THE GLOBAL VOICE: A WORLD WIDE WRITING WEB SITE
" I was labled by a HMong student which is about the name of the HMong tribe. Chinese call HMOng "Miao" which sounds like "cat". That's why I was blamed that we, all chinese, shouldn't not call them "Miao". Actually,I don't think it is correct interpretation. Because "Miao" is not "cat", but literlly means " spouts and little plants on the field". I guess this name came form this word because HMong people are farming group. Nothing to do with CAT at all."
(This quotation is excerpted from a Chinese student's response to our web site's question: "How do stereotypes affect you?" The student's original spelling is retained.)
After returning to Humboldt State University from the 1997 Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) convention, I asked my senior level students if they might be interested in creating a web site for examining intercultural communication viewpoints through authentic writing samples from English as a second language speakers. Three of my students jumped at the opportunity to develop their expertise in intercultural communication and teaching English as a second language through this practical exercise. They also took on the challenge of learning a new modern language: HTML. The four of us truly had a "bonding" experience in designing, organizing, and implementing the web site. We are now reaping the benefits of the long hours we spent working through the glitches as we encountered them. (There is certainly nothing quite like "experiential learning!") English as a second language students' responses, such as the one at the beginning of this paper, are providing us with the data to research intercultural communication through students' internet writing.
This paper reports on the web site entitled "The Global Voice," which may be found at http://www.humboldt.edu/~ddj3/globalvoice/. "The Global Voice" is a web site which the four authors developed to enhance the understanding of cultures and intercultural communication by students all over the world. The writing prompts are intended to elicit written thoughts, essays and/or narratives on various issues or topics. The resulting individual and collaborative compositions will be analyzed in terms of cultural themes and perspectives. This paper describes the rationale and the process used for setting up the global writing web site. The general topics gathered so far are described. Finally, based upon their experiences with "The Global Voice," the authors provide specific suggestions for using and constructing such global internet writing projects to promote intercultural awareness, communication, and understanding.
The rationale for developing the "Global Voice" web site was to encourage students from all parts of the globe to reflect on various writing prompts and write about their thoughts and feelings. By taking a thematic approach--reactions to news articles, contemplations about a "burning question" (such as stereotyping), and free writing to word prompts--we wanted to note and discuss intercultural similarities and differences. The focus would not be on the students' writing ability in terms of the "correct" usage of English; the emphasis would be on identifying and examining the cultural nuances in the writing.
We designed the web site so that students could choose different prompts to respond to based upon their interests. The three major categories included : Short Narrative, Group Dialogue and The Burning Question.
The short narrative section is a place where students from all over the world can create their own stories. This section contains four word prompts. Currently those words are "celebration," "food," "holiday," and "airplanes." The group dialogue section is a discussion forum for topics of global concern and current events. Students can see how people in other countries feel about issues that are important to them. They may add their opinions to the discussion. The burning question section contains a question which may spark a student's interest. The current question is: How do stereotypes affect you? By picking this question to answer, students have an opportunity to share their ideas and feelings about being categorized in different ways. They can discuss how they reacted to a significant encounter in which they felt that they were being stereotyped. So far the question about stereotyping has proven to be the most popular writing prompt for which we have received responses.
CONSTRUCTING THE WEB SITE
The construction of the web site entitled "The Global Voice" proved to be an exciting, yet challenging task to undertake. The research of what material was to be included in the site was perhaps the easiest part of the project. The difficult part was getting the material together on the computer; that is, creating the actual web page. We found that it took longer than we expected and that we basically put it together through trial and error.
Even though we had taken a course entitled "Technology in English" (which gives students an outline of how the internet works and the "basics" on how to create your own web page), we discovered that the having little or no knowledge was more helpful in getting the project completed. The course taught us about one particular word processing program that is used to transfer any written information to the web page called "SimpleText." We also learned about HTML, which is the type of language used to interpret computer-speak to the page. Ironically, we did not think this was so "simple." However, by having a particular web site manual at our side and immersing ourselves in the production of this task, we learned how to speak the HTML language and use it to our advantage.
After the written material was in place, we went for the pictures, the eye-catching advertisement of the page. We had little knowledge of how to download icons, but by "playing around" with the keyboard and getting into other links "accidentally" did we find solutions. Other links on the internet [NETSCAPE] were very helpful in giving information about what we needed for our page. We also had some assistance from a Teaching Assistant of the previously-mentioned course, who was extremely helpful.
To have more than one pair of eyes scan the work was helpful in that one person may see problems that another may not. Here our professor was especially helpful. Putting together a web page has a lot to do with errors as you are forced to try different paths if the first one does not take you anywhere. However, with any arduous, challenging task, especially when worked on by a group, there will always be ups and downs involved. Eventually, the task becomes a great learning process, where each individual working on it comes away with a head full of information that is extremely beneficial.
COLLECTING STUDENTS' WRITING
POTENTIAL CHALLENGES AND ADVICE
In undertaking such projects, we feel is it important for future web site authors to consider the following list of challenges. Based upon our experiences, we had added a few words of advice.
In conclusion, "The Global Voice" web site has proven to be a
wonderful, practical exercise in intercultural communication and
second language ("html") acquisition for students at Humboldt State
University. As future English as a second language instructors, these
students have experienced the world of possibilities in exploring and
promoting intercultural internet writing and the challenges of
curriculum development on the world wide web. As we collect more and
more writing from English as a second language students from all over
the globe, our next authoring experience will be an intercultural
internet "textbook" written by and for English as a second language
speakers. We hope that our page will be an instrumental tool in the
field of intercultural communication and that it brings together
students and teachers from all over the world who share in the
delight of a new kind of writing -- one that takes place all on the
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