Starting a Dual Language State Network An Interview with MODLAN

Language is an insight into thinking, culture, humanity, history. Being bilingual/multilingual helps us with perspective-taking and empathy. This is something our world really needs right now.

As dual language education continues to expand across the country, so does the need for state dual language networks. A dual language state network can create a community among dual language programs throughout the state, monitor the success, and ensure that students are receiving all the benefits a dual language education is supposed to offer. will be featuring stories of the beginnings of dual language networks around the country in hopes to inspire other dual language networks to begin. To fully understand the process of building a dual language network, we spoke with Lisa Dorner, Ph.D, co-founder of the Missouri Dual Language Network, an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and a Faculty Fellow of the Cambio Center at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Lisa started MODLAN with friend and fellow professor, Kim Song, while chatting with one of their colleagues, Debra Cole, who worked at the time as an instructional specialist for the state. Debra had previously led the development of a two-way immersion program in Illinois, and they discussed that Missouri really needed a network to support dual language educators. They felt as though they needed a space to share their ideas and expertise as they tried to meet the needs of their ever-changing communities. Lisa and Kim then called together teachers and school leaders interested in developing bilingual programs, and came up with this vision:

MODLAN is a group of educators, school and community leaders, and university professors who believe in multilingual education for all students because linguistically- and culturally-diverse learning opportunities are essential for success in an integrated, transnational society.

Their purpose is:

  • Connect dual language (DL) and multilingual schools and educators across Missouri
  • Share information and research about DL education
  • Prepare strong teachers and school leaders for DL programs
  • Advocate for DL education and multilingualism
  • Empower multilingual parents and communities

The organizational charts will look different for your network depending on how many members, schools, and educators are involved. Particularly for MODLAN, they do not utilize an organizational chart as they consider themselves to be a very loose network. In their initial stages of implementation, they had a group of educators from Carthage, Columbia, Kansas City, and St. Louis, Missouri who designed the vision and mission statements over a couple years over a few meetings. They had support from the Cambio Center and the College of Education at the University of Missouri-Columbia. They spoke with colleagues working in “English Learner” and World Language education at the state. Kim and Lisa became the core organizers; and they’ve provided some workshops and professional development for teachers about dual language education since they began and maintain a Facebook page with further information.

Continue reading to learn more about the implementation of MODLAN…

In the organizational stages of MODLAN, Lisa and Kim first set out to determine who were the stakeholders (key educators interested in dual language education in Missouri), then, hold conversations with them, and design their mission/vision. They encountered time and resources as the most difficult challenge they faced during implementation.

They work to include the community on their mission and updates about MODLAN by utilizing social media. Given their connection to some language immersion schools, they are friends and colleagues with many parents and teachers. They are the ones who spread the word about MODLAN most quickly and developed their network online. This is important to understand about your community, make connections with whom your network will most benefit, and the network will then expand organically over time.

MODLAN is continuing to work with their colleagues at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to provide professional development about dual language education (What is it? How can we start a program?), and to spread the word about their state’s new Seal of Biliteracy. When asked what they would advice for other programs interested in starting a dual network, they responded:

Gather together at professional teacher organizations or local conferences where there are stakeholders interested in multilingualism and dual language education. Ask some colleagues to join you for coffee or tea! Talk about what issues are important to them, and see where you all have common ground. Brainstorm a mission and vision statement. Open social media accounts to provide more information to the public. And so on!

Lisa and Kim believe that the network will continue to change over the years. With more interest, there may be more opportunities for funding, and thus more opportunities for them to provide support and professional development to school districts and interested educators. They would love to discuss how to apply for funding to host local conferences and professional development for educators and community members. They would also be interested in working with other networks to advocate for multilingualism and against anti-immigrant and anti-multilingual biases in our communities. To start the conversation: Use Our Forum (click here)

Lisa Dorner
Author: Lisa Dorner

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