Dr. Michael Kopish forges international partnership with university in Brazil
The Patton College has longstanding global impact, so during International Education Week, the college celebrates Teacher Education Associate Professor Dr. Michael Kopish for his overseas accomplishments. Kopish helped facilitate an international partnership with Instituto Federal do Triângulo Mineiro (IFTM) in Uberaba, Brazil. This partnership, which lasts through 2022-23, promotes collaborative activities between Ohio University and IFTM in three areas: curriculum and instruction; scholarship and research; and cultural, linguistic, and virtual exchange.
“With globalization and the increase of technology, collaborative work between institutions from different countries becomes a reality,” said Kopish. “In this sense, international dialogue can significantly contribute to the growth and training of teachers and students.”
Kopish has worked closely with IFTM professor Dr. Welisson Marques to strengthen academic programs and research, facilitate student and teacher exchange, and promote a true atmosphere of internationalization. They used a shared-syllabus approach to achieve Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL). Together, they designed a series of activities for their respective classes, including cross-cultural guest-speaker presentations, digital storytelling, and video conferences that explored educational issues from both American and Brazilian perspectives.
“We want to learn with and from, not just teach to,” said Kopish. “They are teacher educators; we are teacher educators. We approach the classroom and the preparation of teachers in similar yet different ways. If we come at it from a collaborative sense, we can all learn together.”
OHIO and IFTM students certainly did that. Their curricular project provided four opportunities for pre-service teachers to learn with and from each other employing different technologies.
First, pre-service teachers participated in digital storytelling; they created videos with mobile devices and video-editing software about teacher education, professional identity, and cultural comparisons, among other topics. Second, pre-service teachers uploaded videos to a private YouTube channel, translated audio and closed captioning in Portuguese or English, and viewed videos created by their international partner. Third, students prepared questions while viewing the video for an intercultural interview using WhatsApp and Google Translate. Fourth, they participated in an international videoconference facilitated by two authors using Skype.
“This experience was very eye-opening because it allowed me to talk about education from a global perspective,” said senior Katie Finn, an Adolescent-to-Young Adult Social Studies major. “I really like that I was paired with someone studying to be a teacher in Brazil and was even able to have a conversation with them over Skype. This was an awesome experience because I got to see aspects of their life and how it is similar and different from mine.”
This experience will help Finn, who is a teacher candidate at Athens High School, in both her current and future classrooms.
“I have international students in my classroom, and it is important for me to realize that they have experienced other educational systems as well,” she said. “I hope that I can use this knowledge to help bridge the cultural divide that might occur when they enter into my classroom. Overall, I had a very positive experience with the IFTM exchange.”
While virtual exchange is valuable, in-person collaboration remains the ultimate goal. As a result of this partnership, Marques and IFTM faculty member Dr. Rodrigo Leitao traveled to Ohio University for a series of workshops in Fall 2018, while Kopish traveled to Brazil for an international conference and to teach a mini-course to IFTM students and faculty in Fall 2019. The conference, Encontro de Pesquisa em Edccação (Education Research Meeting), explored “Contemporary Educational Processes of Internationalization, Teaching, and Professional Development.” The mini-course, meanwhile, focused on new and emerging technologies in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classrooms.
“I met with 11 different IFTM faculty who are very interested in collaborations and coming to OHIO, and I want to lead a delegation of OHIO faculty to IFTM,” said Kopish. “I have colleagues with expertise and research interests in areas that would be of value to IFTM. I think there’s a lot of potential.”
Potential not only for faculty, but also for students. Kopish hopes to eventually offer a robust study-abroad program for teacher candidates, one that would provide opportunities to work both in the classroom and the community.
“Teacher education programs are among the least internationalized on college campuses,” he said. “Schools of education are behind other colleges in terms of creating or designing experiences for students to develop global competencies or to have global experiences. I think that we have a lot of room to grow in that category.”
All in all, Kopish sees a lot of continued opportunities for the partnership.
“We’re looking at it from a perspective of equality,” he said. “Technology allows us to span the globe and to collaborate in different and more meaningful ways. It’s a big world out there. There’s a lot that we’ve done and a lot more that we can do.”