The 27th Letter of the English Alphabet

It was the very first week of my teaching at Pinewood English School in Butwal, about 15 years ago. I had just given classwork to my Nursery class and was going around to see how individual students were doing. One little boy, named Ankit, called me: “Sir, here come na.” (he had been a ‘boarder’ for a year, so he already had an impressive range of pidgin English expressions to communicate with). ‘This what?’ he asked, showing me a strange drawing on his notebook that looked like the letter G with three arms added to the right side! I said, “I don’t know.” He looked in my eyes, smiled, and then said, “Tell na!” With me sitting there realizing the difficulty of the situation, Ankit repeated his question for a while, along with strong gestures and the sweet voice of a four year old, “Umm, tell na, sir”! I finally ventured an answer, “That’s nothing”.

Ankit looked at me, smiled very brightly and with a visible sense of gratitude, and said, “E, nothing”! Then he went on to draw the same shape once again, and showed me: “Look, sir, this nothing”!

To this day, I remember Ankit and the 27th alphabetical letter in English that he invented and forced me to name. That has been the most unforgettable moment of respect for the kind of creativity that kids like Ankit demonstrate, which I am often afraid I have inadvertently stifled for 15 years. ‘Am I banking or am I not?’ is a serious question.

Teacher’s Anecdote (Nelta Choutari Jan 09)

Freire’s Ideas (intro to reading)

This was possibly my first blog post–or at least it was the first serious thing I wrote on a professional blog (the NeltaChoutari). This was an attempt to prompt some conversation by introducing Freire’s ideas about education among English language educators in my home country Nepal. Just sharing here on my personal blog by using the “reblog” tool…

Navigating Cultural Technologies

The first two weeks of June, I am attending the summer institute Digital Media and Composition at the Ohio State University. For the final “digital book” project, I am planning to focus on the issue of how we learn and use ICTs, how we transition and make use of previous knowledge/skills to learn new technologies, and how we navigate cultural/epistemological worldviews that undergird the technologies that we learn and use.

In particular, I am interested in the way people view, understand, use, or assimilate into new ICTs when the new means and modes of communication have little resemblance to those that they have used in the past. Although culturally alien or radically new means or mode of knowledge-making create anxiety and learning curves, people with relatively little background knowledge or skills in new ICTs often seem to be more willing to invest great efforts, expect and accept more difficulty, and explore new affordances of new technologies further than people who have stronger background knowledge and skills. For example, when a person who has never owned/used a land phone will complain less about how cell phones infringe on privacy, influence social relations, and change the “natural” pattern of their life; while it is certainly important that overlapping skills and common grounds behind the two technological constructs (like voice mail box, or answering machine) will no doubt facilitate the learning of cell phone skills for the land phone user much better in some ways, the person who starts off with the cell phone might explore and use new affordances better because expectations, habits, and attitudes don’t hold them back (text messaging, call history, web access, and the wide range of tools and settings).  read full post…