eTutor: Building pre-service teachers’ intercultural competence through an online environment
Abstract: Teacher educators today are faced with the dual challenge of preparing teachers to teach in digitally enriched learning environments, as well as to understand and cater for the needs of more culturally diverse classrooms. This paper presents preliminary findings from the case study of the eTutor project, a creative approach to building Australian pre-service teachers’ (PST’s) capacity to teach interculturally, through participation in a collaborative online teaching and learning environment that partnered them with students from schools in Australia, Nepal, India and Malaysia. Over 14 weeks during 2013, 455 participants in the eTutor project posted blogs, comments, images and videos centred on cultural exchange. Although some technical, organisational and cultural issues acted as a challenge to online communication, PSTs expanded their awareness of their own and other cultures and how this may impact how they teach. Student participants improved their English language learning. The findings from this pilot suggest that, despite the challenges, online settings can be an effective way to improve the intercultural as well as digital competence of PSTs, with positive learning outcomes for participating school students as well.