Fostering Intercultural Competence Through Art and ICT Among University Students in Spain and Finland

Fostering Intercultural Competence Through Art and ICT Among University Students in Spain and Finland

Josué Llull (Centro Universitario Cardenal Cisneros, Spain), Alfredo Palacios (Centro Universitario Cardenal Cisneros, Spain) and Seija Ulkuniemi (University of Lapland, Finland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5463-9.ch014

Abstract

This chapter is intended to show how the use of ICT and the application of collaborative learning can enhance language acquisition in bilingual contexts. The authors want to share the conclusions of an international project conducted over three years by two European universities of education. This project focused on reflecting about the interaction between university students and cultural heritage. To do this, students were asked to create an artistic poster of any heritage element from the cities where the two universities are located. Then, they had to upload their creation to a blog and comment on other students' work, using English as a vehicular language. Among the principal outcomes, the participants were satisfied with learning about cultural issues from a different country and with discovering new things about their own heritage. They also accepted the potential of visual art and cross-curricular work as a powerful tool to learn about culture and to practice their language skills.
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Introduction

Intercultural competence is one of the most important elements when communicating in a foreign language. This is especially necessary to establish cooperation opportunities between two or more institutions from different countries. The starting point for this paper is an art exchange project organized by two European universities that use English to teach certain subjects: Cardenal Cisneros University College, linked to the University of Alcalá, Spain, and the Faculty of Education of the University of Lapland, Finland.

This project was carried out over three academic years; first, as a pilot in autumn 2013, and then in autumn 2014 and 2015. More than 350 students participated in this project and publicly shared their work on the internet, commenting on each other’s outcome. Apart from practicing some reading/writing skills and introducing some key elements of the CLIL methodological approach, the didactic experience that we are going to describe was a wonderful opportunity for promoting intercultural communication in our globalized world.

The center of interest was the heritage of the two cities where the universities are located, Alcalá de Henares and Rovaniemi. Students were encouraged to reflect on our perceptions and ideas about local heritage and cultural identity, by using an artistic medium and a series of written tasks. In addition, the project was intended to research the social values of monuments, public art, architecture and urban spaces, as well as to consider the way people interact with them. Then, they had to be able to exchange their ideas with the partner university using English as a lingua franca, in order to learn about the other culture and receive feedback on their own work. Finally, an analysis of the educational potential of cultural heritage was also required.

Therefore, the objectives of the project were:

  • 1.

    To reflect on the interaction between people and public art from a creative point of view.

  • 2.

    To develop a cross-curricular, intercultural project involving visual arts and social sciences, to be carried out through the collaboration between two European universities.

  • 3.

    To research the sociocultural and educational values of cultural heritage.

  • 4.

    To combine multiple content areas of visual arts.

The possibility of learning and discussing other cultures was a form of internationalization. Many students had already traveled to foreign countries, but some had not. Thus, the project was presented as an opportunity to interact with people living abroad. The project was also an example of effective integration within the field of Art Education because it included art expression, knowledge in art, environmental education, and media. Besides, in Cardenal Cisneros University College, the project was conducted in a cross-curricular manner, thanks to the incorporation of contents and methods from the Didactics of Social Sciences. Our aim was to undertake a joint project with the same goals, but which was also adapted to fit the specific curriculum in each university.

Both the results and the students’ feedback demonstrate that the experience has been largely positive over the three years, especially in terms of working internationally and teamwork. We can say in advance that most of the difficulties related to the project arose from the organization and use of ICT. Significant sticking points included deadlines to upload the pictures and comments to the blog, organization of group work and giving instructions to the students from both countries. These issues were improved in the last year and indeed must be clarified as much as possible when running these kinds of collaborative activities. Regarding the positive outcomes, most students were satisfied with learning about cultural issues from another country and even with discovering new things about the artistic heritage of their own town. They also acknowledged the possibilities of visual art and cross-curricular work as a powerful tool to learn about culture and practice their language skills.

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