Spring 2011: My first semester in Teachers College Columbia University. I was stunned by the U.S. educational system, especially group dynamic in classroom discussion. My classmates did enjoy participating in classroom activities. Especially, American students they felt free to express their thoughts in front of professors and colleagues. Nevertheless, it was clear that those international students (especially from those Asian students) were not confident to share their ideas in the classes.
Asian students generally tend to display reserved characteristics when voluntarily sharing thoughts in classroom, comparing to non-Asian students. Differences may exist in the preferences of students from diverse cultural backgrounds (Ramburuth & McCormick, 2001). In terms of Asian students, possible factors for such phenomenon include that 1) high parental expectation levels lead the Asian students to be more afraid of making errors than non-Asian students, and 2) Asian students are more adapted to teacher-centered classroom environment, in which they do not feel comfortable of liberally expressing and presenting their own opinions to other classmates. Such unbalanced participation level has been a critical problem in school setting, particularly among multi-cultural classrooms. In a nutshell, identify is the key reason leads Asian students not to feel comfortable to express their thoughts in front of others.
How can we help those students to be able to express themselves in front of others? Is there any alternative communication channel for them to express themselves without showing their identities?
This week readings about MUDs and digital literacies pointed out the opportunity to help those Asians students. Nevertheless, it needs more researches and experiments to put theory to practice.
Multi-User Domains, MUDs put people into virtual space in which they can navigate, converse and build. User’s identity on the computer is distributed presence of user. MUDs turn real life into another window of user’s identity. MUDs are powerful reflection of thinking about identity, and a set of ideas about postmodernism (Turkle, 1999).
In the article “Digital Literacies of the Cybergirl”, Thomas pointed out that girls could create their own cyberbodies, which allow them to explore, experience a senses of empowerment, and find new ways of reinventing themselves. They could have the command of the words, empower themselves in cyberspace (2004).
Imagine, if we can let those students feel free to express themselves without showing their identities in front of others in MUDs through digital literacy. It possibly changes their behaviors, makes them feel confident, and feels free to express their own thoughts. I see the potential of idea sharing in MUDs. If we can grow the concept of idea sharing in virtual world, then those students would be able to express themselves freely in their real world as one of many windows of their lives.
Thomas, A. (2004). Digital Literacies of The Cybergirl. E-learning, 1(3), 358-382.
Turkle, S. (1999). Life on The Screen. New York: Touchstone. (Introduction: Identity in the Age of the Internet.
Ramburuth, P., & McCormick, J. (2001). Learning diversity in higher education: A comparative study of Asian international and Australian students. Higher Education, 42(3), 333-350.