Blogging with the Facebook generation: Studying abroad with Gen Y

Year: 2012

Author: Downey, Greg, Gray, Tonia

Type of paper: Refereed paper


Based on the premise that the study abroad learning and research landscape in tertiary settings has changed dramatically in the last decade, the authors proposed a major study and curriculum design project, “Bringing the Learning Home”, supported by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (now known as the Office of Teaching and Learning) .

The goal was to capitalize on Generation Y's distinctive strengths with parallel curricular and teaching materials—workshops, reflection guides, videos, weblogs—that reinforced the more amorphous, over-arching goals of study abroad: inter-cultural skills, internationalization, leadership skills and other capacities.  Using a weblog and a matched set of workshops, the research team elicited photo reflections and students' commentary to highlight extracurricular learning experiences, using a peer-education model.

The materials specifically target the recognition of subtle cultural differences, as Australian study abroad students most frequently sojourn in English-speaking countries or in English-predominant educational settings in Europe. For this reason, the “Bringing the Learning Home” curriculum will be especially helpful for aiding students to see deeper cultural differences and patterns underlying superficial quirks or nuances that they observe.

The presenters will employ a dialogical presentation style, sharing materials from the project, the research tools (including weblogs and surveys), and the group's findings, including rich photo-reflection essays and videos produced by the students. With abundant materials to share and first-hand student accounts to discuss, the workshop will encourage broader discussion of tailoring intercultural learning materials both to study populations and to overseas destination.

The workshop will share content and methodologies on how to improve education abroad curricula by offering tested, pragmatic, modular materials that are available through a Creative Commons license.  The “Bringing the Learning Home” project targets especially the needs of students while abroad and upon re-entry, to encourage intercultural learning and the recognition of newly-gained skills, both for educational and professional purposes.

Aldous Huxley stated, "Experience isn't what happens to you, it is what you make of what happens to you."  For tertiary students' who engage in studying abroad programs, intercultural learning goals require reflection, assimilation and metacognition. This workshop discusses an ongoing research-curriculum project using blogging and photo-elicitation.  By harnessing the strengths of GenY, who are tech savvy, multi-taskers we seek to use visual stimuli to facilitate greater reflection, cultural analysis and self awareness.