This assignment takes place among students studying similar material in courses at universities in Mexico and the United States. As the home of the US-Mexico Network, USC provides most of the US-based students.
The objective of this assignment is to introduce Mexican and US students who might otherwise never encounter one another, provide them with an opportunity to converse with and learn about one another, and in the process encourage them to think more deeply and creatively about a topic from their course.
The assignment takes about a month to complete and occurs during the second half of the semester, after the students have learned enough about the subject of their courses to support a thoughtful conversation about it with fellow students. It consists of three elements: a two paragraph written answer to an assigned question, a binational conversation about theses answers to the question, and a follow up questionnaire.
First steps: The U.S.-Mexico Network organizes students into a series of small binational groups (4-5). Students join the Facebook group for the US-Mexico Network, friend everyone in the project, and introduce themselves to the rest of their group. They use the Facebook group to post news, to schedule meetings, ask questions, etc.
Mid-semester: Students receive the assigned topic. This is always a provocative question derived from course materials that students can answer based on the information they have learned in their respective courses. Additional research may be required at the professors’ discretion.
About ten days later (this time frame can be adapted to course needs): In two paragraphs, students answer the assigned question and provide evidence demonstrating the validity of their answer, using the language and analytic concepts from their course. These answers will be posted on a private page in the “El Aula” section of the US-Mexico Network website. The answers will remain private, unavailable to everyone, until a specified day/time when they become available to all participants in the assignment (this is a control to make sure that student work is not influenced by the previously posted answers of others).
Over the next two to three weeks: Following the publication of the posts, the students will have two to three weeks to 1) read the posts of everyone else in their group and 2) hold a conversation with the entire group to discuss their opinions about the assigned topic and any differences of opinion within the group – what are they and why they seem to have emerged. We recommend that this conversation take place on Skype or Google Hangout, but generally leave it to the students to make the final decision on “where” to meet. Note: Scheduling a time in which all group members can “meet” is usually quite challenging.
Immediately after the conversation: Each group provides the Network’s conversation coordinator with a screen shot of the conversation to verify that everyone participated.
About a week later: Following the conversation, each student will answer a short questionnaire designed by the U.S.-Mexico Network to encourage them to think about what they learned about their colleagues from across the border. This form also helps the Network revise the assignment to improve its future.
Grades: Grades for the assignment are at the professors’ discretion, but are typically based on completion of all three elements of the assignment combined with the quality of the student’s written answer to the assigned question. Some professors use this as an extra credit addition to the course, some as a required element.
A representative sample of the better answers from some of the conversations will be posted publically on El Aula. This includes the author’s name and image unless s/he is opposed to this.