Transformations Article on the Globally Connected Language Classroom

Our joint case study on the globally connected language classroom was recently published in the online journal “Transformations” on the  Academic Commons website. 

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Summary: The language classroom is a most fruitful place for intercultural, global learning. Digital technologies allow us to make intercultural connections like never before and in the process language-learning benefits from real communication about real issues. Connecting two language courses globally requires overcoming many obstacles and challenges (time difference, collaboration, technology, funding, resources, etc.) but a strong belief that the benefits outweigh the costs serves as a constant source for pushing on.

We look forward to comments from colleagues and students alike! 

A special Dankeschön! to our students in German at Denison and AUBG for your engagement and enthusiasm in this teaching and learning project! 

 

 

Inside Higher Ed: Faculty Create Global Learning Opportunities

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Teaching With Tech Across Borders

Inside Higher Ed, July 9, 2014

By

For his world regional geography class at Allegheny College last fall, Eric Pallant arranged for his students to videoconference with a class at Forman Christian College, an English-medium institution in Pakistan. It was Pallant’s second such experience teaching a “globally connected” course: the spring before he had taught a class on food and agriculture in collaboration with a professor at Morocco’s Al Akhawayn University.

Among the assignments Pallant had planned for the geography class, the Allegheny students were to prepare detailed reports on the physical and human geography of their town, Meadville, Penn., while the Pakistani students would do the same for their country. The two classes would exchange and present on their respective findings.

It sounds simple enough, but in reality it was anything but. Anti-American sentiment runs strong in Pakistan and within minutes of the start of the first video conference the Allegheny students felt under attack for U.S. foreign policy decisions of which they knew little. (“Are youkeeping track of debt restructuring in Pakistan right now?” Pallant asked.)

Further, the video picture was fuzzy and the sound quality poor, a problem compounded by the issue of accents.

And though this was less of a problem for the Pakistani exchange, in the case of the Moroccan course collaboration Pallant’s students faced challenges related to different cultural conceptions of time. The American students were anxious about getting the group assignments done by the stated time on the syllabus, while their Moroccan group-mates tended to have a much more, well, fluid conception of deadlines.

“Lest you think this is all negative, what I ended up realizing and saying to my students is, ‘You’re going to go out there in this globalized world and you need to learn how to negotiate these things’ – a different sense of time, accents, technology that doesn’t work the way you expect it to, perceptions of Americans overseas,” said Pallant, the chair of environmental science at Allegheny.

In other words, “it turned out to be a fantastic learning tool,” he said – though not for the reasons he had expected.

As colleges look for cost-effective ways to internationalize the on-campus learning experience, globally connected courses such as Pallant’s may become more common. The use of technology to enable virtual exchanges and collaborative assignments between geographically distant classrooms is not brand-new – faculty, especially foreign language faculty, have been doing it in pockets for as long as there’s been email – but there seem to be an increasing number of efforts to scale up and institutionalize these kinds of activities.

“In the last 18 months to two years, there’s been the beginning I would say of a sea change where SIOs [senior international officers] and provosts and other folks who are higher up on the campus are taking notice of this for different reasons and saying, ‘This is a good idea; how can we support it?’ ” said Jon Rubin, the director of the State University of New York’s Center for Collaborative Online International Learning, which goes by the acronym COIL.

Challenges and Opportunities

This type of teaching goes by many names – COIL, online intercultural exchange, virtual exchange, globally networked learning, telecollaboration. In this context they all mean more or less the same thing, and that thing is broad: the use of technology, any technology, from email to social media sites to video-chat software to blog platforms to wikis – to facilitate class discussions and do collaborative course assignments across national borders and time zones. The course exchanges can be synchronous or asynchronous, or involve a combination of both.

COIL is often described as an alternative to study abroad, a low-cost, easy substitute of sorts for that 90 percent or so of undergraduates who never go overseas. Asked if it’s oversold in that way – after all, study abroad has been characterized as a particularly high-impact educational experience – Rubin said the problem with the language of “alternative” is it suggests a COIL class would be study abroad’s equal. Generally speaking it’s not, he said, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a potentially powerful learning opportunity in itself.

“When people ask me, ‘What does a COIL course do?’ I say it’s less about intercultural competence than it is about intercultural awareness,” Rubin said. “It’s about starting a process. I believe that when handled correctly it does have a very strong tendency to do that.”

That said, he continued, “If there’s any area where I feel it is oversold it’s that it’s not that easy to set up these courses. It takes quite a bit of effort and it’s not just that it takes work for our faculty but it means engaging faculty abroad who similarly have the commitment and the time and the administrative support if it’s going to be sustainable.”

Indeed, a recent European Union-funded report on telecollaboration in language learning found that while 93 percent of survey respondents who had used online intercultural exchange in their classrooms described it as a positive experience, they also described it as time-consuming (83 percent) and difficult to organize (54 percent). Thirty-one percent of respondents described it as challenging to find a reliable partner class – though, interestingly, 45 percent did not – and 55 percent said collaborating with partner professors was challenging. (The group behind the EU report has developed a website designed to help interested faculty find partners and teaching resources.)

Other practical challenges cited by survey respondents included differences in academic timetables and in language proficiency levels (outside of foreign language classes, most of these types of collaborations are conducted in English), and a lack of institutional support.

The issue of institutional support — such as assistance from an instructional designer and/or an information technology expert — comes up frequently in discussions about COIL (or whatever else it’s called). After participating in a National Endowment for the Humanities-funded institute hosted by the SUNY COIL center, 15 of the fellows said they wouldn’t be running a second iteration of the COIL course they’d designed compared to just 7 who would. Fellows cited a lack of partners and/or resources as their main reasons for why the course wouldn’t be continuing while those seven who did have plans to do it again had one thing in common:  they all indicated that their institutions are committed to building on the work they’d begun.

“Although COIL can be considered a low-cost cost approach to internationalization at home, it is not no‐cost,” the final report on the NEH institute says.

“Given the added resources these courses require, Fellows have to demonstrate how the COIL course was different from a traditional course and what added value it had. To no surprise, most cited the access to different cultural points of view as adding that ‘something extra’ to the course. They found that this element increased student motivation, led to more in‐depth learning and helped students be more willing to see ideas, texts, works of art, etc. from different perspectives. In some ways it was as if the students felt they had to perform better because they saw their partner class as a new audience particularly during synchronous audio/video sessions and in asynchronous discussion forums.”

COIL in Practice

Among the places where COIL has taken hold, within the SUNY system, the Oswego campus has provided financial incentives in the form of $3,000 stipends for faculty to develop a COIL course and $1,500 stipends to redesign an existing one. Lorrie Clemo, SUNY Oswego’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, said that faculty developing COIL courses receive support from an instructional designer, from the center for teaching and learning, from a staff member in the international education office and from an information technology staff member who helps with the technology when the class is up and running.

Asked why she’s making COIL an area of emphasis, Clemo said it’s a matter of scale and maximizing the number of students impacted. “I do think there’s tremendous potential for scaling this up so that many more students have the opportunity to experience an international connection if they aren’t able to study abroad,” she said.

Ulster County Community College, an institution in the SUNY system, has developed a number of COIL courses, including a planned collaborative genetics class with a university in Mexico and classes on entrepreneurship in collaboration with universities in Lebanon and Brazil. Outside of SUNY, Mount Holyoke College has a telecollaboration initiative through which about 40 faculty members have led class discussions with invited speakers or with students at universities in other countries. East Carolina University is offering 20 sections this fall of its hallmark “Global Understanding” class, created in 2003, in which students engage in group video and one-to-one chat discussions on topics like family and stereotypes and prejudices with students at three different universities in three different countries over the course of the semester. And the Great Lakes Colleges Association has so far involved about 36 faculty members in its “Global Course Connections” project connecting faculty at the various institutions in the consortium it manages, the Global Liberal Arts Alliance.

Allegheny’s Pallant organized his course exchanges through the Great Lakes Colleges Association Global Course Connections project, as did Gabriele Dillmann, the Julian H. Robertson Jr. Endowed Professor at Denison University, in Ohio. Dillmann had long been looking for opportunities to connect her German language students with peers overseas, but she’d found it difficult to forge a mutually beneficial exchange between her students and students in Germany who, of course, speak German fluently and tend to speak English quite well too.

Only recently did she consider the possibility of creating connections between German language learners in two non-German speaking countries. This past fall Dillmann embarked on a collaborative class with a German professor at the American University in Bulgaria. In a series of homework assignments, students wrote emails to one another introducing themselves and their reasons for learning German and describing their home campuses. As a centerpiece of the collaboration, two students each from the two institutions met for four-person discussions on the topic of planning a trip to Bulgaria using Google+ Hangout; Dillmann received a link to the saved chat and assessed the Denison students using a rubric including not only linguistic skills but also skills like digital etiquette and group and leadership competencies.

For the next iteration of the course, Dillmann said, she and her colleague at the American University in Bulgaria are expanding on the collaboration and planning synchronous class meetings using the software program Jabber. The collaboration of course creates more opportunities for her students to practice their language skills, Dillmann said, but what she also likes is that the context is less artificial than the typical language classroom. These are students from different cultural backgrounds who are encountering one other for the first time and using German as a common language: “They are meeting each other, finding out who are you, who am I and how do you live, what is your campus like, what are your courses like?” Dillmann said. “These are all new things, and our students want to present who they are as best as they can.”

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/07/09/faculty-use-internet-based-technologies-create-global-learning-opportunities#ixzz38m1HAM9K
Inside Higher Ed

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MLA Vancouver Session on Visionary Pedagogies

Visionary Pedagogies for the 21st Century: Teaching the Humanities with Digital Technology

As MOOC fever recedes yet the debate about online learning’s future chances and challenges becomes both more realistic and pressing, the humanities urgently need to get more creative and reflective about imagining their future in higher education. This session will discuss concrete ideas and best practices for embedding digital pedagogy assignments and tools into four different kinds of classrooms and courses (foreign language, literature, storytelling, and writing), not only to memorialize and simply transpose what we already do into a different medium, but in order to harness unique affordances of new tools and connected ways of learning that widen the scope of what and how we teach for the 21st century. If we want our students to become mindful global citizens with a sound mastery of digital skills appropriate for this day and age and connect these with the knowledge memories and critical thinking skills that a solid humanities education provides, we need to harness technology in pedagogically creative ways and bring the humanities back into the heart of an increasingly digitally connected society.

Gabriele Dillmann’s talk “Fostering Global and Digital Learning with Google+ Hangout as a Communication and Knowledge Sharing Tool” launches our session with the example of using Google Hangouts in the German language and culture classroom to connect with other students and teachers worldwide. With new cloud-based technologies and a sharp increase in hybrid teaching models, innovative, technology-enhanced teaching and learning projects within a global connections context have become more readily realizable. Specifically, in the language and culture classroom, Google+ Hangout with its multifunctional interaction tools (screen sharing, chatting, whiteboards, presentation software, etc.) has made online hybrid learning uniquely intuitive, inexpensive, inviting and “human” for both students and teachers. We need to teach students more than the technology itself, however: they need to learn digital and dialogue etiquette, how to be effective team players and members of a learning community, and develop group and leadership competencies within a digital context. Dillmann will present concrete examples and offer teaching and learning materials from her intermediate level internationally connected German language and culture course that show both how to use this tool to enhance linguistic and cultural proficiencies, as well as digital competencies that can be applied in any teaching and learning context.

Petra Dierkes-Thrun’s paper “How To Do Things with Books and Screens: Literature and Digital Pedagogy” offers three concrete examples of digital pedagogy in the literature classroom that newly engage students and bring traditional humanities contents and methods to a larger public. An assignment she pioneered in 2012, a popular literary Twitter role play for Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, playfully reimagines this classic novel and posits reading and interpreting literature as creative social functions. In her second example, an Image and Sound Interpretation (using only images, audio, video, but no words, to interpret a poem), students create a collaborative synesthetic digital space that expands traditional close reading methods and goals. Dierkes-Thrun’s third example is a final assignment that replaces the term paper with a teaching sequence, student-produced pedagogical rationale and teaching materials developed by students, for other students or community organizations, which illustrate a new pedagogical paradigm of “critical contribution” online (Cathy Davidson’s term for students’ productive contribution to society via knowledge sharing). The unique new affordances of digital media also increase motivation, Dierkes-Thrun argues: teaching and learning collaboratively and playfully, integrating critical contribution and public outreach into traditional literature course, and giving students (and teachers) a larger sense of purpose and audience for their work.

Alan Levine’s talk “Assignment Riffing: What Happens in DS106 Does Not Stay in DS106” expands our session’s conversation beyond the course, unit, or a particular institution. Unlike MOOCs (of c and x variety),  his open digital story course ds106 uniquely stands as more than one course, but as overlapping ones from multiple institutions with a cloud of open participants. Its Internet radio station and Daily Create challenges offer opportunities outside the course. An open assignment bank not only gives flexibility to choose assignments, but also invites participants to add new ones, a living example of the “adjacent possible” in a course. It may appear ludicrous to house assignments for editing images of famous paintings to include fat cats, creating poetry from titles of songs, or putting fast food in the hands of internet pioneers, but the media created are not the end goals in ds106. Participants open their apertures of creative interpretation, incorporate works of others in a constructive fashion, and narrate their creative process. A frequent spirit of spontaneous “riffing” occurs, not unlike that of improvisational jazz musicians, that ripples far beyond the confines of one course.

Finally, Amanda Starling Gould’s “Assignments, Assessments, and Makerspace Methods in the Literary Digital Humanities Writing Course” offers her Augmenting Realities Duke university undergraduate course as an example of how one might enact a literary digital humanities writing course, detailing the method, motive, and several tested modes for digital project assessment. Because syllabi and course assignments can be as instructive as methodological explanation, the main focus of this presentation will be a hands-on introduction to several digital humanities assignments in the course. Assignments as Digitally Annotating the Graphic Novel, the Final Transmedia Essay & Collaborative Web Journal, Creating Dynamic Digital ePortfolios, the Impossible One-Slide Presentation, and a grand Google Glass Literary App Challenge, invite audience attendees to explore the assignment specifics, tools used, and the students’ final products, and understand their integration within the narrative of the course. Gould’s case study, as well as our special session’s as a whole, aims at sparking critical innovation for integrating the digital into all humanities disciplines and to encourage experimentation that resists the traditional boundaries of contemporary pedagogy in order to facilitate rigorously creative digital learning environments.

These papers are likely to provoke a lively discussion ranging from exchanges of concrete pedagogical ideas and best practices of yesterday and today, to more conceptual, fundamental, and controversial reflections on the challenges and opportunities of teaching language, literature, writing and storytelling digitally today and tomorrow.

PARTICIPANT BIOS

Gabriele Dillmann, Associate Professor of German at Denison University, teaches courses in German language, German, Swiss, and Austrian literature and culture, and seminars on psychoanalytic theory and neuropsychoanalysis. In her teaching she makes innovative use of newest digital technologies to foster language skills, intercultural competencies and global learning, for example in her globally networked German course with the American University in Bulgaria.  She is also very dedicated to Cultures and Languages across the Curriculum (CLAC) and team-teaching pedagogies. Her scholarly interests are increasingly vested in how digital technologies shape how we learn and teach now and in the near future. Her more traditional scholarship is in the area of German Romanticism and psychoanalytic theory, specifically suicide studies. For an updated account of her most recent projects, please visit http://gabrieledillmann.wordpress.com. Last year, she was awarded the Julian H. Robertson Jr. Endowed Chair at her institution for her work in teaching, service, and scholarship.

Petra Dierkes-Thrun is a Lecturer in the Comparative Literature Department at Stanford University with interests in Victorian, fin-de-siècle, and modernist studies, as well as feminist and LGBTQ studies. Her book Salome’s Modernity: Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetics of Transgression was published by The University of Michigan Press in 2011. Petra serves as advisory editor for boundary2 (Duke University Press), founding editor of the international online journal The Latchkey: Journal of New Woman Studies, and board member for Rodopi’s Dialogue series. Petra actively incorporates digital pedagogy into her literature and gender studies seminars at Stanford, developing new kinds of student exercises and activities involving social media, learning collaborations with the public, and digital student projects aimed at thoughtful, creative engagement with traditional humanities contents and methods via the new media, as well as blogging about these topics at www.literatureilluminations.org and most recently, consulting for other universities who want to learn more about her ideas. Two years ago at MLA, Petra already organized a session entitled “Literature and Digital Pedagogies” that was chosen as part of the presidential theme and drew a large crowd of interested MLA members.

Alan Levine is recognized for expertise in the application of new technologies to education. A pioneer on the web in the 1990s and an early proponent of blogs and RSS, he shares his ideas and discoveries at CogDogBlog. Among his recent interests are new forms of web-based storytelling and encouraging acts of creativity (including 50+ Web 2.0 Ways To Tell a Story, pechaflickr, and a thing called the StoryBox), and is an adjunct online teacher of the open digital storytelling class, ds106 for the University of Mary Washington and George Mason University. Levine has held leadership technology positions at the New Media Consortium and the Maricopa Community Colleges. Currently he is providing education consultancy services as CogDog.it. His recent work revolves around application of syndication structures to create of project and course web sites with a distributed network structure for the Hague University of Applied Sciences, the Educational Technology MOOC, the Harvard School of Graduate Education, and Thompson Rivers University. Levine has authored several articles for EDCAUSE Review and most recently a chapter in Invasion of the MOOCs: The Promises and Perils of Massive Open Online Courses.

Amanda Starling Gould is a media-lit scholar at Duke University investigating digital cultures, network ecologies, digital humanities scholarship, and innovative modes of pedagogy. She teaches digital humanities and media studies courses at Duke and has recently been presenting and leading workshops on digital pedagogy and assessing digital scholarship. She is a James B Duke Fellow, a HASTAC Scholar, one of the inaugural PhD Lab Scholars at Duke’s PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge (a member of the Praxis Network), and a newly anointed Duke ‘Flipping the Classroom’ Faculty Fellow. For more information, please see her website, amandastarlinggould.wordpress.com, where she posts updates about publications, research, digital projects, academic activities, and teaching.

4 North Park Place Newark, OH: Art and History in Unexpected Places

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The Denison Art Department had its BFA group show at 4 North Park Place in downtown Newark this April. Students displayed their art work throughout the three floors of the building after an intense clean-up of several days. The idea was to create a space that would show a symbiotic relationship between students’ artwork and the space itself.  If you had a chance to see the show, you were in for a surprise. The entire, huge building with its seemingly endless rooms is a work of art. Over the years, the slow decay of walls and ceilings has created patterns and shapes that are stunningly beautiful to a point where sometimes the intentionally created art struggles to compete with what nature has created by itself.

Walking through the vast space, from one dilapidated room to the next, I wonder how long these floors have been left to themselves to decay and wither away behind a perfectly well maintained facade of the historic downtown building. I find the answer in a room with Kristie King’s name tag by its entrance door: Tuesday, January 31, 1933 reads the date on one of the newspaper pages spread all over the floor in anticipation of a renovation project that was never completed. For 81 years this place has been abandoned at a time that would be the beginning of one of the greatest tragedies to befall Europe and with it the United States. “Hitler Faces Stormy Course in German Chancellorship – Nationalists Celebrate in Wild Fashion,” reads the headline of page 2 of The Ohio State Journal with a photograph of Adolf Hitler in typical grim and hostile pose. “Gets his chance – Adolf Hitler, leader of the German Nationalists, was made chancellor yesterday in a common effort to pull the fatherland out of the mire,” its caption elaborates on Hitler’s infamous Machtergreifung (seizure of power) adopting the nationalist rhetoric of the time. The day before, on January 30th, 1933, Hitler was appointed Reichskanzler by President Hindenburg. On the day after this newspaper page was printed, Hitler gave his first national radio address, “Appeal to the German People.” By the end of World War II, tens of millions of people had died or were missing in action, about 420,000 of those were American soldiers, 23,000 were men and women from Ohio.

The paper is holding up surprisingly well considering its age and its exposure to an unforgiving environment. With a little effort, even the smaller print is still legible. It is as if time had been arrested behind these historic walls. Fortunately, Kristie had the foresight to leave this room untouched and let the remnants of history speak for themselves.

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From the Downtown Newark Ohio Association website we learn a little bit about these semi-abandoned buildings:

HISTORY OF DOWNTOWN NEWARK
Newark, Ohio was founded in 1802 by Maj. William C. Schenk, who came to Ohio from Newark, New Jersey. It was incorporated into a town in 1826 and became a city in 1860. Our beautiful Second Empire Courthouse was dedicated in 1876 as the 4th courthouse on this site. It is surrounded by the Downtown Newark National Register Historic District which contains more than 90 well-preserved late 19th early 20th century commercial structures, representing a wide variety of architectural styles. Many of the shops, restaurants, attractions and points of interest are housed in these structures.

What has happened to that building since that paper was spread to protect this small room’s floors from the messes of restoration 81 years ago?

Let’s see the show:

 

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Globally Connected German Courses Project

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All video links have been removed to respect the privacy of our students.

Find out more about the Student-Faculty Research Conference at AUBG here.

Modern Germany at AUBG

During my stay at AUBG I had the good fortune to participate in a class in Professor Stantcheva’s Modern Germany advanced language level course.  This particular unit was on the broader topic “money”, not just on the Euro as the predominant currency, but it also included discussions on the Swiss Frank, counterfeit money, virtual money, Old money (the Mark), and a critical piece on the “Euro as Teuro” (expensiveo!). Students had completed a homework fill- in- the- gap- assignment to prepare themselves for today’s topic by studying the relevant basic vocabulary. This exercise then also served as a nice warm-up for the class. In anticipation of the small texts to be read and their discussion, Prof. S. provided students with the respective text headings and had students brainstorm ideas about what these texts might be about specifically. This was a great way to engage students with the materials and vocabulary. Something was now at stake when Diana had her students read these short texts and then assess whether their assumptions were met or not. It turned out that students’ guesses were pretty right on in most cases, but there were a few surprises as well (Falsches Geld? Wrong money?). Students also expanded their Wortschatz, their word treasure, significantly during this exercise and refreshed some historic facts about European currencies nearly seamlessly on the side. The unit ended with an engaging discussion question: What do you believe our currency will look like in the future? to which students contributed with very interesting comments and ideas.

The class ended with a student presentation on the German Education system in preparation of the next class meeting. This PPT presentation by Economic and Business major senior Nataliya S. led to an interesting discussion on what makes Germany (as well as Austria and Switzerland) attractive to students from East-European countries.  Primarily students mentioned the high quality of education, the fact that it’s affordable and Germany as a premier economic power. Interesting to me was the impression that students understood themselves primarily as Europeans and less so as being of a specific nationality.All students in the class were multi-lingual with German being a third or forth language in their linguistic repertoire, a fact that was echoed not without a tinge of envy by our Denison students in their video conference assessment of our synchronously connected courses the previous Wednesday.

Students in this course are pursuing majors in Economics and Business Administration, Political Science, European Studies, and Computer Science, which also reflects the university’s main areas of study. Compared to Denison U, AUBG is much more of a professionally focused school than a liberal arts college in the classic sense. For example, despite the fact that AUBG is an American college in Eastern Europe where English is not necessarily the second but often the third language that students speak, the college does not offer an English major, not even a minor. Their American Studies major appears to be more of a complement to such areas of inquiry as Economics or Political Science than the study of American culture in a more humanistic sense. Similarly, despite the strong interest in all things German, the course offerings do not go beyond German language courses when it is clear that many students are keenly interested in at least a minor. Nor are there any other language courses offered that go beyond the basics.Perhaps one can say in summary that the humanities are certainly not as strongly represented as one would expect in a more typical liberal arts college.

Besides being multi-lingual and multi-cultural, students here are hard-working and dedicated to their studies. They are highly engaged, inquisitive, and very interested in learning about other cultures and  their practices. I very much enjoyed interacting with these very impressive young people.

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9th CLAC Conference @ Denison U

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Cultures and Languages across the Curriculum (CLAC) at

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Conference Theme: Engaging a Wider Community through CLAC

Save the Date

April 16 and 17, 2015

on the beautiful Denison University Campus in Granville, Ohio!

For previous conference information visit the CLAC Consortium Website.

CLAC Conference Website will be up soon.

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Synchronous class AUBG and Denison was a success!

 

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After a successful equipment test on the previous Monday, students in Professor Diana Stantcheva’s Modern Germany course and Denison students connected synchronously via Jabber on Wednesday evening (Bulgarian time: 17:45, EST: 10:45 am). Diana and I had planned a 30 minute class component to take place in my Denison colleague Gary Baker’s class, which asked students to introduce themselves and then discuss questions of interest to each group that had been prepared as a homework assignment. Since Diana’s class had been covering “advertisement” in class, students were also encouraged to practice their newly acquired vocabulary by asking Denison students questions on this topic.

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Denison’s class was much larger in size (14 students compared to 5 at AUBG), which meant that each AUBG students was challenged to speak much more individually than their Denison counterparts. They did not seem to mind, however, and tried their best to answer and ask questions. This seems to be a general characteristic of the typical AUBG student, they make a real concerted effort to communicate thoughtfully and with much engagement. Being students in a school of s multi-lingual environment, of course, contributes significantly to their relative comfort and ease in switching linguistic and cultural codes.The difference in class size also meant, however, that not all Denison students got to ask questions in the short time allotted for this initial meeting, but the questions they did ask were engaging and interesting.

DSC_6490.JPG.client.x675 - Version 2One DU student, for example, wanted to know why students at AUBG are studying German. AUBG students first emphasized how important it is in a global world to speak several languages, and then explained specifically that attending university in Germany or Austria as European Studies and Business majors is especially attractive. Several students are contemplating getting their advanced degrees in either Germany or Austria. They further said that with Germany being a key player in the world’s economy with business locations in most countries attractive to them,  it is of great benefit to know German well. When AUBG student’s asked Denison students the same question, they received similar answers about the business world, but less so in regard to studying for an advanced degree in a German-speaking country. One student’s question about the Bulgarian’s opinions regarding Americans caused a little stir perhaps, but the AUBG students proved to be real troopers in trying to answer the question as honestly as they could in such a short time. The response was essentially a very positive one, stressing that they perceive Americans as hard-working and highly motivated towards professional success. In our debriefing session after the conference was concluded AUBG students expressed that they would have liked to hear what Americans thought of Europeans, perhaps East-Europeans, which again shows how “selbstverständlich” their identity as Europeans is to them. Of course, clearly, this aspect is also the product of studying at an internationally focused school that is comprised of a multitude of nationalities, languages, and cultures.

Diana and I prepared a questionnaire about the online meeting for students to reflect on different aspects such as expectations, surprises, challenges, the technology, and their opinions of the importance of intercultural communication. Both Denison and AUGB students have been asked to answer these questions candidly (in German) and email them to the three professors. An initial discussion at AUBG in regard to surprises generated a very interesting answer by an AUBG student: “I am surprises that such a technology exists!”

What was the student’s first reaction on both sides: let’s do this again – this was so much fun and we learned so much!! Diana and I were beaming with delight – such a response makes all the trials and tribulations associated with such a project worthwhile! Without a doubt.

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A photographer from AUBG Today magazine was present to take pictures of the event. A reporter also came to our joint presentation during the (very impressive!!) annual Student-Faculty Research Conference to report on our project both in the printed and online magazine. It was very encouraging that students expressed so much interest in this connected courses project. I will post more once they make some pictures and their story available.

Whether our project is of interest to the institution as whole, however, is not immediately obvious. Several faculty members, on the other hand, across the disciplines expressed great interest and asked for the conversation to be continued.

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