Claudia Camp vividly remembers her first trip to Spain in her early teens. A native of England, she soaked up the abundant Spanish sunshine while absorbing the vibrant culture. At the same time, she discovered a love of languages that would shape the rest of her life.
Today, Camp teaches Spanish and French in the village of Quorn, UK. After seven years at the school, this was the year she was finally going to take her students on a trip just like the one that had played such a pivotal role in her life.
And then came COVID-19.
Adjusting to virtual instruction
Like many other institutions, Claudia’s school halted in-person classes virtually overnight. Camp’s department adapted quickly, sending out booklets and worksheets at the beginning. It wasn’t long before she sensed that her students were losing steam doing worksheet after worksheet.
So Camp turned to Quizlet, making use of Quizlet Live to engage students. She appreciates the fact that the feature allows students to interact with one another, bringing some of the classroom feel back to virtual instruction.
“Whilst they’re doing it, they’re typing messages to each other on Teams and being very, very competitive, like they were in class. It was really nice, and then quite a few of them afterwards said, ‘Oh, can we do it again, miss? Can we do it again?’” she said.
Of course, the shift to virtual instruction also meant that the school trip to Spain wasn’t going to happen. That decision to cancel was made just a few weeks into the lockdown.
“It was pretty gutting, because it was my first trip abroad that I’d planned with the school,” Camp said.
Camp had already put a lot of work into planning the trip. She had dreamed of a cultural immersion where her students would learn to make tapas and visit a stadium to glimpse Spain’s soccer culture. Now that would all have to be tabled.
Making travel virtual
But necessity is the mother of invention, and inspiration abounds in many different places. For Camp, it was Twitter that provided the spark she needed to create a virtual tour of the places she loved in Spain.
Browsing the app, she came across a virtual tour to Germany that someone had posted.
“I saw the idea and I just thought, ‘Ohhat’s such a nice way for them to still be able to experience it,’” she said.
So Camp got to work.
She created a PowerPoint of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure variety, taking students through guided tours of Seville and Madrid.
The first slide prompts students to choose their destination. They can click on the airplane on the second slide to view a video of landing in the city of their choosing, and even listen to the flight attendant’s plane safety announcement in Spanish.
“Each slide has different media and each of those links takes you to different resources... It might be a video, it might be an article, it might be some music, or be a Quizlet for some vocabulary on how to order in a Café.
Once they’ve landed in Madrid, they can explore destinations including the main square and the royal palace, and learn about the royal family and the dos and don’ts of dining in Spain. In Seville, options include the bullfighting ring and Feria de Abril, a local fiesta.
Camp lived in Seville for six months, and has tried to give her students a taste of her experience by focusing on her favorite parts of the city in her tour.
“I try to incorporate little bits of where I'd been that I liked and that I thought would still be interesting for kids, as well as things that we actually would have done when we were there, like visiting Las Setas. For example, underneath, when I lived there, there used to be a frozen yogurt place, which was really nice. Like one of these where you can choose all your toppings and that. And so I thought ‘Oh, I can mention that somewhere in it so that they get a little bit of a more personalized trip,’” she said.
Camp’s students haven’t seen the presentation yet. She did not want to disadvantage the students who did not have internet at home, and has decided to use it in the classroom when children return to school.
“We’re going to wait until we know that they can definitely access it and then make it like an enriched part of our curriculum,” she said. “When we do get to a point where we can organize a trip, it’ll almost become our marketing material, because it’s the kind of thing that we can send to parents.”
Once students have gone through the entire presentation, they can complete the quiz at the end. Camp will send a postcard to all the students who complete the quiz.
“I had quite good fun making it, and hopefully when we actually get to do it properly with them, they’ll quite enjoy being able to explore a little bit at their own pace as well,” she said.
As is the case at schools across the globe, plans for fall in Leicesterlook very different from a normal beginning to a school year. The most recent guidance is for students to be broken up into “bubbles” of four or five kids, with three bubbles to a room, and attending school once or twice a week.
Camp is not completely at ease with the idea. She is concerned that students won’t be able to keep distance, and muses that there might be a misperception among the public that teachers haven’t been working much since the schools have been closed.
“Obviously, that’s very, very untrue,” she said.
Until schools do resume normal operations, though, she has a message for other teachers.
“Do as much as you can, but don’t kick yourself [for] not doing as much as other people. Everyone’s got their own situation, some people are working with kids at home or still looking after people, some people aren’t and therefore they might be getting more done. Don’t compare yourself to what everyone else is doing or seems to be doing,” she said.