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
I just had another student today who used a common trope that many, many students have used for describing themselves over the years: “I am not the academic type.”
This student had served in the navy for six or seven years before returning to the university. He said that he wanted to get a degree in electrical engineering, but he was worried that he may have lost his academic footing while he was away. A non-native speaker of English, at times it seemed as if he ascribed his anxiety to his language proficiency/identity but he said that he was not worried about his language per se when I asked him. This gentleman was, clearly, academically brilliant in my view. The problem: he somehow didn’t think he was even capable of catching up with the rest of his (regular, younger) peers. 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
It’s not surprising that the US is a leading competitor in international student enrollment, but if you start looking into the figures, some things are quite surprising. Here are some.
In 2010/11, the number of international students in the U.S. reached a record high of 723,277, with a 32% increase since 2000/01. (IIE, Open Doors Report, 2011). In 1955, this number was about 48,000! Currently, the tiny nation of Nepal, which is No. 11 on the world list for international students to the U.S.—plus, okay, my home country—sends about a fourth of that number of students every year; China alone sends almost three times as many students today. 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
To the diversity of ELT khuraks of this month, let me add a different kind of material, a few inspiring web videos, with some reflections and questions on the issue of education in our time.
As a teacher, I believe that we must not just go to class with a lesson plan but we must have a broader understanding of the goals of education, a sense of how our education relates to the challenges of the larger society as well as our students’ futures, and the willingness to engage our students in thinking about larger issues than the textbooks provide–whenever and wherever possible or appropriate.
Originally published on ELTChoutari. Continue reading
The world is one big choutari.
Yesterday I received a few emails from fellow editors and a revised article from a contributor for Choutari July issue, which I am assigned to put together, with support from my colleague Sajan Karn. My bus was leaving for Boston at 4pm, so I replied to the emails and left New York. On my way to Boston–where Ganga Sir is wrapping up his one year visit as a Humphrey scholar and where I am joining him and Hemanta Sir, who happens to be here at this time, for dinner–I was able to return the article with some minor editorial comments with a 24 hour turnaround time. On my way, I was also able to read about the training in Majuwa, Gulmi (which is my old home town) that Gopal Sir gave and also shared the update with us via Yahoo mailing list. It’s just amazing how much communication technologies have advanced around the world. But–
Originally published on NELTA Choutari here. 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