With travel restrictions imposed by COVID-19 aligned with the widespread implementation of remote learning, international virtual exchange can become an alternative to foster cross-cultural dialogue and English learning in higher education. In collaboration with partners in Spain, Morocco, and Italy, Professor Devin Thornburg and Clara Bauler developed three opportunities for Adelphi students to engage in cross-cultural dialogue:
- Undergraduate education students from the US and West Sahara collaborated and interacted via online synchronous and asynchronous exchange to discuss the use of art in education. At the end of the semester, there was a web-based festival open to the US university community. The virtual interactions allowed both groups to reflect about their previous notions of art and how cultures influence each other in music and dancing.
- Undergraduate education students from the US interacted with high school students and teachers from Tuscania, Italy via weekly synchronous meetings as well as asynchronous platforms such as Flipgrid and EdModo. Together, both groups of students documented and shared their lives in quarantine through journal writing, pictures, and research.
- Freshman undergraduate students from the US engaged synchronously with high school students from the French Lycée in Sevilla, supporting students in learning English language while sharing cultural experiences. The focus of the conversations was on multilingualism and multiculturalism, empowering both groups of students to examine cultural and linguistic diversity as a tool to promote tolerance and dialogue.
Professor Devin Thornburg has found that the challenges for him as a teacher have been primarily about structuring the conversations that students are having with others from other nations and cultures in a way that is generative and meaningful. Nevertheless, he is struck by how his students have been remarkably resourceful and engaged in this initiative which, for his class, has involved cultural exchanges in Spain as well as Asian, European and South American countries–and in New York City at a school that solely serves immigrant students and families.
Professor Clara Bauler finds that the reflections her undergraduate and graduate students shared about their virtual interactions reveal learning that goes beyond the stereotypical views of culture and language. For example, Adelphi students have been amazed at the number of languages their international student-partners speak, the things they do and share in common, such as playing sports and having exams, as well as their ability to communicate in spite of previously perceived language barriers. The opportunity to directly talk and reflect with each other virtually created a bridge between both groups of students’ lived experiences, enhancing their ability to cultivate and consider different perspectives.
For examples of Adelphi students’ reflections on our latest partnership with linguistically and culturally diverse high school students in Sevilla, Spain, check out these short video posts at Flipgrid.