Maggin, Sherry A (United States Military Academy)

Through Facebook groups, the social media platform offers the opportunity for students and educators to form a classroom community in the digital world. These digital communities also offer the opportunity to enrich the experience by extending it to include university students participating in study abroad programs. The discussion thread format offered by Facebook groups, the ability to post a variety of media as well as the frequency with which students utilize Facebook in their daily lives make the platform an effective digital tool for this type of collaboration. The study abroad learners, in particular, may act as digital ambassadors and informal mentors for the language students at the home university. A common research project based on the target culture and executed in the Facebook group offers a unique opportunity for all participants. Projects that address cultural and regional dynamics leverage the developing cultural competence and knowledge on the part of the study abroad learners. The students abroad share reflections and observations on the project topic as well as on their overall immersion experience complemented by photos, videos, and links as well as other media. The at-home learners may enhance their own understanding of the project topic and course material through posing questions and making observations on the study abroad students’ posts. The students then continue their digital conversation to explore particular topics and the target culture overall at a deeper level.

This presentation will highlight the Facebook collaboration of study abroad and at-home learners in a university Spanish civilization and culture course where students explored the regional dynamics of Spain. It will discuss the structure and content of the collaboration and include examples of student discussion threads and posts. It will also address the benefits and challenges experienced by participants and the instructor. While the presentation will focus on an advanced-level Spanish course, it will also provide recommendations for using such a collaboration in language courses at a variety of levels.