Using Autoethnography in e-Tandems for Fostering Glocal Cultural Awareness: An Irish-German Virtual Exchange
Keywords:Foreign language learning (German & English), Global Education, e-tandem, autoethnography
Autoethnography, the narrative exploration of one’s own cultural context and experience, has been proposed as a pedagogical method of tapping the knowledge of diverse groups of students for mutual cultural learning (Kumaravadivelu, 2008). With this in mind, we set up a virtual exchange (VE) between second-year students from the University of Galway, Ireland, preparing for their Erasmus year in Germany, and students studying Irish literature and culture in their final year at a northern German grammar school. In this exchange the students themselves were to complete an autoethnographic task. The VE showed that autoethnography can serve as an instrument to address some of the problems that O’Dowd (2006) identified while using ethnographic methods in telecollaboration: the emergence of an asymmetrical relationship with conflicting roles and communicative styles, overgeneralisation, and the inability to suspend judgement. Furthermore, autoethnography as a dialogic form appears to be moreappropriate than traditional ethnographic methods for Global Education, which, in contrast to Intercultural Learning, does not mainly aim at understanding other cultures distinct from one’s own, but at preparing students for “effective interactions across cultures” (OECD, 2018, p. 10, our emphasis) in a highly connected, endangered global society. By moving between the individual and the cultural, students can become aware of different but also interdependent local, national, transnational, and global cultural structures in which they live, partly connecting them to and partly distinguishing them from each other.
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