The past decade has seen a number of disruptive forces begin to fundamentally reshape language education in the United States. These forces are not only driving change in traditional models of language education, but they are also raising important questions about the future shape of language learning environments. Three of the forces transforming the landscape of language education are globalization, technology and demographics.
CIRCLE (Community, Identities and Research through Collaborative Language Education) is a project that seeks to forcefully meet these challenges by bringing together heritage and intermediate/advanced language learners based in different cities together in a joint exploration of cultural identity. CIRCLE defines common areas of exploration and empowers language learners to validate their linguistic skills by facilitating authentic exchanges with local communities.
Hispanidades, as a part of CIRCLE, is an expanding network of heritage Spanish courses at a number of institutions in the US, engaged in cultural explorations of the Hispanic communities that surround them and in collaborative research by students in their academic areas of interest. In Hispanidades, students enrolled in heritage or intermediate/advanced language classes at two or more geographically distant institutions in the United States perform technologically mediated ethnographic research in a local community whose primary language is the one being learned. The research they engage in ranges from observing local communities to conducting fieldwork and interviews broadly within these communities, to carrying out historical analysis. The students at each collaborating institution then create, curate, and share original digital artifacts, based upon the ethnographic research they have conducted, and use these artifacts as the basis of a sustained reflective analysis of the value of these interactions and of the culture shared between and among them.
For those institutions engaged in cultural and linguistic research in local communities, CIRCLE can also serve as an effective means of collecting and aggregating authentic discourse, whether written or spoken. Avenues for dissemination of the digital artifacts developed in the course of CIRCLE exchanges include mapping, corpora, and anthologies around a particular community or cultural practice.
In this presentation, we will outline the philosophy behind CIRCLE, trace the genesis and development of the project over the course of the last four years, and offer a preview of the project’s expansion to different areas of the language curriculum at Arizona State University and at Columbia, including an overview of the planned corpora resulting from the Hispanidades project.