Dynamic environments for cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary online collaborations

panel / roundtable
  1. 1. Ellen Crocker

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  2. 2. Kurt Fendt

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  3. 3. Gilberte Furstenberg

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  4. 4. Wyn Kelley

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  5. 5. Douglas Morgenstern

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Work text
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Our panel will present projects used in language and literature classes at MIT, and in three of the cases, at other universities in the United States and Europe, that address several issues central to online student collaboration. We will present the results of our experiences and explorations of various archive-based designs we have used in creating virtual communities. These design features affect the relationship among students, teachers and texts of various natures, including multimedia texts, that are created, collected, reconfigured and interpreted by students themselves, either individually or in collaboration with others. We are seeking to determine and implement optimal features of web-based communities, that within the context of effective classroom practice, enable students (and teachers, who in some cases become learners themselves) to reflect upon, represent and interpret their ideas and their cultures as well as the literary and artistic objects of study produced by those cultures. The individual projects are as follows:

American Authors (and the soon-to-be-established UK Authors) is an electronic archive of images, sound, and video clips that support courses at all levels of undergraduate study in literature. Materials from the archive enrich classroom lectures and make possible the study of visual allusions in literary texts. More than that, though, the archive works as a springboard for student work--oral presentations, classroom discussion, and annotation--by allowing students to collect multimedia on their own, share their collections in reports and discussion, and comment on their own and other students' work. My talk would demonstrate examples of student work to show how an archive can support close reading of texts, provide historical and biographical context, and make visible the often effaced presences of racial and ethnic others in American literature.

The MITUPV Exchange is a bilingual virtual community where, since Fall 2000, students learning Spanish at MIT and their counterparts studying English and other subjects at the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia (UPV) in Spain, communicate asynchronously each semester by means of bulletin boards, photos and online video. The website changes periodically since students themselves provide most of the content as they represent various aspects of their university life and interpret the representations provided in text and multimedia by their overseas counterparts. There has been additional participation by smaller groups of students from Cambridge University (UK), the University of Texas, and other universities in Spain and Latin America. More than 1200 community members have registered, including students from other European countries and Asia. The underlying pedagogy is rooted in a student-generated process of creating content and meaning, and follows the widespread reliance on constructivist learning theory. Patterns of participation and of representation reflect individual, cultural and institutional differences. The centrality of video to the project has implications for various aspects of media literacy in an online environment, including the conceptualization of an intended audience for the uploaded media objects.

Links: http://mitupv.mit.edu, http://www.wired.com/news/school/0,1383,56082,00.html http://www.syllabus.com/article.asp?id=8293

Cultura, a Web-based cross-cultural project, aims at developing students' in-depth understanding of a foreign culture and focuses on making the invisible layer of a culture accessible and interpretable. The present version allows French and American students to gradually construct, through a collaborative process, a deeper understanding of each other's cultural attitudes, values, concepts, representations and frames of references. Using a comparative approach, students analyze a series of textual and visual materials from their respective cultures that are juxtaposed on the Web and then exchange, via on-line discussion forums and each in their own language, their perspectives as well as images about these materials in order to gain an insider's view of each other's culture and in the process, as Marcel Proust wrote, to learn how "to possess other eyes and look at the universe through the eyes of others." Cultura provides a clear, constructivist methodology whereby students, with the help of their transatlantic partners and the skilful guidance of their teacher, constantly refine and expand their knowledge and understanding of the other culture as well as their own. The project is used in several universities in the US and in France and versions in Spanish and Russian are currently being developed.

Links: http://web.mit.edu/french/culturaNEH


Berliner sehen is a hypermedia documentary for German Studies that relies on an extensive array of shared archives and the Internet to form a collaborative learning environment for beginning to advanced-level students. Focusing on Berlin, this documentary features live-recorded video and authentic historical film and documents that provide students with contextualized personal perspectives to the cultural, social, and political life of the city. The hypermedia format of Berliner sehen encourages students to investigate material in context from interchangeable perspectives, to create their own hypermedia mini-documentaries, and to collaborate with other students on the expansion of the archives. Berliner sehen is based on concepts that are fundamental for the design of the content and the technological design of the entire project. Those concepts are derived from the pedagogy of foreign language and culture, the principles of hypermedia structure and the documentary film process. Pedagogically, the project proceeds from a learning model that integrates culture and language and encourages students to investigate authentic discourse contexts. The conversations among Berlin residents on video provide students with an insider's perspective of lives as they are embedded in the larger social context and cultural history of the city. The insider's perspective is extended by the specific cultural context of contemporary life in Berlin, a city in which two German cultures confront each other. West Berliners and East Berliners provide us with an insider's perspective to their respective German cultures as well as an outsider's perspective to each other's culture. By juxtaposing these perspectives students gain a unique position from which they learn about culture through the language used by the people who are part of that culture.

Link: http://web.mit.edu/fll/www/projects/BerlinerSehen.html

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Conference Info



Hosted at Göteborg University (Gothenburg)

Gothenborg, Sweden

June 11, 2004 - June 16, 2004

105 works by 152 authors indexed

Series: ACH/ICCH (24), ALLC/EADH (31), ACH/ALLC (16)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None