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Taking advantage of existing expertise and international collaboration already present at William and Mary, and building new international projects that further connect William and Mary with institutions of higher education in China, this project seeks to establish a new initiative for research and implementation of cross-cultural digital learning in higher education. Film and new media can serve as effective platforms and mediums for foreign language learning, cross-cultural education, and international collaboration. However, finding successful strategies for the integration of such platforms and media into existing programs at William and Mary requires further exploration and new partnerships, in particular collaborative research between experts on higher education pedagogy and cross-cultural communication. Through a joint initiative between the A&S Department of Modern Languages, the School of Education, and the Confucius Institute, we seek to develop, implement, assess, and document new projects that integrate cross-cultural education through film and new media into undergraduate and graduate education at William and Mary, while making William and Mary a center for research on digital learning in cross-cultural pedagogy.

Projects planned for 2013 include two study abroad programs in China with digital learning components; the creation and implementation of a new, collaboratively-generated course model for undergraduate teaching that incorporates new media and international collaboration as parts of the regular curriculum; a visiting professorship in Chinese film and media studies offered by a visiting faculty from China, with the goal of setting up a joint international documentary exchange program between William and Mary and Beijing Normal University; a School of Education and William and Mary Confucius Institute collaborative international project to compare higher education in the U.S. and China through the creation of short documentary films, and the creation of a website that will document, publicize, and promote the research, courses, community activities and study abroad experiences being carried out as part of the new initiative.

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The central focus for this initiative is the use of film and new media as pedagogical tools for digital learning with a cross-cultural education component. The initial 2013 implementation focuses on China and higher education as its case studies, in order to develop sound methodological approaches and a core set of successful and sustainable faculty-led projects at William and Mary. We envision the initiative undergoing expansion to incorporate other language units within the Department of Modern Languages (some of which already have international projects that incorporate film and digital media) and other research groups within the School of Education (specifically K-12 and counseling).

The impact of this project is a potentially transformative collaboration among Arts & Sciences, the School of Education, and the Confucius Institute.  We will share our projects and outcomes here on campus, to highlight the synergy of our work and demonstrate the power in working together. Additionally, the new course models developed through this collaboration will be made available across campus through the initiative’s website. The creation of wikis documenting, examining, and comparing salient aspects of teaching and learning in the U.S. and China will be a lasting products of the courses, study abroad trips, and documentary film project. This resource will be available to our colleagues at W&M, as well as our partners in China. The wikis and accompanying research undertaken through these classes and trips will also provide valuable portfolio and presentation materials for William and Mary students in their careers after graduation.

Another population that could benefit from this work is the growing number of Chinese students studying at W&M. Through new courses using film and digital media, students will be able to communicate with other populations on campus using a new set of communication tools. Additionally, they will become literate in critically assessing and producing film and digital media expressions of their own cultural encounters in the United States. Finally, an exploration of the similarities and differences in teaching and learning in the U.S. and China may help students and faculty transition Chinese students into American Higher Education. The videos documenting teaching and learning approaches could also be used as an anchor for an open forum discussion with international students from China to provide the W&M community with a better sense of the differences and challenges they encounter, learning in a very different educational approach.