Intercultural Technology-Based Collaboration: Engaging U.S. and South African Pre-Service Teachers in Virtual Research Teams to Generate Solutions to Local Environmental Issues
Keywords:asynchronous communication, collaborative learning, e-learning, environmental education, intercultural competence, global collaboration, inquiry-based learning
In order to inform teacher preparation practice, a social studies faculty member at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (Wilmington, NC USA) and a science education lecturer at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (Port Elizabeth, South Africa) designed on online exchange between PSTs enrolled in their respective methods courses. Goals of this virtual online exchange included: (1) to engage students in a collaborative learning experience whereby they share personal stories, information and resources about their cultures, geographic regions, local environmental issues; 2) to reinforce students’ content knowledge and skills in the natural and social sciences in an authentic way; and (3) to model how students may implement international exchanges in their future classrooms with children. While tentative conclusions might be drawn on the effectiveness of cross-cultural collaboration to generate solutions to local environmental issues, this study suggests that other factors, such as instructional design, student motivation (intrinsic and external), online persistence, available technologies, time zone difference, and the role of instructors, need to be addressed before meaningful collaboration between class groups in different countries should be attempted.