September 3, 2018: Introduction, Digital Technology and Teaching

Department meeting, September 3, 2018

Since I forgot to introduce myself in the first blog, I will grab the opportunity and do it now. I am a Doctoral Student in English at the Department of Language and Communication Studies, University of Jyväskylä, placed in Vaasa. I am doing research on girl agency in  contemporary versions of the folktale “Little Red Riding Hood,” in written and visual modalities. If you are interested in knowing more about my research, please see my academic website Besides my doctoral studies, I have been teaching English part-time for three years. This fall, I will most likely teach a course called Popular Culture Texts.

In today’s session, Pedagogical Head Juha Jalkanen asked us to reflect on the subjects of teaching, academic content and digital technology. What are these and where do they intersect in our professional lives? As teachers, how do we approach digital technology (DT)?  What role does DT play in our teaching? How can we engage students, challenge them and support them in digital environments? We also discussed the benefits and drawbacks of contact teaching versus noncontact teaching. Is DT problems a symptom of white entitlement? The discussion we had worked as a platform without providing  clear answers to the questions because they will naturally vary from one person, context and course together with faculty and university to another. Nevertheless, it is important for teachers to engage critically with these type of questions in order to develop as teachers in the era of DT and Artificial Intelligence.

Using digital communication tools in teaching

Based on discussion task today, I’d like to share my small paper about using Slack for computer-mediated communication
to support higher education students’ peer interactions during Master’s thesis seminar
. (click the link to open the article).

In short, I am still struggling with finding the most appropriate tool for organising my courses and teaching. I’ve used to build my own website for a course, because then I can decide how the website looks and feels. However, things become complicated when students should communicate with each others, give feedback, or return tasks (e.g. PDF-files). Building dynamic websites manually takes much more time and is much more error prone. Thus, I’ve had to include Optima/Moodle/Koppa so that students can return their assignments. Using several different communication tools, however, is just not convient.

Meeting August 27, 2018: Banal Nationalism and Successful Interpersonal Communication

During the first course meeting, we were asked to reflect on what successful interpersonal communication is in the classroom together with how we see our and the students’ roles in this process. I will structure my first blog post around these questions. For the first question, my team concluded that the personal in the interpersonal makes interpersonal communication successful. That is, the ability to see the person behind stereotypical assumptions we all tend to have about different cultures. The lecture material and the discussion together with Ingrid Piller’s article “Intercultural Communication: An Overview” (2012) challenged us to see beyond stereotypical characterizations related to nationality, ethnicity, gender and class, etc.

These are often expressed through, for example, banal nationalism. Banal nationalism means the way a nation  and its members flag the national territory and group belonging in everyday contexts, for example, the use of flags, name-dropping and other symbols. For me, the level of banal nationalism is quite week in Finland compared to other countries, such as the USA that has a high level of banal nationalism. It will be interesting to see if my hypothesis holds true after I have completed the first course assignment, in which I will record my encounters with banal nationalism during one day,

Furthermore, Lecturer Malgorzata Lahti highlighted that while cultural stereotypes fill a purpose and can be good starting points in new student meetings, they also create otherness in the form of boundaries and differences, as well as disempower the students.

Next, I want to reflect on how I approach cultural stereotypes. As a teacher, I strive for openness, to meet my students as individuals and to adapt my teaching according to what I pick up in the classroom. In this way, I believe that I avoid most assumptions. However, after learning about how easy it is to slip into stereotypical cultural assumptions, from now on, I will be more self-critical and sensitive to these.

Second, when it comes to the the instructor’s role, two-way communication and openness are important elements in the classroom. It is also important in international classroom settings to set a common goal in order to create “sameness” and togetherness and to give very clear instructions regarding the course format and rules together with the instructor’s expectations on the students. By this, the instructor assimilates international students into the local academic working climate, which is natural to local students. Moreover, the instructor can also accommodate for students with limited English proficiency by repeating the most important information in different registers of English, such as academic and colloquial.

Third, during the first session, we did not discuss the students’ role very much. However, as instructors, we do hope that they will participate in the two-way communication and follow the guidelines. Finally, if there are misunderstandings or problems, we hope that we have created an environment that feels “safe” enough to bring them up.