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Early Childhood Students Benefit from Connection with Turkish University

Students in two Early Childhood courses at Hudson Valley are getting a more internationalized education thanks to a link set up by a college staff member currently on sabbatical.

While on leave from the college, Director of Distance Learning Sue Gallagher is teaching English at Yeditepe University in Istanbul, Turkey. Early this semester, Gallagher contacted Department Chair Nancy Cupolo with an offer to connect students in two of her classes with those studying here at Hudson Valley. Since Gallagher was teaching in the university’s School of Education, it seemed like a natural fit to match budding teachers in Turkey with their counterparts here in Troy.

Assistant Professor Carol Nason and Associate Professor Eileen Mahoney took up the offer, and their students in "Appropriate Curriculum Practices for Young Children" (ECCE 226) and "Child Development" (EDUC 100) have already paired up with a fellow student in Turkey.

Carol Nason's ClassStudents in Assistant Professor Carol Nason's class have been corresponding with education students from Istanbul's Yeditepe University.

Sue Gallagher's Class in TurkeyStudents in Sue Gallagher's Oral Communication class from Yeditepe University.

The four classes, half a world apart, have exchanged e-mails and discussed their coursework via videoconferencing. The goal of the collaboration is to discover the differences and similarities culture can have on the role of the teacher. Nason said her course, in part, focuses on cultural beliefs and practices, and how connections are made between home and school. Learning to become an effective teacher has some universal themes, whether in Troy or Istanbul, but culture often plays a key role in the student/teacher relationship.

"After initiating the first e-mail, we have started to hear back from our friends in Turkey. Each began talking a little about themselves, their families, their fond and not so fond memories of past teachers, and anything else they’d like to share," said Nason. "It’s perhaps most surprising to our HVCC students that students in Turkey share so many similarities."

This week, American students in Nason’s class will discuss the Thanksgiving holiday with their Turkish counterparts and plan to link up again via Skype or another videoconferencing tool.

Mahoney said her students were also taken with the similarities between themselves and their Turkish counterparts, as well as the common concerns they’ll run into as young teachers. A case in point: dealing with the onslaught of technology, which, not surprisingly, is just as evident in Turkish households as it is in America.

"As an instructor, it has been heartwarming to see how interested both classes are in learning about the other students. I wanted my students to get a sense of global issues, and that we all face similar concerns in the educational world," she said. "In a world that gets smaller and smaller, we are more alike than we are different - and I hope as we've ‘seen’ and talked with each other, that both sets of students will leave the experience with that feeling."

"Carol and Eileen have been just wonderful to collaborate with," said Gallagher. "They are putting in extra time and energy - especially Eileen who moved her class to the college’s videoconferencing room. I also would want to thank Nancy Cupolo, who was wonderfully supportive, as well as the college’s Viking Video Technology videoconference team - Bob Racette, Roger Pinke and Eric Kiel.

"For me, this has been a great opportunity to combine several of my passions such as language teaching, intercultural communication and distance learning. All of the courses I teach are in Oral Communications, so communicating in a variety of ways with native speakers through e-mail, Skype and videoconferencing gives my students an opportunity to interact in authentic context and for a real reason as opposed to using contrived material or role playing. These interactions turn into teaching moments because I see problems manifest in real interactions that I would not necessarily see in the classroom. I am in the Education Department here and all of my students are studying to be English teachers so our activities are ‘content’ based such as comparing the education systems and trends in Turkey and the US."