Teaching and learning in the 21st century

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Among promoting a multitude of interesting discussion topics on HET forum, we want to particularly encourage editorials that are educational in nature and aimed at higher education and learning. We hope that individuals from all walks of life can post or comment on editorials as I strongly believe all of us can learn a thing or two from anyone and everyone. We welcome editorials and comments in both English and Chinese as participants on the forum (educators, learners, professionals and others) are fluent in either or both and many of us use a translating tool on a daily basis. Although translating tools certainly need improvement and are often laughable, I do believe we are not too far away from excellent translating tools in the near future.

One of the greatest things about being a teacher in the internet and global village era is that I can invite special guests to contribute to my lectures live via the internet, which is what started HET forum. I also learn quite a bit from my students, not only from doing research, as they often get stuff online and make the best use of it much faster than I do. I can’t wait to see what teaching and learning would be like a mere 10 years away, especially higher education institutions and I anticipate quite different environments and approaches for both. Additionally I share the same opinion with many others that the 21st century marks the beginning of the most fascinating time in the history of humanity for both learning and teaching as the internet and related technologies gives both a dimension many of us could not fathom in the previous century. The internet has profoundly affected all areas of life, particularly higher education, making for a culturally and ethnically diverse teaching and learning environment which is particularly enriching and rewarding. Nevertheless, along with others, I question the relevance of many of the so called degrees that are coming out of this internet / global village era, some which are popping up like mushrooms after the rain.

When I was in elementary school 30 + years ago in a city that was quite multicultural and ethnically diverse, there was only one student in a class of 40 + students which fluently spoke a second language and looked somewhat different than the rest of us. When I enrolled in high school 9 years later in Chicago, Illinois, about half the class was ethnically and culturally diverse, looked very different than everyone else and was made of mostly new immigrants, all speaking a 2nd language or two. Almost 20 years later while studying for a PhD degree in Taiwan, more than half of the students in my classes were made of international students (not immigrants) all ethnically and culturally diverse. Over 80% of the international students would go back to their own country or other countries upon completing their studies with the rest trying to look for opportunities in Taiwan, however, less than 1% immigrating here. The phenomenal contributions of internet and globalization is that you can live pretty much anywhere in the world, even N. Korea (ask Dennis Rodman if you don’t believe me) without having to immigrate there. All you need is either money, a powerful buddy, some skills, or luck (having the right passport). I didn’t immigrate to Taiwan, I simply decided to live here.

My decision to live in Taiwan indefinitely was aided by the opportunity of pursuing a graduate degree which was further amplified by National Chiao Tung University (NCTU) receiving their AACSB accreditation, giving me more opportunities worldwide. Just a quick run of facts, a number of graduates from NCTU now work in the Middle East and China, many of them teach higher education and quite a few come from North America and Western countries. After my departure from Feng Chia University, I highly considered a couple of offers in Middle East countries; everything, particularly live interviews were done by internet. Some may wonder why anyone would trust to hire a total stranger across the globe, but this is the beauty of the internet; it’s full of scams but also full of facts. Publications, personal portfolios, and CV posted online can be quickly checked and verified, much easier and faster than anyone can contact a current / former employer or references listed on a recommendation letter. A quick Google search of our own names may surprise many of us how much the world knows; things that we often forget about or think are insignificant say quite a lot to the world out there!

Before I move on, I want to reflect on how everything changed in ways that I would have never dreamed of back in high-school. I remember the long lines for registration in both elementary school, high school and college, then the fast and easy process of registering online for my PhD studies. One can register online from anywhere in the world for all types of education (primary, secondary and higher education) apply for jobs, meet people, professionals and more, in most countries. Now I want to elaborate on what benefits both teaching and learning bring us in an internet / global village era. Students that don’t have much learning opportunities due to either finances, lack of good education, or simply lack of motivation in their own country can take advantage of learning opportunities, scholarships, and motivation offered by other countries. It is the same for quite a few teachers. I never thought of teaching while living in the USA but the idea suddenly came to life as I changed environments, cultures, living and learning styles. This brought passion and excitement for both learning and teaching. It’s a big difference when you are learning or working because you find or think it only necessary, as opposed to feeling a passion for it. I do believe that different places, cultures, ways of living, and ways of learning can stimulate certain new passions and excite our mind and life in various new ways. One of my former professors once said “If you can find a subject to study or a job that you consider both a hobby and a great and fulfilling workout, that is the study and job you want to go for”. There is nothing greater than getting paid by your hobby, your “workout” or both.

The internet and the global village era are phenomenal at providing us with an educational and working environment that could be both a great hobby and tremendous workout and more individuals should take advantage of such opportunities if presented to them.

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