Facebook has also enabled two psychology professors to reinvent the international pen-pal concept and help internationalize the curriculum. Carie Forden, PhD, of Clarion University in Oil City, Pa., and Amy Carrillo, PhD, of the American University in Cairo, in New Cairo, Egypt, gave their social psychology classes three assignments last fall.
As students completed each assignment — one was to design an intervention to reduce prejudice between Muslims and non-Muslims, for example — they posted their work on a joint Facebook page, the Cairo-Clarion Social Psychology Exchange. Students from each class were asked to comment on each other's work and postings and were graded on participation.
The page fostered student discussions on their cultural differences and on stereotypes about Egyptians and Americans — conversations that deepened the students' appreciation for each other, say the instructors.
Forden says the project has made her U.S. students more self-critical of Americans. "It's gotten them out of their ethnocentricism," she says. "It's been great for them because most of the students I teach haven't traveled much even within the United States, and only a few have been outside of the country."
She and Carrillo also found the exchange helped their students better understand course concepts such as conformity, collectivist culture and attribution. The professors plan to sharpen their approach for next year and hope to present their work at an upcoming conference.
"There's a lot of potential to increase the interaction they have, and have students really get to know one another," says Carrillo.