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Internationalizing the Teaching of Psychology by Using Emerging Social Media
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by Richard Velayo, PhD - Pace University
Categories: International Focus
A growing number of psychology instructors recognize the importance of incorporating
a more global perspective in the courses they teach, especially as people become
increasingly interconnected and interdependent with the growth of Internet-based
technologies worldwide (Power & Velayo, 2006; Velayo, 2000).
Social media technologies provide opportunities that help internationalize the education
and training experience of students. Blogs, wikis, Facebook, Google groups, LinkedIn,
Twitter, YouTube, and Skype are among the more common web platforms used to enhance
collaboration and sharing among learners. As a result, the instructor’s role is
changing more towards facilitation and mentoring in a collegial atmosphere supported
by these kinds of technologies (Wankel, 2010).
Below is a list of the most common social media technologies with links to their
Blog (www.blogspot.com; www.blogger.com, http://wordpress.com)
Google Groups (http://groups.google.com)
Second Life (http://secondlife.com)
Psychology instructors may not use all of these technologies, but knowing what the
technologies can do is important in determining which ones are useful for integrating
a more international perspective in teaching. The proposed approach is not necessarily
for the instructor to add or incorporate international content in a course, but
to facilitate collaboration and engagement using social media technology to further
Why Use Social Media to Internationalize the Teaching of Psychology?
Now, widespread use of the Internet to educate and train students allows for a greater
rate of knowledge sharing and understanding among people of various nations. Emerging
social, cultural, environmental, and political issues impose complex challenges
and demands on our discipline. There is a growing need to be responsive to the demands
of a growing multiracial, multiethnic, and multinational network of people within
the field. By promoting greater appreciation and understanding of people worldwide,
instructors can efficiently internationalize teaching using these newer collaborative
As with many other disciplines, psychology has begun to tap into social media technologies
to engage students and to provide them with the kind of “international experience”
that would otherwise be relatively difficult, time-consuming, and more expensive
with traditional approaches such as inviting a speaker from abroad, engaging in
student travel abroad programs, or changing an established curriculum.
In general, students tend to be relatively more comfortable and more engaged with
new technologies than their instructors. Technology savvy students can be wonderful
allies to help instructors learn ways to effectively use these technologies in their
courses. Students may even enjoy serving as collaborators to integrate such technologies
in ways they think may be most engaging to their peers.
Some Strategies to Internationalize Teaching
For colleges and psychology departments to internationalize their curricula, faculty
members need to find effective and creative ways to incorporate new material into
their lesson plans (Grenwald- Mayes & Moore, 2000). Internet-based technologies
continue to significantly impact the globalization of psychology in training and
education, practice of psychology, and psychological research (Velayo, 2000). These
technologies promise to be particularly relevant and effective pedagogical devices
in internationalizing the psychology curriculum (Velayo, Oliva, & Blank, 2008).
Blogs and Wikis
Blogs are generally web pages that contain journal-like entries on any topic and
can archive relevant comments from students and instructors around the world. Instructors
can create a blog for students to share their international experiences in relation
to course content.
For example, in a social psychology course, students can comment on various theories
of interpersonal attraction given their own unique experiences. They may be required
to ask someone they know from another country to do the same. Such blogs can generate
interesting discussions and a realization that there are cross-national differences
in what others consider attractive.
In another example, students, and even professionals, from different cultures or
nations could discuss whether a particular behavior or belief is emic (culture
specifi c) or etic (culture neutral). Instead of lecturing or providing notes, it
may be more effective if material were gathered in a blog for discussion. The instructor,
and students could read the comments and contribute to an enhanced discussion given
the myriad of interesting responses.
Wikis are generally web pages in which students work collaboratively online. For
example, a student group in a psychotherapy course could collaboratively work on
a web page or write on the topic of cultural differences in treating depression.
Students could continually comment and revise the page. It would be interesting
to have them ask other students taking a similar course in another country to also
comment and/or collaboratively work on the web page.
Social Networking Sites
Social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google groups) are commonly
used Internet-based media that allow people with similar interests to find, interact,
and share ideas and resources with each other.
For example, an instructor in research methods can create a Facebook group as a
way for students to interact and post updates of their research work for others
to see. Students can also solicit comments from others and collect survey data online
by tapping into the huge number of Facebook members who wish to respond.
Research can also be done with other social networking sites such as LinkedIn and
Google groups. Several features in these sites allow an instructor to tailor the
sites to the course. For instance, the instructor can restrict access to specified
information on a page to certain individuals.
An eye-opening and engaging way to get students to learn another culture in a developmental
psychology course is to create a Facebook community page designed around cross-national
differences in childrearing practices.
Twitter is a microbloging technology that allows one to send and receive messages,
usually through some mobile device, in which each message (or tweet) is no more
than 140 characters. In addition to text, Twitter can now contain embedded photos,
videos, and other media. A day or two prior to each class session, the instructor
can send students a “tweet” such as a brief description of a current world event
related to the topic to be discussed. In a community psychology course, for example,
tweet to students, “Hurricane destroys homes in Haiti! What can psychologists do
to help the community affected by this disaster?” Presumably, this will prompt students
to think about the topic prior to class and be prepared to share their thoughts
in the context of other cultures or countries.
Skype and YouTube
Using Skype for videoconferencing or showing talks or interviews that have been
recorded on YouTube can be an interesting student project. Guest experts from other
countries may wish to show relevant locations or some psychosocial phenomenon in
another country. For example, in a History of Psychology course, instructors may
use Skype or even record interviews of other psychologists, go on a virtual tour
of a historical location relevant to psychology, or perhaps show a collection of
psychology paraphernalia that are part of an archival collection of psychology instruments.
Using Skype may even allow students to interact with the guest. Recorded footage
made available on YouTube can be used for future class discussions and presentations.
In another example, a comparative study in a cross-cultural psychology course could
require students to virtually observe the family dynamics in different cultures
and directly inquire about the participants’ points of view through video clips
posted on YouTube. Subsequently, students could organize all information online
to share for discussion.
By using these technologies, instructors can archive correspondences and make them
available for future instructional use. The rising use of Internet-based technologies
is opening new avenues for teaching international materials (Takooshian & Velayo,
2004; Velayo, Oliva, & Blank, 2008). These technologies contribute to the growing
number of resources that instructors may use for course development. Such resource
clearinghouses may be accessed through the APA Division of International Psychology
website at http://internationalpsychology.net/resources/
(e.g., Stevens, 2007) and from APA’s Society for the Teaching of Psychology Office
of Teaching Resources in Psychology (OTRP) at
Psychology (e.g., Woolf, Hulsizer, & McCarthy, 2002a, 2002b).
A Way to Assess If a Psychology Course is Internationalized
A report from the APA Working Group on Internationalizing the Psychology Curriculum
(Lutsky, Torney-Purta, Velayo, Whittlesey, Woolf, & McCarthy, 2005) may be used
to assess the extent to which a psychology course is “internationalized.” The authors
of the report recommended five goals and associated learning outcomes: psychological
knowledge in international perspective; methodological issues in international research;
the discipline of psychology in the international perspective (i.e., awareness of
how the discipline of psychology is developed, studied, and applied in and across
cultures); psychology and interpersonal understanding; and psychology and global
issues. The report also provides suggested student learning outcomes for each goal
to assist with course design and for use as a checklist to assess the effectiveness
of the strategies at the end of the course.
Innovative ways to utilize social media technologies as pedagogical and training
tools need to be further explored. Not only do these technologies allow for greater
and faster communication between psychologists and students residing in different
nations and different regions within a country but they also provide for greater
cross-national understanding, increased curricular and scholarly collaborations,
and enhanced level of experience that goes beyond just reading about another culture.
Such transformation necessitates changes to the broader psychology curriculum and
requires assessment on a regular basis to determine whether students have sufficiently
obtained a level of international perspective and knowledge base.
There is no doubt that currently used and emerging internet-based technologies shall
continue to contribute significantly to the globalization of psychology, in general,
and the psychology curriculum in particular.
Grenwald-Mayes, G., & Moore, M. (2000, Fall). Internationalizing curriculum and
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11. Retrieved November 6, 2010, from
Lutsky, N., Torney-Purta, J., Velayo, R., Whittlesey, V., Woolf, L., & McCarthy,
M. (2005). American Psychological Association task force on internationalizing the
undergraduate psychology curriculum: Report and recommended learning outcomes for
internationalizing the undergraduate curriculum. Retrieved November 5,
2010, from http://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/about/international.pdf
Power, F., & Velayo, R. (2006, Winter). Hello world!: The case for internationalizing
the psychology curriculum. International Psychology Reporter, 10(1), 10-11.
Takooshian, H., & Velayo, R. (2004, Spring). Internationalizing our psychology curriculum.
Newsletter of the Society for Teaching of Psychology, 8-9.
Velayo, R. (2000, Winter). The globalization of psychology via the Internet: Anticipating
the not-too-distant future. International Psychology Reporter, 4(1), 18-19.
Velayo, R., Oliva, J., and Blank, D. (2008, Winter). Using the Internet: A call
to internationalize the psychology curriculum. International Psychology Bulletin,
Wankel, C. (2010). Technologies that bring learners collaboratively together with
the world. In C. Wankel (Ed). Cutting-Edge media approaches to business education:
Teaching with Linked-In, Facebook, Twitter, Second Life, and Blogs (pp.
1-5).Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.
Woolf, L. M., Hulsizer, M. R., & McCarthy, T. (2002a). International psychology:
A compendium of textbooks for selected courses evaluated for international content.
Retrieved November 5, 2010, from OTRP-Online, Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology,
Society for the Teaching of Psychology Web site:
Woolf, L. M., Hulsizer, M. R., & McCarthy, T. (2002b). International psychology:
Annotated bibliography, relevant organizations, and course suggestions.
Retrieved July 18, 2010 from OTRP-Online, Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology,
Society for the Teaching of Psychology Web site:
Richard Velayo, PhD, is a professor of psychology at Pace University.
He received his PhD in education and psychology (combined program) from the University
of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His scholarly interests include the pedagogical application
of multimedia and internet-based technologies, instructional psychology, and the
internationalization of the psychology curriculum. He is a fellow of the American
Psychological Association and the Eastern Psychological Association. Rich is a past-president
and current webmaster for the APA Division of International Psychology, pastpresident
of the Academic Division of the New York State Psychological Association, past-chair
of the Psychology Section of the New York Academy of Sciences, NGO representative
to the United Nations for the International Council of Psychologists, and a member
of the Eastern Regional Psi Chi Steering Committee. He has published in several
journals and presented in numerous local, regional, national, and international
conferences. You can contact Rich at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Winter 2011 issue of Eye on Psi Chi (Vol. 15, No. 2, p. 6), published by
Psi Chi, The International Honor Society in Psychology (Chattanooga, TN). Copyright,
2010, Psi Chi, The International Honor Society in Psychology. All rights reserved.