devices that allows people to share posts, called Yaks, with others who are within in a 10-mile radius.
Burke sat down with Mary Connerty, senior lecturer of English, who teaches ENGL 100, and discussed how students at University Park were mentoring virtually with a Boys and Girls Club in Hazleton. Since Connerty’s students were trying to improve their English and Burke’s students were supposed to practice how to teach bilingual students, it seemed like the perfect solution to combat YikYak, Burke said.
“This will add a layer of complexity when we are looking at how are students changing in their discourse when they talk about culture, when they talk about students from a different background than themselves, and how are they creating a community of learners versus individual groups that we tend to have on campus,” Burke said.
For the project, about 35 students were broken up into groups of five, where each group had one international student. Burke said the six-week-long project involved two weeks of recording time after storyboards and themes were created and scripts were written. After videotaping and editing via iMovie, students presented their videos on the last day of class.
According to Burke, each student was in charge of directing one minute of video material, where the script had to be approved before the project moved forward. Students enjoyed the project so much that some are volunteering to do it next year.
“The feedback to it was that it’s something that needs to be happening on campus, and they felt it was a great experience to get to know their peers,” Burke said.
In the fall, Burke said that she is planning to implement YouSeeU, which is a Web-based tool that captures video through a Mac or PC computer’s built-in webcam and microphone. It works as an extension of a learning management system to help facilitate speeches, presentations, and oral exams for both online and hybrid courses, according to YouSeeU’s website.
During the fall semester, Burke teaches method courses for the Early Childhood Education program, along with a middle level field experience course. Burke said she teaches the middle field experience course twice a week from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., where her students are in classrooms all day and are required to conduct videotape lessons. For the videotape lessons in the fall, Burke will pilot YouSeeU to see how it works and what kind of prompts will need to be used in order to generate discussion.
The use of YouSeeU in the fall will prepare Burke for incorporation of the tool into her larger project the following spring in C I 280, Burke said. She also plans to start the project earlier – before spring break – so students have more time to prepare for and record the videos. After this, students will have an assignment or two where they will be required to reflect on their own videos, along with other group videos, and have a meaningful dialogue about it.
Other future plans include looking at the issue of sustainability after next year, Burke said. Students may be excited when they finish the semester, but she wants to look at what actually happens afterward and how this excitement and these newly established friendships play out within the campus community.
To do this, Burke said she plans to to do more focus group projects outside of the classroom. This would start to generate discussions with students and lead to the possibility of a grassroots movement to combat the negativity on YikYak within the student population at Penn State Behrend.