“Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.” This is an insight that Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie shared with the audience at a TED conference in 2017, pointing out the danger of reducing people, cultures and countries to a “single story.” This is how stereotypes, which limit or even manipulate the perception of reality, are created according to Adichie.
Her very personal talk, which was translated into numerous languages and widely shared on the internet, was the starting point for an intercultural teaching project initiated by Dr. David Prickett and Karen Abel of Beit Berl College near Kfar Saba in Israel.
As part of the Action Week for Climate Protection which took place from 25.11 to 29.11, staff at the University of Potsdam focused on the topic of climate change in several forums. Joanna Thompson discussed how to talk about climate change with children. Students were then given the task of shooting short videos which dealt with one aspect of this topic in English.
They worked in three groups, with one preparing a vegan meal, one participating in an upcycling task and one group discussing the protection of woodland areas.
One of the videos can be viewed here.
The University of Potsdam is part of the Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) Network. This COIL course in Winter Semester 2016/17 brought together students at the University of Potsdam and students at the SUNY Broome Community College. They learned and worked together synchronously in the classroom during class time via Skype, Moodle, and other digital media. For further information please click here.
We cannot deny that technology has become omnipresent in everyday life. Several devices have been invented and a vast number of hardware, software applications, websites and social platforms have been developed for them. Nowadays, most children in our region grow up with technical gadgets, for example mobile phones, tablets or computers, which means that they work with technology from early childhood on. Rather than being afraid of progress and technical development, we should open our minds to new media and take advantage of that. Educators ought to embrace progress and use technology and social media to support their way of teaching.
Particularly in schools and at universities, social media can be very helpful to achieve variation in lessons and therefore to get the learner’s attention. Instead of just sticking to old-fashioned methods, teachers and lecturers need to adapt to contemporary practices in order to approach more students. As David Schultz states, “the art of good teaching is balancing what works with experimentalism” (2). This means teachers should feel empowered by the many possibilities modern technological development contains. Introducing smart devices, more precisely tablets, in classrooms entails advantages for teachers and learners, such as saving money because pens, paper, ink and other items will be replaced by only one so-called smart pen and the gadget itself. Furthermore, this standardised equipment eliminates one form of discrimination.
Framing is a way of linking complex issues to more common topics the learners can relate to (qtd.in Gardener et al.). It is often used in various forms in popular media. Gardener et al. list several biology-related topics commonly framed in the media, for example sexuality, gender, global warming or animal rights. Media framing can influence the student’s attitude concerning the topic (Gardener et al. 333). Therefore, the instructor needs to choose the frame of a certain topic very carefully. On the other hand, different frames concerning the same topic can lead to discussions inside and outside the classroom. The novelty of the topic, as well as its characteristics, plays an important role (Gardener et al. 344). Nowadays, quite a number of people are vegetarians or vegans and their lifestyles are likely to be discussed in popular media. Biology teachers can use this framing to introduce nutrients, for example.
Regarding the fact that, in the last few decades, more and more educators included technology in their lessons, such as overhead projectors or computers, it is not far-fetched that smart devices will become standard school equipment as well. Technical development is not going to stagnate therefore, the education we deliver needs to “go with the flow,” as David Schultz argues (2). Popular media discusses not only biology-related topics, which implies that framing is a convenient method for several subjects. In conclusion, educators ought to adopt the idea of frames and smart devices in the classroom because of the numerous advantages they imply but in order to do so; they have to acquire experience and media competence first.
“Native speakers or bilingual teachers are preferably employed in language classes” (“Immersion.”), “native speaking only” (“English Teaching”)–considering those extracts from a school program and a job advertisement, native speakers are often considered to be better language teachers than their non-native colleagues. As claimed by Walkinshaw and Oanh (1), supporters of this thesis argue that native speakers of English embody the “ideal model for language production” and their use of the language is “held up as the gold standard of grammatical correctness and perfect pronunciation.” Non-native speakers, on the contrary, are characterized as “deficient speakers of the language, with imperfect grammatical and pragmatic knowledge, poor pronunciation, and inferior knowledge about foreign cultures.” However, against the background of global language developments and numerous advantages of non-native language teachers such rigid perceptions appear to be deprecated.
According to research findings in the field of World Englishes, the dichotomy between native and non-native speakers turns out to be questionable as varieties of English are spoken all over the world and linguistic boundaries become increasingly blurry. Moussu and Llurda (317) argue that assigning higher value to native speakers of American or British English over speakers of other varieties of English is an unfair argument of outdated anglo-centrism and linguistic imperialism. Instead of sticking to strict models of distinction, hybrid forms of English should be acknowledged as a means of expressing valuable multiculturality. Relating the dichotomy to an educational frame, Moussu and Llurda (317) furthermore criticize a “lack of contextualization.” In order to determine essential skills of a language teacher, one should consider “the interdependence between language teaching and the local context.” Thus, assumptions about nativism and non-nativism might become misleading in judging pedagogical and communicative competences of language teachers.
Although the perception of native speakers as being more proficient in imparting knowledge in second language acquisition is tenacious, non-native speakers have a plethora of teaching advantages at their commands. Moussu and Llurda (322) emphasize that teachers, who have once gone through a similar learning process as their students, can provide inspiring role models. Being able to relate complex linguistic issues to phenomena of a shared mother tongue and to code-switch if required enhances understandability on the student side (Walkinshaw and Oanh 7). Furthermore, non-native teachers are in the beneficial position to empathize with their students and predict language-related difficulties and possible sources of error. If teaching units are designed accordingly, mistakes can be avoided from the onset (Moussu and Llurda 322). Walkinshaw and Oanh (6) also point to socio-pragmatic advantages. If teachers and students share the same cultural background, miscommunication is less likely to appear as interlocutors are used to the same communication patterns and classroom habits. Research on student perceptions shows that learners of a second language generally assign higher value to their teacher’s pedagogical and communicative skills than to their linguistic background (Walkinshaw and Oanh 1). Consequently, in case a comparable level of language proficiency is achieved, non-native language teachers might even be more successful than their native colleagues.
On this page, you will find links to podcasts that students in our courses have created. Maybe you will have the chance to make a podcast in one of your courses with us!