'What do we chat about when we chat about culture?' The discourse of online intercultural exchanges

Anderson, W. and Corbett, J. (2015) 'What do we chat about when we chat about culture?' The discourse of online intercultural exchanges. In: Tcherepashenets, N. (ed.) Globalizing On-line: Telecollaboration, Internationalization, and Social Justice. Series: Telecollaboration in Education (4). Peter Lang: Bern, pp. 177-200. ISBN 9783034315203

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This chapter draws upon over seven years of experience of using telecollaboration as an integral part of an undergraduate course in English language at the University of Glasgow. This final-year course, ‘Culture and English Language Teaching’, addresses intercultural language learning through a combination of lectures, student presentations, class discussions and experiential online exchanges through ‘Intercultural Communications’, a specially tailored moodle platform. ‘Intercultural Communications’ allows spaces for students from Europe, South America and Asia to explore aspects of their culture and identity for themselves, and for the Glasgow-based students (who typically include UK undergraduates as well as European and Asian exchange students) there is also explicit input on the goals of intercultural learning, and ethical, political and practical issues in language education. Students may post online the outcomes of intercultural activities, such as home ethnographies, reactions to literature from other cultures, and example language learning activities. One discussion forum is set up as a ‘café’ where students initiate and develop their own discussions. The results over the years have been patchy: some groups entered into discussion enthusiastically, while others held back; some discussion threads attracted many responses, while others attracted little; many of the more successful topics seemed to the teachers to avoid the ethical and political issues raised by the course, and to concentrate on what, at face value, might seem like ‘trivial’ points, though a few discussions did raise sensitive issues to do with justice, ethics and identity. This chapter reviews online intercultural exchanges from the perspective of what students choose to talk about, and how they talk about the topics they choose, in both asynchronous and synchronous chat contexts. This content and linguistic analysis is complemented by an exploration of how students reflect on their experience of the course in interviews carried out with the most recent class of Glasgow-based students after teaching and assessment was over, and focusing largely on the value and functioning of the intercultural exchange element of the course. The chapter also offers suggestions on the role of the tutor in a context where the goal is intercultural dialogue on equal terms, and whether and how to shape online discussions on intercultural issues.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Anderson, Professor Wendy and Corbett, Professor John
Authors: Anderson, W., and Corbett, J.
Subjects:L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LC Special aspects of education
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PE English
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Publisher:Peter Lang

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