February 02, 2010

Year Two of Khabarovsk-Orebro-Stanford Collaboration

One year ago, winter 2009, students at Örebro University, Stanford University and Khabarovsk State Academy of Economics and Law collaborated on this blog, using the Khabarovsk-Örebro-Stanford Blogging category. This year 2010 we are going to continue the conversation on-line.

The students at Örebro University study a class on intercultural communication as part of a programme in rhetoric, having Dr Anders Eriksson as their professor. The students at Stanford are taking a class in the Program of Writing and Rhetoric focusing on political leadership, with Dr Alyssa O'Brien. The students in Khabarovsk are taking a class on Intercultural Business Communication with Dr Olga Kovbasuyk. The three professors met at the fifth International Intercultural Communication Conference in Wichita Kansas May 2008.

The collaboration is going to have several phases. The students from Örebro are going to present themselves and their cultural background on February 4, post reflections on stereotypes and why they are not true by March 11, and post an abstract in english of their research papers by March 18.

To have intercultural competence is to be able to communicate effectively between cultures. One of the first steps is to be aware of our own cultural bias. January 28 the students in Örebro tried the online simulation called Cage Painting, see Rimmington & Alagic Third Place Learning. The purpose was to become aware of the "cages" around us that block effective communication. This week, February 4, we are going to share some of the cultural bias we have discovered. In rhetorical theory this is called our doxa, our hidden assumptions, the things we take for granted. As we present ourselves we will also say something about our culture that will be important for a conversation partner from an other culture to know. The students at Stanford and Khabarovsk, when they collaborate with the students in Örebro, will learn some of new things about us and our culture.


Dr.Anders Eriksson, Örebro University

January 24, 2010

We have a new Student blog for CCR

January 2010. A new year begins. A new decade begins.
The CCR project has a new student blog.

Thanks to Chris Alfano for setting it up under an unbelievable time crunch. We had to do it though - we were being spammed like mad, with robots and bots and junk emails interfering with the good work of global learning and intercultural competencies....

But now, we have a new CCR blog, and a great beginning to 2010.

Here's what Chris wrote in launching the new student blog:
"If you're new to CCR, you should know that we are a teaching and research project based out of Stanford University that connects students and teachers across the globe through video conferencing and blogging activites. We began in partnership with Orebro University in Sweden in 2005 with a research grant from the Wallenberg Learning Network, and since that time have expanded to also work with Uppsala University (Sweden), American University in Cairo (Egypt), University of Sydney (Australia), and institutions in Singapore, Russia, Switzerland, and also schools across the U.S. You can visit our previous blog at ccr.stanford.edu/blog/ to look over all the blogging our students and participants have done over the span of 3 years. For more information about the project in general, please visit our webpage at ccr.stanford.edu."

I'll echo Chris's welcome: Please feel free to visit our blog, read through this, our instructor blog, and jump into the conversation by commenting. We are dedicated to promoting conversations across cultures and nations as a way of developing stronger intercultural competencies.

I won't add the line "all voices are welcome" because I don't want spam - and I apologize to all our faculty partners and students whose posts have received spam in the past. However, we are open to conversation and have great hopes for a fresh start in 2010!

Warmly,
Alyssa

December 10, 2009

Reflections on a full Fall 2009 in CCR

As classes end, as we wrap up our grading, and as we turn our thoughts to the holidays, I would just like to thank all our CCR partners, instructors, students, supporters, researchers, and tech workers for making the Cross-Cultural Rhetoric work possible so that many students can benefit from opportunities for hands-on global learning: writing, speaking, collaborating, and learning across the globe.

Looking back now from the vantage point of December, it is clear that we had a very busy fall, with blogging, Marratech video-conferences, and exciting guest lecturers either in person or via video-conference (courtesy of a SiCa grant).

The following visual montage shows some of the highlights from this past quarter -
• New intra-cultural connections within the USA with Aurora Community College in Colorado and City College of New York
• Sustained video-conference and blogging connections with our strong partners in Sweden: Anders Eriksson of Örebro University and Patrik Mehrens of Uppsala University
• A first-time Marratech video-conference with the American University of Cairo (AUC) thanks to Ghada El Shimi, following culture blog posts,
• Continued blogging with Mark Michael of the American University in Cairo
• An exciting five-part Marratech session with Bill Foley’s course at the University of Sydney
• Guest speakers John Paval, W Kamu Bell, Bill Foley himself, and Christina Tangora Schlachter

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Looking ahead, we are thrilled about the video-conferences and blogging to kick off again in January: Uppsala, Orebro, CCNY, Khabarovsk Russia, AUC Egypt, and more? We plan to have more guest speakers made possible through our two SiCa grants.

We also have exciting new research initiatives, such as our collaboration with the University of Texas at Austin, and a grand plan to help Uppsala University launch its new Wallenberg-style Learning Lab on March 11 with a video-conference kick off!

Moreover, we are going to pilot using CCR technology to connect with international pro-fros (that’s Stanford speak for “prospective freshmen”) in April, and we’re now supporting a CCR-style student group called SURF (Stanford University Russia Forum).

Finally, we hope to hold another International Symposium in the Spring – a chance to come together and reflect on the good work done and the new directions possible with technological innovation in higher education – or how to open the world for students, one screen at a time.

Happy Holidays!
Alyssa

November 30, 2009

Completing three Stanford connections with Orebro University

Today at Stanford, my 9 am first-year class on Visual Rhetoric across the Globe connected one last time with Anders Eriksson's Rhetoric B class at the University of Orebro, Sweden. It was quite fruitful to have three consecutive connections, with the students working in the same groups each time. With this pedagogical plan, students were able to get to know each other well, develop concrete strategies for communicating across cultural differences and timezones, and know what to expect.

We structured the three connections as a progression - For the first conference, students brought in cultural artifacts and discussed images of culture found on the academic website of each institution (see the lesson plan and workshop page). Next the students composed blog posts with their own photos and discussed doxa, or the cultural values embedded in the nexus of the social fabric as captured through visual texts (as explained in the lesson plan here). Finally, the students created their own visual arguments, making montages or translations of their written argument to communicate in a visual language across cultures and discursive conventions (go to lesson plan).

The American University of Cairo, in Egypt, joined us for video-conference 2, and we had a powerful three-way sharing of perspectives on lifestyles, clothing practices, food preferences, and academic environments.

Each time, the video-conference culminated with project-based leanring: the students had to create a text TOGETHER, as a globally distributed team. First: a collaborative team name and image; second, a ad brochure for their team (imagining they were hired to launch a student travel company), and third, today, a visual representation of what they learn in CCR iself - how can they create an image that might inform other students and persuade others why this kind of global learning through technology matters?

The students said they enjoyed today's final connection very much (see their blog comments), and you can see the final images they created in teams below - powerful learning and a very strong experience for all. As Gordon Brown recently stated at the TED conference, WE NEED new ways of global communication if this world is to get along -- to survive and thrive - and to help others. I am so thankful to Anders as well as to all the students at Orebro and here at Stanford for making this vision a reality in their hard work during these three videoconferences.

Continue reading "Completing three Stanford connections with Orebro University" »

October 26, 2009

Thoughts on tech support, infrastructure, and video conference connections

This post comes out of my very real gratitude for our amazing staff of student tech workers here at Stanford CCR: shown here hard at work prepping for a video conference, Jonathan, Anya and Eethar are all now in their second year working with our project, supporting the video conferences, and every day I am grateful for their help.

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We didn't always have student tech support -- while our Stanford Tech Guru, Bob Smith, has always been on hand to help us out with our connections, for several years, Alyssa and I have balanced the logistics of curricular planning with the hands-on reality of hooking up wires, checking for hot ethernet ports, troubleshooting bad network connections, solving echo problems, realigning webcams -- all the very necessary work that goes into trying to create a "transparent" tech interface for our students to use in talking with their globally distributed partners. And, in fact, ironically, despite our strong student staff, some of our connections this quarter are completely UN-supported for the very first time (because of scheduling conflicts), leaving the instructor to field the tech issues him/herself during the session. Of course, this is the situation that many of our partners face every time they connect with us: we know that many schools that we work with DON'T have any infrastructure to support video conferencing and that it is in fact the teachers who are managing the tech aspect of things on their own.

It occurs to me that we need to think hard about the tech requirements of participating in a video conference exchange. As much as we try to streamline participation in the project, what level of tech expertise is still necessary on the part of the instructor? And what is the base level of buy-in needed from the university's tech support structure to make these connections work? How can we best facilitate these exchanges from a logistical point of view, both for those with tech workers, and those without?

I'd be interested in your ideas about this issue!

October 14, 2009

What is America? Connecting with Aurora Colorado

Today we are piloting our first cross-cultural rhetoric video-conference WITHIN the US.

Students from Aurora, Colorado are connecting with students at Stanford.

Thanks to Susan Achziger, English Composition Faculty, Community College of Aurora

The task today?

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Rhetorical analysis of image of the American Flag - from diverse perspectives! Not only are there diverse nationalities at each institution, but Colorado and California have very different cultures. In addition, Aurora is a small community college and Stanford is a research one graduate university - so what can we learn from each other? How might we better understand America and its diversity?

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October 05, 2009

Professor Bill Foley from Univ Sydney speaks on Cross-Cultural Rhetoric

On Thursday, October 1, Professor Bill Foley from the University of Sydney gave a talk to students and faculty about his scholarly perspective on cross-cultural rhetoric. As Chair of the Department of Linguistics, Professor Foley brought a unique, interdisciplinary perspective to CCR. He also penned a most captivating title for his talk: ARISTOTLE AMONG THE HEAD-HUNTERS, OR PUTTING THE CULTURAL INTO CROSS-CULTURAL RHETORIC"

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In his talk, Professor Bill Foley presented a new way of approaching the concept of "identity" based upon his years of field research in traditional New Guinea cultures. He shared with the audience instance of ideological beliefs about language practices and their meanings and then made the bold claim for rethinking rhetorical practices in traditional oratory. The talk was inspirational to those interested in contrastive rhetoric, comparing the rhetorical traditions of the West drawn from Aristotle and classical rhetoric against those from New Guinea social groupings. His talk made us all think about the central role that anthropology and linguistics can play in cross-cultural rhetoric studies.

His talk was well attended in the Hume Writing Center, and students remained afterwards to ask Professor Foley questions.

Next week, his own students at the University of Sydney will connect with Stanford students in 5 (five!) CCR video-conference connections, spanning three days. It's a great opportunity for global learning - meeting both universities' initiatives to foster globally educated citizens. Plus, we expect it will be great fun for the students to meet their peers across the ocean!

September 17, 2009

Stanford and AUC Blog on Tourism

From January to March 2009, students in "The Rhetoric of Tourism" class at Stanford worked together with students in a rhetoric and writing class at the American University of Cairo on blog posts around the subject of tourism. On Stanford’s campus, we see tourists every day as they pour off tour buses at the Oval, walk around campus with a backwards-walking tour guide, and wander through the Rodin sculptures, cameras clicking. And so that's where the Stanford students started: by posting blog entries on the different forms of tourism we see on campus all the time. Capture.JPG

Continue reading "Stanford and AUC Blog on Tourism" »

August 19, 2009

New Research Collaboration with University of Texas Austin Computer Writing and Research Lab

Even though classes at Stanford University don't begin for another month, the CCR team is always looking to the future. In addition to lining up CCR video-conference and blog connections for the 2009-2010 academic year, CCR has just launched a new research collaboration with the University of Texas at Austin.

This is thanks to Sean McCarthy, Assistant Instructor and Assistant Director of the Computer Writing and Research Lab within the Department of Rhetoric and Writing at the University of Texas at Austin. Sean attended our CCR panel at 4C’s in March on "Cross-cultural Perspectives on Technology-enabled Learning in the Global Writing Classroom." He then wrote to us interested in introducing CCR as a core project for one of his research groups at UT Austin this year. We were thrilled to meet Sean at 4C’s, and now, we are even more excited at the prospect of a year rich in research collaboration.

In our kick-off Marratech planning session yesterday, Sean introduced his colleagues and fellow assistant directors Molly Hardy and Justin Tremel, who sat in on the video-conference meeting.

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Together, we discussed shared goals and made plans. This is an exciting opportunity to see how the CCR methodology can “transfer” to other universities and institutions. The whole point of our original WGLN grant-funded research was to develop a protocol and concrete practices that could be utilized by many in higher education. While we have enjoyed success in sharing the CCR knowledge and know-how with our active international partners, this is the first time that a peer institution in America seeks to study, learn, apply, and extend the research methodology, working practices, and knowledge developed by the CCR team in 4 years of research and sustained practice. At the same time, CCR will have a lot to learn from UT Austin as they have the technological resources and the researcher-teachers who can extend CCR methods to the next level, trying out new platforms for connectivity and investigating new research questions. Our ultimate goal will be a shared publication about this collaborative process, this cross-institutional shared research endeavor.

Tomorrow, Sean will pitch the CCR focus as one of the Core Research Projects to the graduate students and faculty – we are grateful for this endeavor, and we look forward to meeting his colleagues, working with them, learning from them and alongside them, this coming academic year!