Spanish Professor is a Web 2.0 Pioneer

Andres Villagra, PhD

Andres Villagra, PhD

Associate Professor of Spanish Andres Villagra, PhD, and his students are going beyond the physical barriers of the classroom using the latest technology.

Villagra is a pioneer when it comes to using Web 2.0 technology to teach students Spanish proficiency and culture, while also encouraging them to connect with other Spanish-speakers around the world and expand their networks through blogs and wikis. Many students are already using social networking tools online, so they are very comfortable working with this technology in a classroom setting as well.

It all started with Villagra’s own blog, started in 2007 for his class. Then he introduced blogging for his students as part of their courses on a class blog. He wanted students to see the real application of their work, and soon they were connecting to individuals outside of the classroom.

Then each of those students began their own blogs. Some are now alumni, and they all keep in touch. His students are now connected to high school students, alumni, faculty, and the international community, including a former UN official and a representative from Princeton University Press.

“The students’ work has an immediate relevance outside the classroom. They have a sense of authorship and responsibility,” said Villagra. “They don’t write for the professor anymore, they write for a real audience.”

They also have something to show potential employers and put on their resumes.

Building on the blogs, Villagra wanted to create an even more collaborative on-line experience so he created his first wiki allowing students to share information. He has since developed a wiki for Pace University called the Pace University Spanish Lounge, which anyone can join.

One of his students, Eric Pena, is now working on an independent project called “The Spanish Success Story,” which uses a new type of Web 2.0 technology called a “mash up” to showcase an unlimited number of video testimonials.

“The world is their classroom,” Villagra said, adding that it’s also a way to build community, keep alumni involved, and as a recruitment and marketing tool for prospective students.