Integrating Technology into Language Teaching: from Cultura to Facebook

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University of Chicago

This presentation reflects on the outcomes of two projects carried out in the Italian Program at the University of Chicago with the objective to encourage intercultural reflection through written exchanges between American students and Italian high school students. These two intercultural projects used different platforms and modalities. The first one was carried out through an MIT exchange site called Cultura, and successfully encouraged intercultural reflection between first-year students of Italian and Sardinian students from Liceo Classico G.M. Dettori.

For the second project, a group of second-year students of Italian used a facebook page to spontaneously exchange opinions on a wide variety of self-chosen topics with Italian students from the Istituto Roberto Rossellini, in Rome. Both projects involved two partner teachers and two groups of students, and were both successful in fostering deeper cultural understanding. The facebook project, in particular, was almost completely student run and attested to students’ motivation and interest to find out more about the other culture, in an attempt to develop transcultural competency. It was also entirely run in the target language (Italian). 

The presentation focuses on how these projects were put in place, what the students’ responses to them were, and what learning outcomes have been achieved.  It also reflects on how educators can enhance instruction when using Facebook or similar social media and other computer-mediated forms of written exchange, such as Cultura. 

The presentation includes samples of the written exchanges, student survey results, and suggestions on how to avoid possible pitfalls.  

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