Crossing Classroom Settings and Academic Disciplines while Crossing Geographical Boundaries

Crossing Classroom Settings and Academic Disciplines while Crossing Geographical Boundaries

Giovanna Summerfield
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-141-6.ch009
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American universities are exploring new methods for internationalizing their curricula by applying on- and off-campus strategies and by providing their students with opportunities to become global citizens. The number of overseas study programs increases every year (in spite of the brooding economical circumstances), and student enrollments confirm an interest and an awareness of the linguistic as well as the cultural demands of future professional careers. Unfortunately, the traditional curricula used in these abroad programs do not reflect the steady hunger for academic global initiatives. This instrumental case study examines how university learners enrolled in a one-month credited abroad program benefitted from an innovative curriculum which used iPods® as repositories of study materials as well as tools for cultural involvement. This study also suggests that the use of technology was able to extensively engage students in language- and culture-based tasks and was able to cultivate collaboration and creativity while it allowed them a real sense of an abroad classroom, complete with a wealth of information and resources at their fingertips.
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Several years ago, when I began to research locations for Auburn University’s new Italian summer program, my main goals were to find: 1) an area that was off the beaten path, which could still guarantee the possibility for our students to practice Italian with a relative absence of corporate interference and a fairly faithful conservation of values, infrastructures, and popular customs, and 2) an area that could harbor an array of interdisciplinary courses, for an overall educational benefit. The area chosen (maybe not an impartial choice since I was born and raised in Catania, Sicily) was an easy choice, one that made sense. Without undermining any other regional area of Italy, Sicily is a treasure trove of historical, cultural, and artistic legacies, having hosted past guests like the Greeks, the Romans, the Normans, the Arabs, and the Spaniards, to name a few; it is an area with a variety of natural resources, beaches, countryside, a volcano (Mount Etna, the highest and only active volcano in Europe); and it has been, and continues to be, a strategic geographical location.

Together with the director of the host institution, Babilonia, Centro di Lingua and Cultura, in Taormina, Italy, we planned to offer Italian language classes at all levels, with art history, history, and literature courses offered in English and/or Italian, according to the individual linguistic preparation of the participants. Year after year, we have also added courses in geology, music, classic literature in translation, cinema, and creative writing. The backdrop is favorable for students who wish to attain a complete education, one that does not categorize but offers integration: students can easily see how all of the different disciplines relate to one another and how they can benefit from these relations. Students enrolled in these classes experience, first-hand, the material studied, through pertinent local excursions, additional lectures and conferences, and film viewing. Soon after crossing geographical borders, students are, thus, allowed to cross-disciplinary boundaries and classroom settings.

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