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MexCo An Intercultural International Online Project CU, Warwick and FESZ-UNAM (Mexico City). Marina Orsini-Jones, Elwyn Lloyd, Zoe Gazeley, Gwenola Bescond, Felipe Bustos and Beatriz Vera L ό pez Applied Research Group Pedagogical Innovation in Languages and Literature. What is MexCo?.

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mexco an intercultural international online project cu warwick and fesz unam mexico city

MexCoAn Intercultural International Online Project CU, Warwick and FESZ-UNAM(Mexico City)

Marina Orsini-Jones, Elwyn Lloyd, Zoe Gazeley, Gwenola Bescond, Felipe Bustos and Beatriz Vera Lόpez

Applied Research Group Pedagogical Innovation in Languages and Literature

what is mexco
What is MexCo?

VLE (Moodle)-supported International intercultural knowledge-transfer exchange project

  • Students and staff from Coventry University (Department of English and Languages)
  • Students and staff at the Facultad de Estudios Superiores Zaragoza – FESZ (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)
  • Staff from the University of Warwick (Languages Centre).
  • Funded by the Higher Education Academy (TDG)
Aim 1: to develop intercultural communicative competence with learner-centred collaborative online learning

The study of Modern Languages and Cultures should include the agentification of the learner to enable them to make sense of their experience in a foreign language and culture (Vera Lόpez 2012:8)

Post-modern post-method approach adopted (Kumaravadivelu 2001): local contexts, local needs, transformational learning experience for all agents involved, metareflections

aim 2
Aim 2
  • To enhance all participants’ intercultural awareness and transferable graduate employment skills in a global context, while taking part in an online CMC exchange - or should we say Global Networked Learning? (Rubin 2012). Or Telecollaboration exchange? (O’Dowd 2010; Polisca 2011; Guth and Helm 2010; MacKinnon 2012)
aim 2 linked hypotheses
Aim 2 – linked hypotheses

Is intercultural awareness a threshold concept?

Does the engagement with multilingual multiliteracies (digital and other) enhance intercultural awareness?

AND can the exchange help with embedding internationalisation in the DEL curriculum and support our students in becoming...

a vision of graduate ness the global graduate
A vision of ‘graduate-ness’? The ‘global graduate’

Able to recognise

and value

cultural difference

CU Mission Statement

We aspire to be a dynamic, global, enterprising university. We will work in partnership with external organisations through our research and engage our students as partners in a community of learning.

underlying principles for the project
Underlying Principles for the Project
  • Council of Europe: Developing the Intercultural Dimension in Language Teaching (Byram, Gribkova and Starkey 2002)
  • Developing Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC)
  • Developing digital literacies
  • Developing graduate competencies
byram s icc components
Byram’s ICC components
  • Knowledge (savoirs)
  • Intercultural attitudes (savoir être)
  • Skills of interpreting and relating (savoir comprendre)
  • Skills of discovery and interaction (savoir apprendre/faire)
  • Critical cultural awareness (savoir s’engager)
critique of byram s model
Critique of Byram’s model
  • Created in the 90s, does not contemplate global networked ICC (Guth and Helm 2010)
  • It would appear to assume a ‘given’ underlying conceptualization of ‘culture’ that is EU-centric
  • Initial reflections when studying exchanges in the MexCo forum: what is culture, whose culture?
pilot sample feedback 1 cultural perceptions cultural frames
Pilot: sample feedback 1 cultural perceptions (cultural ‘frames’)

Es muy bueno poder hablar con personas de un pais tan importante como Inglaterra y que esto me ayude a mi formación en el idioma es otro incentivo para hacerlo.

Cultural ‘frames’ (Gumperz and Roberts 1991)

pilot sample feedback 2
Pilot: sample feedback 2

yo no soy una persona que dedique mucho tiempo a estudiar ingles y

realmentge yo aprendo casi por imitacion asi como aprendi mi mal español

asi apredi buenas matematicas esntonces lo que se o pienzo que se son

cosas que he escuhado de peliculas o canciones o series en ingles con los

que he tenido contacto, reconocuer y poder traducir esto en mi mente con

ayuda de lo que he aprendido en clases es lo que me ayuda a aprender

ingle por eso el intercambio MexCo es un exlelente ambiente para que yo

pueda tener contacto con el verdadero ingles y no solo abtracto como en

clace(ese es mi personal punto de vista)

phase 1 post pilot
Phase 1 (post pilot)
  • First Year students in DEL (E&L degree)
  • University-wide beginners and post-beginners students at FESZ/UNAM
  • Some from pilot/some new
  • More shared themes/same shared themes emerging: horror (novels and film); linguistic awareness (e.g. American English/British English- Mexican Spanish/Castillian spoken in Spain); culture in Britain and in Mexico; music
Assessed task at CU (50% module mark): module 100DEL Introduction to studying English and Languages at University
  • The aims of this module are to prepare you for academic study at degree level by discussing and practising academic writing, group project work, digital and presentation skills.
  • The module aims at enhancing your awareness of how these academic skills can develop into professional competencies and also provide information on how to maximise your university experience for future graduate employment.
Assessed task at CU (50% module mark): module 100DEL Introduction to studying English and Languages at University

Some students from our partner University in Mexico (FESZ/UNAM) are planning to come to Coventry. Create a web-based Spanish/English (or French/English) guide (a learning object) to Coventry for them using the Mahara e-portfolio. The guide must include both academic and non-academic information. You need to consult the students from FESZ/UNAM on its design via Moodle (international exchange) and provide examples of how their input informed your project. You may include jointly created blogs in the project and discuss what you learnt from the experience. You will also need to keep an individual reflective record of your intercultural exchange (in terms of personal feelings, new knowledge and actions that stemmed from it) using the Mahara Project Journal tool.

threshold concepts are transformative
Threshold Concepts are Transformative

‘Threshold concepts lead not only to transformed thought but to a transfiguration of identity and adoption of an extended discourse’ (Meyer and Land 2005:375, cited in Orsini-Jones 2012).

transforming identities g2
Transforming identities? G2


Whats the culture like in Mexico? What tourist attractions do you have there? Do you like football? I Love it!

Some of my friends here at coventry university and I have created a website about coventry and the tourist attractions.

We made it especially for you, the students in Mexico:

Let me know if you like it


issues arising
Issues arising
  • Intercultural critical incidents (different approach to T&L)
  • Need to set ‘ground rules’? But then whose rules?
  • VLE(N)etiquette
  • Technology misunderstanding issues
  • Lack of time (all parties concerned)
  • Time difference
what is culture
What is culture?
  • Is the conceptualisation of culture a threshold concept per se?
value added positive note felipe bustos s viewpoint
Value-added – positive noteFelipe Bustos’s viewpoint

Promoting these types of intercultural communication helps students to overcome stereotypes about the cultures where the language they are studying  is spoken as a native language and about the people who speak that language. In the case of my students they seem to be more confident using English, they seem to be more motivated because they want to be more fluent so that they can communicate with their new friends in England and in the same way they are happy that they have helped some Spanish students with problems in Spanish. Now learning English has a new meaning for my students because they can see a real purpose in learning this language. They have learned that people in general have similar needs (Email communication, 7/12/2012)

final reflections
Final reflections
  • Students (and staff) from FEZS – have posted a lot about the geography, history and traditions of Mexico/ Mexico City, and have asked for similar information about Britain/Coventry.
  • Importance of contextualisation
  • From their interlocutors at CU they may have got more and less culture than they bargained for.
  • Byram et al. (2002): “How do I deal with learners’ stereotypes and prejudices?” “How do I overcome my own stereotypes and misconceptions?”
  • Towards a post-ICC for a globalised world?
selected bibliographical references
Selected Bibliographical References

Agar, M. (1996) Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation. New York: William Morrow.

Barro, A., Jordan, S., and Roberts, C. (1998) ‘Cultural practice in everyday life: the language learner as ethnographer’. In Byram, M. And Fleming, M. Language Learning in Intercultural Perspective. Cambridge UP.

Byram, M. (1997) Teaching and Assessing Intercultural Communicative Competence. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Byram, M. Gribkova, B. and Starkey, H. (2002) Developing the Intercultural Dimension in Language Teaching: A practical introduction for teachers. Strasbourg: Council of Europe

Cousin, G. (2009). Researching Learning in Higher Education: An Introduction to Contemporary Methods and Approaches. London: Routledge

Gumperz, J. J. and Roberts, C. (1991). Understanding in intercultural encounters. In J.

  • Blommaert and J. Verschueren (Eds.) The Pragmatics of Intercultural Communication. (p.51-90). Amsterdam: John Benjamins

Guth,S.and Helm, F. (2010)Telecollaboration 2.0: Language, Literacies, and Intercultural Learning in the 21st Century. NY: Peter Lang

Legutke, M. And Thomas, M. (1991) Process and Experience in the Language Classroom. Harlow: Longman.  

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2001) ‘Towards a Postmethod Pedagogy’. TESOL Quarterly Vol.35:4.pp.537-560

more references
More references

Lloyd, E. (2012) Language Learners’ 'Willingness to Communicate' through ALSIC - Apprentissage des Langues et Systèmes d'Information et de Communication 15 (1). Available from

Meyer, J.H.F. and Land, R. (2006). Overcoming barriers to student understanding: Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge. London: Routledge/Falmer. 

O’Dowd, R. (2010)Online foreign language interaction: Moving from the periphery to the core of foreign language education? Language Teaching Journal 1-13. Available from:

Orsini-Jones, M. (2010) Task-Based Development of Languages Students’ Critical Digital Multiliteracies and Cybergenre Awareness. In M.J. Luzon, N. Ruiz and L. Villanueva (Eds.) Digital Genres, New Literacies and Autonomy in Language Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholar (pp. 197-224).

Polisca, E. (2011) ‘Language learning and the raising of cultural awareness through Internet telephony: a case study’ The Language Learning Journal, 39 (3)

Sercu, L. (2004) ‘Assessing intercultural competence: a framework for systematic test development in foreign language education and beyond’. Intercultural Education, 15, (1): 74-88

Vera-Lόpez, H.B. (2012) The Scholarship of Learning Modern Languages and Cultures: Integrating Education, Research and Human Development. PhD Dissertation, University of Nottingham, June 2012.

Ware, P., Liaw, M-L, and Warschauer, M.2012 ‘The use of digital media in teaching English as an international language’. In Alsagoff et el (eds) Principles and Practices for teaching English as an International Language. London: Routledge.