September, 21 2012
ACCESS Microscholarship Program: A success Story of the American Councils for International Education from Moldova
One of the most successful program of the American Councils for International Education in Moldova is the English Access Microscholarship Program (Access). Being under guidance and financial support of the US Embassy from Moldova, this program provides a foundation of the English language skills to non-elite, 14 - 18 year-old students from the regions through afterschool classes and intensive summer learning. This way, the Access students gain an appreciation for American culture and democratic values, increase their ability to participate successfully in the socio-economic development of their countries, and gain the ability to compete for and participate in future U.S. exchange and study programs.
In Moldova this program was launched in April, 2011 and implemented in the American Corners of 4 regions of Moldova such as:Ceadir-Lunga, Balti, Ungheni, and Rezina/Ribnita. This way, the Access Microsholarship Program represents an innovative opportunity for 80 teenagers from economically disadvantaged environment from the country to benefit from free English language courses, developing their linguistic, intercultural and social skills.
The participants attend classes two times per week for two years, and have to complete a special developed syllabus of 360 hours which will integrate the authentic content and up-to-date teaching technologies. This way, the ACCESS classes differ from the traditional school activities as they comprise the integrated implementation of educational approaches in a Student-centered learning environment. To be specific, the ACCESS lessons represent the communicative approach appliance through Project-based, Content-based, and Internet-based-instruction. For instance, students actively participated to almost 150 hours of project-based instruction, where iEARN is the basic online collaborative community to acquire the necessary skills to develop, organize and implement a community project. From the beginning of the project up till now the 4 ACCESS sites (Ciadir-lunga, balti, Ungheni, Rezina/Ribnita) participated into 2 iEARN Learning Cycles, such as: "Places and Perspectives" and "My City and Me ". Within these learning cycles the students have developed their own projects, namely "Ungheni in Action" (http://www.slideshare.net/americancornerungheni/ungheni-project), "The best Town in The World" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IO37lCw0Dw) , "Funny Places in Balti" (http://www.iearn.org/circles/2011session2/projects/funPlacesBalti.wmv), "Make a Change!" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjGAdHoTn1c&feature=youtu.be); "Clean-Up Event" (http://www.slideshare.net/americancornerungheni/access-ungheni); "Just Do It!" (http://www.iearn.org/circles/2012session1/index.htm#mcm, etc.
Also, the students had the chance to interact with other students from abroad via online blogging and post mail. For example, each ACCESS site received post packages from iEARN members from Slovenia and Russia participating in the same Learning Cycle.
Additionally to project-based activities, the ACCESS Microscholarship program includes Skype classes where students acquire different life skills within content-based and internet instruction. To extend, the instruction process of almost 150 hours of Skype sessions represented a usage of a rich variety of WEB 2.0 online tools and educational platforms in instruction.
This way, the students periodically had to perform instructive tasks within class and home work assignments in form of online mini-projects connected to studied contents. The classes also represented a very unique environment for individual and group scientific research, which enhanced not only students' linguistic skills, but their scientific knowledge competences.
A good example of this online content-based project might serve "Does the Internet Develop Ourselves?", in which the students were asked to: (1) conceptualize the meaning of Internet for themselves by creating word clouds on www.wordle.net ( http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/5075717/Internet_for_me ); (2) familiarize with the benefits the Internet brings to students' personal development; (3) develop the online portfolios on www.tumblr.com (http://olesia20-08mail-ru.tumblr.com/); (4) organize community survey on how different age-group people use Internet in their community:what does internet mean to children (http://www.slideshare.net/oli4ka/what-does-means-internet-for-children-7-13368902); what does internet mean to teens (http://www.slideshare.net/oli4ka/internet-13368866) and adults (http://www.slideshare.net/oli4ka/internet-for-adults); (5) analyze risks of the Internet addiction, design a commercial on Internet addiction and publish it online (http://youtu.be/zg3_NoA0Qrs).
Apart from the above mentioned types of classes, during the summer each participant of the ACCESS Microscholarship Program takes part in a 60-hour intensive leadership camp, where students develop their communicative, civic and cooperative skills via project work, movie work and team-building activities.
The successful results the students get within ACCESS program is due to teachers' professionalism and continuous qualified trainings. This way, from the beginning of the project, the ACCESS teachers attended 5 trainings and 2 scientific conferences at the national and international level. For example, on April, 212 they attended the International Conference "Teaching Foreign Languages for Specific Purposes in the 21st Century" organized by the American Councils in collaboration with the Academy of Economic Sciences from Moldova. Also, two teachers from the ACCESS group delivered delivered presentations with the following topics: "Teaching Adolescents through Web-based Instruction" (by Olga Morozan), and "The Development of Oral Communicative Skills during ACCESS Classes" (by Corina Ceban).
A special and motivating experience for all ACCESS students was the visit of Mr. William Moser, the US Ambassador in Moldova to the ACCESS sites . The meetings represented Ambassador's trip in the regions as the students showed not only their high level of English competences, but also well-developed social skills, asking the Ambassador a lot of curious and interesting questions. The web page http://www.facebook.com/U.S.EmbassyMoldova cites that the "Your questions were great and your English is amazing".