Educators on Global Learning: Karen Kodama

February 2, 2007

Tell us about the John Stanford International School.

We opened our doors in fall 2000, and we are the first international school for Seattle and the first -- and only -- language-immersion school. Our children are immersed half of the day in either Spanish or Japanese, so they're taught content -- math, science, culture, and literacy -- in that international language. The other half of the day, they are taught reading, writing, and social studies in English.

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Is this an achievable model for other schools?

This is a model for all schools. You have only six hours in a day, so we could not add language as an extra piece, and that's why it's embedded into the content. We teach content in that language, and that's the only way to do it.

Lots of schools do things after school or before school, or they add a Spanish class or a Japanese class, but it doesn't tie in with the rest of the day, so it sits as an extra subject and takes up extra time. But it's integrated right into what we're teaching. So, you teach math, science, culture -- all of that -- in that second language. Within the day, you do that all at one time.

But also, when children learn a second language, as young as they are, starting at kindergarten level, these are the children who become higher-level thinkers and problem solvers because they're constantly asking themselves, "What is that teacher saying to me?" And so they persevere, they never give up, and we see this transferring into other subject areas, such as reading and writing. The children are very used to doing that.

It also sparks a certain part in their brain, when they're learning a second language when they're little; this is a certain part that really never gets sparked unless they're learning another language. These children begin to have more of a capacity to learn other languages.

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Give some examples of how technology is used in your classrooms.

At kindergarten level, the children are learning how to word process. They write stories -- and the final product -- on the computer. The children do PowerPoint presentations, and send email to other countries. Our children have email connections with a school outside of the dump area in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, which is a partner school. They have email with a school in Tanzania; our teachers had a teacher-exchange program this last year. Also in Guatemala and Vietnam.

We also did a project, a salmon project and a waterways project, and we did some videoconferencing. That's the next step we would really like to do: more videoconferencing.

Our teachers are all trained in technology; if they weren't, we would send them to the University of Washington. They are a partner lab school with us, and have taught technology to our teachers. We have a network analyst there working half time to make sure everything is in running order, and my librarian is an educational technologist, so she helps the teachers in creating a way that technology is embedded into the curriculum areas.

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