Hotel Sindoor was the venue for the first-ever teacher training event that I attended, some time in 1994. I had just started teaching, right out of high school in conventional terms (after Intermediate college in Nepal).
Among other things, the trainers covered “how to use the blackboard effectively”: 1) make sure that students can see what you are writing while you are writing, 2) speak the words as you write, 3) pause and teach instead of continuing for long stretches, 4) ….
That training made me think for the first time that teachers are not people who have completed learning! The fact that a seemingly straightforward act like writing on the chalk board had so much to learn about inspired me to go to more and more training events in the years to come. I have since tried not to miss actual training sessions, orientations, norming sessions, guest lectures, brown bag discussions, emergency meetings, reviews, etc. Indeed, since the training at Hotel Sindoor in 1994, I have always considered any part of department meetings, hallway conversations, email exchanges, difficult class periods, students facing or posing special challenges . . . lunch/dinner or party conversation that bring up issues of teaching as a “teaching training,” for continued professional development. I take the “consider as training” view because the explicitly “training” events are few and far between when I consider how much more I have to know than just writing on the chalkboard, when I consider how dramatically the variety of students and variety of courses have expanded in my teaching career. Continue reading
I have been following a variety of news and discussions about the big MOOCs as a means of bringing millions if not billions out of ignorance, poverty, and lack of civilization around the world for some time. Lately, there have been far fewer people on the national scene here in the US who say the kinds of amazing things that they did until a few months ago about giving higher education an extreme makeover right here in America. But while the hype has significantly subsided on the local front, the MOOCery of higher education on the global front has been evolving into a mountain of BS. I usually tolerate or ignore the mind-bending lack of critical perspectives in the current discourse about educating the hungry masses out there, but after reading many news reports about a particularly interesting development in Rwanda today, I couldn’t help express some frustration once more.
What most bothered me was a news article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (a venue that I highly respect), which followed the pattern of a barrage of similar articles in less reputable venues; like everyone else, the writer of this article jumped on the bandwagon to essentially celebrate a group of entrepreneurs from “not” Rwanda with an utterly paradoxical vision to save that nation (plus the rest of the developing world).
As someone who has lived in some of those third world places, I found the whole project only slightly better than some of the educational scams that I have observed on the ground. Amazingly enough, in describing the Rwandan revolution in higher education, reporters on this side of the world have used words like “magic,” “game changing,” worldwide “waves,” and even “the turn” for the entire field of higher education. Continue reading
At the end of this summer, after reading a LOT of MOOC news and discussions and writing a lot in emails, blogs, and discussion forums, I almost promised myself to not write a word about MOOC anymore (at least for a year or so). But some of the more recent conversations have helped me learn and think about a few things that may be worth writing. Of course, I don’t mean that there’s nothing good about MOOCs. But the waters in the mainstream discourse about MOOC continue to be so murky that one wants to avoid catching frogs and water snakes when trying to catch pedagogical fish anywhere in the MOOC lake. Continue reading
I have taken or at least closely observed a few massive open online courses, or MOOCs, and I want to say out loud that in the case of my own discipline of writing studies, the teachers/scholars running them were wonderful. No, I’m not simply bragging about my own discipline, but like most writing teachers tend to be, the instructors whose courses I took were very thoughtful about students’ learning and in the case of the Ohio State University course, they also seemed highly aware of and sensitive to cultural/contextual differences that can affect students’ participation/success.
However, the more MOOCs I observe, the more it seems to me that no amount of awareness/ sensitiveness is going to be enough. The vastly different academic backgrounds, language proficiencies/differences, sociocultural worldviews, material conditions, digital divides, geopolitical realities. . . make MOOCs fundamentally a paradox. (For convenience, let us call these complex and multilayered differences and barriers just “differences” or “learner differences.”) Here’s why I call MOOCs a paradox: unless the objective of a course is to teach/learn about the differences themselves, trying to accommodate those differences will result in a mess, just because there will be TOO MANY of them in the MOOC setting. For instructors to be able to address enough of the differences, the courses will have to stop being massive, being open, and being asynchronous and online at the same time. That means there is a double bind between teaching effectively and accommodating for the many differences that affect learning. Or is it a hydra? Continue reading
. . . an extension from a previous post . . .
In the last post, I wrote about how I am catching myself making the odd excuse “What about Monday?” instead of finding and making connections among my research, new ideas that I learn at conferences or from reading, theoretical discussions on and off line, and the opportunities for engaging in/producing research and scholarship. In this entry, let me share how I am making, finding, and valuing such connections–which I encounter especially when I am working/talking with scholars within and beyond my local department and institution, on and offline. Continue reading
When we face uncomfortable situations or experiences, our impulse is to escape or overcome the discomfort. Whenever we can, we do not deliberately choose discomfort.
Yes, there are powerful theories and beliefs that uncomfortable experiences are useful. Teachers, preachers, motivational speakers, and parents—or people who don’t have to show what they mean by example—are the biggest advocates of such theories. “Get out of your comfort zone,” many dads will say, “In the end it is good for you”!
However, regardless of the theories (and lectures), the same fact remains: we rarely “experience” discomfort as a good or pleasant thing in the process itself. Continue reading
This is a response to Richa Bhattarai’s post about “annoying” language variations in Nepali English on her blog.
Richa, the examples of Nepalese English variations in your post are typical and funny. What really resonated with me is your framing of the write up in the introduction, because I feel the same way about the often silly language variations we hear/read from our fellow Nepali users of English. My position on the subject is that the standard of any language must be maintained, even enforced, where shared norms of spelling, words, and meaning have value and purpose (for example, you can’t land an airplane in an emergency if the manual is written with these kinds of language variations); however, I also think that language is used in millions of different contexts many of which don’t demand the same standard. So, let me share a more boring but perhaps necessary other perspective: there are sociopolitical, cultural, and other important issues about the “annoying” variations which are also worth thinking about. Continue reading
The New Knowers: : How Young People Subvert Socio-Epistemic Structures Through Participation in Popular Culture and Literacy Practices Online
I came home from school one day to find my father and uncle Padam sitting beside the beautifully decorated “muth” (a raised platform for the Tulasi plant in the front yard) that mom, sister and I had just built. I said “namaste” to the guest and stood on dad’s side. I had no plan to join the adults’ conversation, since that wasn’t appropriate for a mere twelve year old in a South Asian culture like ours, but when the grown-ups were completely wrong, I had to speak:
Uncle Padam: Brother, you have great artistic skills, you know. Look how beautiful that “muth” is!
Daddy: [smiles and continues smoking]
Me: No, uncle, dad didn’t build that. Mom did, and sister and I helped her decorate it.
Uncle: Hey, phuchche [little kid], don’t be a janne [knower]. Go to play.
I just came from a dinner at a neighbor’s where a small group of Nepalese intellectuals had a lively discussion about modern western science VERSUS traditional eastern wisdom on the subject of health. Mainly, a scientist entertained the guests with his interesting medical explanations of traditional folk wisdom/practices about health. If you have wondered about the “medical” reasons for men putting their janai over their ears while passing their bowels, you would love to hear this scholar.
In spite of the “interesting” quality of medical explanations, I was disturbed by the binary oppositions our scientist created between science and wisdom, west and east, and even modern and traditional. I found this disturbing because it is typical of a lot of Nepalese intellectuals to use AND reject science at the same time, to try to argue that science does not belong to us but “them”… this danger to the advancement of our own local epistemology is my issue here. Continue reading
Introducing the April issue of NeltaChoutari in 2009. Just reblogging…