STARTALK Arabic Language Camp
One of the best opportunities for high school students to start learning a critical language early is enrolling in a summer language camp, such as STARTALK. BYU has hosted several Arabic STARTALK camps, and this past year (2017) I was privileged to be involved with the camp’s design; specifically, I adapted communicative activities from Avicenna’s Astrolabe (see below) for the camp’s curriculum, focusing on cultural and historical lessons from the Arabo-Islamic world. For example, students had to do some research into an important historical figure and befriend a live-action game character on campus in order to find clues and solve the game’s mystery.
Lessons from 25 Years of Study Abroad
I recently co-authored a book chapter with Dr. Kirk Belnap documenting and analyzing some of the most important developments in the history of BYU’s Arabic study abroad program. The chapter comments on the value of consistent program evaluation, developing of a healthy study abroad culture, and adjusting the program to the affordances of any given location and participant needs. As a result of following these principles over a long period, the study abroad developed two content courses which are also laid out in the chapter: an intensive newspaper reading program, and an issues class carried out in collaboration with the host institution.
Bird, M. T., & Belnap, R. K. (2017). Lessons from 25 Years of Experimenting with an Arabic Study Abroad Program. In J. L. Plews, & K. F. Misfeldt, Second Language Study Abroad Programming, Pedagogy, and Participant Engagement. Palgrave Macmillan.
Working with Drs. Peter Rich (IP&T) and Kirk Belnap (Arabic), I led a team of students over 18 months to design and develop an online game for beginning Arabic students. Players work together in small groups to explore a location in the modern Arab world by conversing with game characters using basic phrases they learned previously in class. Together they uncover clues to learn about the history of the Arabo-Islamic world and solve an ancient mystery, all while practicing basic communicative activities. A prototype can be found at www.avicennastrolabe.com/proto.