Cartoons, caricatures and comics are an excellent medium to explore stereotyped perceptions of other cultures as well as provide pathways to engage learners in collaborative projects. They are a way to describe emotions, feelings or situations, to tell stories or to illustrate a point of view on current social, political or cultural topics. As such they can be used for teaching a wide range of subjects for learners of all ages and education levels. Working on stereotypes we can recreate a more adequate picture of other ways of thinking and behaving.
The workshop scenario presented here was designed to involve Polish participants in a reflection on some stereotyped perceptions of our neighbours, the Germans. The students embarked on a virtual journey to Berlin and elaborated their experiences in the form of a cartoon. The whole journey took around 20 workshop hours and required the learners to complete some tasks at home (searching the Internet for materials, thinking out continuation of the plot, etc.). Obviously, the time can be adjusted to different environments, groups and objectives, ranging from a single workshop to a full course.
This is the way we followed. We hope that the example can inspire other educational scenarios in different intercultural contexts.
STEP 1: SETTING THE STAGE FOR THE STORY
- To introduce the theme of the workshop
- To elicit stereotyped perceptions of Berlin from the learners
- To plan the “route” for their virtual tour of the city
The group had already many occasions to meet and work together so there was no need for introducing each other. Thus the trainer directly proceeds to proposing a new theme for the following round of workshops. In brief, the task is to create a cartoon depicting a trip around Berlin, visiting sites worth exploring in the eyes of the participants. A projector is used to focus the group’s attention on the task and survey images from the Internet.
More: step 1
STEP 2: CHOOSING IMAGES
- To provide graphical content for the workshop
- To teach technical skills of downloading and archiving files in proper formats
The story is to be shown in images hence this is an important phase of selecting characteristic pictures and storing them on the learners’ computers. The work can also be conducted together with one computer operated by a learner and the progress of shared work displayed on the projector.
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STEP 3: MOVING INTO THE SCENE
But how to do this if the only tools at hand are the camera and the computer?
- To teach how to merge images
- To teach adding textual elements/comments
- To link computer-based tasks with intercultural explorations
The repository of graphical content downloaded from the Internet can easily be updated with photos of the learners taken during the workshop. Once the idea of the comic becomes clearer the learners can take pictures of themselves having specific cartoons in mind, although any pictures fitting the scenario can be used.
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STEP 4: FACING THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE SCENES
- To focus the group’s attention on the actual phenomena behind the image surface
- To engage with stereotyped perceptions “encapsulated” in the images
- To face real people from the country being explored through showing and discussing the cartoons with them
The work on the cartoon is likely to touch on sensitive or puzzling issues from the learners’ point of view. These perceptions need to be expressed and depicted in the comic in a way inviting a response from the peers from the other country. In the case of our workshop this was possible due to the Grundtvig learning partnership grant which created opportunities for both face to face and on-line discussions among the learners. In the case of workshops which cannot benefit from such a scheme, publishing the comic on-line and inviting comments might also bring meaningful response. The language barrier can be a problem which we also faced with our group. In such cases translating and interpreting is necessary to help the learners fully benefit from the exchange.
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On completion of the workshop the learners are expected to be able to:
- plan a scenario of a digital story exploring a cultural environment of a foreign city/country
- gather and elaborate visual resources from the Internet and their own context
- edit the material into a comic with captions grasping their perceptions/attitudes/comments throughout the virtual journey
- exchange the cartoons with their foreign partners and enjoy the funny, humorous side of intercultural encounters
More: learning outcomes