Iowa State University
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  • Multi-media Fulbright

    Fulbright Scholar grant allows English's Cynthia Myers to work hand-in-hand with Chileans developing new on-line course.

  • Cynthia Myers has a greater appreciation today of the experience her students go through.

    An adjunct instructor of English at Iowa State, Myers has taught English as a Second Language (ESL) to international students upon their arrival on campus.

    About six years ago, Myers, who has a deep affection for Latin America, decided to learn Spanish herself. After sitting in on several Spanish courses, Myers says her language skills have become proficient enough for her to “get along fine on an informal basis.”

    But when Myers spent five months recently in Concepcion, Chile, she soon discovered that while she could get by in certain situations, it was quite different in others.

    "It really brought home to me in a very personal way the struggles that my students must have here," she said. "Fortunately the nature of my project was such that we usually worked in English instead of Spanish. But I did need to communicate with the technical staff in Spanish."

    During her stay, Myers helped a team at the University of Concepcion develop a multi-media English as a Foreign Language (EFL) curriculum for a beginning Web-based EFL course on that campus. EFL courses are offered in non-English speaking countries for students who want to learn English. ESL courses are offered to international students who are currently enrolled in schools in countries where English is the native language.

    Myers worked as a consultant to a team of 16 writers and computer programmers on the project, which is funded partially by the Chilean Ministry of Education and the University of Concepcion. Demand in Chile has increased for students at the university level who wish to learn the English language. But budgetary concerns make the development of on-line courses a necessity.

    In addition to her work with the Iowa State ESL program, Myers has also worked several summers in Mexico teaching EFL courses. Those courses however have always involved face-to-face interactions between the instructor and student.

    "This is a very different approach to EFL instruction," she said. "There are some principles that are the same when developing this type of course. But there are many, many other things you need to consider."

    One of those things was the importance of including a native speaker on the project. Myers said her colleagues all speak English extremely well, but were more fluent in British English than American English.

    "I was able to give them some insight into this area," she said.

    Even after her return to the U.S., Myers plans to continue her association with the project. She will be helping the web team with evaluating a pilot course.

    Myers' five-month stay in Chile was funded through a Fulbright Scholar grant. This program sends hundreds of American scholars and professionals every year to more than 140 countries, where they lecture and/or conduct research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields.

    She became involved in the project after fellow Department of English faculty member Carol Chapelle spoke at a conference in Chile. While in the country, Chapelle met with the University of Concepcion web team.

    Upon returning to Iowa State, Chapelle told Myers about the university's efforts to developed a web-based EFL course.

    "Carol knew my background and my interest in Latin America," Myers said. "I looked into a Fulbright and thought it was a long shot at best.

    "But the project fit well with national goals to increase English language teaching in Chile."

Cynthia Myers in front Chilean items in her office
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January 26 to February 8, 2004