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French intern program utilizes technology for continued language connections

Aerial view of Kuhlman stadium with water tower in foreground.
French intern program utilizes technology for continued language connections

Every school year, Edina Public Schools hosts around 25 French Interns in classrooms at Normandale, Valley View, and Edina High School. Working alongside school staff, the interns prepare lessons, assist with teaching, and enrich the classroom. This past year, half of the interns were new and hoping for an in-person experience, while the other half were returning from the previous school year. Due to the pandemic, this year’s internship was completely virtual. Edina teachers and students connected with French interns over Google Meet throughout the year.

Transitioning an in-person program to an online model comes with many challenges, including a seven hour time difference. Flexibility and patience were important themes throughout the year. The interns had varying schedules and work to complete while in France, requiring staff to adjust their classes as necessary. The Intern Committee, responsible for overseeing the French Intern program, met with the interns on a monthly basis to offer specific strategies for teaching virtually and to check in on the experience.

A more prominent challenge involved technology. Traditionally, training the interns occured face-to-face and covered topics like classroom management, culturally and linguistically responsive teaching, and the incorporation of technology tools. In lieu of these in-person trainings, several “live” orientation sessions via Google Meet helped facilitate the training and onboarding process. It was important that the interns felt comfortable using the technology tools they had available. 

“At first it was very complicated, and I was afraid of not being able to master the computer tools because I had almost no basis in technology,” said Anna Calipel, a French Intern from the past year. “As a French assistant for a kindergarten class, we use many computer tools such as Seesaw, Loom, Google Meet and Google Slides.”

With each Google Meet, interns began to realize the technology capabilities at their disposal. For instance, Calipel could record herself

reading a book while the pages were displayed. This allowed students to follow along and actually see how she pronounces the words, an integral step in learning a language.

“Overall, I was very impressed by the interns’ dedication to this virtual internship and by the teaching staff’s flexibility throughout the year,” said Lisa Bekemeyer, the chair of the Intern Committee. “It took everyone working together to foster these meaningful interactions in French for our students.”