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Department to Create Open-Source Textbook and Materials

May 5, 2021

Faculty from the Italian and Italian Studies Department, in collaboration with Bryn Mawr and Haverford students, are creating an Italian-language open educational resource (OER) textbook with Haverford Pressbooks that will foster equity and inclusion by ensuring that all students have immediate access to a zero-cost learning platform for two semesters and by presenting a realistic, diverse picture of the Italian culture.

According to a recent survey data from the College Board, students spent more than $1,200 on books and supplies during the 2019-2020 academic year. During the pandemic the price of textbooks has been surging, and this has increased the financial burden, especially on BIPOC students, first year generation college students, and low-income students. Additionally, the vocabulary, language, and images most American and Italian elementary textbooks use today reinforce existing biases and stereotypes by presenting a conservative picture of Italian society, especially with regards to issues such as family, professions, gender, and race, says Professor Roberta Ricci, chair of the department. 

The Italian Department OER textbook will be free for all students to use and it will include authentic materials such as songs, film clips, commercials, and literary excerpts with subtitles and audible options to provide students with rich learning stimuli. The open-ended structure of the OER textbook will ensure that its content will remain relevant, as language instructors will be able to update the material to better reflect the issues of the time. The presentation of new vocabulary clusters will be organized to enable students to examine questions of diversity and inclusion starting from elementary language level onward.

"Students will have the opportunity to understand the transformations of 21st-century Italy and deepen their awareness of cultural variation through cross-cultural comparisons. They will get to know not only a culture of fine arts, major historical gestures, and great genius, but also testimonies of writers of color interpreting Italy, Italian women criticizing the male-centric view of society, and the ongoing debate on migration," says Chiara Benetollo, visiting assistant professor in the Italian and Italian Studies Department. 

The textbook will examine inclusivity issues in Italian language given its limits in regards to nonbinary genders, and will also include, and take into consideration, the differences between American sign language and Italian sign language.

To create the textbook, faculty from the Italian Studies Department will collaborate with external consultants as well as Bi-Co digital specialists. Additionally, thanks to the support of Haverford and Bryn Mawr Libraries, three undergraduate student assistants will be hired to collaborate on the project in the summer of 2021 and during the 2021-22 academic year. "Their contribution will be essential to creating the OER online platform and to shaping the textbook based on the needs of Bryn Mawr and Haverford language learners," says Ricci.

Ricci, Benetollo, and fellow faculty members Daria Bozzato and Alessandro Giammei are collaborating on the project and plan for the textbook to be ready for students to use by the start of the 2022-23 academic year.

Italian and Italian Studies