Yusuf Mahbubul Islam's MIDT Journey

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:

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!


Putri Shariman said...

I really like how you have applied Prof Bonk's techniques to develop something new for your students.

Putri Shariman said...

I really like how you have applied Prof Bonk's techniques to develop something new for your students.

SteveEportfolioMIDT said...

I am impressed by your conviction and your fight for the cause of educating learners in the rural areas. If you need for us to get together and work on something this will be fine. Recently I have been facilitating to primary school teachers in a class entitled "Learning with Technology" and realized that the further their schools were from the main town, the least technology were available. In some instances when electricity was interrupted it took 3 to 4 days to return. So yes, Yusuf, I do understand your plight and need to assist.

I did enjoy reading your assignment. Great work. Bonk's book also inspired me but the reality is that there is much work needed in our countries to make these things become a reality. Politics plays a very important role. Also, as you suggested, we can all play our part in the fight to remedying situations for the learners - it doesn't matter how small.

meherun said...

Dear Yusuf,
Your portfolio has a soothing effect on readers. It is well organized and directly linked with practical experiences. Anyone with a desire to be an instructional designer or researcher can seek help from your site. I particularly like your summing up mindmap.

Great job!