Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

Visualizing St. Petersburg: Using Documentary Production in a Short-Term Study Abroad Program to Enhance Oral Proficiency, Media Literacy, and Research Skills

Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

Visualizing St. Petersburg: Using Documentary Production in a Short-Term Study Abroad Program to Enhance Oral Proficiency, Media Literacy, and Research Skills

Article excerpt

this study suggests that by integrating a documentary production and research project into a short-term summer abroad program, we can enhance students' international experience and improve their oral proficiency, media literacy, and research skills. Studying abroad may be one of the best tools for helping students understand our interconnectedness to a larger world by building bridges of understanding and compassion (Reynolds-Case 311). Combining this experience with inquiry-based documentary production, which teaches a full range of critical, conceptual, organizational, managerial, interpersonal, and creative skills (Edwards 9), creates a unique experiential learning opportunity for undergraduate students.

Study Abroad

The College of William and Mary Program in St. Petersburg, Russia, is a short-term inquirybased summer program. According to the Institute of International Education's Open Doors Report and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, US Department of State (Institute of International Education 25), in the 2011-12 academic year, 283,332 US students studied abroad for academic credit. That same study finds that participation in short-term study abroad programs-those lasting eight weeks or less-accounts for over 60 percent of US study abroad experiences. Previous research "has discussed a variety of linguistic issues in the context of long-term study abroad experience, including oral proficiency (Martinsen, 2010; Segalowitz & Freed, 2004), listening (Kinginger, 2008), reading (Dewey, 2004), writing (Freed, So, & Lazar, 2003), student motivation (Allen, 2010), pragmatic development (Bataller, 2010), and dialect and intonation acquisition (Henriksen, Geeslin, & Willis, 2010; Ringer-Hilfinger, 2012)" (Reynolds-Case 311). Additionally, Reynolds-Case notes that there has also been research that documents noticeable "gains in students' target language production and comprehension after even short-term study abroad programs" (312), which last less than eight weeks (Allen, Dristas, and Mills; Cubillos, Chieffo, and Fan).

Documentary Production

In Fall 2010 we proposed the "Visualizing St. Petersburg" project-an initiative to incorporate documentary production in the short-term study abroad program in St. Petersburg, Russia, in order to enhance undergraduate re search as an integral part of William and Mary students' international experience. Including a media production component in our project added some very important elements. First, to produce media, students must engage outside the classroom and talk to locals. This interaction, with all of its messy mistakes, is often the most challenging yet rewarding aspect for study-abroad students. Second, whereas writing provides students a traditional mode for critical analysis, the creation of visual media requires students to negotiate meaning and acknowledge the cultural differences offered through voices beyond their usual realm of experience. And third, producing media gives students the opportunity to present their work to larger audiences. Videos are an effective tool of communication and an easy way to share not only with those within the academic community, but also with the larger invested communities from which the videos arose. Last, students gain a full range of broad knowledge and skills, including critical, conceptual, organizational, managerial, interpersonal, and creative skills. We emphasize that the process of production-the methods of research and creating their projects-is more important than the production quality of their final film. The value of a liberal arts education, the very notion that gives it its enduring value over a student's lifetime, is its focus on inquiry and methods, rather than on product.

Experiential Learning

In designing our study abroad program we were inspired by the experiential learning model. Experiential education, educational philosophy rooted in and transformed by experience, has its roots in constructivist theories of teaching and cooperative learning (Kolb 41). …

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