e-Portfolio

e-Portfolio
Yusuf Mahbubul Islam's MIDT Journey

Goals of my e-Portfolio

I live and work in a developing country – Bangladesh. Although by profession I am an Associate Professor of Computer Science, my driving passion has been educating people. Giving recognition to my passion, two years ago I was made the Executive Director of the new Human Resources Development Institute at my university. With the learning from the subjects in the MIDT degree, I believe my professional background and my passion have come together. The degree, therefore, has been quite useful in stepping me towards achieving my aim in life – getting people to learn and achieve their goals in life.

My university - Daffodil International University, is a private university in Bangladesh. It is about twenty years since the first private university was established. Now there are about 54 private universities. The education delivered promotes mostly rote learning. The students from the apparently better universities are able to present things smartly, but are generally not problem solvers or thinkers. My own journey to being the educator I am today involved a lot of reflection at every stage. I find such reflection missing in both teachers and students that I come across at my university. The challenge I feel is to make people reflective - with the firm belief that reflective people will look into problems and reflect on solutions.

Currently, most courses at MIDT have led me thinking as to how the techniques can be applied local courses and students. Some ideas have led to implementation, reflection, adaptation and pockets of success. I would like to share the successes and the road to success with the Chairman of my university and others who would be interested.

The purpose of this e-Portfolio is to show:

  • how I have applied what I have learned at MIDT to various projects at my university
  • how useful the MIDT degree has been to my journey to becoming an effective educator
  • how useful it may be to other educators at my university and the benefits it can bring to university education in general.

Becoming a Researcher in IDT

I have been teaching at tertiary or university level since 1978. I still remember the preparation pains I took for my first class. It took me three hours to prepare for a one-hour class. I was afraid the students may ask me a question that I could not answer. Since that time, it has always been a challenge for me to get students in my class to learn. I have forever been experimenting with methods on my own with students of all ages.
It is only when I started MIDT that I realized that there is so much theory and research behind how people learn - reading course material I also understood what works in any given situation is subject to research. As part of my first MIDT course, HMID5003 "Principles and Practices of Instructional Design" the nine events of Gagne showed how a lesson could be broken up into stages of delivery - a kind of taxonomy of a lesson plan. Although difficult to follow all the nine events during a lesson an instructional designer should enable teachers to follow the parts that they want or need to. To personally understand how an instructional designer should think, I designed an English language class for one of my assignments. To help me link all nine events in my mind to a practical lesson I prepared the mind map shown above (to enlarge, please click on the figure). The next challenge for me was to try to fit some of these events in my own face-to-face lectures at my current university. The next logical question that popped up in my mind was how do I know what works and what doesn't? How could I find out whether students were authentically learning or just memorizing - given the prevalent rote-learning culture in Bangladesh?

The next course helped to answer this question somewhat. Prof Ed Robeck introduced us to HMIR5103 "Research in Instructional Design and Technology (IDT)". He made us examine the parts of existing research papers on IDT. This was like looking at the final product and working backwards to find out what work was necessary to arrive at the final product. The task was my first introduction to IDT research and how to do citations. I also discovered that a lot of current research was on the effects of the use of Web 2.0 for educational purposes. The position paper on Web 2.0 that I did for HMLT5203 "Applying Theories of Learning to Instructional Technology" added with ideas on Blended Learning from Professor Bonk's book, "The World is Open" in the course HMID6303 "Current Trends and Issues in Instructional Technology" led me to think about the current topic for my research work - how to use Wikis (a Web 2.0 product) to support face-to-face classroom learning.

The problem I was faced with was that the Master's students for one of my technical graduate courses (e-government) were shying away from the design of technology application (a course requirement) - they would rather stick to learning the operation of technology and generally extend applications that were done as case studies in class, they would not venture into converting other applications from their experience. As a course requirement, by the end of the course, the students should be able to design unseen e-government applications. During the literature survey, I realized that I somehow need to get students to reflect on the use of technology. Many researchers reported that use of wiki to support classroom teaching may get students to reflect - if wiki-based assignments were structured appropriately. The next question was therefore how should the wiki be structured?

A researcher warned that wiki participation by students is not automatic - students cannot be left to their own devices and be expected to participate. Each wiki session must not only be planned in detail, or scripted, to achieve participation, as much as possible all assessments should be wiki based. This is where the course HMOA5403 "Online Instructional Assessment" helped. I had designed a wiki based assessment (assessment1, assessment2) for one of my tasks. This gave me ideas on how to use wiki-based-assessment to support the face-to-face class. So I took a bold step and decided to allocate 70% of the course grade to wiki-based-assessment. Each face-to-face class or session was followed up by wiki based tasks. The students were started off with simple tasks. To give students additional opportunities for reflection, most classroom tasks were repeated in the wiki. The simplest of wiki tasks consisted of documenting what was done in class. Marks were given for proper documentation. Other tasks in the wiki consisted of challenging and defending e-government applications. This mixture of blended class design was delivered to the 3rd batch of Masters students and the results compared with the previous 2nd batch of students. At the end of each course, the students were asked about their own perception about their abilities as designers of e-government systems in an online survey. The differences in the responses from the two batches shown in the two figures shown. The figure above shows the response by the 3rd batch.

The figure on the left shows the response of the previous or the 2nd batch of students who were not given the blended class treatment. There is degree of shift in the perception of the students - from 2.67 to 4.1 (averages calculated on the basis of a Likert scale of 1 - 5). From my own point of view conducting the blended lessons was hard work - each student had to be followed up to ensure adequate participation in the wiki. It was however one of the most satisfying courses of my life. The entire research work is reported in the thesis. I am grateful to my supervisor, Dr Ravichandran Purushothaman, for guiding me throughout the research work, to OUM (Open University Malaysia), the organizers, my colleagues for their comments and support throughout the course and Prof Abtar for designing and facilitating the purely online course.

Given the success of the blended classes, I now conduct all my classes in a blended mode. The face-to-face classes are followed by assignments and assessments in a course wiki. My students seem to be happy! Over the summer I conducted four courses in this manner. Based on student evaluations at the end of the semester, I received the letter below from my Vice Chancellor, Prof Aminul Islam.
In the three undergraduate courses, and one graduate course, CSE332, CSE321, CSE321Lab and CSE504 the students gave me 96.04%, 94.44%, 95.23% and 90%. The letter neatly rounds off the learning and feedback from application of the MIDT course, Alhamdulillah!

The future?
The course HMIC5503 "Managing Intellectual Capital" made us work very hard to understand the value of innovation. For task 9 in the course, I produced an Intellectual Capital Statement for a company that I am involved with. Just before the time that I joined MIDT this company had come up with an innovative distant education product for developing countries. Working with a colleague at MIDT, I therefore put together a paper on this innovative distance education delivery method for a developing country like Bangladesh. This method uses mobiles as an interactivity tool with video lessons that can be aired on TV or watched on DVD.

Last but not least, the technology class at MIDT was taken by Dr Ravichandran Purushothaman who guided us to build an online website as part of the course HMTT6003 "Instructional Technology Development Tools". Although the website assignment submitted was necessarily simple, I did learn much about how to handle technology and how interfaces are important to engage the user. The ideas presented by Dr Ravi helped me improve my own course CSE332 on Software Engineering at Daffodil International University.

Classroom Interactive Feedback System

The HMLC5303 "Learning Communities and Social Pedagogical Networks" was an exciting course. I thank the MIDT organizers for including such an up-to-date and relevant course. The course essentially showed that learning is and can be made social in a traditional institutional setting. It helps learning and solves many problems if structured properly. I took the assignments given by Dr Ryberg and Dr Leanne seriously and for one of the assignments prepared a proposal for creating social blogs for the university I work in. The proposed system had university blogs for courses, teachers, project work, English language learning, university clubs and a dynamic website from where the various blogs could be accessed as desired. At the university, being placed in the dual position of being an Associate Professor of Computer Science (CS) as well as the Executive Director of the Human Resources Development Institute (HRDI) I divided the work to be implemented by six different project groups in the department. Three of the groups managed to finalize their projects to a degree worthy of university wide implementation.
The group that created course blogs and a website to manage the blogs was given a special contract, over Summer 2010, by the Chairman of the Governing Board, to implement the social blogs in six core subjects in the department of Computer Science. Once the blogs were ready and tested, the Chairman gave permission to host the blogs on the official university server and provide a link. The system is called "SocialWeb" as seen in the figure above (please click on the figure to see the link). The URL of the website is: http://socialweb.daffodilvarsity.edu.bd/

As the Social Web was being implemented, the immediate problem was what should students write about in a course blog and when should the postings be made? At this point, the learning from another MIDT course, HMOA5403 Online Instructional Assessment, came in handy. At the end of a class, the students would answer questions like, "What did you learn in today's class" and "What more do you wish to learn about the subject?"These two questions gave the six teachers involved in the Social Web implementation food for thought.
The teachers then subsequently adapted the use of each course blog to their own needs. An example is shown in the figure on the left (please click on the figure to see the blog entries). The questions are from a course called Computer Fundamentals. The author asks subject oriented questions. Some teachers used the Social Web blogs innovatively to solve their own subject related problems. Some teachers, however, did not appreciate the transparency. Another 29 teachers across the university have now requested that their subjects be considered for inclusion in the Social Web! The learning from the Summer 2010 implementation has been incorporated in a report.

So, not only did I appreciate the HMLC5303 "Learning Communities and Social Pedagogical Networks" as a course, I have put the course in action. Unfortunately, I was not able to convey my appreciation of the subject to my teachers who gave me a "B". At our university, the Social Web is helping close the gap between the students who have been labeled "weak" and the teachers who have high academic qualifications. Those who use the Social Web at our university are in a position use the Social Web to supplement face-to-face classes to create a sort of "blended-learning" environment.

Using the Social Web has answered an unanswered question from another course, HMHP 5903 "Human Performance Technology (HPT)". For this course, we were required to do a needs analysis for a chosen problem. The chosen problem was that the students of the Computer Science department at our university have problems understanding programming. The HPT assignment was to propose an intervention that could solve this problem. The ideas proposed in the assignment were carried out, however, I was not satisfied that the real problem had been pin-pointed. The problem I found with interviews and questionnaires is that people do not look in depth at their own work. They suggest that problems lie elsewhere. Here the general complaint of the teachers was that "students are weak!". The Social Web has helped identify the crux of the problem - the teachers do not carry through the concepts taught to practical work. The basic weaknesses continue through all the Computer Science courses!

Alhamdulillah, the analysis of the Social Web blogs provided the answers needed for the needs analysis of the HPT assignment! As the Summer 2010 report on the Social Web experience shows, students from four different batches have the same complaint - they do not understand fundamental concepts. The Chairman has now appointed a new Head of the Computer Science department with the task of looking into and solving this problem. The Chairman is now so impressed that he wants a plan to implement the Social Web across the university! MIDT on the move!

Taking Prof Bonk to task

Prof Zoraini, the facilitator of the "Current trends and issues in instructional design and technology (HMID6303)" course did us a big favor by choosing Professor Bonk's recent book "The World is Open" (Bonk, 2009) as the course textbook. Through his text, Prof Bonk shares his enthusiasm and research on how web technology has opened many new doors for both educators and students world over.

For the first assignment, each student was to do a synthesis of an individually selected chapter from the book. For me living in Bangladesh, the book took 5 weeks to arrive - I had to purchase a hard copy of the book from overseas as no online version was available for download. As such I could not fully participate in the forums and discussions initially. However, once the book arrived, I was fully in to it. I had a week to do my chosen chapter - "Portals for the People". I was so excited when I read the chapter that instead of doing a synthesis, I essentially summarized the whole chapter with mind maps for each section and put it all in a power point. I lost marks as the presentation was not really a synthesis! However, I personally did not want to miss any of the detail researched by Prof Bonk. A glance at the slide above taken from the powerpoint should explain the detail I went into.

The second assignment really got me going. The assignment question said, "describe an example application that you have created/designed to illustrate its use/application in teaching and learning in a situation of your choice." Since the choice was left up to me, I decided to apply resources reported by Prof Bonk to a teaching and learning situation in Bangladesh. Immediately I realized that the title of Prof Bonk's book should be changed to "The World is Open to those with Web access and appropriate literacy skills" from the current "The World is Open"! It is important to understand meaning of the words, "those with Web access and appropriate literacy skills" as one of the definitions of poverty given by the World Bank official website is "Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read". Ravallion & Chen (2008) put 1.8 billion people in the developing world under the poverty line! So on the one hand Bonk (2009) shows umpteen ways how web technology is revolutionizing education and on the other hand we have 1.8 billion people in the developing world who have no access to education! Rahman (2007) shows that less than 1% villagers have a computer while 47% own a mobile phone. The government of Bangladesh puts adult literacy at 53.5% where UNICEF (2008) points out that compared to men woman are less educated by 19%. This boils down to 46.5% of Bangladesh's 180 million or 83.7 million people having no access to basic reading skills.

Given this background, as a project I wished to tackle adult literacy. Given that any language is primarily learned through 'listening' - how does one get adults to listen to a second language and slowly get involved in the other skills, i.e. reading, speaking and writing? Given the resources available on the net, how does one provide listening facilities to adult rural population? These questions plagued me no end. However, as I was reading through the other chapters of Bonk (2009), I found that mobiles were used creatively for learning Mandarin by a Chinese language institute in the States. Such an innovative use of mobiles had my thoughts running wild. Could listening be provided through mobiles in Bangladesh?

Using search techniques outlined by Bonk (2009), I found a wonderful site (http://www.rong-chang.com/nse) that provides free short stories for adult learners in English along with MP3 audio files. To help one realize the impact of a short story with text displayed, a video of the 3rd story in the site is given below:

video Fig.2. Short story + audio

So if the audio of a story can be provided like a ring tone or voice message, how could the text as seen in the video be made available? Let's imagine that a short story similar to the above is printed in the most widely circulated newspaper each week. During the week, anyone can download the audio just like a 'ring-tone' simply by sending the story-code given with the story to a fixed number. A video reality show on national television would show how to read from the paper and download the audio of the story. The show could also create a competition of language skills among villagers. This way groups of villagers could gather together, listen to the story-of-the-week and do the language activities shown on national TV. A detail lesson plan for this method is given along with all the references used in the assignment titled, "I can learn by myself!"

This method would be a feasible alternative to provide basic language learning access to villages where there is next to no computer penetration and almost every family has access to a mobile phone. I showed the assignment to the Chairman of the Board of Governors of my university in Bangladesh. He took the idea to heart. He would now like me to implement the idea and is now in the process of setting up a studio to shoot the video lessons to be aired.

To truly achieve Prof Bonk's vision, "The World is Open" one has to find the means to include the developing world, i.e. one needs to care and look for innovative ways to provide access to what is available on the Web! Prof Bonk's book gave me the enthusiasm to look for such solutions!

Taking my Workshop to Professor Bloom

Professor Dunning, one the facilitator's of the HMDD6503 course, changed my life with the following open-ended, Higher Order Thinking (HOT) assignment question:

"Give your assessment of Bloom's Taxonomy and whether you think it is comprehensive, based on the learning experiences you have had in your life."

At first, I did not know what to make of the question, let alone how to do the assignment. Like many other students, I studied Prof Dunning's mega profile and looked at his research papers, trying to find clues as to what he may like to see in the assignment. A lot of his research talks about "Learning Styles". I was further confused - how does one relate learning styles to Bloom's classification of learning levels?

By the Grace of the Creator, I struck upon the idea of reversing what I was trying to do. I was originally trying to understand Bloom's Taxonomy and then looking for examples from my life. Instead, I decided to link learning that works in my workshop sessions to "Professor Bloom"! For my portfolio reflection, I would like to point out TWO discoveries that I made for myself. The first is bringing everyone's learning styles together in class and second collaboratively reaching a consensus.

1. The picture above, also given in Professor Dunning's assignment may help understand the first discovery. The blue cards display responses in the form of keywords from the participating teachers in a workshop. These are individual responses to a carefully designed question. The class then collectively classifies the ideas under agreed headings using white cards. Like the idiom, "put your cards on the table", all students have put their ideas (given their individual thoughts and learning styles) on the board. They then confirm the meanings and group the ideas under agreed headings.

2. Once this is done, the class is ready to collaboratively prepare action plans, in this case, lesson plans on posters as shown in the picture below.

Once the class presents their posters, compares and reflects on the work done wonderful new learning seems to emerge. In this case, the teachers themselves realized that their lesson plans need to be more appropriate for the age group concerned! No amount of lecturing would have helped teachers understand this problem in their lesson plans!

In my assignment, I then attempted to classify these two types of learning taking place in the workshop to Bloom's various levels of learning. Prof Dunning gave me an A+ in the assignment and remarked that this was the best in class!

Needless to say, this boosted my confidence no end. My workshops are now much more focused and I know better what I am looking for and how to bring about new learning. I then started to look at any question using the taxonomy "goggles" suggested by Professor Bloom. This brings me to the courage that the course HMHP5903 on Human Performance Technology added to my new attitude. Prof Shariman taught us to look closely at the teaching in our own organizations and that we should do something to improve the status quo. The regular place I work is at Daffodil International University (DIU) in Bangladesh. DIU follows traditional face-to-face lectures with little or no interaction with students.

Having gone into the depth of Bloom's Taxonomy, I started relating the nature of questions posed by teachers in exams at DIU and discovered that most questions are related to recall of facts and figures with some application, i.e. students are mostly engaged in Lower Order Thinking levels - no wonder they are forced to become rote learners.

I therefore stuck my neck out and prepared a US$471,000 project proposal for the University Grants Commission (UGC) that proposes to examine the nature of questions asked by teachers of all faculties at DIU and gradually improve the nature of questions. The project is called "Questioning Questions in Higher Education." I now feel this project is essential in the context of Bangladesh where a culture of rote learning is ingrained in our institutions of education. The first goal of the project, as written down in the proposal is:

"Raise the standard and quality of subject-based-questions at university level through a consultative and participatory process and establish research practices into the teaching-learning processes across all subjects taught at the university to ensure development of both teachers and students. Through the quality of questions asked, it is hoped to produce a graduate who is able to think more realistically and better fit into the real world."

A study of the project proposal which has now cleared the first round of approval by the Grace of the Creator, will demonstrate that a variety of motivational techniques learned from Prof Shariman's course have been used as well as applications learned from HMLC5303 "Learning Communities and Social Pedagogical Networks".

In Honour of Women and Relationships

Towering at six feet two, my grandfather (Nana) instilled fear in most people he met. He had had many achievements. He brought the first printing press into the then East Pakistan and held the first car assembly license. He was the Founder President of Dhaka Chambers of Commerce and a Founder Member of Dhaka Stock Exchange. My grandmother (Nani), on the other hand, I remember as a meek, docile person who spoke little. In her elderly age, I rarely saw her leave the house, or for that matter, I rarely saw her visit the kitchen. My mother tells me that Nani was very active when she was young. She used to sit all day at the head of a very long verandah, on a big easy chair, with a phone on her left, like a queen. Somehow, everything from my grandfather's business to the children's education and the household seemed to run smoothly.

When my grandmother died, a strange thing happened. My grandfather suddenly changed. He didn't know what to do or even what to say. He found it very difficult to take decisions. The towering man of six feet two suddenly became a mouse. This change had me puzzled and set me wondering. Finally, after many years, I worked out the only logical explanation to this puzzle. My grandmother was the guide behind everything. My grandfather was the executor. The meaning of the saying, "Behind every great man there is a woman", suddenly became clear to me.

The nature of my grandmother, my grandfather and their relationship can be likened to that of a navigator and a pilot. My grandmother was the navigator and my grandfather, the pilot. For a successful journey through this earthly life, both helped each other and clearly understood each other's roles. Starting from a successful business to a successful, well functioning household, everything ran smoothly. All six children are well placed throughout the world. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if my grandmother hadn't played the role that she did. If, for instance, had she also wanted to be only a pilot as well, who would have navigated the business, the household and the children?

Long Term View and Short Term View:
In a relationship, is it natural for a woman to fall into the role of a navigator while a man to fall into the role of a pilot? Women, by nature, hold a "long term" view of things, whereas, men, hold a "short term" view of things. The differences in views can be explained by the following examples:

* Who are the best chefs in the world? Men! Is this because women are bad cooks? No, certainly not! A woman simply looks at cooking from a different point-of-view from that of a man. A woman, when cooking, has questions like: Does the food have proper nutrients? Does it have the protein required? Will it fill the stomachs that it is supposed to feed? A man, on the other hand, in the same situation, would simply ask: Is the food tasty enough? How do I enhance the taste? A woman's concerns about food deal with benefits in the long run, whereas a man's concerns are for the moment.

* Imagine that a man and a woman are given an extra Tk.100 each. After a month, if you suddenly ask for the money back, what are the chances of each being able to return the money? It is likely that the man would have spent the money almost immediately, whereas the woman is likely to have put the money away, i.e. she would've saved the money for a rainy day. Grameen Bank, in Bangladesh, has discovered this fact and gives loans only to women. They have found that if a man is given a small loan, he often misuses the money, whereas if a woman is given the same loan, not only does the entire family including the husband benefit, the loan installments are returned timely.

* Is there any difference between a man and a woman when each evaluates the other for marriage? What does a woman look for in a man? A woman has questions like: Will this man honour and respect me? Is he stable? Is he capable of earning a good income? Is he capable of acquiring a proper home? What would he be like, as a husband? On the other hand, what does a man look for in a woman? He has questions like: Is she pretty? He is unlikely to ask: Will this woman be a good mother to my children? Similarly, a physical relationship is generally a permanent choice for a woman, whereas for a man, it may be a temporary fulfillment of a need.

The influence of a woman's "long term" views extends beyond her husband to her father, brothers, sons, daughters and society in general. Proper rearing of children would be important to women, whereas a man would overlook such a consideration. It is therefore not surprising that many women have set up private 'O' Level schools in Dhaka and other cities in Bangladesh, given the discouraging state of the education system in our country. My hat's off to these women; they are doing an excellent job in navigating the future generations!

Cultivating Characteristic Views:
Compared to the household of my grandfather and grandmother, what is the state of today's households? Are our children growing up to be stable individuals who can one day stand on their own feet? Do they have a correct point-of-view of the world? Do they end up having successful relationships and peaceful lives? We may not like to admit it; nevertheless, we are looking at households and a society that has taken a downward plunge. Where have we gone wrong? Have we lost our sense of direction? Have we lost our characteristic views? Do women nowadays want to take on simply and only "pilot" types of roles? Could my grandfather have taken on a navigator type of role? If both parents are "pilots", who is then navigating our households? Is it because of this that we have lost our direction?

Can a man easily take on the role of a navigator? If women adopt a short-term view of sex, men would enjoy temporary unattached relationships, but would then women find their rightful place as navigators in society? Although a woman can easily take on the role of a "pilot", would it be more useful if women adopted roles that bring out their "navigational" skills? Society has gained a lot from women as principals of educational institutes in Bangladesh, however, what have women in seductive and erotic poses in advertisements and the film industry accomplished? Has the physical side of women become the role model for our future generations?

Many of our schools are co-ed. Boys and girls are treated as though they have the same type of views. Would it be worthwhile developing "long term" views in girls and "short term" views in boys? Cultivating characteristic views would not only help each sex understand their own nature, it would also help them understand the nature of the opposite sex. It would help us understand the importance of our individual roles and live fulfilled lives.

Relationships:
Nowadays, boys acquire girl friends and girls acquire boy friends at a progressively younger age. Not only is it "hip" to have such relationships, many of these quickly turn into physical relationships. To frowning adults these children have questions like, "What's wrong with having a girl-friend or a boy-friend?", "Is it wrong to be in love?", "Is it wrong to love someone?" or "He/she is just a friend!".

To answer these questions, let us examine the characteristics of teenage boys and girls:
Developing Characteristics: At this age, we often copy what we like of our role models. We continue copying a thing from others until we discover a way that suits our own individual nature. We are therefore in a process of discovering our likes and our dislikes. Our characters are in a state of change, till we become settled in our ways. Something that we like today, we may not like tomorrow. Something that we would like tomorrow, we may not like today. Essentially, during this changing and exploratory period we do not know clearly what we want or need as we are in the process of discovery. The person, with whom we want to be friends with, is himself/herself in a process of understanding his/her own characteristics, while we are in a process of understanding our own. Selecting a partner or taking a decision at this age, is at best, a gamble.

Random Actions and Reactions: When we approach someone, we do so hoping for an "expected" response. As each is in the process of learning, the person may not know exactly how to respond. A positive response may be even be interpreted as a negative response simply because it does not fit the "expected" response. Actions and reactions are therefore necessarily random, with random interpretations to boot.

Self Rejection: Without the "expected" responses, one may start thinking, "maybe I'm not worth it!" and start rejecting himself or herself. This may result in self-inflicted punishment or even self-torture. Some may take to drugs and other anti-self activities. Not only does self-esteem take a dive, self-development may stop and in the process we may destroy whatever chances we have of eventually leading a good and fulfilled life.

Expectations: Given their nature, boys’ expectations are coloured by their "short term views", whereas girls’ expectations are in line with their "long term views". Girls may be looking for a permanent relationship, whereas a boy may be looking for a short-term relationship. Each expects the other to have the similar views as themselves. Not ‘expecting’ the long-term views of girls, boys prefer unattached girls for marriage. They think, "a girl who can enter into a relationship without marriage, may continue to do so after marriage!” not understanding the permanent view of a girl!

Best Foot Forward: During dating or courtship, we put on our best clothes and are generally on our best behaviour. We generally, intentionally, do not show our weaknesses or our "bad" sides. The problem is that the partner may start taking this ‘best’ behaviour for granted. Much to our surprise, marriage reveals a different person. If we cannot put up with the "newly" discovered person, we are trapped. We are unable to throw away our marriage and neither can we stomach it! We cannot go back to parents who did not give their whole-hearted consent in the first place, nor are we happy with the marriage. Since we do not like blaming ourselves, we may even start blaming our parents for not being assertive and forcibly stopping the relationship, conveniently forgetting that we hid almost everything from our parents.

Damaged Egos: Just as easily as relationships are formed, they also breakup! Instead of working on developing individual personalities and unique characteristics, many are left nursing the wounded egos. Instead of developing understanding and respect for each other, we sometimes end up hating the opposite sex.

Liking someone of the opposite sex is natural. As a teenager, I myself imagined that I fell "in love" with almost as many girls as I met - luckily, my feelings were only in my head - I never had the courage to approach anyone. Women do not need to worry about getting a man; they just need to worry about getting the ‘right’ man – a man that would give respect to their ‘long-term’ views!

So how does one find a partner?
Correct Views: One of the first things to do is get our "views" in order. To do this, we have to find out whether the media has influenced our views. A primary need of a woman is "to be needed". It is the fear of not being needed anymore that sometimes makes it difficult for a mother to let go of her youngest child. However, media have conveniently interpreted and portrayed this need as a need for sex. The portrayal of women in seductive poses not only emphases the physical aspect of women; it suggests (to men) that women actively need sex. This is a characteristically shortsighted view and turns men "on". These views are promoted by the advertising and film industry to further their commercial greed. Is this the correct view of women?

A Man's Viewpoint: Men already have a short-term view of sex. Media have successfully played on this and turned women into playthings to be desired and used. Women in advertising and films become role models for young girls today, who may start thinking that the job of a woman is simply to look pretty and wait for things to happen. On the contrary, mankind needs women as mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. In addition, mankind needs a woman’s long-term views for guidance and meaningful survival. If women do not develop and share their long term views and guide society, what will happen to society in the long run?

As for men, Allah guides them as to their intentions towards women:
"...Ye seek (them in marriage) with gifts from your property, desiring chastity, not fornication" [Sura An-Nisaa, 4:24]

Therefore, the basis of marriage should not be lust for the shape and form; it should be attraction to the woman as a valued human being. Is it worth ensuring that a man seeking marriage is attracted by the person and not to the shape and form? A point to note here is that other women also have a similar shape and form, however, do not possess the same personality! Which aspect of a woman is more likely to hold a marriage in the long run? Would a woman rather have a man marry her for her shape and looks or for her personality?

Development of the Unique Individual: Allah has made each of us, whether man or woman, unique. He has given each of us beautiful characteristics.
"He it is Who shapes you in the wombs as He pleases..." [Sura Al-Imran, 3:Ayat 6]

We generally like our own selves and value the person that Allah has made. He has given each of us the potential to discover, learn and be somebody unique.
"It is He Who brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers when you knew nothing; and He gave you hearing and sight and intelligence and affections..." [Sura Al-Imran, 16:Ayat 78]

Our individual job is to discover and develop the unique qualities Allah has given to the fullest. Instead, if we devote our energies into boy-girl relationships, our development is hindered before we have fully discovered the unique individual that we are.

Did Allah ask for a "specification" so that He could make the unique self that we like so much? Does He need a "specification" to make our partner? Who is the best to know the characteristics of the partner that would best fit our nature? If we like the self (ourselves) that Allah has made, would it be difficult for Allah to make partners that we like? Does He not know the best match for us? Does He not know for sure what we are like?

It took me fourteen years to realise that the woman to whom I'm married to be the best possible match I could have. Surprisingly, this is not because of the qualities she directly possesses, it is because of the qualities she has brought out in me. We complement each other. She makes up what I lack and I make up what she lacks! Is it possible to evaluate qualities in other people that I myself lack?

I was in a serious dilemma the day I was asked whether I approved of the girl my parents had chosen for me. A decision was required, after a brief meeting where I was a silent observer. I thought to myself, it is easy for my parents to approve or disapprove; they are not the ones getting married! It is not as easy to say "no" or "yes" for me! It is a lifetime matter for me.

I took the only recourse I had. I sat on a prayer mat and said to Allah, "I'm a total failure as far as deciding is concerned. It may be that the person You have intended for me is standing in front of me, but You haven’t given me the ability to realise this; or it may be that You have given me the ability but I never find the right person. I am totally lost, please tell me what to do!" After my prayers, I was in a sort of a trance as I entered the drawing room; I imagined that I saw this girl playing records on our hifi set. I immediately ran to my mother and asked her to say "yes". In August 2006, by the Grace of Allah, we will have completed twenty-five years of blissful marriage.
"And among His signs (miracles) is this; that He created for you wives from among yourselves, (so) that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for those who reflect." [Sura Ar-Rum, 30:21]

Unique Importance: Being unique and the fact that we like ourselves is proof that our Creator has given each of us a lot of importance and made us with a lot of love and affection. Is there any logic to suggest that this love and affection would not extend to making our partners? Our job as teenagers is therefore to concentrate on developing ourselves as unique individuals to the fullest. Women must develop an interest in the lives of great women both Muslim and non-Muslim and concentrate on developing long term views. As opposed to the views of a man, a woman's long-term views have the potential of influencing everyone in the near family. A good navigator influences her father, her mother, her brothers, her brother's friends, her sisters, her husband, her mother-in-law, her father-in-law, her sons and her daughters. It can safely be said that a good woman is therefore worth ten good men.

When Allah presents the opportunity to decide, it is best for both men and women to seek Allah's help in choosing the right partner. Men already respect their mothers, their sisters and daughters. A wife can easily steer this respect to extend to herself! A man can be a good son, a good father, a good brother and a good husband, but to do so he needs a good navigator.

My Journey as a Teacher

First Job: My first job as a Lecturer was at the Department of Applied Physics and Electronics, Dhaka University. This was the beginning of my career immediately after graduating in Electronics and Electrical Engineering from Heriot-Watt University, UK in 1978. I was asked to teach “Electrical Technology”. At this point, I had a feeling that as a teacher I had to be well prepared and I spent about 3 hours to prepare for each lecture – I did not want to be ‘caught out’ by awkward questions from students.

First Contacts with Students: Having graduated abroad, I gained two years on my batch mates who lost two years because of political disturbances in Bangladesh. As a result, the students in my first course as a Lecturer were essentially my age. A common friend introduced me to two students who happened to be in my class. Having become friends, they were forthright in giving me feedback regarding my teaching. Apparently, they liked my spoken English, however, I needed to give them more time to learn. Fired by the appreciation of my English, I strived to speak even better. At the same time I puzzled at how I could help the students ‘learn’.

First Clue: In 1976, when I was in UK studying for my Bachelor’s Degree, I happened to watch a program by Tony Buzon. I watched with interest how in his perception the mind stores things by linking. At that time, it did not exactly click how this concept could be applied to teaching/learning, but somehow this made a big impression and was, so to speak, on a slow burner at the back of my mind. Little did I know that in my later years, this was to make a major contribution to my teaching style.

First Industrial Experience: Soon afterwards I got a chance to work for Philips in Bangladesh, as an Assistant Manager in the Audio/Video production lines. I found a great teacher in a fellow from Singapore Philips called Ter Chai Seng. He taught me to roll up my sleeves, get down, observe, analyse and test. Another great teacher was a Bangladeshi technician called Abdur Rahman. He was very good with his hands. He offered the simplest of production solutions to the most complex of problems. He had no ‘mental blocks’. Together we solved many production problems and were responsible for two production innovations. One such innovation reduced in-line production faults from 400 to 12 per 100 sets and bumped production of good TV sets from 28 to 70 with the same manpower.

My PhD: While working for Philips, I was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to do Masters and PhD from Strathclyde University in UK. It was very hard to satisfy my supervisor, Dr Raj Balendra. After a mathematics professor from Cambridge approved my mathematical model, he had me change the model four times. Above all, this taught me patience and at the same time, the difficulties students face while working and learning.

Software Industry: Upon return from UK, I had the opportunity to do four large software projects in the rudimentary stages of the software industry in Bangladesh and doing two software consultancies with the Government. Having realized the serious implementation problems, I took an interest in teaching the subject of Systems Analysis and Design. With this I slowly drifted back to the teaching career that started in 1978.

Impact on my Teaching Career: All the above have had an impact on my teaching career in the following ways:
Books: To help introduction of Computing Studies as a subject at school level, leading to a GCE ‘O’ Level in the subject, I authored 16 lesson wise workbooks for classes I to X over a period of three years. During teaching, I realized early on that students had trouble in reading and comprehension in English. To get around this problem, each workbook lesson was therefore prepared in pictures first. Once the pictures were ready (generally three per lesson), accompanying text with questions and fill-in-blanks were prepared. All the 16 books followed the same format. Each picture page was placed on the right side of each lesson/facing page, with the accompanying text on the left. Using these books, computing studies as a subject was successfully introduced in 14 schools in Dhaka, 3 in Chittagong and 1 in Sylhet. Both schoolteachers and hired teachers were easily trained and students appreciated the books. The Principal of AnandaNiketan School, Jaddon Park reported that his students found the books “engaging”.

Learning Programming: Being put in charge of the Computing Science and Engineering Department of BRAC University in 2001, I chose to teach CSE101, Fundamentals of Computing. The idea was that if I could give the students a solid foundation, they would be better equipped to face the more challenging computing subjects in subsequent years. The challenge I faced was to get students to get a hang of the logic behind programming. They seemed to memorise language code words and would be totally lost when trying to debug or fix a failed code written by them. To help students I designed the course around manually tracing or dry running variety of programs on paper. I got students to debug programs by doing dry runs on paper. Not only High Level programs but also assembly language programs were similarly debugged on paper. Two boys who have now become top programmers, Nausher and Muktadir, came to me after attending an ACM competition for programmers and said that their habit of tracing (taught in CSE101) saved the day for them!

Challenging students to perform: Getting students to talk in English and also present their group work were posing a serious problem. I fell into a scheme where both the groups presenting and the groups listening had an opportunity to get marks. To get marks in any particular session marks would also be awarded to each member of the listening groups for the nature of question asked. One mark for a relevant question and the second mark would be given for the question being relevant to the presentation at hand. This created a competition between the presenters and the listeners. The presenters did not want to face embarrassing questions from their peers while the audience listened carefully to work out questions relevant to the presentation being given. Also, half a mark would be deducted for every non-English word spoken. Since such presentation sessions were held in every alternate class, the communication skills of participating students really shot up. The Chair of the English Department commented, “Yusuf, I don’t know what you do to these kids, their spoken English skills really improve during your course!”

Getting students to take ownership of course and contents: I attended a workshop that used a technique called, “Question Based Planning through Participation”. As part of this technique, each member responds on a 6” x 4” card to Questions posed by the facilitator. The responses are recorded in large lettering in the form of phrases; one idea per card. Volunteers from the group collect and group the cards on a pin board. With the help of the audience each cluster or group of similar ideas is given a representative name. This simple technique, of having everybody’s response represented, I realized gave a powerful sense of ownership of what was being planned. I decided to borrow this technique and apply it to my CSE471 Systems Analysis and Design class. At the beginning of the course I asked the following two questions:
· What do you wish to learn in this course?
· How do you wish to learn this (i.e. what you have decided upon)?

With a little facilitation, the cluster names come up with major areas of the course and in answer to the second question, the students usually want real projects to work on. I then get the students to find real projects in groups and help them along throughout the semester. Just after midterm and just before the finals I ask another two sets of questions:
· What learning problems are you facing?
· How can you solve these problems? And finally,
· How can you continue learning? And
· In what ways can the course or your learning be improved?

I took the Vice Chancellor’s consent to conduct the course with these questions. The result was that I was able to give the students a huge amount of work; they would stay up nights to finish without complaining. Student evaluations include comments like, “Awesome teacher”, “The only course where I really learnt something” and “I want to become a Systems Analyst”.

For solving ‘real problems’ I get the students to work with ‘working prototypes’ that allows both the client and the student to come to an agreement. This technique is now well as students get letters of appreciation for their understanding of clients needs.

Study Skills, Team Building and Solving Student Problems: The students joining BRAC University are essentially the products of a ‘rote learning’ system. ‘Learning’ to them is memorizing. To help students improve their study skills, I have introduced Mind Maps and Mind Mapping, a technique crafted by Tony Buzan, to the students. This has become part of a “Life Skills Self Development” course that is now being piloted at BRAC University. For team building in groups that are doing thesis work under me, each member draws a Mind Map of the problem, explains the Mind Map to his/her team members and then the group collectively comes up with a complete Mind Map. This way each team member gets to understand each other and participation is more effective. I get students with problems to craft Mind Maps of their problem. Many students are able then to see things more clearly and embark on a solution.

Teacher Training: From the beginning of BRAC University, which I joined three months before it started in 2001, I have been holding New Teacher Orientation workshops every semester. The University has recognized my efforts by making me the Director of the new Teaching Learning Center. In this new position the new teacher orientation has been totally redesigned. The program is totally participatory. The facilitators are fairly new teachers themselves and the program is designed every semester in response to the needs felt by the facilitators. In the last workshop there were 10 facilitators and 20 participants. The facilitators learnt as much as the participants. The teachers have reported to their Chairs that they learnt a lot and enjoyed the retreat workshop. The program is now being evaluated by Annika Anderson of Orebro University to find out whether teaching techniques have indeed improved as a result of the workshop.

Current Challenges: Establishing the new Teaching Learning Center is my current challenge. I am exploring the kind of work done at universities in the US to support teachers and students.