9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN07 Sociology of Culture

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 European and National Identities Building II, C4.06

Developing a Common European Identity using Technology-Based Education: Learning@Europe

The notions of ?identity? and ?national identity? are quite complex, being related at the same time to different factors: deep cultural traditions, understanding of history, false myths about history, stereotypes etc. In Europe we have a large variety of national identities, which in a recent past have created (through the world wars) serious troubles. Today national identity is still a divisive factor within Europe and one of the major obstacles to build a true European identity.
The project Learning@Europe does not mean to challenge the notion of ?national identity?, neither to disseminate the gospel of a new ?good identity? (the European one). The aim is to help youngsters at school to understand:
? How national identities developed in Europe
? How it developed in their countries
? How it developed in other European countries
We discovered that all the above are unknown subjects in European school systems, with the exception of the ?own identity? that is in general treated in a very chauvinistic manner, which is a surprise for students of different countries.
Learning@Europe has involved more than 6,000 students (15 to 19 years of age) in 18 different European countries. A special edition was held between European students and the cadets of West-Point (USA).
Technology was crucial for the project: 4 classes (from different countries) at the time participate to a ?friendly? competition. The focal point of the ?experience? (lasting 6 weeks) are real-time sessions (lasting one hour each), where the 4 classes meet in a 3 dimensional space. In addition the 4 classes keep in touch and cooperate via online forums.
Participants are provided with a set of interviews to leading experts about national identities and the process of national identity development in specific countries.
An extensive evaluation (see www.learningateurope.net) has been conducted through direct observation, focus groups and questionnaires. The perceived impact upon teachers and students is very high. As far as the students are concerned, 20% declare they have acquired a different perception and 34% have changed their mind about Europe. 51% of the teachers report that students have changed their attitude toward other cultures.