Bringing the world into the institution: Mobile intercultural learning for staff and students

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Left to My Own Devices: Learner Autonomy and Mobile-Assisted Language Learning


© 2012 Emerald Group Publishing Limited. This case study describes how available mobile technology (students' own camera phones) can be used to enhance learners' input into the curriculum and to promote intercultural learning among university staff as well as among students. The students at Zayed University are local Emirati women, while the members of the university staff come from many countries around the world. Each year new staff arrive with little knowledge about the local culture, and their orientation course has usually involved the university giving them basic information about their students' cultural background. Recently however we have tried to tap into students' worlds by using their own familiar technology: their mobile phone camera. We invited students to send us a photograph taken on their mobile phone which would give new, foreign staff insight into the world of their new students. The resulting images became the starting point for a dialogue between the new staff and students. This was followed up with a more extended writing task for students, based around an image from their phone. The images created and selected by students were interpreted by incoming staff as glimpses of a foreign culture, often in ways which revealed the staff's own preconceptions. Staff's questions to students about these images, and the responses obtained, showed both convergence in the understandings of the two groups, and an opening up of what is understood by ''local culture.'' In this dialogue, processes of mobile, autonomous learning begin as the students use their new language (English) to explain their culture to the highly educated cultural neophytes who are the staff.

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Emerald Group Publishing

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Author First name, Last name, Institution

David M. Palfreyman, Zayed University

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