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Projects @ US Department of State: Virtual Educator Program


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VEP American Culture in Conversation

Problem: The conflict in Ukraine has made public diplomacy efforts between the US and Russia a priority for the US Department of State. As a result, the Virtual Educator Program has expanded its projects in Russia so that American and Russian educators can engage in professional development and intercultural exchange online as many in-person exchange opportunities were halted indefinitely. The Russian educators expressed their need to improve their conversational skills in English, develop working knowledge on best practices for delivering online learning and leveraging digital learning tools, and learn more about American popular culture.

Action: I was contracted to work on two intercultural exchange projects lasting 12-16 weeks over the course of three semesters. I used a learner-centered approach to design and develop the course, materials, and sessions. I began by sending out an interest survey about themes and topics they were interested in exploring as well as the types of activities they enjoy as learners. Using this feedback, I designed a course syllabus outline and set up a Google Classroom as my LMS. A WhatsApp group was set up to help with communication and build a learner community. Lessons were designed using Google Slides and leveraged a variety of collaborative EdTech tools: Padlet, Mural, Flipgrid, Jamboard, etc.

Result: There was overwhelming positive response from the participants about the 12-week course. They were able to improve their conversational skills, connect with other like-minded professionals, learn about how to use EdTech tools in their own classrooms, whether in-person or online. The conversation club was a success and renewed for another semester. 

Evidence: Below are the class slides for our session on winter holidays in the US and Russia.

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VEP Film Club: Building Bridges... one movie at a time!

Problem: The Virtual Educator Program allows American and Russian educators to participate in professional growth and cultural exchanges online. Russian participants have voiced a strong desire to hone their English conversational abilities, acquire effective online teaching strategies, and gain insights into American culture through film.

Action: In this context, I was contracted to design and develop an intercultural communication course based on American films. The course has run anywhere from 12-16 weeks across three academic terms. My approach centered on creating learner-focused content, including course outlines and materials, tailored to the participants' areas of interest. This process began with a survey to identify the topics and activities that resonated most with the educators. Based on the feedback, I crafted a comprehensive course syllabus, established a Google Classroom for content management, and initiated a WhatsApp group to foster community among learners. The curriculum, delivered via Google Slides, incorporated a range of collaborative educational technology tools such as Padlet, Mural, Flipgrid, and Jamboard.

Result: The feedback on the 12-week course was overwhelmingly positive. Participants noted significant improvements in their English conversational abilities, fostered connections with peers, and learned to integrate various educational technology tools into their teaching, whether in traditional classrooms or online settings. The success of the conversation club led to its continuation into the following semester.

Evidence: Below are the session slides for the film, Barbie. This session was part of a series on 2024 Academy Award nominated films

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