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Teaching Ideas: An experience of cultural awareness launched through chats and etwinning activities

A project between FRANCE and TURKEY

Odile Pouchol and John Israel are two high school teachers in Grenoble and Istanbul. Their schools are partners in a two-year European project built through the Life long learning Program of the European Commission. This project has now become a full school partnership.

The main theme of our project was to fight cultural stereotypes and develop interculturalism among our students through a series of web-based activities. The two groups of students (15-17 year olds) were asked to note down the images and ideas that came to their minds about each others' country. We were inspired by the CULTURA experience as explained on the website:

The French students started to write small texts on web pages that were sent to their partners through etwinning. In these texts they described how they imagined the country and the way of life of their partners. They also sent drawings and paintings that they had made in their art class. The starting point for this activity was also to be found in their own mental imaginings of what the ‘other’ could represent and how this could be represented.

Then the Turkish students replied through etwinning, in reaction to these stereotypes and bringing complementary information, as well as correction to some of the remarks that had been made. All this was read in class and formed the base for interesting discussions on each side.writing.jpg

The next step was a chat facilitated by the etwinning platform: the students developed some of the ideas expressed in earlier communication, but discussions quickly evolved on both sides through identifying irresponsibility in the propagation of stereotypes by media that help to create and perpetuate false images. The students also expressed their desire to meet soon and work together. This became a reality during the Comenius project meetings in the year that followed. It was a time when both groups had plenty of opportunities to match their own preconceptions to the reality of life in their partners' country.

In a specific project on the influences of light on aspects of architecture in the urban environment of Grenoble and Istanbul, the two groups of students also sent images of architectural features that caught their eyes, when viewed through a camera lens. The resultant photos formed the basis for artistic creations combining images from Grenoble and Istanbul with common, visual themes integrating French with Turkish and Turkish with French, in workshop sessions for creating art, held in Grenoble during one of the project exchanges.

One of the next steps was based on the CULTURA project, once again. In this, the students had to complete sentences about common situations in daily life, exchanging them with their partners and then reacting to what each group said, comparing and analysing their views. After the meetings, this mind-opening experience was further developed through etwinning and a collaborative participation in some Spring Day activities.

Judging by reactions and the results of an evaluation study, we believe that our students have achieved the following :

- Sharing knowledge and skills through collaborative e-twinning activities
- Challenging the assumptions inherent in stereotypes
- Enhancing intercultural awareness
- Comparing commonalities and differences in national educational systems
- Developing more advanced language skills, with greater awareness of what effective language learning entails.

The language of communication for all these activities was shared between English and French. In addition however, the French students also acquired some elementary notions of the Turkish language. The use of multimedia tools was an essential aspect for realising the greater part of all these activities.

Many of the rich results can be seen on the project website - REGARDS CROISES:
by Odile Pouchol and John Israel, June 2009