I have two classes of 1st semester communications students. Multiple programs, diverse backgrounds. Many international students. It’s not the first time I’ve had this mix and I was keen to find a way to better integrate students so they were less culturally isolated. I also used to teach a cultural communications course and was interested in the idea of promoting cultural diversity and inclusivity among the student body. But how?
We started by introducing ourselves and the meanings of our names. I put students into groups and made them learn not only how to pronounce each other’s names but to hear and understand the stories behind each person’s name. This personalized the activity. Gradually, barriers lowered.
Then we read some articles on names including this one from Elamin Abdelmahmoud (Twitter: @elamin88) and this CBC article. We used these to read, analyze, find supporting quotes, write and respond – typical communications class material. And as students got comfortable with each other we started connecting ideas and having more in depth discussions. Students developed themes and explored them in conversations and discussions with each other.
This project gave us an opportunity to talk about audience and the difference between communicating privately and publicly. And how to share our voices authentically.
Right about then, I explained we would create a podcast. Student led. Student created.
I’d spent time contemplating this. It seemed an ideal method of communicating our thoughts in a way that was more inclusive. Students nervous about writing got engaged in the process, and although we drafted outlines and introductions, there was not the same level of fear around the writing. Students worked collaboratively to storyboard around themes and essential questions that the students themselves developed themselves from their research.
We then spent class time recording (voice memo), interviewing, and producing a series of combined files . And I spent ohhhh, way more time editing than I actually had (I used to be a book editor… you’d think I’d know that editing ALWAYS takes longer than you expect!)
Finally….a podcast. You can listen to it here.
Once produced, we listened and debriefed. This was a valuable conversation because in addition to a discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of different mediums for communication, listening to our conversation in replay allowed us to talk about word choices we had made (“foreign” versus “international” student for example…) and gave us more points to discuss: What did we say that came out wrong? How well did our intended message relay? What were the unintended consequences?
Ultimately, the podcast circled around the idea of respect. We came back to that a few times.
More importantly though, students learned about each other and realized we all have more in common than perhaps we realize.