Global Voices

A class of many cultures

Friday, December 16, 2016
Lecturer uses Skype to bring global voices and cross-cultural understanding to Avondale

Five international academics helped teach a unit about literary movements of the 20th century this past semester thanks to an Avondale lecturer’s use of videoconferencing.

Drs Steve Cramer, Mehdy Sedaghat Payam and Josh Roiland and Professors Tony Simoes da Silva and Jane Stafford from tertiary institutions in South Australia, Iran, the United States, Tasmania and New Zealand each explored texts and examined critical theories with Global Voices students in lecturers delivered via Skype.

Dr Lindsay Morton invited the academics to participate after reviewing the content of the unit with a colleague. They found the primary texts had an Anglo and Euro-centric focus. Morton, Assistant Dean in the Faculty of Arts, Nursing and Theology, had also been completing a research project on internationalisation. “I didn’t want to just internationalise the unit but to expose my students to a range of voices.”

Morton chose new texts—the novel The Glass Palace by Indian Amitav Ghosh, selected non-fiction by American novelist, short story writer and essayist David Foster Wallace and selected short stories by New Zealander Katherine Mansfield—in addition to those she had already been teaching. Then she asked colleagues from around the world to present a lecture and lead discussion.

“I want my students to be exposed not just to the texts but to the experience of people who grew up with them and who are specialists in those areas,” she says. “Hearing a Kiwi voice teaching a Kiwi text brings such richness and depth to the study of that text.”

Payam, from SAMT, an organisation that publishes academic textbooks in the humanities in Iranian universities, used Skype to speak with the students about a novel published in the 1930s that is often referred to as the most significant work of Persian literature in the 20th century. The discussion following the lecture led to some questions about which Payam “did not have good answers. And now I have more questions than answers.” This is why Payam enjoys teaching literature. “I learn something from my students,” he says. “It’s like a transcendental feeling—I have a kind of epiphany and say, ‘How did you come to that conclusion?’ This kind of learning, of something new or known for a long time but not looked at from different perspectives, is exciting.”

The discoveries and the perspectives of the students also challenged Morton. “In that way, Global Voices exceeded my expectations—it didn’t just challenge my students’ worldviews, it shifted mine, too. I think we’re all a little more open to new reading experiences and our capacity for compassion is a little deeper because of the voices and stories we’ve heard in class this semester.”

One of the students said they “repeatedly found myself talking about the unit with other people. I enjoyed even discussing with my parents what I had learnt. Class became a starting point for further discussions with both my classmates and peers.”

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Ania Mitchell

Ania Mitchell is a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Teaching (Secondary) student majoring in English at Avondale College of Higher Education.