Sunday I had a wonderful Skype session with my nephew, Andrew Bowman and his family now living in Switzerland. The video was crisp — he was using an IPad mini and I was sitting by my MacBook Pro. The sound was clear and the technological glitches were minor. I still need, however,  a few more practice sessions with some old and new international friends (Thank you, Irma Milevičiūtė, for your patience, kindness, ideas, and assistance as I begin learning through Epals about the wonderful work you do in beautiful Lithuania!).  I still need to master how to record Skype sessions and to practice embedding such conversations into blogging software such as WordPress. I’m also eager to compare Skype with other Skype-like video conferencing tools (e.g. Google plus hangouts and Oovoo).

I’ve rediscovered Curtis J. Bonk’s book The world is open and I am pondering to what degree I want to infuse my courses with global awareness and connections before I retire—or afterwards!

Here are some incipient thoughts I am exploring.  I welcome  YOUR thoughts and reactions—especially those of you living in other countries.

  • I see a need and many opportunities to increase global awareness of my students  through the use of media such as BBC NewsGoogle News, and Newsvine. I was thrilled last week when one of my student research collaborators in the “Pioneering a Virtual European Cultural Immersion Course” project  Phoumany Phouybanhdyt alerted me to some of Carroll University library’s global news resources  she had learned about in  her  World Politics class.
  • I’m very much interested in investigating how I might become a member of (or associated with) Etwinning.  My thanks to student research collaborator Catrina Duncan who first brought this potential resource to my attention and to my new and old European friends Irma Milevičiūtė and Reidar Ommundsen who pointed me in some directions on how to join.
  • I’m debating the value of incorporating Kiva or some such international charity/ service component into the classroom to reinforce global compassion.
  • To what degree should I explore global views of religion, spirituality, and being?
  • How essential (and what degree of mastery is essential ) for our students to learn  non English languages? What should be the role of tools such as Google Translate and  Livemocha?  I am always humbled at the mastery of English of my international friends and embarrassed at my own failure to master the basic elements of their beautiful languages.
  • Does it make sense to incorporate into my courses, where appropriate,  cultural universals such as musiccusine, sports, and literature?   So much to think about, but I enjoy thinking—and I welcome your thoughts in particular about what are ideally the key elements for an international cultural immersion experience. Looking forward to your comments.

Posted by Professor David Simpson

Professor of Psychology, Carroll University (USA), Lover of Dogs, Reading, Teaching and Learning. Looking for ways to enhance cross-global communication and to apply technology learning tools.

6 Comments

  1. Hello! I’m not sure what you might be looking for but this page has lots of resources (http://www.salto-youth.net/). Also, I have a post up where I mention some other links at the end that could be good sources for you (http://melibeeglobal.com/2013/01/what-coffee-teaches-us-about-culture/).

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    1. Thank you, Maria. I myself am still sorting out what I am looking for! I’m enjoying reading your blog and learning from it.
      I haven’t been to Spain in many years, but my undergraduates are looking for “contacts” their age to correspond with and gain a better understanding on Spain today.
      David

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      1. Here’s another article that might help: http://melindaklewis.com/2013/02/19/can-advocacy-be-taught-we-try/
        Spain is in a tough spot right now and the youth are really dealing with a grim outlook (youth unemployment is at 50% and overall unemployment is at 25%).

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  2. Dave Erickson '91 February 13, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    This sounds like a great endeavor – I’m happy to add some humble insights where I can.

    My first thought is that you have a high likelihood of getting some real “mindset” cultural experiences in a virtual program. If you travel as a tourist, you will tend to go to the places that are set up to cater to you as a tourist. The workers there understand your purpose and will be successful if they make your trip enjoyable. You will certainly see elements of the culture, but the “display” elements – the things they are proud of. These are of course important and usually pretty spectacular, but it’s like seeing someone’s house for the first time at a birthday party – all the best is on display. I had the good fortune of taking in Oktoberfest in Munich. It was unbelievable, and I could write volumes on it, but it was of course not every day German culture.

    What I’ve found with the business travel is, your first couple of trips you are overwhelmed by the languages, architecture and food. These are all bold, obvious contrasts that you can’t help but fixate on just to get your bearings. But once you get more comfortable with that, you start to see some of the things I was mentioning. There is a lot of “culture” in the mundane. How the non-tourist restaurants work, what the grievances are with the local utility bills or city hall, how they commute, etc. It’s the mindset of the every day, not the birthday party.

    I think your virtual immersion can really tap into that. You have to be very sensitive to invasion of privacy, but just using “facetime” or similar in a non-tourist restaurant, store, or the town center would yield dozens of mundane interactions that wouldn’t happen here, and it would be very interesting to explore the root causes of the differences. For instance, how much of your life is spent as a pedestrian if your town’s streets pre-date cars and therefore are lousy for parking? How connected do you feel with your city when everything is based around an open town square? How much do you moderate your vocal volume when your neighbors’ house is only a couple feet away? How freely do you voice your opinions when your country was under Communist rule not 30 years ago?

    My England / Ireland trip with Dr. Rempe is still my most memorable part of Carroll, and I feel like it laid the foundation for the experiences I’m having now. I am so happy to hear that you are promoting expanded world view and cultural awareness still. Maybe you should actively enlist alumni help? Challenge alumni who are traveling to capture / chronicle some specific activities from around the globe or request the same of their foreign colleagues. It would be interesting to see what kind of correlations you could draw.

    I will enjoy following the progress!

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  3. Dave Erickson '91 February 13, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Dr. Simpson, I enjoyed your thoughts here. I traveled abroad seven times last year, which was unusually high for me. This included three European (Prague and Munich) and four to Mexico.

    I was glad to see you mention “cuisine” towards the end of your post, because it ties into an observation I’ve made. That is, table graces are still observed elsewhere in the world, much more than they are here. For instance, the simple wish of “bon appetit” or a simple “enjoy your meal” if they are translating for us is simply expected. Waiting until all expected attendees are seated before touching a thing is the norm. Preceding the first drink with “cheers,” “salud,” “prost,” “slainte,” etc.

    In Mexico, I’ve visited a lot of warehouse operations, and have seen how, every morning, every person, regardless of rank or station, stops to extend a “good morning” to every person they see, often with a hand shake / fist bump or a kiss on the cheek for the women.

    This may not seem like much, and maybe some readers will say “we do that here in the US,” but I certainly don’t see it consistently – it’s not second nature for us the way it is elsewhere.

    I really do believe it has farther reaching effects. I believe it brings even the most heated business meetings back into perspective. An individual can be passionate and angry all day in a meeting, but when it’s time to break for meals, the courtesies kick in and everyone is back to level ground. Or in the Mexican example, even if the work is difficult and the days are long, you start every day reinforcing the friendly bonds and it’s very energizing.

    I don’t know if such things would be evident in and of themselves in a virtual experience, because they can be subtle. For me, they began to dawn on me after enough trips when I was getting beyond the more obvious differences.

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    1. Thanks, so much for your thoughtful insights, Dave. I’d love to hear more about your experiences in Prague and Munich. You alert me and us to a number of important considerations.
      I lived in Mexico for 6 weeks and I acknowledge there is no substitution for direct experience. Still, I want to test the limits of creating virtual experiences both to benefit our students who can’t right now to afford traveling and to whet their desire to indeed travel outside their narrow Waukesha confines:) I totally agree with your observations about table graces and sincerity and their long-range impact.

      So great to hear from you! Please do continue to share your thoughts as the spirit moves you and share my musings with others who might contribute to my education and that of my students. This is not an Advancement/Alumni initiative on my part—just a genuine “research” endeavor with six very bright, intellectually curious undergraduates who are being given academic credit to create a course using Web 2.0 tools.

      Warm regards,
      DS

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