Final Course Reflection : Core 2096

This blog post will highlight moments and assignments that have influenced me throughout this course.

Introduction

Link: http://teachinginhighered.com/2017/02/07/digital-literacy/

First of all, it is important to clarify that registering for this course was mandatory, given that it is a Global Studies requirement. Therefore, before the semester started I didn’t really think that any of the assignments, projects and interactions would influence me at all. However, little did I know that my experience throughout the semester was the complete opposite and my thoughts/routines changed a lot, due to the numerous and distinctive interactions and assignments I was confronted with.

Now I know the real meaning of an ‘Intercultural Community’ and I have acknowledged that there is a greater idea behind this concept, rather than ‘people from different cultures’. In other words, there are people who have similar backgrounds, however, have entirely different routines, traditions and perspectives. I believe that this was the main emphasize of this course: Being able to express yourself, freely and confronting any barriers. What I liked the most about this class are the discussions, because they were very flexible and all classmates were respectful and understanding towards one another. In opposition to other courses, I can barely speak up knowing that people won’t always understand and will be very critical, therefore, sometimes it is better to just stay quite. Having the space to talk about how I feel even if it is a sensitive social/political/personal topic was a very fulfilling feeling. Additionally, any other course obligates the student to participate. Whereas, throughout the discussions in this course students willingly participated because we were able to relate to the topics being discussed and share our experiences with each other.

Furthermore, the flexibility of the assignments were also very helpful, because it motivated me to think outside the box and in more creative ways. For example, blog posts are ‘informal’ in comparison to Turnitin or Blackboard, however, I believe it has a greater impact, because it gives more space for the student to discuss the assignment without having to think of plagiarism, because there are no external resources being used to begin with. Hence, everything that is written is a reflection regarding the assignment or activity. This way, we were able to complete the assignment, while thinking about its pros/cons in depth.

Throughout this learning process, I was also able to focus more on the quality of the work, in opposition to the outcome of the grade. Therefore, I was actually able to think mindfully, without having to deal with the stress of grades, and thinking about how to ‘perfect’ the assignment, which automatically narrows down my spectrum of thought.

Finally, the overall outcome of this course influenced me because all the assignments were based on my honest thoughts and perspectives and how I can or cannot integrate them within distinctive cultures.

Digital Literacies

digital-literacy-diagram
Link: https://resourced.classflow.co.uk/digital-literacy-classroom-important/

1. In order to adequately communicate virtually, one must be digitally literate. In my opinion an important factor that contributes to digital literacy is being able to communicate respectfully and knowing how to send your message across (because sometimes face-to-face situations are easier for many people) and using digital literacy to create an intercultural environment, both within and outside the individual’s geographic boarders.

The reason I think communication and digital literacy are significant is because I personally experienced this throughout the Soliya Connect Program, where I  was able to clearly differentiate between face-to-face meetings, in comparison to virtual ones. Additionally, I was able to understand the complexity of demonstrating your perspective, to a person I only know device.

Therefore, although this was a challenging experience, however, I was able to comprehend the importance of digital literacies even in the most simple situations, e-mailing colleges/facilitators to discuss an assignment, being able to read an article online and discuss it throughout the session, even being able to minimize my technological issues is considered as a way of applying my digital knowledge. I believe that being able to communicate digitally and use this opportunity as a major advantage to get to know other people and other cultures while consuming a minimal amount of time, was exciting to go through.

Moreover, apart from the importance of communication through digital literacies, there is also the Cultural  and Cognitive side to it:

The cultural approach focuses on being able to use and apply one’s knowledge through different digital platforms and understanding the different use of technology and when to use it. This is significant because one can use this as an opportunity to raise awareness regarding a particular topic and as a result would also help the community as a whole.  This can be put into good use, especially in Egypt, because the distinctive purposes of digital outlets aren’t really emphasized.

Secondly, the cognitive approach is also important, because I usually use certain tools, therefore, I end up feeling very comfortable and avoid understanding the ‘know how’s’ of other tools or even using them. This is crucial because one must always be aware of the new innovate tools and how to use them, or else in the future, it’ll be more difficult to learn about them.

2. The in-class activity that helped me learn about the digital literacies and the important factors of it is: ‘Exploring Digital Literacies Activity’. Mainly because it consisted of many requirements and in depth research regarding Digital Literacies. Therefore, I was able to have a greater understanding about the topic and about myself too, due to the activity which determines my strength and weaknesses. This helped highlight the important factors that I should work on. Additionally, all assignments throughout this course depended on technological devices, thus, I was able to work on my weaknesses throughout the course.

‘Throughout this course I hope to particularly develop my communication and collaboration skills through different class activities and of course Soliya. My aim is to enhance my digital skills in general and hopefully become more comfortable and confident while interacting with other individuals virtually.’

I wrote this two months ago when I was working on the activity. Now I can see that I have actually developed my weaknesses and worked on them. I was happy to realize that getting out of my comfort zone influenced me positively.

Lastly, this assignment required lots of research -some credible and others not so much- therefore, I was confronted with different perspectives and I had a greater understanding towards the topic itself.

Second of all, another assignment that I found very challenging but was so eager to improve, was the Narrative Game. When I started working on this assignment, I put so many restrictions for myself, that it was less creative and basically boring. Thankfully, my classmates were able to critique it and we talked about the pros/cons together, this way I was able to actually accept different ideas instead of being narrow minded. In addition to this, I decided to stop thinking about this as an ‘assignment’ and instead actually thought of how this game can positively impact someone if I were able to raise awareness towards a mass audience. Hence, this connects to the activity I’ve stated above because I was able to work on the cultural approach  by raising awareness and the cognitive approach through understanding how to develop a game digitally and lastly, communicative approach focused on how to send the message of the game across to the player, through a digital context.

3. One thing that can be added to enhance the digital literacy experience, is to work more on assignments that are not required in other classes. For example, creating a podcast was a very different assignment that helped me think creatively, in comparison to focusing on the fact that it is an assignment. Therefore, assignments such as videos, podcasts, taking pictures instead of writing a report are all assignments that focus more on the concept of digital literacies and creativity.

Intercultural Learning

Annual-Report-01-Cover-3-1.jpeg
Link: http://www.fccsocieties.org/participate-in-soliya-connect-program/

1. Intercultural Learning is an essential factor in one’s life, as it gives the individual a different outlook on life. Intercultural learning is significant because it neglects the ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ Ideology and instead unites all. Also, when talking with people from different cultures, you start comprehending that we are more or less all the same.

Therefore, the most important aspects are communication and culture:

Communication is of course very important, because one must learn to communicate respectfully and comprehend that the other person has different ideologies, thus, one must be mindful when sending a message across.

This brings me to my second point, culture. All of us have different perspectives and ideologies, even if people have similar or the same backgrounds. However, when talking with someone from a different culture – one that you might not know anything about – it is important to be very respectful and understanding and to actually put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

2. The main project that influenced Intercultural learning throughout the semester is of course Soliya. All readings, sessions and questions revolved around interacting and communicating with people from different perspectives or cultures. This was very interesting because I’ve noticed that so many foreigners were very interested to know about the Arab culture and it was nice to explain an honest perspective, that confronts any mediated barriers. This was a very fulfilling feeling, to be able to actually state your perspective, be honest and most importantly, breaking stereotypes!

An activity that helped me think of other people, where I actually put myself in the other persons place, was the in-class activity, where we were all spontaneously given different roles – that we didn’t choose – and we had to adapt to life’s circumstances by taking a step forward or backwards. This really helped me think of the situation through a different lens, instead of a theoretical one, by just saying ‘I want to help someone’. Personally, this was by far my favorite in-class activity because it was different than just reading an article online or hearing a story.

3. One thing that I would change about my Intercultural experience, refers back to the Soliya sessions. All sessions were more or less arranged topics. This was something that I did not really enjoy because most people only replied because they had to not because they wanted to. Therefore, if the conversations were more free and members just asked each other questions that we are actually curious about, the conversations would be more genuine and honest.

Global Citizenship

Global-Citizenship-illustration-NB
Link: https://www.mdcthereporter.com/global-citizenship-is-a-legitimate-ideal-society-should-strive-for/

1. I think the most significant aspect of Global Citizenship is actually thinking through a global perspective. In other words, limiting cultural/national interference to come between all people. Nowadays, it almost seems impossible to be human and surprisingly it is more common to see people practice inhumane acts. Therefore, we limit people and discourage them based on their backgrounds/nationalities. Lastly, this is why I believe global citizenship’s most important aspect is to bring people together and leave a sense of unity.

 

Link: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/chimamanda-ngozi-adichie-ted/?lp=true

2. An assignment that influenced me, was the TED Talk: ‘The Danger Of A Single Story’. It is extremely inspiring, not only the topic that she discussed, but how she discussed it. Also, seeing that someone has gone through a lot but was still able to rise, just proves how strong she is, it demonstrates nothing less than complete strength. She also highlighted a topic that I discussed earlier, which is categorizing people and thinking that you ‘know’ them, only because you ‘know’ about his/her culture or have heard of it. I was happy to see that regardless of any problems she has been through, she was able to deal with everything ans actually have the chance to speak up.

3.  One thing that would be very exciting to try, is if  all students (from the beginning of the semester) were given a role – that is far from their reality – and they would have to reflect on assignments/projects as if they were that person in reality. This would help the student actually feel the importance of Global Citizenship, because he/she would practice this for 4 months.

 

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Final Reflection: Soliya

            My overall experience with the Connect Program was entirely different than what I expected, not from the group or the facilitator but from myself. I have never really thought of myself as someone who would initiate a conversation in a room full people, as I can be extremely shy at times. However, through this program I was able to participate at times when the entire room was quite and I voluntarily began answering questions, in order to have a well-rounded conversation. This was definitely a change I noticed in myself throughout the sessions and time-by-time it began to get easier for me to participate, hence more interesting. I was proud to see that my participation actually mattered, because my group members would subsequently respectfully state their opinions and later compare the different circumstances present in each area. Fortunately, a change I noticed in others was being able to break common conversational barriers, such as: Awkwardness, shyness, being defensive and so on. I was glad to see that as a group we were able to overcome this, as it increased the value of dialogue and created a friendly setting. Additionally, step-by-step we all started to share personal experiences, in opposition to the beginning where everyone would share common political or social issues, but exclude anything personal.

            Furthermore, an essential skill that I developed throughout the sessions is certainly mindful thinking. Having diverse conversations, with people I have no personal/face-to-face experience with, was like a ‘wake-up call’ for me, mainly because I usually do not filter my words, therefore, things I say sometimes can be blunt. However, throughout the sessions I had to be extremely cautious, in order to respect all members and avoid offending anyone. This skill is definitely beneficial because it helped me become a more considerate person, thus creating more space for open-minded discussions.

            A major challenge I faced was the idea of representing my culture to others. Being part of the Middle East, I understand that different areas of the world have controversial opinions regarding our lifestyles and traditions. Therefore, I had to make sure to be honest while explaining a particular trait or situation present in our culture, however, I also tried my best to help others understand that most of the events that the media covers can be misperceived. This highlights the skill of thinking mindfully, as I had to avoid being biased by supporting the region unfairly and instead focused more on being honest.

            A topic of discussion that really influenced my train of thought was when all group members shared their daily routine. It was interesting to see that we all share so much in common – both the good and the bad – particularly the obstacles we all face through university. The entire group was able to connect and laugh with one another because we were able to easily relate to the situation. This was certainly a meaningful discussion because it was not about political or social issues, as it only focused on what we, as humans share on a daily basis.

            Finally, my overall experience was very pleasant and exceeded my expectations. I was happy to see that technological advancements can be used for good purposes, as I believe that understanding and exploring different cultures is essential, because only exploring your own personal/cultural bubble limits the spectrum of thought and creates a greater divide between all people. Therefore, being able to connect with others and understand different outlooks – some of which never crossed my mind before – was a meaningful experience and will certainly help me through other circumstances.

 

Soliya Session 3

 

So far this session was the most interesting, for multiple reasons that I will talk about. But firstly, the main reason is that more people started participating and actually showing up, therefore, there are additional topics for conversation and different perspectives.

       The facilitator told us to share something about our culture and I shared the aspect that I love most about Egyptians and our lifestyle, which is that we’re very supportive (In Arabic: جدعين) and also our generosity. I believe that this is not an aspect that is present in most cultures and I think it is very special because we are able to help one another through the good and bad times. This is when I remembered the reading of Stumbling Blocks when the Korean student, in comparison to the American student, stated that we invite each other over all the time, we offer food/beverages more than once and we definitely help one another. When I travel abroad, I see that everyone is in their own bubble and interaction is very limited. I mentioned this in the session by saying that Egyptian’s don’t really have a ‘personal bubble’ and a European team member stated that Europeans also do not have a personal bubble, by using a crowded subway as an example, that everyone is physically close to each other on a crowded subway.  So we talked about how uncomfortable it feels for Europeans, whereas, Egyptians do this willingly. This was very interesting to experience, because I’ve visited Europe before and I didn’t feel really think of  the subway as ‘close-up’ interactions and that for Europeans this surpasses their personal bubble.

      Another topic we discussed were weddings. Almost all Americans/Europeans stated that their weddings are 50 people maximum and I thought to myself ‘WOW only 50 people?’ When I went on and told that, nowadays some luxurious weddings have about 1000 people, they were astonished, because they told me that the maximum number of guests that they have ever heard of was 100 people and that more than that was not even an option, because you only invite people you know almost everything about. Which brings me back to my first point regarding being too generous/giving that when we limit the guests and avoid inviting certain people, we think of it as ‘rude’. Whereas, to the Americans/Europeans, this is the norm.

      We later discussed the Stumbling Blocks article and all team members agreed and are aware of the factors that are mentioned in the reading. We’ve also discussed some of the ways to overcome stumbling blocks are: Understand different cultures, be mindful, be respectful, you can share your pride yet still be respectful. It was funny to see that the Americans shared Trump’s statement when he said ‘America First’ and they said that they understand that the US is a very powerful country, so if we have the privilege to help others – why not? Why not make it easier for others? They also emphasized that the world would be a much better place if the developed countries focused on that instead of being superior. Lastly, an important point that I could easily relate to was the importance of traveling and researching in order to know and have distinctive cultural literacy. I highly agree with this, because when I started visiting Eastern Europe for example, it was very different from London and I realized that I’ve always thought of Europe under a single criteria, I literally categorized an entire content without even noticing.

       Additionally, we discussed our final projects and the different topics that are available. It was interesting to notice that almost all Westerners wanted to know more about Islam than anything else. I was very happy to see that all teams members were able to break and confront the barriers that the media has created. Furthermore, two of my team members are using traffic issues for their final project, so I explained what it feels like to take a 2.5 hour ride to university on a daily basis and how this impacts my energy and of course my mood. Ironically, one of my team members were able to relate to this, because she takes an hour to go to her university on a daily basis and it really frustrates her, so we went on by venting about the distance and traffic.

        Finally, I was happy to see that the flow of the conversation was not fixed and didn’t really depend on a criteria, which is why it went smoothly because we all actually had a conversation together. It was interesting to see how the Internet can break barriers.

 

Soliya Session 2

        Thankfully throughout this session almost all team members participated and shared their perspectives, which was very beneficial for the discussion because I was able to recognize the importance of being…mindful. The facilitator asked many questions regarding being an Egyptian or Middle Eastern in general, in order to help create a clear image for those from other cultures. This was a little bit difficult because before speaking, I really had to think of the importance of being honest and cautious, in order to avoid unnecessary conflict. For example, we were asked to explain our routine and lifestyle to the Americans, given that most of my team members are Middle Eastern, I thought to myself that they’ll probably think we’re being defensive or simply exaggerating, because almost all team members said only good/luxurious statements, but avoided saying any actually struggles, even if it is as simple as traffic. Furthermore, then we talked about the importance of intercultural interaction, as it is necessary to help create a stronger imagery than the one media has established. As a result of this topic, two of my team mates that are American, stated that the media depicts the Middle East as ‘unsafe’, therefore, they are happy to see and understand our culture. This was when I recognized that it is very weird how most Arabs know about the culture and lifestyle of Americans, for example, and have visited America multiple times. Whereas, numerous Americans do not really know a lot about the Middle Eastern lifestyle…Therefore, I was happy to see that I had the chance to actually represent my culture, through honesty and mindfulness.

Reflecting On Soliya Readings

          All three readings: Stumbling Blocks In Intercultural Communication, An Open Way and The Development Model Of Intercultural Sensitivity are all interconnected and the points in each reading are completed by going through all three, hence the reader develops a greater understanding. When I only read the titles I assumed that all three readings revolved around the same topic and consisted of the same points/perspectives. However, I was happy to see that almost all readings talk about Intercultural Communication. Yet, each article has a different focus point.

       Firstly, the Stumbling Blocks In Intercultural Communication article, written by Laray Barna was well-explained, due to the numerous examples that were stated regarding people who actually confronted intercultural difficulty. This article discusses the challenges of communicating with people from different cultures. I was able to identity to most of the points that were stated because I understand how easy it is to stereotype a different nation/culture, even if it is unintentional. Also, because being Egyptian and part of the Middle Eastern region, there has been numerous claims that Egypt is ‘underdeveloped, developing, unsafe, backwards, etc’. What really saddens me is that many Egyptians make these claims, while disregarding the opportunities they have in order to make their country better – even if it is a gradual process – Anyhow, Barna claims that there are six stumbling blocks of Intercultural Communication and explains how misunderstandings can occur. One of the factors that I highly agreed with was: Assumptions Of Similarities. Because as an Egyptian we’re very open in the way we interact with others. Whereas, others cultures – Americans for example – tend to be more formal, even if it is as simple as greeting someone. Therefore, when I make friends who have different cultural backgrounds, I’m always cautious with the way I treat others. For example, I would greet an American differently than the way I would greet an Indian, because Indians have a lot in come with Egyptian’s, and are less formal. Lastly, throughout this reading I was able to make a lot of connections while readings and can easily understand the struggles that occur when getting to know someone from a different culture.

         Secondly, The Development Model For Intercultural Sensitivity was very helpful, because while reading the steps it helped raise unconscious thoughts that usually occur, but I often neglect. Therefore, while reading this article I was able to understand the process more clearly. For example, I took the opinion of my friend (He did a semester abroad) about this article and he told me that most of these steps actually occur, but can take more/less time depending on the bond you have with the other individual. He later went on by saying that his groups were mainly Mexicans, Lebanese and Indians and all three cultures share common values and traditions, one of which being the importance of family. Therefore, it was a lot easier for them to connect and share their similarities. On the contrary, he later explained that people who had no idea where Egypt was located on the map or basically anything about the Egyptian culture, made it harder to communicate with, particularly when they state remarks such as: ‘Do you go to school riding a camel?’. He said that stereotypical remarks are often and continuously said and it triggers your defense mechanism in one way or another – even if you’re not really patriotic – This point was stated through the model as ‘Defense’ when the individual is offended by other people’s mentalities or thoughts and cultures are organized into ‘Us and Them’.  Finally, I’ve asked my friend about this because he went through this experience, whereas, all the people I’ve communicated with usually share a common friend, therefore, communication was made easier for both sides.

              Finally, I found the Open Way document very helpful and beneficial particularly in Soliya’s context as it gives advice regarding interacting with people from different cultures. Therefore, while keeping these points in mind it will help me get my message across to people, meanwhile, not offending anyone and being respectful. What I really liked about this document, was that it stated the points clearly, hence making it easier for the reader and easier to remember. On the contrary, if the document was written in paragraph form, the reader would not easily understand or comprehend the do’s and don’ts. Lastly, while having my Soliya session, keeping this document open on a separate tab, just in case I face any difficulties, would be a helpful guide.

 

Soliya Session 1

My first session with Soliya was very different than what I’ve expected. Before having the session, I thought that we would be able to say our thoughts freely, without a particular order. However, when I logged in, it came to my realization that we have to talk in a proper order by pressing ‘talk’ and ‘release’. I understand that the main reason behind this is to give every teammate the chance to participate, without interrupting each other. However, I feel like this somewhat ruins the idea of an open conversation and instead creates a very structured conversation, where you’ll probably filter and change your words a million times before actually stating your true opinion.
Furthermore, I’ve realized that the session cannot go forward without the help of each and every teammate, therefore, I was glad to see that almost all of my teammates have done the readings, this way we were all capable of contributing to the conversation and sharing our different perspectives. Additionally, the activity I enjoyed the most was the Identity one, because it is always very interesting to see how different cultures define identity. For example, most of my teammates that are from Arab countries, defined Identity the same way I defined it, family, religion, occupation, etc. On the contrary, people from different areas, such as: Americans thought of identity through a different perspective, for example, relationships, values, and friendship. They did not mention what their religion is, which state they live in, or even their family members. This was surprising to notice because it portrays how individuals with similar backgrounds, have a lot in common. That being said, I’m sure that by the end of this semester I’ll notice that we’re all the same in one way or another, at the end of the day we’re all human.
Lastly, it was very interesting to see people from opposite ends of the globe connecting and keeping an open mind throughout most conversations. In the world we live in today, it is very easy to judge different cultures, based on the information posted on mediated platforms. Therefore, I’ve enjoyed this opportunity.

Dissecting the Digital Divide : A Case Study in Egypt

          In this article, a professor at the University Of California, named Mark Warschauer aims to critique the term ‘Digital Divide’, while covering the complications through a case study situated in Egypt.

          The term ‘Digital Divide’ refers to the comparison of distinctive social groups, particularly the marginalized ones and their access to digital resources, for example: The internet.  Warschauer brought a very important point to my attention, while stating ‘the stratification that does exist regarding access to online information has very little to do with the Internet per se, but has everything to do with political, economic, institutional, cultural, and linguistic contexts that shape the meaning of the Internet in people’s lives. (Pg. 297)’ This is significant because I’ve never really thought that the digital world is a major social issue. However, after reading this statement I’ve noticed that -in on way or another- having access to digital resources is a privilege that everyone should experience -regardless of the groups social standing- as it greatly enhances the individual’s performance and effects his/her self-growth.

           Warschauer also discusses the impact of the digital world and how it influenced every aspect of society. Therefore, being privileged to online information or the absence of it, can greatly impact the development of the individual nowadays. I firmly agree with this for numerous reasons, for example: Education with regards to established institutions -Schools, Universities, Work, etc-  are a major factor because almost all of the assignments, notes, reading, and even announcements are done through a computer/laptop or any digital device in general. However, what if a student/employee at university/work doesn’t have access to internet at home or a digital device in general? This will be much harder for the student, although that is unfair because the student pays the same fees, takes the same courses and is as interested in the topic of discussion. On a separate note, this can also be compared on a bigger scale, for instance: The social standing of a group. This is evident through the different institutions, such as: AUC can have access to online information, while other universities have limited or do not have any access. Thus, dealing with the limited resources available will not have the same impact in terms of educational growth, as AUC and its dependence on the digital world.

             Warschauer then discusses the case study in Egypt, I was happy to see that the Ministry of Education put exerted effort to allocate digital resources across various schools. Furthermore, I was surprised that these resources were disregarded and barely made use of. After reading the case study, I felt like I haven’t really thought of the difference between primary and secondary education or public and private schools in Egypt. I feel like – nowadays – almost all organizations focus on secondary education and extend their privileges. On the other hand, the primary education, is not as ‘important’ through the eyes of many, as a result a hierarchy is established. This is a huge problem because individuals who are in any level – but the top – must wait for orders, instead of finding their own solutions or distinctive procedures to develop the system. 

Questions –

  1. Why haven’t we (as Egyptians) think of innovative and new ways to make online information easily accessible to less developed areas?
  2. What are other ideas that the MOE can develop to enhance both the teachers and students performance while using digital devices.
  3. What can we do to fill this Digital-Social gap?