Posts tagged J-Stor

No More J-Stor, Just Moodle Today

Today felt like a Friday but with the hyper intensity of a Tuesday.  My adult learners worked hard in the computer lab for two and half hours.  They know they have to because they can’t get reliable computer access anywhere else except maybe at their school or at home.  Not everyone has computers at homes, especially educators who can’t afford a computer or the Internet connection.  I felt like we all needed a break so we all entered the chat room except two who were working on one of their assignments and couldn’t break away for even a little chatting by the virtual water cooler.

Okay, so the J-Stor gods are mad.  Apparently our university inundated the trial period so nix on that.  I had wanted my students to register and try out the trial period but anyone who registered on my computer yesterday couldn’t access today.  Too bad, back to Ebscohost and Oxford Journals that our library has already subscribed to.  Next week, we will have to do more work on their final portfolios.  Where is this semester going?  I think we are going into Week Six or is it Seven and we were only going to do ten weeks or is it 11?  I should know these things but my syllabus was thrown out the window after having to do nomadic teaching for the first three weeks.  Things are normalizing for all of us.

Well, I could not be prouder of some of my more prolific students.  “New Challenge,” who is on my blog roll, already got a comment from someone outside of our class.  That is always a heady experience when you have gotten the attention of someone besides your classmates and teacher. (It used to be just my Mom who would care enough to read my blogs in the early days)

This person who commented  on my student’s blog wrote that he was travelling through Kazakhstan and is VERY concerned about human trafficking.  I believe he and others are doing something about it.  So, the power of the Internet is helping make people more aware of what started out from a simple book titled “Two Kyrgyz Women.”  I’m glad there are those who care enough to come from a great distance to help these women escape their sad realities.

Thankfully these Kyrgyz women had their frightening and horrific stories to tell and someone who listened and wrote it down.  NOW, after my students read about these Kyrgyz women and finding out about their plight, well, the ripple effect is ever widening.  They are telling their students and more people in education are finding out about what is a very difficult thing to talk or write about.

I wish you could see all the insightful writings I see on Moodle written by my adult learners.  They are a part of the future wave of this great country of Kazakhstan, they are riding this tidal wave and hopefully bringing others with them.  What an exciting time to be living in this land of mystery and promise!

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More Moodle and J-Stor

Today I went through a checklist of assignments and reading activities with my Professional Development students.  I showed them where to upload their assignments on Moodle and also helped register them with J-Stor. I have given them a lot of hometasks and they are going to be busy in the computer lab tomorrow. They are aware that all assignments are due this Friday.  In the last week each student has made some progress in starting a blog with, getting more familiar with Moodle and now tomorrow, if they have time, they will learn about J-Stor.

The reason I want them to be familiar with J-Stor is that they will have to go back to their own research projects and find academic journal articles either from Ebscohost or from Oxford Journals.  They are finding out about how to read these kind of journals.  It takes time to read the material and sort out what the issues are to form a good thesis statement for their final paper. I’m hoping they are so passionate about their project that they won’t even care how much time they spend reading.

I feel like we are running out of weeks fast before the end of the semester. So late did we get our computer labs.  No complaints here, we had a good chance to visit the American embassy twice and Eagilik, Books and Coffee once.  I want to take one more field trip to American Corner at the National Library. We shall see if THAT happens.  It started to get cold so there was more than a nip in the air.  It was down right cold. In fact, Ken came in after about five minutes out this morning to put his long underwear on and put his liner back in his trench coat.  Duly warned, I put on extra layers as well.

So, soon I will be learning more from my students and their respective projects.  Note the names of the blogs on the link next to this, on the right column.  Okay, gotta hit the sack, I’m tired.

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Tired Leaves Over Snow Covered Grass

PB100113The sun is shining this morning after several days of overcast weather.  The surrounding areas look hopeful and clean. I should be feeling this way also after I gave an hour and half seminar last night about how to use electronic databases with my English teaching colleagues.  How nice to get positive, encouraging feedback from the participants after our session.  These Kazakh teachers all worked hard to try and follow what I was saying about Ebscohost, J-Stor and ProQuest.  Their students, as digital natives, catch on to this and are using these academic journals as sources for their papers.  I’m encouraged by my dear Kazakh students.  However, I do not feel hopeful or encouraged today, even though it is sunny.PB110120PB110124PB110123

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Two Worlds Have Come Together

Amazing what names of authors pop up while using the research databases such as J-Stor, EBSCOhost, et al. While helping my Ukrainian students with their research papers in Kyiv, Ukriane I ran across some very thorough writing about the Holodomor done by Dr. J. Otto Pohl.  Serendipitously, I met Otto last fall when I went to visit him and talk to his class in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.  He teaches history at the very university I taught at 15 years ago, back then it was known as Kyrgyz American University Faculty. The university has gone through several name changes since. 

Now Ken and I are teaching in Almaty while Otto is in Bishkek which is about a three hour drive away (counting the arduous border crossing).  Several days ago Otto wrote the following in his blog which fits with what I’ve been writing about concerning Ron Vossler’s writings.  The two researcher/writers have not met yet but have written and reviewed each other’s work in the past. 

Funny how my two worlds have come together with the people I meet simply because of knowing about the tragic event of the Holodomor. Maybe there are so few of us who really know the impact on millions of peoples lives of such a terrible event that happened 75 years ago. May it never happen again!

Displacement, Diasporas, and Descendants


Lately I have been reading and thinking a lot about diasporas. In particular I have noticed that many diasporas are the result of multiple displacements and thus have multiple homelands. The connection to the “original” homeland thus becomes attenuated considerably. The Afro-Caribbean diaspora in the UK is an example of one such multiply displaced group as are the Sephardic Jews expelled from Iberia.

The ancestors of the Russian-Germans now in Germany originally left Hesse, Baden, Wurttemburg and other states in Central Europe to the Russian Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries. In between their initial settlement in the Russian Empire and the migration of their descendants to Germany in the 1990s these families often experienced as many as five or six displacements. For these people homeland has variously referred to not only Germany, but also to areas in the Russian Empire and USSR. These homelands have ranged in size from individual villages to the entire Russian Empire. For most of the Tsarist era the primary geographical identification of most Russian-Germans remained on the local level of the village. But, other larger geographical affiliations also developed and co-existed with this identification. On the largest scale, most Russian-Germans considered themselves loyal subjects of the Russian Empire and later loyal citizens of the USSR.

Exactly how various Russian-Germans have over the course of generations viewed themselves variously as villagers of Norka, Volga Germans, Soviet Germans, and Russian-Germans would be an interesting subject to research. The existence of multiple geographic identifications due to both the displacement and modernization of internal diaspora groups in the USSR would make a fascinating comparative study. How for instance do the Russian-Germans differ from the Russian-Koreans in their emotional connections to specific territories?

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My “Soap Box” about Teaching Research Papers!


The mournful wail of a Kazakh student living in England grabbed my heart the other day.  I was talking on the phone to this student, (let’s call him Zed) who was under great pressure to accomplish a major economics paper of 48 pages for his “dissertation” for a bachelors degree.  He wailed, “But I don’t know HOW to write a research paper!”  I’m not sure which university Zed was attending in London, it doesn’t matter, the important thing is that Zed was sent abroad ill equipped to accomplish what was expected in his economics department. 

Obviously, Zed hadn’t plagiarized much after looking over the text where all the articles were missing.  Zed also kept mixing up the irregular verbs of “lead” when he meant “led” in the past tense or writing “felt” when he meant “fell.”  Zed also used personal pronouns of “I” or “we” and used contractions such as “can’t” and “let’s.”  All considered errors if writing a major research paper for his British profs, especially if this is to be considered his “dissertation.”  I still can’t get over that phrase but that is what Zed kept calling it.  The title of his paper was: “Discuss the factors behind the 1992-1996 recession in Russia.”  An interesting enough topic to me since it could have parallels to what happened in Kazakhstan once the former Soviet Union fell apart.  The following is his 98 word abstract which I helped clean up:

“Currently the world community has met yet again the problem of crisis when some countries of the former Soviet Union started to experience the first steps of recession. This paper will specifically consider the past experience of Russia. When the post-Soviet republic was dismantled from the Soviet Union, it implemented reforms to move from planned economy to market economy.  However, that implementation brought the country to deep recession during a period of  6-7 years (from 1992-1996). Reasons and consequences of Russia’s recession are discussed in the paper along with the vision of political and economic processes being analyzed.”

The main problem with Zed’s text was that he did not use any in-text citations but footnotes instead.  I asked Zed over our crackling cell phones what formatting style he was using, he claimed he didn’t know.  I tried to see if his footnotes of sources matched what was in his bibliography, in some cases they did not.  The Bibliography often did not have authors’ names or if it did, they were not even alphabetized properly.  Zed had numbers next to each source up to 70 citations.  Remarkable and the bibliography had the appearance of being thorough research.  However, out of curiosity, I asked my teaching colleagues the next day about this numbering and they said in the Soviet period it was considered correct to number your sources and if you had at least 50 of them, then you were fulfilling the research requirements.  Back in those Soviet days, that meant books and not just short journal articles or Internet sources.

Another thing that was notable about Zed’s references was that he was using many Internet sources without showing authors names, where it was retrieved from and when he retrieved it.  When teaching my own composition students, I work around that problem by not allowing the use of ANY Internet sources especially since there is not usually an author’s name attached to it.  Too much junk science is on the Internet.  That is why I insist my composition students learn how to access the electronic research databases. 

If only our dear students knew that all the work has already been done for them to access the thousands of journal articles that their university has paid for through research databases such as EBSCOhost, ProQuest and J-Stor.  In some cases, someone has taken the time to scan every page, just the way it looks in the actual journal that was published on a specific date, in a particular place.  True scholarship acknowledges author, time, name of article, name of journal and page numbers.  Internet sources at the bottom of the page, such as , just doesn’t quite do it for me.  I didn’t check to see if the nine or so URL links of Zed’s were accessible to me since I had the electronic version of it.  I was too busy straightening out his grammar problems of articles, personal pronouns and irregular verbs.  To Zed’s credit, he had used his spell checker, because there were very few spelling errors until the last several pages of his paper.

One last thing that was discouraging about Zed’s economics research paper was the use of graphs and tables, he did not make reference to them in his text except to say “the table below.”  I cautioned Zed that he must be specific by writing in the text “Table 6” or “Figure 4.”  Besides that, I’m not sure where he got his material except cutting and pasting from the Internet.  These graphs and tables were obviously not his own work but he did not “fess up” where he got this material that was supposed to buttress his points he was making throughout his paper.

I felt sorry for Zed and the fact that he probably had several teachers in London who had marked up with red ink his earlier shorter, written assignments until they bled.  His English teachers have probably already written him off as “unteachable” when it comes to writing.  Admittedly, for this Kazakh student, English is his second or third language besides knowing Russian (he used about seven Russian sources in his paper but did not translate them in his footnotes).  I would strongly differ with Zed’s teachers that he is not able to learn the proper way to write a research paper, it just takes time and patience.  Zed and other Kazakh students like him, should not be beaten down for not knowing how to write in English, they should be encouraged.

I believe strongly that if the composition students are taken through the myriad of steps on how to access information and if they have an insatiable curiosity about their subject, it will seem like a wonderful and exciting project to them.  Just going through the motions and trying to fulfill the superficial “regulations” of having a thesis statement or topic sentences throughout the paper with proper citation format will make the students HATE writing a research paper.  I will not forget for a long time the sad voice in England who claimed “But I don’t know HOW to write a research paper!”  It seems my life mission is to change students’ voices into a happy “I’m so excited with what I found, I want to SHARE it with you!!”

As a composition teacher, I want to read good papers instead of seeing it as a task of drudgery.  I always maintain that if you are bored at teaching something, the students are bored at listening to you. If you are not enjoying teaching research papers, the students will not enjoy it either.  As teachers, we need to find out what painful steps we are expecting of our students by doing the assignment first ourselves, rather than making them do all the work.  However, if we allow plagiarized papers to come at us as the end result, we have also not done our job as teachers.  The students will go into their other classes at university or study abroad and not able to do the papers expected of them in their other course work.  Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now.






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“Desperate for Relevant Journal Articles!”

My Minnesota friend Erik came to talk to about 25 of the English teachers and some of the librarians yesterday.  He focused his talk about his own research concerning Kazakh proverbs while living in Kazakhstan since 1995 and more recently he has been writing his doctoral dissertation.  Thus, the title of Erik’s talk showed the limited material found in Kazakhstan and his attempt to find credible, scholarly articles having to do with Kazakh proverbs.

Erik first showed the importance of having a good bibliography by giving examples and reasons.  First of all, the last page of ANY research paper shows you have done your homework with good keyword searches.  Second, a bibliography helps you and others with future research if tracking on a similar topic.  Finally, it provides opportunities for networking with like-minded individuals.  Erik gave an example of seeing someone’s name (Gibbs) pop up over and over again in several journal articles that were of interest to him.  In several cases, Erik has gone directly to different scholars’ websites and contacted him or her to get more information from them.  In a community of true scholars, it is part of “good faith” to share material with fellow researchers.

Amanat” is entrusted to Kazakh researchers in the social sciences which was mentioned by Erik.  These fortunate few are endowed with the high responsibility to show their background work in research and their bibliographies.  Those given the “Amanat” title are obligated to show the history of their reasoning in order to provide a legacy for future Kazakh researchers.  Otherwise, if a sufficient or accurate bibliography is NOT shown, others are forced to “reinvent the wheel” in the future.  Erik emphasized that if bibliographies are properly shown, then future researchers who build their papers don’t have to reinvent some of the same sources but rather expand on what has already been established.

Erik used an appropriate quote which comes from a 1676 letter written by Sir Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants.”  Newton essentially was successful because of the prior work done by those scholars who had gone before him because they had documented it for him to check out.  So too in Kazakhstan, articles published about this land can expand and grow if the body of literature is enlarged by other Kazakh scholars helping each other with information gathering.

Erik also said that baseline level information searches can happen with a simple Google search or even with Google Scholar.  Also, other discipline specific search engines may help but it is easy to get lost in the forest of all the information that shows up in Internet dictionaries and encyclopedias.  Besides that, it is not considered legitimate work that has been fact checked.  Whatever is on the Internet could be here today but gone tomorrow.  Usually it is not credible and also not reliable.  Good, honest research demands those two elements if it is to stand up to the test of time.  Erik further explained that is why academic, peer reviewed scholarly journals give you the particular trees you are looking for rather than getting lost and wandering around in the forest. 

Erik had illuminating examples on the screen from EBSCOhost even though he has been very familiar with the same keyword search techniques by using J-Stor this last year.  He introduced what Boolean searches were with simply using AND (essentially done for you with an “Advanced Search”) He showed a Vinn diagram with “proverbs” in one circle intersecting with another circle with “animals.” What showed in the middle section is the refinement of information you want to get to.  Erik claims to have saved about $3,000 by not having to pay for journal articles but by using J-Stor’s electronic, journal articles.  Erik also explained the need for various limiters and keywords such as when he just typed in the word “proverbs” he got 2,665 articles.  However, when he typed in “Proverbs” AND “meaning” or when he typed “Proverbs” AND “intergenerational,” he got far fewer articles but more specific to his chosen topic.

I hope the teachers appreciated Erik’s helpful tips on keyword searches with electronic databases but I was most impressed with the Kazakh folktale book he and his wife authored which he gave to each person who attended this “Teacher-Researcher Workshop.”  He emphasized that it did NOT have a bibliography at the back because it was not considered a scholarly book but a record of folktales which is considered public domain.

The challenge remains for each English teacher who teaches writing to their Kazakhstani students, they must teach their students how to search wisely, document with their working bibliography, read the articles, and finally write their paper in the required format of APA style.  Much to learn about the PROCESS of writing but I think our students are up to the task, they have been given the charge by President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan to work diligently and study hard.  To my mind, that means to write about Kazakhstan despite the dearth of information about this country simply by using the plethora of journal articles that are already written and housed in the electronic databases.  Eventually, Kazakh students will not be as desperate as Erik had been before he started using electronic databases of necessity to find relevant journal articles.

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Computer “illiteracy” is NOT about grammar!!!

Lately the vocabulary list to my teacher’s reportoire has been “Keywords” and “research databases.”  For years I’ve been instructing first year composition students on the virtues of “thesis statements” and “working bibliographies.”  One of the students whose thesis statements I checked yesterday, while conducting classes in the library’s Computer Lab, was writing on the topic of “computer illiteracy.”  She had inserted in her thesis statement, without having done any exploratory searches on EBSCOhost, ProQuest or J-Stor about how grammar is not being used correctly while using the computer.  Oh, does she have a LOT to learn when it comes to what real “illiteracy” is about.  Essentially, it is not about grammar but about properly using the computer tools to GET to the original journal sources.  “InfoLiteracy” is all about knowing how to access the exact information that you need from scholarly, peer-reviewed journals.  (Caveat:  I don’t agree with all journals and their thrust but at least there is an author’s name next to the article titles, whereas you won’t often find that on the Internet by doing a simple Google search.)

I’m having an American friend of mine give a talk next week titled “Desparate for Relevant Articles in Kazakhstan!” He did beta testing for J-Stor years ago since he knew he needed to access information for his doctoral program while living in Central Asia.  He has lived in Kazakhstan for 12 years and knows the Kazakh language.  He is deeply invested in the life here and knows painfully well that it is too difficult to bring books or journals to the “ends of the earth.”  The next best thing is to read information that others have authored on any given topic on your computer.  This means that it has nothing to do with grammar and everything to do with spelling the keywords correctly while reading material so you can get better ideas for even better, informed searches. 

Obviously the teaching methodology of post-Soviet teachers still embraces grammar and translation based instruction when teaching English. However, when teaching computer skills, it is all about taking risks while making mistakes on the computer.  You learn by doing.  So too with being literate in English, it should mean being able to read and write.  That is only accomplished by DOING!  Learning to talk means taking risks and sorting out the grammar but TALK!!!

Therefore, I’m excited to see the eyes of many Kazakhstani students opened up to the world beyond their borders of Kazakhstan and to witness that they are eager to learn.  Once they see that they can be “literate” with accessing information from the research databases, I’m hoping they will be literate enough in English to write about their wonderful country so that others from the outside will know what a great land this really is!!!

So, to the Kazakh teachers who remain “computer illiterate,” they do so to the detriment of their students who are like sponges and want to learn.  These same teachers are usually the same ones who turn a blind eye to plagiarism.  This disease will dissipate if they get their young charges turned on to the power of using strong “keywords” and finding topics they are passionate to read about and then write on as it relates to Kazakhstan.  A dearth of information about Kazakhstan prevails because noone is writing about it.  Those best to write in English about this country are Kazakhstanis who know Kazakh AND English!!!

Some of the dissenters who are against the forces of “InfoLiteracy” would have held the “Industrial Revolution” at arms length if they lived back in those times.  Computer literacy is NOT about grammar but about knowing how to access key information!!!  InfoLiteracy will not be going away unless someone pulls the plug on all our computers world wide. 8)

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