{Newsletter Article} Intercultural Zoomery in a time of Covid-19


Sylvester, K., Fay, R., Dawson, S., & Huang, Z. M. (January 2021). Intercultural Zoomery in a time of COVID-19. In TESOL ICIS Newsletter (special issue on intercultural learning online)

The Manchester Institute of Education (at The University of Manchester, UK) welcomes several hundred new Masters-level students each year. The MA programmes they join are unfamiliar academic cultures which they need to become acclimated to if their studies are to prosper. Recognising this imperative, for the last 20 or so years, we have repurposed the intercultural simulation Barnga (Thiagarajan, 1990) to prepare students for: the process of academic acculturation; the unexpected and expected differences in ‘the rules of the academic game’; and their role as ethnographers of their own developing academic practices. In brief, the simulation involves a simple card game, played by groups who do not realise that the rules for the game vary slightly between groups. Having learned the rules, students play a tournament which increasingly involves intergroup movement. The tournament takes place without any verbal communication so that a) the rule variation remains hidden, and b) the experience of coping with rule differences is not mediated through language.

The current global pandemic has forced us to rethink our delivery of this intercultural simulation. With academic participation now being mostly, if not exclusively, online, we needed to create an equivalent experience which: a) was itself online; and b) prepared students for the unfamiliar culture of online academic study with us. Further, whereas previously the students tended to be away from their home context when they experienced the unfamiliar academic culture, now most of them remain in their familiar home context. This geographical and psychological location also has a shaping influence on their experience of the unfamiliar …… [read more here]