Sunday, September 11, 2005

Reflections on the World-wide Web - a Beautiful Space for Expression

BEAUTY OF A SPACE FOR EXPRESSION CALLED WORLD-WIDE WEB

Ansel Adams once said, “Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution”. While former Filipino President Corazon Aquino talks about the freedom of expression - in particular, freedom of the press - guaranteeing popular participation in the decisions and actions of government, and popular participation is the essence of modern day democracy.

Modes of expression are many so are the means, yet we at many a times are constrained by a variety of resources. The modes of expression are many but the nuances, the subtleties and the moments of expression itself are intensely personal, self-realised moments. Most contributors to this beautiful planet have come to the fore through those personalised moments of expression. The human species with its multifarious behaviours has been an endless treasure trove of expressions. In these moments of expression lies a certain vitality, a life force, energy, a lightening, that is realised in those brief moments of expression. Yes, please agree with me and you will agree with me. Also any sustainable system also means giving back to the system. But, before the world-wide bed tread into the human habitat, expression as a means of giving involved a lot of resource. Technology in spite of not reaching the world equally, has never been as equitable as it is at this moment of time. It is now possible to encapsulate our expressions and project them into the satellites for the whole world to see, immaterial of the reader’s interest or acceptance of the content.

The expression on the web evolves on my term or in an individual’s term. This is, to me the most beautiful aspect of this beautiful space for expression on the web. And so the moments of expression on the web are very unique. Expression of our feeling is like breathing, the essence of life. And the web has served as the nervous system that facilitates the lightening dispersal of those beautiful encapsulated moments. Use of web is about an intuitive access, it is beyond browsing. It is about creation. It is about a fulfilling dream of effective people-to-people communication. It is about collaboration. It is about shared knowledge. It is about inspiration. It is about elevation of intelligence. It is about equality. Yes, there is no disclaiming about issues of equitable technology and social agreements. Yet it is a beautiful space. Is it not?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The "Walkabout Paradigm"

“Walkabout Paradigm” - Challenge and Excellence
Walkabout as I said in my previous blog is an Australian word. It is a legend among the aboriginals that every adolescent aborigine must spend about a year away from his community in the Australian out-backs and lives on the land. The fittest survives. He is accepted in the community only after the “walkabout” ritual. As educators, today each one of us has a challenge of shaping the learning of our learner. There is a need to build a learning experience that is based on “challenge and excellence” and that is life-long beyond the four walls of our campuses. Challenge is a easily accepted word, though excellence is not. Especially in the recent times the latter word, excellence has become a taboo in educators world on account of extreme pressure it brings upon the learner.
The concept of walkabout in the learning sphere is not new. Voices in this regard have been heard since the early 1970s. Maurice Gibbons, a Canadian teacher and later Professor at the Harvard put forth this paradigm based on an Australian Movie he saw in 1974. The movie was titled “walkabout”. The movie is about two urban children wandering into the outback by mistake. They come in contact of an aborigine who is spending his time in the outback, as part of his initiation to adolescence. Living with the aboriginal, the urban children learn a lot about skills, knowledge and in general demands of graceful living in trying conditions.
Neither is the walkabout paradigm inappropriate. By challenging the adolescent to attain excellence in the face of survival, the community demands the demonstration of knowledge and skills that will help him survive and thus contribute to his society. It also challenges the learner to live in isolation, away from his traditional support systems, thus allowing invaluable time for reflection and to sort out his anxieties with himself.
The challenge paradigm as well as the isolation involved in the paradigm is extremely contrasting from our traditional school system (in spite of being global schools). But the reality is that our learners do not have any chance to prove or demonstrate their knowledge and skills as they graduate from school/colleges to work places. Neither are our learners completely in tune with the sensibilities, knowledge, competencies and skills that are musts as they graduate in to their adult lives.
David Kolb speaks of four essentials that are a must for learning to occur: concrete experiences, reflective observing, and abstract concept-making and active experimenting. Some questions that we need ask ourselves here are:
o Do we provide enough opportunities for experiential learning?
o What kind of challenges as in walkabout can we provide our learners?
Can we get together and discuss this issue?. This is directly related to the issues faced by the global nomads and the third culture kids.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Reflections on the Global Nomad

Dear bloggers,

Unconditional apologies at the outset for not having put up material on time in the discussion board. I have included my views on the global nomad on this blog.

Just a brief introduction of the global nomads. Global nomads are those who spend a significant part of their early developmental years in foreign culture develop some sense of belonging to both the host culture and the home culture, while not having a sense of total ownership in either. Elements from both (or multiple) cultures are blended, resulting in the third culture. One of the most significant aspect of the global nomads is that they share the experiences of growing up in cultures that is necessarily not their own. Some of the strong points of a global kid are that he/she has strong multicultural skills, multi-linguistic abilities, enhanced world view, greater level of maturity. At the same time there are issues of rootlessness, impatience and restlessness to the host community, trouble with intimacy, loneliness and isolation, separated friendship and as a result tones of unresolved grief

The article by Mary Langford has churned my childhood memories afresh. My father worked for the Indian Army. His work took him to different parts of the country. As young ones, we did not have much of a choice and so hitch-hiked with him to different parts of the country. We always lived in communities that had representatives of all states. We shared flats with families that had different languages, practices and lifestyles. In spite of being a typical "Indian Kid", I am in many ways not very different from the global kids because I had always felt at times enriched and nourished by multiple cultures of our country, but at the same time feel rootless. I speak my mother tongue but cannot write or read. I am as good as any "luknawi" when it comes to communicating in Hindi. But I have been many a times found clueless both at home ground as well as in the larger space. When I look back, I realize strangely that, I do not have many friends. In fact, I can count my friends, only three real friends. Sometimes I get so engrossed with what is happening in the larger space that I seem to miss some very significant happenings at home. The struggle to find a common ground has been an eternal turmoil within me.

Today as an educator of a bunch of kids who come from a variety of international backgrounds, I see a similar struggle that is inching hard to strike a common ground between western influences or more specifically the western culture and Indian values. I do have a feeling that in the minds of our students the western values have become imprinted to almost a hallucinogenic intensity. The struggle to find a balance between the western and Indian values is having a turbulent effect on their lives. Most of the kids cannot communicate in their mother tongue. Neither do they use English language appropriately. As of the present they are rootless. They are yet to locate themselves and understand the space that they inhabit. But as an insulated community of kids with an "international outlook", they are extremely happy. This to me is the most frightening trend, for I do foresee a situation where our kids will shun, negate and deny the local lingo and culture, as it is not real to them. Over a period of time they might cocoon themselves in the comforts of a homogenous community of third culture kids. This situation needs a sensitive but urgent handling.
There are now dedicated organizations that try to bridge the gap between the kids who are constantly in international travel and their local culture. One of the many such globally recognized non-profit organizations is the global nomads group (www.gng.org). The global nomads group facilitates to keep the community alive to the issues of the world in general and third world in particular.

In this context I recollect a book that I read about the Australian aborigines. When an aborigine boy reaches adolescence, he has to go through a ritual termed as a walkabout. A walkabout is an aboriginal word. It basically, means an aboriginal boy, when he is growing up goes for a long walk, maybe for twelve months, and he doesn't see his family and he has to live off the land. He can't, he doesn't have money so he can't buy food, he can't buy anything, and he just hunts for food. Any learning community will benefit immensely with such exposures in life. As educators, I feel strongly that we should create opportunities to our kids wherein they can also explore and experience the larger world and learn to tide through the realities of time.

The contemporary world and time demands vision beyond the immediacy. In such a time and space multi-cultural skills, intercultural communication, linguistic ability, mediation, diplomacy, and the ability to manage diversity are critical. The global nomads have a great advantage are probably better equipped than any body else. The key is for the global kids to live their life, but not to the exclusion of other countries, cultures and peoples.For a global nomad, the world is the learning ground. Why snatch or deny that learning ground? Instead can we all build a matrix that will help them break away from the comforts of a homogenous community of third world kids who are with every growing day getting insulated. ,