Sunday, October 26, 2008

An example of task management

Here is an example of task management or project scheduling made by one of my students. With his kind permission, I put the PDF file on my server so that you can download if you wish. When you write a master thesis, you should probably analyze your tasks in a form like this.


(Incidentally, I'd personally use Excel for task management for its flexibility and adaptability.)


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Commodifying ELT

I recently had an opportunity to visit BECC (Bunkyo English Commnication Center) in Hiroshima Bunkyo Women's University. It was a tremendously comfortable space. Probably you should think of the center as a luxurious lounge, not as a school. See how it looks in pictures:

Floor 1
Floor 2
Floor 3

Or you may want to see videos:
A short TV program
A very short TV commercial

A Japanese pamphlet (PDF format) is here:

The interior design was well-thought of (although some criticism is possible in terms of universal design) and the selection of textbooks, picture books, manga books, DVDs and other materials was of course good. You can tell almost immediately that the center is professionally designed. It is not something a national university would build, for example, when it is suddenly given a budget that must be spent immediately within the fiscal year.

The center is indeed a product of Kanda University of International Studies.

The center was designed by KUIS and all the staff in the center were sent from KUIS. Yes, a blunt way of expressing it is that ELT in Hiroshima Bunkyo Women's University was outsourced. Together with KUIS, HBWU has commodified ELT to make the new center as a very attractive product. I'm sure many high school students are attracted to HBWU through this BECC.

By using words like "commodify" or "outsource," I do not mean a cheap criticism. though. Although I'm not a total believer of market capitalism, capitalistic actions are something no one can ignore in modern times. If I were an administrative staff of a private university that needs more competitive power, I might also be tempted to outsourcing ELT to make a very appealing product for "consumers" of educational service. I might not even mind using the word "edutainment" for education.

However, KUIS and HBWU are certainly not treating their students as capricious consumers. They promote self-access study and independent learning. I never mean a shallow criticism of their policy, either.

Through self-access study, learners develop skills in self-directed and cooperative learning, which promote independent life-long learning of language. The Self-access Learning Centre encourages learners to be accountable for their own learning and take the necessary steps to self-improve.

However, the first paragraph of "Philosophy" of Self-Access Learning Center makes me pause a bit to think about this process of commodification of ELT to individual customers.

Downloading music onto an iPod, buying a coffee in Starbucks, booking a vacation online, or choosing a telephone ringtone, all of these show that increasingly our world is one of individualization. No longer do we have to accept what other people choose for us, but we can tailor much of our environment to suit our needs and desires. The flexibility that comes with having freedom of choice is really important, and this is our philosophy of language learning in the SALC.

Individualism is indeed one of the defining features of modernity. It is an individual who is to choose, make a decision and hold responsibility. But just as Kant regarded the existence of others in public sphere as a highly critical condition for human beings, or as Marx clarified that without understanding the social, human beings cannot be properly understood, the modernity has not granted a blind faith to individualism. After all, you may say, now is "post-modern" not "modern." The notion of individualism is not a sacred canon at all (if only you're not a neo-liberalist, I mean).

As someone who is concerned with school education or as someone who regards the socio-cultural approach as essential for a proper understanding of learning, I'm not completely free from some anxiety about this commodification of ELT. I wonder whether the combination of individualism and consumerism is a wise option in education.


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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Indeterminacy in Communication -- An exploration from Luhmann's perspective--

Below are my PDF handout and PowerPoint slides of my presentation, "Indeterminacy in Communication -- An exploration from Luhmann's perspective--"

My research questions are:
1 Should difference, not agreement, be assumed in communication?
2 Should indeterminacy, not determinacy, be assumed in communication?
3 Why should difference and indeterminacy be assumed in communication?

I tried to answer these questions by introducing Luhmann's theory of communication. In particular, those notions such as "the three-part unity," "self-reference," "double contingency" and "system/environment" are of high importance.


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