Video Conference Brings International Experience to the Classroom

The Royal Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. David Crisci video conferenced with Dr. Ann Bush’s class while in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo Credit: www.thailandvoyage.com

By Alison Trautmann
Assistant Editor-in-Chief

On September 18, Dr. Ann Bush’s class on Introduction to World Literature participated in a video conference with David Crisci, Associate Director of International Affairs.

Crisci was located in Bangkok, Thailand and Bush’s class was in the Liberal Arts Center. The class took place at 11am but it was 10 at night in Thailand. The class discussed the book Zenzele with Crisci, but also expressed great interest in the local culture that Crisci was experiencing.  They asked all kinds of questions that ranged from food, culture, the weather, and information on studying abroad.  The class and Crisci discussed study abroad and the experience of traveling to different countries.  Some of the students had already traveled but others were very interested in taking advantage of the opportunities offered by studying abroad.  Bush and Crisci used the Marywood Gmail in order to video conference.  Bush and Crisci said that the picture was clear and the sound was great.  Junior, Ashley DeRosa said “I got some insights on the different countries that he was telling us about.  His speaking about study abroad got a lot of people’s interest.”

Bush had approached Crisci in the spring semester of 2009 with the hope that he would come speak to her class about the book Zenzele and the opportunities involved in studying abroad. The topic of study abroad is a large component in the book Zenzele and Bush hoped that Crisci would be able to give information on study abroad; its benefits and disadvantages.  Crisci was scheduled to be in Asia at that time, so the plan did not initially work out and when Bush approached him again this semester; he was going to be in Bangkok Thailand.  Bush initially told him to send a postcard to her class, but Crisci came up with the idea of videoconferencing.

The book they discussed, Zenzele, was a novel about what it means to be a woman in Africa.  The story is told through a series of letters from a mother to a daughter who is studying abroad.  The mother’s letters are aimed at reminding her daughter, Zenzele, of her culture and who she is.  One of the stories recounted in the book tells of how the mother’s tribe sponsored one of the boys to study abroad in Oxford in order to become a doctor and then come back to help the tribe.  The boy left and then did not come back for a long time.  When he did return, he had become completely westernized and had forgotten his native tongue and the people he was supposed to be helping.  Bush chose Zenzele as a book to read with her World Literature classes because “I am hoping the student will find something in the book or the news that they can relate to” said Bush.    DeRosa said, “I liked the book, it was different in a good way. I learned a lot about the country of Zimbabwe and the way the country works and the cultural aspects.”

Bush and Crisci hope to continue this idea with other sister schools around the globe and expand the opportunity. Bush hopes to possibly continue the relation between literature and other cultures by possibly reading poems from the country that the students video conference with. It is important to continue the global exchange because “students are using the internet on their own but we need to bring this technology to the classroom in order to create a global experience by seeing and speaking with other people” said Crisci.  “It was really informative and a neat experience” said DeRosa.

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