Posts tagged Virtual Classroom

Nazarbayev – “Nightingale Cannot Do Without Woods”

Yesterday we finished our third day of “Virtual Classroom” with Language Center teachers doing keyword searches on the electronic databases provided by our university library.  Five questions were part of the Treasure Hunt about known authors from our university and about nine people e-mailed their answers to me.  The quickest was Olga and as winner she received the latest edition of the Turabian style book.  The consolation prize of an MLA style book went to Claudia who found the article on SpringerLink of an administrator who had an article published in a physics journal in December of 2000.


We ended our “Teacher-Researcher Workshop” with a panel discussion with three professors from our university, one in Public Administration, the second from Political Science and the third from Economics.  Each helpfully contributed something to over 40 Kazakhstani teachers.  The first talked about writing being the “Queen of Rhetoric” or communication, it involves all the thinking skills.  This public administration professor felt fortunate to have had a very good writing teacher in his undergraduate class which helped him in his subsequent classes and even now in his publishing articles. 


Our second panelist from a political science perspective has great empathy for what we do as writing teachers for first year students.  He advised to stick with ONE style of writing research papers.  At the very least let the students know there are as many formatting styles as there are journals.  It seems that most of the professors on campus prefer Chicago or Turabian with footnoting or endnotes and NOT the APA style we have enforced on our fledgling first year writing students.  He also stated that American high school students have an edge over our Kazakhstani students because they have already been exposed to research papers.  Unfortunately, our students don’t have that writing background when they enter our western-style university.  He recommended that we prepare the students in the first year on how NOT to plagiarize so that the upper division courses don’t have to focus on that but devote more time on the conceptual ideas of each students’ paper. 


Our third panelist from economics stated that “Writing is Thinking and Thinking is Writing.”  Being a writing teacher is a difficult position to fulfill all those expectations. He knows that in the U.S. it is the most arduous for administrators to fill writing courses with qualified teachers. With all other teaching assignments, such as speaking, listening or grammar, the teacher conducts the class and leaves whereas the writing teacher conducts the class with the same contact hours but also has hours and hours of correcting papers afterwards.  No one wants to invest that kind of time into a course and be paid the same amount of money, unless they are convinced it is for the betterment of their students.  Clearly writing teachers in the western universities are not IN IT FOR THE MONEY!!!


One Kazakh teacher, during the Q&A time, lamented on how to make writing seem less like punishment to the students.  She claimed there are so many rules on writing a research paper and felt there is so much pressure and tension to get all the rules correct.  Her students wailed they did not want to take another semester of a writing course as has been suggested.  Yet another teacher responded that her students were very enthusiastic about writing because of all the options available with the research databases and other Internet cites that help make it easier and more enjoyable. In a group of 40 teachers, there is a vast array of skills, experience, level of curiosity and time commitment involved with the teaching of writing.


My last comment to all who were gathered yesterday is that we have to guide and suggest topics with our students that are of interest to them.  I believe we need to hover over them from the very start when they are experimenting with thesis statements.  Especially do young students need help with English synonyms for keyword searches once they start looking for journals on the electronic databases.  Bottom line for us as teachers, we need to help the students in the PROCESS of writing from first draft, second draft to final version in order to have good papers to read.  If we are enjoying the process and discovering along with them, the students will ultimately enjoy writing too. 


Therefore, I would recommend that the Kazakhstani students have a required three semesters of writing at our university instead of only one semester so that they can discover their own voice. Most all western universities have two semesters of writing courses for their incoming freshmen students. I strongly suggest first semester would be very informal writing with narrative, descriptive, compare and contrast essays, topics the students would really enjoy writing about.  The second semester would be more discursive, cause and effect, argument and problem and solution.  Finally, the third semester would be the most formal writing with a research paper, fully preparing them for other coursework that expects written essays.  Instead we are expecting our first year learners, who do not have English as their first language and have NO writing experience in high school, to immediately write like an academic in a short 15 week course!!! That is definitely a recipe for disaster and no wonder some of the students end up hating writing and feel desperate enough to plagiarize even though there are red flags all over the syllabus to NOT plagiarize!!!


One final thought I’ll end with a Kazakh proverb, “Nightingale cannot do without woods, man cannot do without Motherland.”  The country of Kazakhstan will fall behind in achieving its goal of being one of the top 50 countries by 2011 if corners are cut in the most supreme of communication —writing! If the Kazakhstani students are not given a voice, as the nightingale has such a lovely voice, they will not be able to articulate to the rest of the world what a great country Kazakhstan


To be a global player, President Nazarbayev realizes and knows that computer technology and learning to write in English is one of the ways to success.  Why else has President Nazarbayev written so many books in English?  I believe Nazarbayev, as a true leader, is that nightingale singing for the good of his country.  Will other Kazakhstani writing teachers follow him?










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Photos of Two Events on Campus

teachersKen and teacherspeytonstudents 

The photos are two entirely different events scheduled simultaneously on the same campus with two unlike groups of people, teachers and students.  My dear husband Ken shared in the Teacher-Research Workshop, to almost 40 Kazakhstani teachers, his experience as an economics teacher getting students to write short papers without plagiarism.  Simultaneously I went over to the big hall to hear all the rules 250 Kazakhstani students need to know before they go to the U.S. on a Work and Travel program in about a week.  Both sessions were dealing with rules not meant to be broken!


The following are reactions by a few of the teachers to yesterday’s blog about the “Virtual Classroom.”


How did the ten quotes from your teacher colleagues about IT [Instructional Technology] make you feel? – use three adjectives


Wistful, somewhat old, pessimistic


Everyone understands that virtual classroom is contributive, practical and a bit challenging as it involves IT in itself.


practical, up-to-date, challenging


not new, actual, exciting to put into practice

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Ten Quotes from “Virtual Classroom” Favoring IT!!!

1) Choosing the job of the teacher, the person “signs the contract” to be an eternal student, so if you want to be on the same wavelength with a new generation, the teachers have to get the latest knowledge. Today, the applied (or probably basic) skills and knowledge of any subject is IT [Instructional Technology].



2) “keep practicing as “practice makes perfect” and I really believe that  my future students will benefit more if I’m equipped with IT knowledge and willing to share it with them.     


3) Very useful, interesting web-sites which I have never heard about before.

I have looked through only some of them, but …. a lot of positive emotions and impressions. 


4) I think that more information about IT, more practice and help from specialists can help me to improve my learning for tomorrow. The informational technologies are developing and updating every day. And the possibilities which they can provide us with in the process of learning and teaching are unlimited. That’s why it is obligatory to be not behind the time and the time demands from us to be information literate. And so computers can lead us further and help to keep pace with the development.  I’m sure that learning more on computers will be important for my future students, because computers, especially internet, can make a great contribution into long, amazing and challenging process of learning and IT can make this process really exciting.   


5) The Dave Sperling’s Cafe was the most exciting thing for me today, because I have not visited this site before.  It was a bit frustrating (but mostly it was funny, not frustrating) to get a low grade for typing test. 


6) Everything is computerized now and we can get a lot of benefits from using IT, as a result our students can learn more from us.


7) The only way to improve is MORE PRACTICE!!!  Computer literacy is ABSOLUTELY necessary if one wants to use electronic sources that can provide loads of helpful information, process it, store it and use it in class.


 8 )  Why is learning more on computers important? It is an essential tool for all spheres of human life, and more precisely for teaching: wider scope of resources, many ways of improving certain skills, accelerates processes, time-saving, etc., etc.  I also see important that students see I handle this tool, nowadays it is essential in any professional sphere. It also creates empathy: they see you updated, belonging to their reality.


9) The more students know about computers, the higher their points are, consequently, after graduation, the larger their contribution into the Kazakhstani economy is, as a result,  the more proud of them I will be,   ….


10) Learning on computers can take less time, create students’ own knowledge, push for research, help to find references and easy to find materials.

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Today’s “Virtual Classroom” in Kazakhstan

Our Kazakhstani teachers in the Language Center will have three days of professional development workshops which should be exciting for me and the 30-40 teachers who show up to learn.  Some have already signed a “Contract of Involvement” of what they want to accomplish in our “Virtual Classroom” since they all have varying degrees of skill levels with the computer.  I think they will be thrilled to be learning for two hours at their own computer going at their own pace. 

I was happy to find a typing tutorial and speed tests for 1 minute up to 5 minutes.  Some of the teachers will want to practice that, others will be VERY ecstatic about using the URLs to build thesis statements and also outlines!!! It is similar to the Citation Builder where you put in the information and then the computer works it all out for you in either MLA or APA formatted style.  Pretty soon we will give computers our ideas and opinions and it will spit back a fully cited essay, plagiarism free!!!  Just kidding, but it is fun to have such a fantasy outside the box in our virtual classroom. 8)

For my powerpoint presentation this morning for the teachers, I’ll be using many quotes from President Nazarbayev’s latest book titled The Kazakhstan Way, just out as of this year by a London publisher, Stacey International.  The following are quotes of Nazarbayev’s that I’ll use from his Afterword under the heading titled “Education and National Identity.”

p. 327 When speaking of the nation’s competitiveness, it should not be forgotten that competitiveness is, first and foremost, about making the most of one’s advantage.  However, before we can identify them, we must first understand who we are…


And in the twenty-first century it is to give life to individuals of a particular caliber, and generate new ideas.  The skills of the steppe mentality we have inherited in our genes perfectly reflect the global trends of mobility and systemic organization.  Nomads were always mobile, and all their actions, seemingly incomprehensible at first glance, always conformed to the set cycles of the weather and principles of social mutual relations.


The concept of ‘lifelong learning’ that places emphasis on continual education and the regular refreshment of personal skills is embedded in the field of education worldwide…


National baggage should not hamper the integration of the Kazakhstani younger generation in the field of general education worldwide, or reduce their competitiveness.


Every Kazakhstani should have a sense of his own worth and take responsibility for his actions and life.  Learning to assess a situation in an analytical and critical manner and taking key decisions, being able to work creatively with information, including the latest IT – that’s what really counts.


p. 328 The shortage of creative people sure of their potential and abilities to take worthwhile risks may be the greatest obstacle in Kazakhstan’s way to developing a science-based economy.


p. 329 Kazakh saying “Try to master seven languages and know seven sciences.”


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