von Empowering Young People


Victoria Spanier and Irina Stefanovic


Cluster B

Cultural Dialogue

Participating Schools:

•Kaufmännische Schulen d. BFI Wien, Austria

•Ekonomsko trgovinska skola Bor, Serbia

•Ferdinand von Steinbeis Schule, Tuttlingen, Germany

•Secondary School No. 8 Odessa, Izmail, Ukraine



Project overview

The topic we chose for our cluster was Cultural Dialogue; we had to decide what kind of activities would be interesting for our pupils and bring the schools together and, most important, achieve a real cultural exchange. In the end, the pupils had the idea of making videos about their daily lives. Together we chose two main topics, school life and free-time activities. These and a few technical regulations were all suggested by the pupils.

Thus, the general target of our group was to create two meaningful videos about a student's life and afterwards to give feedback on the others' ideas and results.


Project duration: May 2012 – December 2013

 Target group:

Students at each participating school and people from schools or similar institutions interested in cultural exchange projects

Pedagogical methods used:

1. Team-based learning

2. Presentations

3. Demonstrations

4. Tutorials

5. Story-telling

6. Discussion


Necessary materials:

1. Video camera and knowledge of how to use it

2. Computers and a printer

3. Computer programmes to cut and edit the videos

4. License-free music

5. Filming permits for filming in public places

6. Facebook accounts and a Facebook group of our own as well as a blog for public access

7. Motivated pupils


The project offered a great variety of benefits for all project participants,

starting with the students who  learned a lot about other cultures and intercultural differences, gained greater language skills and gained deeper insight into the world and issues in the world around them and tried to solve some of them.

There were also a lot of benefits for the teachers, who were in a position to develop closer relationships with their students because they could meet each other in some different situations.

Talking about key factors, the language skills were perhaps most important,

then team work and cooperation, which helped the students realise great projects and acquire new information about other cultures.


The project was important for our students because it has helped them to understand and recognise their abilities and start thinking about their role in society and possibilities they are offered.

General aim: Erasing Frontiers by Knowing our Similarities and Differences.


Project aims:

1. Improving multicultural understanding

2. Exploring our similarities

3. Understanding each other better

4. Respect through mutual understanding

5. Sustainable way of living together

6. Respecting differences between cultures


Main project activities:

1. Creating videos on school life and free-time activities

2. Exchanging impressions of the different daily lives

3. Setting up a communication platform on the Internet

4. Giving feedback on the videos (via the Internet platform)


To start with, it was important to find a group of schools willing to start the mainly online project for cultural exchange in English. Since KulturKontakt Austria gave us the chance to meet different schools and decide on our favourite topics, we managed to form a group with wide cultural diversity. The teachers started to decide on the possible main topics, possible project outcomes and ways of implementing the exchange. The teachers also planned  lessons to use in regular classes as well as extracurricular ones. We thought about the lessons that could be learned within the project and started our project plan.  


This shows how the teachers got to know each other and started to plan the project.


1. The most significant point was to give the pupils the chance to be an important and trailbreaking part of the project; it was important for them to influence the project outcome and their ideas needed to be integrated into the planning. The teachers had to have ideas in case the pupils had problems finding a good idea, but otherwise it was their decision to find a means of achieving a good cultural exchange; the teachers'  role mainly changed into that of a kind of project manager. After setting the basic conditions regarding the timetable and regular meetings and presentations of the current outcomes, the students had the chance to be creative again.

Before starting to work towards the project outcome, the schools needed to get to know each other.

2. We planned a meeting in Bor, Serbia. There, the first thing was to introduce each school. Each school prepared a small presentation about their home town and schools. These steps were also mainly done by the pupils; they were the ones who decided what might be interesting for other young people their age. Since only four students per school were allowed to come along, it was important to motivate all the students while choosing four students to be responsible, since they were the ones who would attend the meeting.


This picture shows the Danube, our connecting river, from the airplane.


All the pupils who were in Bor, Serbia


Working together and getting to know each other


It was also important to get to know the host culture – A cultural evening with dancing and a lot of eating



Sunset in Bor; the first meeting ends and everybody thinks about the experience gained so far.


3. To start the main part of the project, we arranged the technical equipment and the pupils formed into different groups. We had groups for each topic, school life and free-time activities, as well as a technical group, a legal business group and one taking care of public relations. The first two groups (school life and free time) decided on the content of the videos and wrote a script. The technical group chose the programmes used and the ways to implement different scenes into a video. Legal business had to take care of filming permits and the utilisation of music and other property rights.

These pictures show the project itself: how we presented our schools and project, as well as the filming procedure. 


4. To exchange the videos, we needed a platform; therefore we chose two approaches.

The first one was Facebook: Since nearly all students have an account and use this social network regularly, it is no big effort for them to be active there. We created our own group and all participants were invited. There the young people had the chance to engage in exchange about general topics; they started conversations about such things as computer games and favourite music. When the videos were finished, we uploaded them and the students gave comments on them. It was a lively exchange about differences and similarities. The videos were watched and discussed in class.

But for us it was important that not only our closed group be able to watch this video but also everybody who was interested in them, so we uploaded them into a blog provided by KulturKontakt Austria. As well, the schools presented the videos at different events at the schools themselves. These events were planned individually by each school.

Final event in Vienna, Austria after finalising the videos

Austrian media followed our process and made a film about the event:


Additional products



·Cultural exchange


What could be interesting for other schools:


TV film:

Newspaper article:


The end product was the main motivation of all participants; the students put so much effort into their products. It can be seen how the students experience their daily life at school as well as their free time and which parts they chose to show you.


Enjoy our videos and get to know our students' daily life!


Find out what the similarities and differences are between free time in Ukraine and Germany or between school life in Bor and Vienna.


Free-time activities in Ukraine (Secondary School No. 8, grades I-III, Odessa)

Part 1:


Part 2



School Life in Ukraine (Secondary School #8, grades I-III, Odessa)


Part 1


Part 2


Part 3



Life at School, Bor (Economy and Trade School)


Life After School, Bor (Economy and Trade School)


School Time in Germany (Ferdinand von Steinbeisschule)


Free Time in Germany (Ferdinand von Steinbeis Schule)


Free Time in Vienna


Part 1


Part 2


School Life in Vienna:



Contact information:

Victoria Spanier:

Irina Stefanovic:

We have also been using the videos in another class when we teach cultural differences and understanding. It is a nice effect to show the students videos that were made by other kids their age. So keep on using the videos! 

Another possible ongoing project might be a pen friendship. It would maintain  the contact between the schools in different classes, if started early enough; the young people would be able to build up nice relationships.

A good result of a pen friendship is an actual exchange, with meetings between the schools. Of course it is not possible to meet each school every school year, but this can be rotated. Due to the rotation it would be possible to visit each school once every three years, then  start again from the beginning.

These videos might be the start of a mutual understanding before the first contact. In these exchanges, it would be possible to see further aspects of cultural dialogue and expand knowledge.


1.Pupils' view:

In the students' opinion, there should have been more contact between the meetings. We tried to stimulate the feedback on our videos but it was quite hard to achieve this goal. We never had thechance to have all classes online at the same time, otherwise we would have done a video conference or something like that. Facebook alone wasn't enough to have detailed conversations.

The idea of meeting new people  was of great importance for the students and considered to be a lot of fun. One pupil said: “It was great because I met new people.” During the whole project the students seemed to have  fun and enjoy being part of it. “It was a great experience to use English not only in school and to communicate with people from other countries.”

Some of the students had the feeling that the film only showed what everybody really wanted to show, but sometimes didn't show the real life in each country.

The young people were really happy to have a visible result. They were able to present their films and compare them with the others.
They enjoyed the necessity to speak English and to improve their language skills, as well as getting to know other cultures and cooperate, which included teamwork and its significance to achieve set goals. “The project was a huge and beautiful experience. I'm glad that I met many people and I'll remember them all my life. All the workshops were interesting and I learned a lot! Especially, I'll remember my friends from Cluster B, because we had a great time together!!” They also recognised the help of external partners. They learned how important it was to have specialists giving them information and insight into a topic, even if they thought they already knew everything.

It was important for them to develop their mutual communication and improve their public presentation skills.

This was one of our main targets; they had to deal with different ways of working and thinking. It was a huge effort for them to respect every idea and to find a good compromise. Presentations were one method practised and demanded during the whole project.
The students were so motivated that they had too many ideas and it was hard for them to select the right ones. Sometimes the time seemed to be too short, but they always managed to create a complete and good product. This was a good way to teach time management and delegate tasks.

“Very inspiring project for those who want to continue learning English at colleges. Thanks to everyone who made this project so memorable!”

The students  not only learned to work together on a project and communicate between cultures, they also developed in other areas, e.g. IT knowledge (making and cutting videos), appreciation of their own culture and its wealth. Patience was one skill they needed to get to the higher level. This is a positive side effect we hadn't thought about before, but one that is very important for them in order to strengthen their personality and local bonding.

Being allowed to use social media was seen as an important advantage for implementation. This was one significant point in our planning; we wanted to have a platform that was easy to access and close to the students’ daily life.

Travelling to foreign countries was an extra bonus for the students, although not all of them were able to go; most of them seemed to be fine with it.

Having a huge responsibility was seen as positive. As mentioned in the beginning, this was one of our goals; we wanted the students to be a big, trailbreaking part of the project.

This shows the pupils at their last meeting: how they finalised their impression in a picture

And how they sent their feelings down the Danube to other potential groups.


2.Teachers' view:

Besides the comments we already added to the students' view, we were astonished by the lessons learned. The students had to deal with some problems and they always managed to find a good solution.

Issues we had were the motivation and the fair assignment of tasks. It was hard to keep the young people motivated for such a long project. In between there were some phases in which there was no conversation between the schools. Therefore we learned that this most meaningful part of the project should have been enforced more often. This would have kept up the motivation, but it was amazing to see that the young people always managed to activate their strengths and create these outstanding results.

Fair assignments weren't always possible; students who put more effort into the project were rewarded by being a part of the final event in Vienna. It would have been better if the role assignment had been done more precisely in the beginning, so that no student felt redundant or had the chance to lean back and watch the others working.

Teachers' opinion: “The whole project was great and all the students were so hard-working and enthusiastic and represented their schools as best they could. We are so proud of them!”



3.Possible changes to the project:


  • More participants within the real meetings


We weren't really confident that it was a good idea for only a few students to have the chance to go to the real meetings. It was hard to keep the students motivated, and being at the meetings brought a huge gain in cultural awareness and language. We think it is important to provide this chance for everybody.



  • Tighter timetable


The working and waiting periods between the different meetings seemed to be too long for the students. A shorter time between the meetings would lead to continuous and more stimulating work. With a tighter timetable it will be even more important to keep within the time limits.



  • Setting objectives


The objectives should be set at the very beginning of the project. We did it too late; the students and teachers weren't sure what was expected from them. It would have been easier for all of us if the overall conditions had been established earlier; this would have provided more time on the actual project.



  • Follow and demand deadlines


In future projects we think it would be important to stick to the project deadlines. Since so many schools and students work together, this would make it easier to coordinate mutual activities and no school would have periods without activities. The project goals could be achieved in each country at the same time and on different levels.



  •  Enforce communication

As a result of not finishing each step simultaneously, it was hard to implement a feedback culture; some students gave comments on the videos while others were still working on the videos and missed that part; faster schools had already started the next step. Therefore, a real dialogue between the cultures didn't really happen, although it was one of our main aims. It is of great significance to enforce this, giving comments and having the chance to discuss it in advance.


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