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Website of the Month - September 2003

Intercooltural     www.Intercooltural.hu      

Intercooltural is still being developed and this review will be updated to reflect those developments - in a ‘grading’ of ***+ the + refers to the expected increase in value

Value for ELT: training material/ trips, visits and exchanges/ cultural studies/ classroom activities/ ethnography and fieldwork

Producer of site (and intended audience)

The British Council in Hungary but it does not serve only a Hungarian audience. The punning title declares its attitude as well as its approach, and in some ways perhaps selects its audience. In general the aim seems to be to facilitate a site by teachers and students, rather than produce materials for teachers and students - a significant difference in emphasis from these BS Web Pages. The number of links waiting to be made ‘live’ shows the ambition of the site.

Description of site

Opening doors to the wider world is how Intercooltural describes itself. It has three sections, entered through three ‘doors’ on the homepage: Under 18s only/ Intercultural classroom/ Teacher development. Unlike the BC Poland site it is not in a magazine format and will be developing incrementally. The emphasis is on developing attitudes and values to culture in FLT rather than on knowledge, and on such ethnographic intercultural methods which lead to them. This is achieved through the presentation of the experience of teachers and students directly through their own ‘voices’. There is a Forum to encourage this interaction.

At present the design of the site is more colourful and developed than the design of individual items - these are texts (and occasionally photos) fitted into the space allotted but appearing just as they would on paper.

Under 18s only - subtitled: young people’s experiences of cultures at home and abroad - has sections ranging from UK today through Fieldwork in the UK and Trips and Exchanges to Competitions, Games and Quizzes and Our Views.

Intercultural classroom - subtitled: resources and ideas for teachers of language-and-culture - has sections on Teaching ideas, Fieldwork and how to organise Culture Competitions as well as space for users of Zoom In, a Hungarian coursebook (see Introduction to Zoom In), a Picture Gallery and UK Today.

Teacher development - subtitled: teacher development opportunities and accounts of teacher learning - has sections on Courses/ Summer Schools/ Conferences/ Projects/ Training Materials/ Research and Literature.

Accessibility *****

It is very attractively designed. The three ‘doors’ on the homepage are a very simple and very effective way of entering the part of the site required.

Range of themes covered **+

This site should not really be judged in this light as presenting knowledge is not its primary objective. If you were trying to find out something about culture or the UK this is not yet a site to visit.

Language level

Varies with the sections. Teacher development assumes the high level of language of a fully qualified EL teacher. The Under 18s only and the activities in Intercultural classroom would seem to be largely at an intermediate level as most of the contributions are from or for school students.

Value for students (gradings refer just to the Under 18s only ‘door’)

Age: 13+ ** 16+ *** 19+ * Lang. level:  pre-int/ int *** upper-int/ adv ***

At present it would need the guidance of teachers to use effectively. The value of the site lies in the opportunity for students to contribute to it rather than for its content. Good as an encouragement for students to write material for publication on the web though at the moment they have no involvement in designing its presentation. The Intercultural Encounter competition entries could provide very good stimulus material. Perhaps in future the site will accept pages not only written but designed by students so as to present their own ideas in their own format.

The title Under 18s only is not a good ‘come on’ for those over 18 even though there is material of value for them. For 19+ trainee teachers for instance the whole site could be awarded ***+ as it is a very valuable training resource.

Value for teachers ***+

There are activity plans written by practising teachers with opportunities for feedback (but without keys). For teachers who want to get involved in developing their teaching and with ambitions to write their own material it is potentially very good (especially if you have already taken part in British Council Hungary projects) and it is of particular value to teachers who use coursebooks such as Zoom In as well, but you need to have bought the book to get the benefit. How much it will offer teachers outside Hungary, apart from in a demonstration of an approach, remains to be seen (but of course it is not planning for such an audience).

For teachers interested in undertaking trips, engaging in fieldwork or even ethnographic study the site should be very valuable. The sharing of experience is vital in this area and a great deal is already presented.

The site has a focus on professional development which exists beyond its Teacher development ‘door’, indeed it is an implicit presumption throughout, and this emphasis will decide which teachers are attracted. It ought to be of considerable value to trainee teachers and could easily be extended to incorporate their concerns.

Overall value ****+ (at present)
Intercooltural is a developing site with much of interest that we are reviewing now to encourage you to visit and follow its progress and updates. With its teacher-centred focus it complements the Polish BS Web Pages and there is little overlap of material, although aspects of its Teacher development ‘door’ have similar aims to Teachers’ Forum.

The emphasis on the voices and experience of students and teachers is a particular strength, if you share or anticipate sharing the experience under discussion, less so otherwise. At present the site contains a lot of responses to what has happened outside the knowledge of the reader and therefore it is difficult to judge the value of the comments. There seems, through its Forum and the publication of student and teacher responses on the main site, an ambition to produce an interactive atmosphere, but whether this interaction can escape the BC projects and their networks from which it has emerged will be a test of its success.

Less positively it has to be said that presently the site is being used as a colourful medium of delivery for what could largely appear on paper, and it does not yet make good use of the resources that the web and the internet offer. It mostly consists of reports on what has happened elsewhere - whereas it could be happening here on the site too. Websites have great intercultural potential beyond that achievable in paper format and it would be good to see that side of Intercooltural receiving more attention.

There is a hope for a high degree of interactivity although whether this is possible with the explosion in the number of quality internet sites - only viewable within a non-exploding 24 hour day (and at a time of increasing pressure on teachers) - is an issue for all such websites including the BS Web pages.

The setting-up of such a teacher-centred and approach-centred site with an intercultural commitment must be welcomed. It seems driven by principle and the belief that FLT can have greater educational for both students and teachers through their direct involvement. It has optimism and energy. Opening doors to the wider world is the stated aim and, through the present participle, reflects the emphasis of Intercooltural on actively doing and becoming. It is how you open the doors that matters and in showing how this can be done the site would seem to be on the way to being successful.

Related sites

Zoom In is a very interesting coursebook published in Hungary under the guidance of Mark Andrews and Uwe Pohl, and its teacher’s book contains an introduction to their intercultural methodology - see Introduction to Zoom In and The Hungarian British Studies in Secondary Schools Project - Personal Reflections. A further article on the development of its approach Reflection-in-action: British Studies for teacher development can be found in BS Now - click on Issue 11 in the archive.


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