The 2014 STARTALK Student Program, Building Competency in Hindi and Urdu through Global Project-Based Learning, offered by the School for Global Education & Innovation at Kean University, is a three-week standards-driven blended language learning program designed for secondary/early post-secondary heritage language learners who wish to gain higher levels of language/culture proficiency through the study of Hindi/Urdu in real world contexts and in contemporary learning environments.

Onsite/online learning experiences focus on using Hindi/ Urdu to gain knowledge/perspectives about and to address the global issue of Promoting and Protecting Children’s Rights, in support of three current UNICEF project goals: (1) to end violence against children, (2) to end child trafficking, and (3) to promote inclusive and tolerant child-friendly schools that empower children. To that end, STARTALK students engage in daily cross-cultural interactions with students from partner schools, The Mayoor School in Ajmer, India and Beaconhouse AGAL School in Islamabad, Pakistan, using videoconferencing/Web-based applications. Together, heritage and native students gather, analyze, synthesize and weigh information about the issue in Hindi and Urdu from a variety of sources, including those of invited speakers, taking into account Indian, Pakistani and American perspectives. As such, this critical global issue serves as the context for developing increasing linguistic, cultural and global competencies throughout the program.  Specific topics include child labor, child marriage, child discrimination, child recruitment by armed forces/groups, child trafficking and children’s universal right to education.  The final project task is to utilize the visual or performing arts as a means to heighten awareness of and to advocate for actions that prevent future children’s rights violations and to propose and defend culturally sensitive, viable solutions addressing the issue. Student work will be presented as part of a performance for members of the community and invited dignitaries and through the creation of project advocacy websites linked to NGOs in India and Pakistan and the U.S. whose mission is dedicated to protect and promote children’s rights at local, regional, national and international levels. 

Upon completing the program, students will be able to document gains in proficiency through the NYU Proficiency Test and earn high school/ college credits.  All students will also be able to earn an additional credit (1-credit) for successful completion of academic requirements in the 2014 Kean STARTALK Program. Subsequent to the summer program, students will have the opportunity to enroll in the STARTALK/Kean Extended Online Hindi/Urdu Learning Program, to enroll in Kean University Hindi or Urdu courses and/or to serve as student teaching assistants in the 2015 program. 

The 2014 Teacher Education Program, Preparing Teachers of Hindi and Urdu for Digital Age Learning in Global Environments, is designed to enhance the knowledge and skills needed for successful language teaching in standards-driven, face-to-face and virtual learning environments through the use of the Global Project-Based Learning instructional model. Accordingly, professional learning experiences in the Teacher Program will focus on “new” teacher roles, “new” pedagogies and the leveraging of the power of advanced technologies to facilitate learning that consistently places language and culture skill development in a global context. An emphasis will be placed on the on the development of the 21st century literacies and practices that learning in networks and globally connected online communities’ demand of today’s practitioners. Throughout the sequence of training, the goal is to “actively engage” teachers in tasks that facilitate skillful world language teaching. This includes the pedagogical skills to teach Hindi and Urdu in a global context (e.g., selection of appropriate authentic readings/clips on a global issue, creation of instructional and assessment tasks that are meaningful, cognitively engaging and facilitate the development of the dimensions of global competence) while ensuring learning activities are appropriately scaffolded, differentiated based on students’ needs, and lead to increasing student proficiency in targeted skill areas.  In addition, since teaching in contemporary learning environments requires an understanding of how technology relates to the pedagogy and content, teachers will be engage in activities that develop heightened understanding of how to use a range of technologies to accomplish learning and work goals.