LAWRENCE – A website developed by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Kansas has won a national award as an exceptional resource for language learners. The educational website Acceso received the 2012 Access to Language Education Focus Award from the Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium (CALICO).
Acceso is a digital learning environment that replaces traditional textbooks in KU's curriculum for intermediate students of Spanish. The website focuses not only on enhancing students' language skills, but also on exposing them to the various cultures of the Spanish-speaking world. Acceso is an answer to the call of the Modern Language Association for foreign language curricula to enhance students' linguistic and cultural competence while fostering a better understanding of the people and societies through language.
Amy Rossomondo, associate professor of Spanish and co-director of the Spanish Basic Language Program, directs the Acceso project in collaboration with the Ermal Garinger Academic Resource Center.
The website is organized into eight main sections, each centering on a Spanish-speaking geographic region. Each section contains resources such as video interviews with Spanish speakers, articles on current cultural issues and histories of the region. The website also has grammar and vocabulary sections. Acceso is free and open for public use. Many Spanish classes at KU utilize the site; however, its reach extends nationally and internationally for teaching Spanish in a variety of educational contexts.
CALICO, an international organization established for the promotion of the effective integration of technology in language learning, has existed for more than 25 years. It gives out annual awards for language and technology, including the website award won by Rossomondo. Qualifications for the Focus Award stress ease of access, versatility and breadth of resources.
The development of Acceso reflects Rossomondo's research interests, which include foreign language pedagogy and applications of technology to foreign language learning. Prior to Acceso, Rossomondo developed and implemented Project Conexiones, a virtual learning program between KU and the University of Costa Rica. Students learning English at University of Costa Rica interacted with KU students learning Spanish, promoting cultural exchange through technology. The website launched in the fall of 2009 and was fully implemented in the spring of 2010.
Before joining KU in 2004, Rossomondo received her doctorate from Indiana University and then joined Miami University of Ohio as a visiting professor. At KU, Rossomondo was named a Mortar Board Outstanding Educator of the Year in 2007.
The Department of Spanish and Portuguese is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The College houses all foreign languages taught at the University of Kansas. The College offers 40 languages for study, including less commonly taught languages such as Uyghur, Hausa and Kaqchikel Maya. Foreign language study at KU combines language proficiency with cultural insight to help students become active and aware global citizens.