Tag Archives: language

Two Sides of Online Learning: A Dual Perspective as a Student and Teacher

By Minghan Shelley Sun 

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[4 minute read]

During the Covid-19 pandemic, it seems that we spend most of our time switching between screens while taking classes, socializing, or completing  work and internship projects. The digital fatigue we get from constantly looking at screens has eliminated the enjoyment and happiness we are supposed to receive from these activities or events. Because of this, a new question has been raised: How can educators infuse more excitement and motivation into online classes? Currently, I am taking online classes for the second semester in a row at the graduate level. I’m working from China and am also a student-teacher for a class at the USC International Academy. Therefore, I’ve gone through the process of adapting to online learning from both a student’s and a teacher’s perspective, and luckily, I’ve gained some insights and hope to shed some light on this issue for everyone who is also facing this issue.

Perspective as a graduate student

During this past semester (Fall 2020), my online classes seemed to always have group discussions and tasks. Having participated in many Zoom breakout rooms, I became aware of a sense of separation occurring when being grouped with different classmates. One experience I remember in particular is when I was in a breakout room with three classmates I’d never spoken to before. When we first entered the breakout room, no one started the conversation but just stared at their screens. I wondered to myself, ‘What are they doing?  Are they checking the rubric or looking for something?’ Eventually, I couldn’t stand the awkward silence so I broke the ice by saying “Hi, guys. Have you found the work document?” which started our conversation. Although we pretty much finished our assigned task, our discussion was superficial and did not really reach my expectations for that class. I was genuinely disappointed and felt upset about what I felt was a loss in value of that class time.

However, there was another time when I was grouped with a classmate who was talkative and willing to share their ideas, and that experience was totally different. From the beginning, our greetings naturally warmed up our discussion, and some common thoughts that we expressed about the class deepened our conversation and elicited more thinking and sharing. This experience showed me that if all of the members of a breakout room are willing participants, the conversation can be great.

Perspective as a teacher

Recently, I was granted the opportunity to observe as a student-teacher in a class. Student-teachers at the graduate level typically learn to teach by observing the host teacher’s practices and teaching micro lessons in real classrooms. This is what I did at the USC International Academy during Spring 2020 and Fall 2020. Due to the sudden shift to online learning, I’ve noticed a drop in student engagement and motivation in the classes I have assisted, especially compared to the behavior of students that I observed in in-person classes during Spring 2020. In particular, I noticed one odd but common phenomenon in breakout rooms: although the teacher had carefully explained the activity the students were about to perform before going into breakout rooms, the students tended to keep silent when they first entered the room and still needed some time to discuss what the task was about. Even though the teacher had asked if the students had any questions before they joined the breakout room, sometimes they even started the breakout room discussion by asking “What are we supposed to do?”. Even though they performed better in group activities after several weeks of class, communication efficiency distinctly decreased compared to in-person classes.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
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TV To Watch Over Winter Break

By Tanya Chen

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

Quarantine has been extremely difficult. The days seem to pass by slowly and they each feel like an endless, repetitive loop. During quarantine, I have picked up a few hobbies out of boredom. Some of these new ventures include making Dalgona coffee, baking banana bread, and learning Photoshop. As these hobbies have come and go, there is one hobby that has stayed consistent throughout the past six months: watching Netflix. In this article, I will recommend three shows that I think international students will enjoy watching and learning from. We can all watch TV shows to relax during this time, and with winter break fast approaching, I highly recommend all of these!

Criminal Minds (Genre: Mystery/Suspense; Seasons: 15; Episode Length: 40 minutes)

Photo by Michelle Ding on Unsplash

Criminal Minds is an extremely addictive crime show. The show follows a team of FBI agents who work in the Behavioral Analysis Unit as profilers. FBI profilers are law enforcement agents who use psychology to study and investigate who the suspects behind crimes are and what motivates them. It is interesting to watch the team travel across all over the US and study a criminal’s behavior. The 40-minute episodes are always filled with twists and turns that keep the audience on their feet. However, many of these episodes are very heavy and intense, so it is good for those who get scared easily to watch this show with a friend. Criminal Minds is a great show for international students because it introduces them to many different parts of the US and teaches them about the cultures, customs, and dialects that are popular in all the different states and cities. From tracking a killer in Miami, Florida to following robbers in rural Montana, Criminal Minds is a great introduction to varying social climates of the many states in the US.

Emily in Paris (Genre: Romantic Comedy; Seasons: 1; Episode Length: 20 minutes)

Photo by Nil Castellví on Unsplash

After watching too many scary episodes of Criminal Minds, I was lucky enough to discover a show that’s a bit more light-hearted and fun: Emily in Paris. This newly released show follows the adventures of Emily, a young marketing agent from Chicago, as she travels to Europe for a new job. The audience is able to watch her learn a new language, adjust to a new culture, and get acclimated to the people around her. The episodes are extremely funny and beautifully shot. I enjoyed being able to vicariously live through Emily as she explored the beautiful city of Paris. Since there are only 10 episodes, this show was extremely easy to binge and I was able to finish it in one sitting. I would recommend this show to any international student because the show does a great job of documenting how a young adult is adjusting to living in a new country, making friends, and learning a new language.

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Taking English for Granted

By David Schroeder

[4 minute read]

Language is not something I really think about on a day-to-day basis. Most of the time, I just go through my day freely communicating with ease and not running into any language-related problems. I feel like this is the way a lot of native English speakers living in America feel, and I’ve found that it is a very ignorant way of thinking. Everyone should acknowledge that being fluent in English is a major privilege that is often overlooked or taken for granted by native speakers.

During my first conversation session at ALI, I was talking with an international student specifically about what our high schools were like. He said that he had a few required classes that he had to take during high school, and that one of them was four years of English. I mentioned that I was also required to take a foreign language and my conversation partner was puzzled by this, and he questioned me on why I would be required to learn any other language besides English. This forced me to step back and think more deeply about English.

spark

My conversation partner’s statement is sad but true, because in a practical sense, if you know English, there is not a need to know any other language because of English’s dominance in the world. This is unfortunate, because it is not fair to rate languages above each other because it creates a big disadvantage to those who are not native English speakers, and thus they are given the burden of learning another language (usually English) out of necessity.

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