About the project
Sharing Cultures creates an online space in which students and teachers from vastly different backgrounds share diverse perspectives, experiences, and beliefs. The students connect through asynchronous discussion in a course space for one semester. The teaching team connects throughout the academic year, primarily through e-mail and conference calls, but teaching team members have had further opportunities to deepen connections by traveling to each other's institutions.
The project works by providing hospitable access to technology, online community, and the related competencies to particular populations of students in Port Elizabeth and Chicago who have not yet benefited from technology's potential to connect to their lives or to connect them to a wider world. Because the educational missions of both NMMU and Columbia College make explicit commitments to equality of educational opportunity, Sharing Cultures actively focuses on engaging students identified as facing multiple challenges in successfully making the transition from high school to college.
Perhaps the central innovation of Sharing Cultures is that, by situating an approach to literacy within an explicit context of cultural and global studies, these courses challenge students more, rather than less, than comparable courses challenge their more traditionally prepared peers. The cultural and global contexts are made immediate and intimate because students at NMMU and CCC practice their communication and problem-solving skills in direct dialogue with each other.
By encountering common themes and interacting in a shared online space, students in Port Elizabeth and Chicago begin to encounter each other. Using a heuristic that asks students to move from a consideration of self and local culture to larger social and global implications, students write, read, and respond to each other on discussion boards organized around shared readings, personal narratives, current events, and ?hot topics? of their own making. Student reflections on the questions, answers, and discussions, which are shared online across national and cultural boundaries, lead to new recognitions of similarities and differences.
NOTE: This text is borrowed from our collaboratively authored article in KAIROS.