Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cross Cultural Traditions, Graduation and Engagement

 Anyone who spends time in Second Life soon learns the importance of dance. Sharing elegant dances cements memories and creates deeper bonds with the people behind the avatars. When I dance in harmony through synchronized scripts, it feels like personal ballet in my head. These dances often do not occur in dance clubs, rather they are embedded in events as part of designed experiences. Sometimes dancing is a spontaneous response during breaks in conference presentations where a leader sets the tone.  

Today, the United States Department of Education posted on its blog a story called "Endless Possibility" about the success of Navajo Technical College where there is an 85% graduation rate. The curriculum sounds impressive. Clearly some things are working to retain students. Secretary Arne Duncan is shown in the video below learning about the students and curriculum, but what impresses me most is the incorporation of the dance. How nice it would be if in our graduation ceremonies our families could join in and march during the pomp and circumstance after the ceremony.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Emerging Media Cross-Cultural Communication

I dedicate this video to the more high tech, trans-media version of cross-cultural communication. References to Star Wars rarely fail to connect. Whichever your preference, do get up and dance. Get those neurons and synapes shufflin' inbetween doing your research of course.

Classic Cross Cultural Communication

My last post was a bit heady and long so to illustrate some of the same concepts I dedicate this video to those hard working scholars and researchers who can use a break.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Greetings! As a follow up for my EM820 Social Media doctoral class, I have been learning about study abroad programs. The trick of getting an applied degree is to align assignments with work or life. In this case, I have learned from the following articles how social media is used in study abroad programs and how metacognition plays a role in trans-cultural literacy. These topics will be useful for my dissertation on the topic of trans-cultural collaboration. Enjoy!

Annotated Bibliography 

Briers, G. E., Shinn, G. C., & Nguyen, A. N. (2010). Through Students’ Eyes: Perceptions and Aspirations of College of Agriculture and Life Science Students Regarding International Educational Experiences. Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education, 17(2), 5-20.

This article chronicles a study performed at Texas A & M University that involved 956 students within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences that described attitudes towards study abroad. 79% of students were white. Findings showed that students preferred faculty-led programs they communicate values. Migrants represent 13% of North America. Affordability was the primary barrier to participate. 83% of respondents believe that engaging in study abroad would make them more competitive and 65% of undergraduates and 72% of graduate students indicated desire to study abroad. The study recommended application of simulations and case studies within traditional courses to transition to real-world experiences.    

Burke, M., Marlow, C., & Lento, T. (2010). Social network activity and social well-being. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 28th international conference on Human factors in computing systems, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

This article represents a collaboration between researchers at Carnegie Mellon and Facebook. Social capital is explored through bridging and bonding via directed communication and consumption. Almost 1,200 participants were recruited and their activity in Facebook was analyzed and compared with self-reported data using the Hadoop distributed computation program. Engagement with Facebook is correlated with overall well-being. Future work is called to determine cultural norms among individuals and group interaction.  

Diehl, W. C., & Prins, E. (2008). Unintended outcomes in Second Life: Intercultural literacy and cultural identity in a virtual world. Language. Intercultural Communication Language and Intercultural Communication, 8(2), 101-118.

The article discusses findings from an exploratory study where findings are analyzed related to the construction of cultural identity and development of cultural literacy. Twenty nine Second Life participants were involved using Cultural Historical Activity Theory and Heyward’s model of intercultural literacy. Intended and unintended outcomes resulted from what the authors describe as participation in an Activity System. Respondents constructed shifting identities through changing their avatar appearance. Openness toward new viewpoints, use of multiple languages, cross-cultural encounters led to intercultural literacy. A Reuters report from 2007 indicated that of the 100 countries countries represented in Second Life, 61% were European. Four types of dialogue were studied identified by Burbules (1993) that include dialogue as conversation, inquiry, debate, and instruction. Shock and discomfort that result from cross cultural encounters and experiences are required to create intercultural literacy, described as six levels, with the ability to consciously shift between multiple cultural identities as the highest level.       

Fouts, J. S. (2011). Technology and Innovation Report Using Virtual World Journalism for Health Education. Journal of Healthcare, Science and the Humanities, 1(2), 127-139.

The report describes actions made to support critical health science journalism among key political bloggers two years before the 2011 revolution in Egypt. Twitter, Facebook, and virtual worlds were critical venues empowering revolutions across the Middle East in 2011 as media censorship was common. In 2009, the global scare for H1N1 swine flu led the Egyptian government to slaughter pigs across the country to minimize pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control had most accurate information although the World Health Organization had responsibility to provide information. A virtual newsroom was made in Second Life that allowed participants to gather, collapsing geography to hold press conferences that was streamed to the Internet.  

Fowler, S. M., & Pusch, M. D. (2010). Intercultural simulation games: a review (of the United States and beyond). Simulation & Gaming, 41(1), 94-115.

The article focuses on intercultural simulation games with an emphasis on how the game is played. The distinct individualistic culture compared to the competitive and collective, collaborative culture is illustrated as people move between cultures. Paige 1994 defines 10 cultural differences within the Intensity Factors of intercultural contact. Simulations address the heart set (attitudes and intentions, head set (knowledge) and hand set. The authors assert, the question isn’t whether or not to use a game or simulation, but which one as games are an affordable means to cement the learning through debriefing. Second Life is referred to as a means to do activities.    

Halfin, J. (2011). How Online Tools Can Be Used to Enrich Study Abroad. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Retrieved from

This paper describes how a combination of technologies combined with pedagogy provides opportunities to enhance study abroad in a holistic manner. Learner support before, during and after study abroad programs is enabled by using what students are increasingly using everyday: social media. Halfin cites Dan Pink’s work on motivation calling for educators to make learning outcomes personal for students by embracing their own goals and with metcognition. Second Life and World of Warcraft are also discussed for addressing curricular needs for culture shock, interpersonal literacy, and reentry.   

Himelfarb, S., & Idriss, S. (2011). Exchange 2.0. Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace.

This report is produced by the Institute of Peace and is oriented toward diplomats, but can be applied to students studying abroad. Fewer than 2% of American students study abroad and about 4% of students are international. The least expensive program is $4,000. ExchangesConnect, administered by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs within the State Department, is an open international online community allowing students to connect with prospective, current, and former exchange participants. The report recommends significant training within public and private partnerships to address challenges that includes an open source clearinghouse or repository of cultural and educational exchange programs.    

Lane, H. C., & University Of Southern California, Institute for Creative Technologies (2007). Metacognition and the Development of Intercultural Competence, retrieved from

The article asserts that a critical component of the development of intercultural competence is metacognition through the importance of self-assessment, monitoring, predictive, planning and reflective practice and skills. The role of intelligent tutoring, experience management and the adaptation of virtual humans is discussed to support metacognitive development. Intercultural competence requires metacognitive maturity that must be fostered in identifiable stages of development. The Peace Corps model to develop intercultural competence is discussed in the context of Bennett’s Development Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) construes differences. The DMIS posits two worldviews orientations: ethnocentrism and ethnorelativism. Guidance is especially important to avoid withdrawal during mid-stage DMIS when cultural differences are truly appreciated for their significance. Frame shifting ability and the ability to assume different perspectives are advanced stages within the DMIS. Implicit feedback from simulations include speech rate, intonation, tone, emotional state, facial expressions, body language and personality traits. Explicit feedback from the tutorial improves the level of interpretation for the learner and can help with adaptive thinking under stress.   

Mason, H., & Moutahir, M. (August 18-20, 2006). Multidisciplinary Experiential Education in Second Life: A Global Approach. Paper presented at the Second Life Community Convention, San Francisco.

This article was published shortly after Second Life became widely used in education. One finding was that students ability to adapt in Second Life was less dependent on technical skills and more dependent on attitude. The study abroad component was followed up by the use of Second Life for ongoing collaboration.  

Murray, K., & Waller, R. (2007). Social networking goes abroad. International Educator, 16(3), 56-59.

This article describes taking advantage of the social media uses that students are engaged for the purpose of creating more of a community of learners. Student to student connection is described how existing study abroad students can assist with recruiting new students. Facebook was cited for its ease of sending messages to groups. Concerns are discussed for how students may inappropriately publish content and sentiments that are highly unflattering.   

Seigel, S. E. (2010). Gaining Cultural Intelligence through Second Life Learning Interventions. International Journal of Advanced Corporate Learning, 3(3), 45-50.

This research article describes IBM’s involvement with the virtual world, Second Life, to equip employees with more authentic, live training experiences as country-natives around the world are expected to work together. Preparation in advance of face to face meetings is also described to build cultural intelligence, which has no universal heuristics for measurement. The literature review and research design seeks to compare affordances of in-country, face to face training, simulation game, and Second Life immersive training. Twelve participants from 10 countries engaged in one-hour sessions that included interventions, culture sharing, reflection, and debriefing that may become part of IBM’s required worldwide orientation for new employees. One consideration of the design is the limitation of the use of existing rather than new employees of IBM in the study. Stanford University faculty were involved in interviewing study participants, but the data was unavailable at the time of publication.    

Shively, R. L. (2010). From the Virtual World to the Real World: A Model of Pragmatics Instruction for Study Abroad. Foreign Language Annals, 43(1), 105-137. doi: 10.1111/j.1944-9720.2010.01063.x

This research article nicely describes pedagogical components that can be combined with immersive learning technologies specifically for language learning, but applies to intercultural communication. Shively advocates training for learners and faculty for applying support before, during, and after study abroad experiences. Building confidence is gained from a combination of expert guidance and self-directed learning including reflection. A comprehensive pedagogical framework of the 6Rs (researching, reflecting, receiving, reasoning, rehearsing, and revising) by Martinez-Flor and Uso-Juan (2006) applies to develop pragmatic and intercultural competence. Croquelandia is an immersive game lauded for language learning usage as well as Keypals and the DIE model of debriefing (description-interpretation-evaluation). Role plays and simulations are cited for usefulness as well as the ability to continue relationships online.

Sykes, J. M., Oskoz, A., & Thorne, S. L. (2008). Web 2.0, Synthetic Immersive Environments, and Mobile Resources for Language Education. Calico Journal, Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium, 25(3), 528-546.

This article describes Internet-based interactions as real verses simulated communication that has transformational potential to change roles of people. The premise is juxtaposed to computer-assisted language learning (CALL) and refers to the concept of social virtualities. Study abroad blogs are cited as examples for language learning where cell phones enable instantaneous sharing of content to connect communities, whether family or classmates. Steven Thorne’s cultural-historical framework is postulated as aesthetic shifts in human communication emerge within cultures of use. Social experimentation used in MMOGs involves identities in sociopragmatic considerations involving presence, space, and gestures. Synthetic immersive environments enable learners to practice in emotionally-engaging, low-risk to improve pragmatic competence. Users feel results of their actions without causing actual harm. 

Yee, N., Bailenson, J. N., Urbanek, M., Chang, F., & Merget, D. (2007). The unbearable likeness of being digital: The persistence of nonverbal social norms in online virtual environments. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10.(1), 115-121. doi:10.1089/cpb.2006.9984

This research article cites the utility of using immersive environments such as second life for conducting research similar to face to face research used in social science. Experimental control, precise measurements, and replicability have helped researchers learn therapeutic potential. Presence research measures perceived “real” behaviors such as nonverbal and physical responses. Proxemics, interpersonal distance was studied to compare face-to-face and virtual behaviors among men and women in groups based on Equilibrium Theory. Findings support social norms across virtual environments for utility of longitudinal social interactions that go beyond undergraduate subjects.    

Yeung, C.-m. A., Liccardi, I., Lu, K., Seneviratne, O., & Berners-lee, T. (2009). Decentralization: The future of online social networking. Paper presented at the W3C Workshop on the Future of Social Networking, Barcelona, Spain.

This paper resulted from a professional networking meeting where a call for an open and independent, social networking framework was made. Two problems resulted in the need: information silos and lack of user control over data. Diagrams are provided to illustrate architecture of closed, proprietary and open systems. Protection from censorship and assurance of privacy are cited as drivers toward an open social networking framework. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Use of Social Media for Study Abroad

Greetings fellow lifelong learners. For my doctoral class, EM820 Business Strategies for Social Media, I chose to explore the topic of how social media is used in study abroad programs. At CTU's recent Symposium, my professor, Dr. Anne Marie Armstrong and several students shared their experiences from a week-long, action research trip to Nicaragua. The stories were vivid contrasting everyday differences of living, working, and learning. While reliable electricity and plumbing were not a given, everyone had smart cell phones and enjoyed good telecommunications service. CTU plans to continue the research-service program to enable more students to participate. I wonder how social media can enable greater engagement.
Barbara using her computer at the April 2012 Symposium for CTU in Colorado Springs
Symposium April 2012

At my institution, the University of Central Florida, I learned that there are approximately 400 students involved involved with the International Studies Office who are engaged in study abroad. Nationally there are only about 2% of students who take advantage of study abroad programs, although many more wish they could. Cost is the primary barrier to participate.
What role can social media play in study abroad? When does social media enhance the study abroad experience and when does it hinder it? Which personnel and training are required to integrate social media into study abroad programs. How can costs become valued investments? At UCF, I hope to help apply what I learn as these questions are answered.

Can you relate to dreaming of study abroad? If you have had an experience learning abroad, chances are it was life changing. Upon investigation, several professional associations and corporate options exist to help learners hone in on their targeted programs. The University of Michigan provides this exceptional site with links to several associations and references to help guide learners to make informed choices to prepare.

NAFSA, the association of international educators, had a Task Force that released a report in 2008. This press release describes the recommendations the report makes called Strengthening Study Abroad: Recommendations for Effective Institutional Management. Four key areas are addressed:institutional commitment; infrastructure; resources; and clarity and accountability. More detail will follow for how my research reveals that social media can support topics within these areas.