going back to week 5

One of the readings that touched me most out of what we had to go through in our journey as padawans is June Jordan’s Report from the Bahamas, 1982. As I am an aspiring researcher in the field of hospitality, Jordan’s article got me excited from sentence one: “I am staying in a hotel that calls itself The Sheraton British Colonial.”


Why does she say “calls itself”? (Hmmm, there must be something there..) She goes on describing an advertisement for the hotel that depicts a middle-aged black man (native?) in full upper scale waiter’s uniform, knee deep into the water, offering beverages with a smile. (Classic! I tell myself..) Then I find out why the “calls itself”: in an attempt to appear authentic, the hotel’s “page of history” preceding the welcome message completely fails to mention the Bahamian people, solely revolving the historical depiction around the “new world”. Going through the article, through the author’s stories and thoughts and fascinating revealed consciousness of race, and class, and gender identity, I cannot help but go back once more wondering at this field of hospitality of mine. We (hoteliers and restaurateurs) verbally commend diversity and proudly educate and “train for it”, because we are “a people intensive industry”. Yet we praise and nurture standards: of service (“service with a smile” being number one pretty much everywhere, by the way), and maintenance, and housekeeping, and luggage handling, and meals, and “quality”, and what not. So we teach diverse people how to become identical and how to put on smiling masks to please the customer, and never ever express personal value judgments. We declare that “the human resource is key”, yet we are amongst the top industries in terms of turnover.


Just like Jordan says, “the usual race and class concepts of connection or gender assumptions of unity do not apply very well”. Supposedly inventing standards to adhere by does however create connections, both amongst employees themselves and between employees and customers. It is all relative. But I do believe that no matter what field you are in, and no matter how strict the molding you have to fit in in order to “successfully perform” is, it is not so much “who you are” but rather, like Jordan says, “what you know and what you are prepared to do about what you know that is going to make you free”. So I remind myself to try to stay thirsty for knowledge for as long as possible, which I wish to you all!

going back to week 4

Going through some TED Talks this weekend made me remember Seymour Papert’s chapter we read for our 4th GEDI class from the Children’s Machine (Rethinking school in the age of the computer). In the early 90s, Dr. Papert was making the argument that computers represent a challenge to education values, particularly through the fact that video games that students play are filled with hard, complex information and techniques that are more difficult and time consuming to master than traditional homework. And yet students enjoy being intensely involved in learning rules and strategies of video games much more than working on traditional homework. The TED Talk one step further from Dr. Papert’s argument was given in 2010 by Jane McGonigal, a researcher at the Institute for the Future. Dr. McGonical tries to show how gaming can make a better world through the incentives to learn the habits of heroes and the means to save worlds that video games (especially online ones) provide:


Additional benefits of gaming were presented by Dr. McGonical in another TED Talk in 2012: “When we play a game, we tackle tough challenges with more creativity, more determination, more optimism, and we’re more likely to reach out to others for help.”

first tale from the trenches

Hello World! like they say here at WordPress..

I will keep this short and bitter-sweet as I’m trying to juggle feelings of overwhelm and panic attacks these days — last week of preparing PhD applications with one of those lovely standardized tests on top [The GMAT] scheduled for Friday – “yay”!

My biggest WOW last week was by far the “Digital Media – New Learners of the 21st Century” PBS video. I’ve been swirling around this thought/question ever since I made the decision to pursue graduate studies, never managing to actually put my finger on it and give it a tag, and then, on 2/3/13, I hear James Gee saying “..it clearly isn’t gonna work to have a population who can’t actually solve problems with their knowledge – so how do we get people prepared to learn in the future, for things that don’t even exist now?! And how do we prepare them to be able to innovate and solve problems, not just know a bunch of facts they can’t use?” (minute 9:20ish). Wow! There he said it! One of my biggest dilemmas too: “how do we get people prepared to learn in the future, for things that don’t even exist now?”. No idea! Yet! But hey, that’s why I’m here, and that’s why I want to stay here – really far from home – for that PhD.

I’m hoping that taking a Contemporary Pedagogy class will be more than my old-school-ness saying “So one of your questions is how to teach in the modern world. Hmmm… Contemporary pedagogy should provide the tools! And they have classes for that!!”.

The second (and third, and fourth,…) “wow” per the above-mentioned video (before I forget) were really all those amazing examples of contemporary education – I dare say AMAZING particularly because I shamefully have to admit I had no idea they existed. I mean, I heard of people using technology to teach before, but really, like that?? Game design for 12-year-olds? Scavenger hunt in a museum, with cell phones? Wohow!

Which reminds me of a different “wow” I had last week and I thought I’d share: A student in the 3000 level course I TA for here at Tech decided to fill in his written assignment using texting language instead of standard English. As in “UR hand” and “U have to”… And it was a wow for me because I had never seen it before other than on cell phone screens and maybe t-shirts? YOLO, LOL, right? Not so much..

Of course that in my puzzlement I took it to the course instructor who already has me taking points off for grammatical errors, and of course he went all Jules Winnfield and beyond about it. And of course I left the instructor’s office even more puzzled than I had entered. So, ok, it is not ok to turn in an assignment in texting English, check, but what would be an effective way of communicating that to the students without making them feel like they have to obey by some “old man’s rules”, and, more importantly, that the coating in which they put the information they find on their quest is not more important than the actual find?

Best thing I could do being pressed for time was to ask TED, and TED delivered: John McWhorter’s “A surprising new language – texting”. I thought something along these lines would do, at least to begin with, but do tell if you have other ideas!