Saying More Than Just Hi

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As a 1:1 Technology Integration Specialist, part of my responsibilities is the actual distribution of the laptops. At this point in the school year, I am still passing devices out, especially to students who are enrolling into school. Last week I had a student enrolling who was from another country. As a part of the process, when students sign up for a laptop, I provide an orientation for the parents to explain the expectations of the program and why we do what we do. This particular orientation presented a challenge, the parent did not speak english or a language that anyone spoke on campus. No worries!

Last week I had the opportunity to witness superb customer service transaction while visiting the University Village Apple Store in Fort Worth, TX. There was a customer who did not speak English and he stopped one of the specialist and asked if some spoke his language (I’m assuming that’s what he asked). The young specialist shook his head, but in English, said he would be glad to assist him and pulled out his phone. After opening an app, he repeated what he said into the mic and then showed it to the customer. The customer smiled and spoke back into the phone and they completed the transaction in this manner using the @sayhitranslator app.

So, I opened the very same app, grabbed the language survey in the enrollment packet and saw that the language spoken in the home was Arabic. Within the app there were several options for Arabic and I showed the phone to the mother and she pointed to the appropriate dialect, Egyptian Arabic. I pressed the talk button on my phone and introduced myself in English. The app immediately translated what I said in the parent’s native tongue and script. The parent was able to see and hear what I said in the her own language. I pressed the button again and gestured for her to respond. She spoke in my phone and the app translated what she said in English and thus the orientation began. I held a shortened Q&A version of the normal session in order to make cover the important items, but also to make it more conversational in order to ensure the parent understood. Toward the end to the orientation, the parent was a little teary-eyed. I asked, in the app of course, was everything alright. She replied with a yes and thanked me for validated why they came to America…opportunity for her children.

I shared the application and the implications with a few of my World Language teachers for Mandarin and French. They both were excited to see an application that truly translated. For Ms. Hu, she could barely contain herself as the app wrote out the Chinese characters perfectly. Imagine the power teaching with this application, students having conversations in other languages without to accomplish a like task. There is a tabletop version that can be used with the iPad that makes communicating easier when using the same device. There is even a sharing features to Twitter, Facebook and more. Can’t wait to introduce this to curriculum.

If you every wonder why I love and use technology so much to connect, look no further than this example. Technology allows us to connect in ways never before imaginable. Therefore, I use technology to meet students and parents where they are.

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