Lafayette students use iPads to improve English skills

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) - The University at Buffalo and Buffalo’s Lafayette High School are teaming up to help international students improve their language skills using iPads.

The Buffalo Partnership Project got started two years ago, with the help of grant money from the State Education Department. UB applied for the grant and chose to work with Lafayette High School on the project.

“I’m so happy that they did,” said Lafayette Principal, Naomi Cerre. “They saw that our needs were great. In order for our students to meet and even be at the plate for Common Core standards, we needed additional support. And this partnership, between a university and a school has really closed the gap.

“We’ve really taken this technology, and used it as a way to bridge language gaps between our students and our teachers. And we’ve used it across all of our content areas,” said Jennifer Schiller, project manager.

For 41 Lafayette students, months of work, practice using iPad apps, studying and public speaking classroom exercises culminated with each student giving a five-minute presentation on a topic of his or her choice at the Walden Galleria on Saturday.

“What technology does, almost similar to music, it brings that connection between building confidence in students’ ability to speak, to engage, to learn,” said Cerre.

Seventy percent of students at Lafayette High School are non-native English speakers. Forty-one different languages and dialects are spoken at the school. Many students are refugees, who have limited or no formal education.

“Although it was challenging, I learned a lot,” said student, Doris Noh. “I improved a lot. I had to go in the front [and present]. The iPad did all the work for me. It’s like, I was so fearless, because of the iPad.”

Murtaza, who came to Buffalo from Lebanon, put together a presentation on his life.

“It’s nice to do that, with nice teachers. This really mean[s] everything. Without her, I’m not here,” he said of a teacher who helped him along the way.

Laygay Pawwah also put together an autobiography, focusing on teaching those she presented to about issues of hunger and economic conditions in her native Thailand. She, too, spoke of the transformative impact that technology and her teachers have had on her.

“What my teacher does is help me with reading, with writing. I love school,” Pawwah said. “I really love school. All I want to do is learn how to read and write.”

One student from Cameroon even tackled classic works of literature, including The Crucible, n his presentation.

“It’s been an honor for me to do all these projects, because it helped me understand many things. It helped me develop my perspective. When I’m working on something, I really want to know more about English. To explore many words, and to discover the meanings of them,” he said.

That particular student’s language skills have already helped him land part-time work. Being proficient in more than one language will pay off for each of the students in the future, he said, as colleges and employers increasingly look for multilingual skills.

“They want to be able to have some skilled people, who can help others. For instance, refugees who come over here,” he said.

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