The basic idea of this project is to combine future teachers’ scholarly education with practical experience in school environments (“Integrated geographical education”). Within the project “CultureDialogues” this idea was transferred to an international scale and to the field of bilingual teaching. One major purpose was to enhance both the intercultural competences of the involved pupils and the professional skills of the students. On a field trip to Southern Sweden the students were not only offered to delve into the Swedish educational system by means of observation and expert interviews, but also enabled to gather teaching experience at a Swedish grammar school (grade 5/6). In order to establish intercultural dialogue not only between pupils, students and teachers but even “at eye level”, a Swedish and a German school and two particular classes have been cross-linked in the run-up to the excursion.
In August 2012 a workshop was conducted with the German pupils. The students prepared the children for the first contact with the Swedish class and together they composed posters presenting the school environment and staff.
After having concerned themselves with the Swedish educational system theoretically during the summer term, a group of German students finally visited the Swedish class on Öland in September 2012. In a first lecture they compiled mental conceptions and discussed prevailing images of Germany. The posters made by the German pupils were presented.
Against the hypotheses of diverging relations to nature in Swedish and German cultural backgrounds, the second day was spent with research into the pupils’ mental images of nature. On group tried to figure out the boundary between nature and the non-natural by making a transect through the environment on which the pupils should name and map what they assigned to the categories. A second group explored the children’s ideas of a forest.
Finally, and as a highlight, a videoconference between the Swedish and the German pupils was taking place via Skype. While this virtual meeting, the pupils briskly discussed a large number of prepared questions.
In May 2013 Prof. Antje Schlottmann and Miriam Pottgießer (graduate student in geography education) went to Öland in order to organise another videoconference, but encountered massive technical problems. Instead, the pupils produced posters of their school and its environment. Their presentations were video recorded; the film was shown to the German pupils after returning to Germany.
Additionally, within the scope of her examination paper, Miriam Pottgießer conducted a set of interviews with both the German and the Swedish participants of the project (pupils, teachers, head of school).
The exchange programme is planned to be continued in 2014 and 2015.
The efforts towards an integration of school and university as well as of theory and practice have resulted in the empirical research project “CultureDialogues”.
One main purpose is to analyse and evaluate the effectiveness of an international school cooperation with regard to the acquisition and development of intercultural competences. Secondly, we want to find out whether, and to what extent, new media application such as videoconferencing proves to be of value in everyday school practice.
Miriam Pottgießer finished her thesis “Studying geography without borders?! Potentials and problems of intercultural education based on media using the example of an international learning and teaching project (Gymnasium Riedberg, Germany, and Torslunda Skola, Sweden) by the end of 2013.
An abstract of her paper will appear in the near future.
„CultureDialogues“ has been designed and conducted by Prof. Dr. Antje Schlottmann, Department of Human Geography at the Goethe University in Frankfurt in cooperation with Gymnasium Riedberg (Frankfurt, Germany) and Torslunda Skola (Torslunda, Sweden).
Partners Gymnasium Riedberg: Barbara Kaldenbach, Alex Hanel (teacher)
Partners Torslunda Skola: Linnea Danielson (Head of School), Mari-Louise Yllenius (teacher), Agneta Gliminger (teacher)
Carl-Johan Nordblom (lecturer cultural geography and geography education at Linnée Universitet Kalmar)
Dr. Sonja Hock (now at Department of Geography, Bonn University)