The Horizon of This Flat World

Even this flat world has a horizon, and it's a good idea to look that way occassionally.

Lots of talk about YouTube lately, especially since the over-hyped YouTube Debates, but are there comparable sites in other countries? Someone sent me the link to iShare which is a video sharing site in India. The first thing that struck me when I looked at the site was that the majority of videos I clicked on randomly were in English. In fact, many of them were things that are probably available on YouTube already.

Does this mean India lacks content of its own? I doubt it. Does it mean that the most interesting videos to an Indian audience are the same as in the United States or that English is the language of choice for videos?

It might make a good lesson for your students to look at foreign sites. It's easy enough to do with major sites like Google. They often test out new ideas on sites other than the English version. I noticed that the Google Korea and Google Taiwan feature some icons and buttons we do not see. Some of this is because of local cultural preferences and perhaps because of the higher bandwidth available there.

Do your American-centric students know that we don't have the fastest connections in the world? That's a good lead in to a discussion on how we lag behind other countries in many tech areas. Here's something I found at Business Week online that is quite different from what I usually hear about that:

"One would expect that the numbers used in such debate would be defensible and grounded. Yet researchers at Duke University have determined that some of the most cited statistics on engineering graduates are inaccurate. Statistics that say the U.S. is producing 70,000 engineers a year vs. 350,000 from India and 600,000 from China aren't valid, the Duke team says. We're actually graduating more engineers than India, and the Chinese numbers aren't quite what they seem. In short, America is far ahead by almost any measure, and we're a long way from losing our edge."

What's the true story on this issue? Worth some research.

Do your students even know that there are other versions of commonly used sites? Perhaps, world language teachers are using them. Sending your French class onto Google France not only immerses them in the language for some research, but will introduce new vocabulary and can focus their search to French sites.

Their search may turn up a Wikipedia entry from the French Wikipedia. Even if you're anti-Wikipedia (and you really must get over that, educator), there's great value in looking at the entries with your students and comparing the results to the English version and to other sites and sources. Check out all the languages that Wikipedia is available in at this point. Try the Esperanto version - perhaps after an explanation this interesting constructed international auxiliary language called Esperanto (in English).

If you teach literature and want to incorporate some world literature into your high school or college classroom but lack the background, take a class or two in iTunes U.

Dr. Norbert Elliot here at NJIT offers his World Lit I & World Lit II in the public area of our iTunes U site and they are getting plenty of downloads. Since his courses have been featured on the main iTunes U page, he has related to me instances of email from world readers far from our New Jersey campus.

Here's one he shared with me recently:

I am a senior high school student in Auckland, New Zealand and I jumped for joy when I discovered the open courseware section of iTunes which included a selection of audio recordings of your lectures. I downloaded one lecture of yours which was about New Zealand Literature, as I am fascinated to know what the American perspective is.

As Maori is only spoken in New Zealand, I did not expect you to pronounce Witi Ihimaera's name properly (fair enough), but for future reference it is said ee-hee-my-ra.

However, I thought I should contact you to correct you about the capital of our small nation (and I'm sure I'm not the first), which is in fact Wellington, not Christchurch.

Hopefully these corrections have been helpful. I am glad the literature of our country has interested you and I would urge you (if you have not yet) to read The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox.

Caitlin, English Prefect, Auckland Girls' Grammar School, New Zealand

Do you think Dr. Elliot was upset about being corrected? Hardly! What a kick to get mail from a young reader around the world commenting on your take on their literary heritage and adding to your own knowledge!

Point being that we talk about the flattening world and classroom, but how are you addressing it in your classroom?


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