Unexpected affordances of virtual exchange as teacher education: learning about, with, and from students in a conflict country
Keywords:conflict country, TESOL, intercultural communication, teacher education, techno-semio-pedagogical competence
Virtual exchange projects with participants in countries in conflict can challenge future teachers to examine previous assumptions and prepare them to better meet the needs of others whose daily lives may be punctuated by violence. Through virtual exchange, participants are pushed out of their comfort zones through interactions with others whose geographic, sociocultural, and sociolinguistic backgrounds are different from their own. Through such projects, future teachers can gain both techno-semio-pedagogic knowledge and intercultural knowledge needed to take an asset-based approach toward cultural and linguistic difference. This article explores the perspectives of graduate students in TESOL who were paired with adult learners of English in Afghanistan for ten 90-minute synchronous online tutoring sessions. Data, in the form of written reflections submitted by the graduate students as a part of their coursework, offer evidence of shifts in participants’ descriptions of cultural difference, knowledge about Afghanistan, content knowledge, and teaching online. These data suggest that through virtual exchange with participants in conflict countries future teachers can gain invaluable professional experience needed to support students who live in places where they do not feel safe, students who have been forced to leave their homes, and students have witnessed or experienced violence themselves.
Copyright (c) 2022 Sarah Dietrich
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