That’s how wars get started 30/40

March 28, 2007 at 6:48 am | Posted in Blogging, Bollywood, Friends, Teaching English, TEFL, Youtube | 10 Comments
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I’ve been a regular to the blogosphere since August 2006, and a regular blogger (one post per day, except when I am on vacation) for four months. This practice has fundamentally changed the boundaries of what I used to consider private and public. Things like using an IUD, for instance, I don’t think I would have wrote about on my first website, around 1998, over at tripod. (Btw, they used to call themselves “one of the leading personal publishing communities on the Web”, but have now hopped on the blog bus as well.) As I’ve probably written somewhere before, using a diary did never make much sense to me in the past – it just didn’t appeal to me to write something that isn’t addressed to someone. But who’s the address of blogging? Some individuals of course, both real life and blogosphere friends, although not immediately. Not in these same way as in writing (an email or letter) directly to them. The public? In a way. But with a difference. It’s as if blogging is also a way of getting reconciled with the world, with the things you’re doing, the problems you’re confronting. I suspect that this type of ‘public’ operates very much in a super-ego fashion – it would be worthwhile to examine this closer, but that’s actually not the topic I wanted to write about today.

Occasion for this intro is that I am going to use this blog today to write about a personal conflict I had with someone. This is definitely another step towards the blurring of the public and the private, or maybe even an attempt of making my concern heard by the super-ego that can accept or dismiss my request (following my half-baked theory above).

What is peculiar about this conflict is that, in our own minds, we both are right. It is an illustration of the great degree of subjectivity to which our perception of a situation is subjected. It explains why wars get started: both parties being trapped in their own little constructions of their world.


I’ve changed my mind meanwhile. I am not going to write about this on the blog, at least not in the detailed way that I wanted to. It might be better, if you think of the death threats that some female bloggers are receiving these days. I’ve wondered in the past how Lenina’s ‘BF’ might respond to her posts about him, or his friends, which are not always favourable, but maybe he doesn’t know the address. Anyhow, explicit communication about this might only make the situation worse, as the person might read this blog and get offended (not a blogger….).

Although it would be a story worthwhile sharing, featuring dissent arising from using diverging terminology from different disciplines, misunderstanding and mistrust originating from wrong assumptions about the workings of technology, a clash of gendered behaviour, and a mutual pushing the buttons of each other’s inferiority complexes (I don’t know exactly which buttons exactly I pushed, but I know which of mine were activated: Never say something to a TEFL person that would make it appear as though you thought TEFL folk weren’t proper academics. They already think they are not, and being a TEFL person alone gives most of them a sense of failure. Most of them have turned to teaching English because it was their last exit to a regular income. More about the inferior complexes of TEFL people to be found at the English droid’s page.)

A brief excerpt of the actualized gendered behaviour (also suggesting that the argument arose via email):

masculine: “You are wrong. That’s my view. And I don’t believe you. I am not going to respond to anything you write about this from now on.”
feminine: keeping up the the communication via email nonetheless, trying to substantiate that she was falsely accused, animating the other side to respond…

This example of masculine behaviour, btw, reminds me of the character of the patriarch played by Amitabh Bachchan in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (already mentioned a couple of times on this blog). The patriarch rejects his adoptive son for marrying the wrong woman and declares him a persona non grata. Talking about him is no longer condoned. Numerous attempts are made (mainly by women or characters with feminine connotations) to animate him to rekindle the communication about and with the son. But all attempts are brutishly silenced by the patriarch:

“I’ve said it. That’s it. Bas.

I think this post should end on a positive note nonetheless. There’s nothing better for that than a sequence from a Bollywood movie. I’ll pick one from the end of KKKG, when everybody is reunited in wedding and happiness, and the patriarch appeased.

God, I love this movie. I’m not normally a fan of Hritik Roshan, but I just love his little tongue in cheek dance in the first part of this scene.

Lenten Nausea 10/40

March 2, 2007 at 11:49 am | Posted in Food, Lent, Teaching English | 8 Comments

Ha! I am actually sitting in a classroom right now and my students are working on their syllabus scanning task. They never ever read the syllabus properly (nor listen to me when I explain it) and in the end, when they have to fill out the evaluation forms, they tick “Disagree” for the item “The aim of the course was clearly explained at the beginning”. Hence the syllabus scanning task – even if they tick “Disagree”, I know for sure that they are wrong:-) Teachers are such nitpickers, aren’t they? Seeing yourself develop a teacher personality can be really painful at times.


LentDaily Lent (10): Yesterday wasn’t a good Lent day. I had fish and rice for lunch and later had coffee and it seems as if the two didn’t go together well. I was too sick to eat anything else for the rest of the day, and I had to stop with my yoga practice halfway because I felt so nauseous that I had to throw up:-( Had to force myself to eat something thereafter and found that plain bread was the best. Still felt dizzy this morning.

F***ing February is too short! 3/40

February 23, 2007 at 1:46 pm | Posted in Food, Lent, Teaching English | 3 Comments

I’ve just realized with a mild shock that February is almost over. No wonder with its measly 28 days. Bad news is that my teaching starts again in a week from now, while I assumed it to start in two weeks! There goes my weekend:-( On top of that, I am planning to revise my Creative Writing Course to integrate Problem-Based Learning element (for the input sessions) and to teach a course on Digital Story Telling for the first time. Oh no! Helluva lot of work waiting for me that needs to be done in too little time – and we only just finished the grades for last semester!

LentMy temporary absentmindedness almost caused my Lent plan to break down! I prepared rice with pepper and garlic in my rice cooker. Because it comes out very hot (and to add some taste) I wanted to pour Balsamico bianco (white vinegar) over the dish – and instead grabbed the bottle of concentrated pear-mint juice! I shoved one bite into my mouth before I realized my mistake… and there went my carefully prepared meal:-(

But I swear I didn’t swallow!

The Dark Side of the Force: The Issue of Microplagiarism in Microlearning

January 31, 2007 at 7:28 pm | Posted in Austria, Friends, Learning English, Microlearning, Plagiarism, Teaching English | 1 Comment

Surprise! At the end of the day, I manage to crank out another post, as I, even more surprisingly, managed to crank out a paper before the day ended.

It’s a proposal for the Microlearning conference in Innsbruck this summer. An old school mate pointed me to it, and its going to be nice to attend the conference with him. Provided they accept us.

The last conference (no surprise) was fairly male and age-dominated, even if they managed to push the lady on the left into the frame a couple of times.

Microlearning 2006

Anyhow, here is the abstract of my proposal:

The Dark Side of the Force:
The Issue of Microplagiarism in Microlearning

Based on the analysis of authentic examples of plagiarism in student assignments, this article proposes the term ‘microplagiarism’ to describe a new kind of plagiarism which uses relatively short sections of arbitrary sources and combines them to form a bigger, seemingly unified text. The authors examine to which extent learning through plagiarizing may be an effective strategy in some areas of language learning and discuss the difficulties in separating microlearning from microplagiarism. The current gap between the digital and the academic sphere and their methods of circulating and continuing knowledge is identified as a cause for the increase of plagiarism. While the hope is expressed that the Semantic Web will take care of this issue, it is suggested for the time being to minimize the risk by setting students tasks that don’t encourage plagiarism.

The Scholar Ship

January 26, 2007 at 5:04 pm | Posted in Globalization, Learning English, Teaching English | 1 Comment
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A friend sent me a link to the Scholar ship which – pun intended – is indeed a ship, a cruise liner, packed with scholars, students and teaching staff alike. The Scholar ship will depart in September 2007 from Piraeus (Greece) and, via Lisbon, Panama City, Papeete, Suva, Sydney, Shanghai and Okinawa, will arrive in Kobe, Japan, three months later.

The Scholar Ship

But it’s not just a seacruise, it’s a university set afloat, offering undergraduate and graduate courses in Business & Management, Communication & Advertising, International Political Science & History, Conflict, Peace and War Studies, Cultural Studies, Social Anthropology, Sustainable Development, Art History, Fine Arts, Literature and Performing Arts – TO NAME JUST A FEW…. check out their study programme.

The second trip, starting in January 2008, begins in Kobe and goes back to Piraeus, this time via Cape Town and Buenos Aires. They’re still looking for students ($ 20,000 for one trip) and have just announced that they’re giving away 50 scholar ships (meaning that you pay only half the price). Also, they’re looking for ESL (English as a Second Language) staff… Am I tempted? Hmm, I guess I would go nuts if I were trapped on board a ship for three months, above all as a teacher, meaning approachable for all…. but the thought of seeing all those places is rather neat…

Plagiarism and other diseases

January 4, 2007 at 4:03 pm | Posted in Plagiarism, Teaching English | 10 Comments

I’ve eventually started reading and marking film reviews – and after four only, I already have sufficient material to make my point about microplagiarism. How nice – and how exasperating 😦

Outside it’s still looking dim and unlikely to change over the next days. Still no snow below 1300 meters.If we had some snow, at least the light would be brighter. Cannot wait to get out of this fog hole. Normally, in the early days of January, the Fön wind comes up to chase away the snow and clouds for a couple of days. But what if there’s never been any? Hard to say.

And I feel a cold coming up. I need something to cheer me up today.

Will Cute Overload be able to do the trick?


Nah, I don’t like canines anyway. Ugly mug.

Vacation ahead!

December 12, 2006 at 6:03 pm | Posted in Teaching English | 2 Comments

Today I “wrapped up” the third semester course – the film reviews which students have to write are still due, but no more teaching will take place. The third semester started earlier and many courses were blocked to give students an opportunity to begin their exchange semester earlier. In Austria, the winter semester normally commences in October and ends in the final days of January; summer semester begins in March and ends in June. In most non-German-speaking countries, however, semesters or trimesters start in January.

The blocked courses were occasionally a bit tedious (180 minute classes can hardly be anything else, both for students and me), but at least I also get the benefit of not having to teach this semester in January 😀

Tomorrow are the final three seminars for me before my holidays begin on Friday. Can’t wait! On Saturday evening we’ll be in Vienna (Wien is German name) the capital of Austria and only city that has reasonable metropolitan dimensions in Austria. Although I have never been there, I have secretly already fallen in love with Vienna (and am secretly cherishing the idea of moving to Vienna one day – it’s 2.2 million people vs. 40,000 in the Dornbirn area!).

Who’d have been surprised at the results of this Googlefight?


Truth is, I really would have expected Dornbirn (“Thorny Pear”) to do worse.

Article finished

December 8, 2006 at 11:10 pm | Posted in German, Teaching English | Leave a comment

I’m done with all the corrections on the article. It’s not exactly the most groundbreaking piece I’ve ever written, although a solid report on the implementation of the Bologna Process. Here’s the abstract:

This article looks at the Bologna declaration on a common European space of higher education, its objectives and possible instruments of implementation. Foreign language competence within institutions of higher education, in particular in English, is considered a key asset in achieving the goals of Bologna. The role of English in administration and teaching is discussed, drawing on experiences after the adoption of a two-tier degree structure and a content-based English curriculum in the degree program Media Design at Vorarlberg University of Applied Sciences, Austria.

It’s supposed to appear in the Acta Germanica, the journal published by the Association for German Studies in Southern Africa. The title of the journal probably has an eerie sound to post-WW2 German folk, the Germanic element was never really welcomed back into the mainstream of German culture. The volume in question is going to be published in honour of Prof. Dr. Werner Krueger who is going to retire next year after having headed the German department at Rhodes University for at least 20 years, I think.

Anyhow, I definitely drained now, take good care of yourselves.

Digital Storytelling

December 1, 2006 at 9:24 pm | Posted in Teaching English | Leave a comment

After four hours of sleep I got up today to attend a “Digital Storytelling Workshop für MultiplikatorInnen”. I am not so sure whether ‘multipliers” would be used in English, don’t have access to the OED at home and all other dictionaries only have entries for the mathematical term. The underlying idea is that a Multiplikator is a person who spreads a message to many other people, in particular through teaching, lecturing, training and education (which ever concept you prefer 🙂 )

Digital storytelling is deeply rooted in American culture and also a recent trend in youth empowerment (which, too many Europeans, certainly to me, is also a deeply American concept; although Baron Münchhausen who pulled himself out of a swamp by his own hair was a European, we are not immediately inclined to think favourably about putting the emphasis on empowerment, especially self-empowerment; I suppose we are more likely to blame the state if things go wrong 😉 Maybe this means that we are whimps, but at least we have a running social security system – ok, the German pensions office is going to go broke some time soon, but who could anticipate that people would just not mate any no more 🙂

According to Wikipedia, DST is “a grassroots movement that uses new digital tools to help ordinary people to tell their own ‘true stories’ in a compelling and emotionally-engaging form. These stories usually take the form of a relatively short story (less than 8 minutes) and can involve interactivity.”

Some people think of it as the re-emergence of oral cultures, giving it a positive connotation (a newly romanticised Rousseauism, you could say), others keep lamenting the tragedy represented by the fact that the only way of making learning appealing to the younger generations is by transforming all learning material into bright, interactive images.

I don’t really want to take sides with either of these views – although I certainly disapprove vehemently of the notion of education as entertainment, or edutainment, if you like; I’d actually be rather inclined to think of education as the painful act of self-transformation. Or as my colleague Paul once put it (in reponse to students who thought that a topic was boring): “If you’re bored, then that is actually your problem.”

There is a small venture in Vorarlberg at the moment consisting of 2 two 4 people trying to bring Digital Storytelling to Austria and this region in particular. It originated from a drug prevention project, and their main focus is currently on young people.

Either way one thinks about DST, I must give this project credit for generating amazing stories with disavantaged and marginalized youth. The project’s name is Reflect and Act, any you can find some of the stories that have been created so far on their website.

I like their claim: “100 und Deine Geschichten” – “hundred and your stories”.

They also hosted the workshop which took place today. There was a little bit of instruction on shooting pictures for your digital story in it – here are just two of the pictures Greg and I took. Poul, whom I’ve mentioned before, coincidentally stopped by s well (he’s in the “domestic violence” shot). Greg is also an adviser on the Reflect and Act Team and he uses DST in his English lessons (btw, dig his outfit ;-).

Digital Storytelling

Digital Storytelling

Here are some further DST resources:

Reflect and Act, Vorarlberg, Austria

Center for Digital Storytelling, California, USA

BBC Wales, Digital Storytelling, Wales, UK

Afterthoughts: To me, DST is also another attempt to prevent an increasingly illiterate populace from being no more able to reflect and express themselves. Mind you: I am apparently not thinking of illiteracy which results from the lack of access to education (in the way that we would find it in developing countried), I am thinking of the arising illiteracy in the industrial country’s gadget users whose language has succumbed and been stupefied by the limitations of the devices they use. What to think of a generation in which *bussiknutsch* (German chat lingo for something like “huggles and kissies”) is considered a legitimate and appropriate expression of affection.

EDIT: I just stumbled upon an “English to Text Lingo Transl8ter”. I’ve made up a message to illustrate these effects of gadgets on the range of expression – and orthography and spelling:

Original: Hi Greg, I really appreciated the Digital Storytelling Workshop. Thanks for being there, see you on Monday

Txt lingo: Hi Greg, I rly appreciated d Digital storEtLN Workshop. thx 4 bn ther, c U on mon.

Good thing is it also has a retranslation function: lingo to English;-)

The business of Pink, pt. 1

October 9, 2006 at 3:13 pm | Posted in Teaching English | Leave a comment


Originally uploaded by anajemstaht.

Something rather nice happened to me today: I got a prezzie from one of the students (one of those who qualified for the exemption exam – hence no worries about being bribed here); apparently I’ve been wearing pink a bit too often (but have to concede that PINK instills a kind of calm bliss in me that no other color will achieve – I wouldn’t mind living in an entirely pink home. Or world, for that matter).

Here it is: A book entirely dedicated to the business of pink.

P.S.: And posting pictures with flickr runs so smoothely that I would probably jerk off if I were a guy (male API programmer, that is to say). I can’t belives it’s not butter!

The giant pink bunny rabbit

October 9, 2006 at 3:09 pm | Posted in Teaching English | 1 Comment

The giant pink bunny rabbit

Originally uploaded by anajemstaht.

And this is my favourite work of art in it (so far).

If you want to learn more about this peculiar stuffed bunny rabbit, visit Gelitin’s page.


October 7, 2006 at 9:21 am | Posted in Teaching English, Web 2.0 | 4 Comments

Hell, good morning. Day 2 on my WP blog. Had been trying for at least a dozen of times to import my blogspot posts yesterday, but the system always gave me a 404. Wrote a message to WP instead, let’s see by when they might have fixed it (or it is their problem at all).

Also, worked on my next lesson (Popular texts) until past 1 in the morning – mainly because I don’t want to be working on the weekend. In theory, one should be able to prepare one’s lessons in such a timely manner that you don’t end up burning the midnight oil. But while the steps that need to be taken to write a lesson plan for a grammar lesson are fairly easy to anticipate, its not quite the same with those content-based courses. Btw, I also set up a blog to document my and the students’ research for the course, but I am not supposed to disclose the URL to the public – at least that’s what the admin said. They are currently working on a WP based solution for student and faculty blogs… suddenly it’s blogs blogs blogs everywhere. Also need to write about the BLOG TALK that I went to on Tuesday, hosted by a web 2.0 company of the name LOVELY SYSTEMS. But I’ll do that in a different post.

Wheew, I’ve just added the category Daily routine, and have to say once more: I love all those dynamic, hyper-interactive widgets they’ve built into the site.

To Do for the weekend: Get a flickr account, like automatthias did (wheew, setting links is also cool in WP), to continue to include pictures in this blog.It’s becoming a bit texty now.

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