Benefits of academic blogging

In response to one of my blog posts, Jeremy Brown gave an excellent insight into why people in academics should blog.

You should read about it at

“In short, every “soft” science suffers from disjointed research by unconnected researchers developing microuniverses that do not interrelated. You an I have both worked on projects in the past that create new models that offer little to no benefit over existing ones, and do not discount previous models.

The key to this is to communicate. Post your thoughts on this blog, ask for feedback and other collaboration early. Expose your ideas to harsh realities, and accept criticism.”

Best Practices for making sure intended messages get across

Best Practices for making sure intended messages get across

Light Bulb

I currently have needed to draft a version of a chapter in a resource about culture and instruction called “What are some of the best practices for making sure the intended messages are getting across?”
I am going through some of the literature on localization, etc., and also trying to do my best thinking of my personal experience in this field. It is still incomplete, but for a part of this chapter I have included certain questions and a bullet point list. I will cut and paste them below, and ask for any insights that anyone might have regarding them.

Main Message:
Care enough to sincerely ask these questions:
• What exactly are the objectives we are trying to accomplish?
• How much of my view of these objectives is tied to fixed universal principles, and how much is more flexible and can be customized with various presentations?
• If not customized, is the message presented in a simple enough way adapted for the lowest common denominator among the intended target audience? (For example, is it designed for those in the third world environment?)
How will we know if we have actually accomplished our objectives or not?
• What systems are in place to monitor if people are receiving the message as intended and are able to do what is requested, and how will we ensure that we have enough resources and energy to adapt and change the material if it is not working?
• In other words, what “differences really make a difference,” and what “similarities really are significant?”

Discussion regarding localization in the literature…
• Need for more feedback – upfront analysis, formative and summative evaluation.
• Need for a system that is friendly towards user participation in the joint-creation of messaging structures; continual feedback and integration of new information.

Some general suggestions:
• Focus should be on the end user, not the product itself.
• Check simple things (e.g. pictures, icons, symbols, colors, symbols, humor) to make sure nothing is distracting or offensive. But do not stop there.
• Look at presentation, logic, motivation, and communication style used.
• Consider contextualization and level of reliance on written text, including level of vocabulary (especially if English is the language of the instruction).
• Consider being as explicit as possible to the end users about what assumptions are being made when creating whatever product.
• Engage in a lot more up-front analysis, rapid prototyping, and formative evaluation.
• Leave money and time for necessary revisions.

5 Questions Vital to Intercultural Commnication

5 Questions Vital to Intercultural Commnication


In reviewing some materials, I came across these questions (from a CultureGram resource) that I thought were great.

Five Questions Vital to Intercultural Communication
1. What message, or experience, do you – or he/she/they – want to communicate or receive?
2. How important or relevant is the message or experience – to you and the “other” person(s)?
3. What conditions, customs, concerns, attitudes, and/or values (yours and theirs) hinder or help communication of the message or experience?
4. What specific interpersonal or media communication methods, or patterns, succeed most and succeed least? Why?
5. How do you and they determine message effectiveness and the possible need for further communication experience?

Best Practices for making sure intended messages get across

Good Quotes from the Day

Light Bulb
“We don’t teach to cultures; we teach and communicate with individual people, so there are always exceptions to the rule.”
(From “Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands” by Terri Morrison, et al. (1995), Adams Media Corporation).

“Before you can inspire, before you can touch minds and create effective outcomes, you must first connect.”
(MVT adapted this from a line in Designing Across Cultures book by Lipton, p.181)

Seminar on Publication and Systematic Scholarship

Seminar on Publication and Systematic Scholarship

Question Mark

I attended a seminar today by David Whetten in which he gave three key suggestions for making scholarly research more easily publishable by making it more systematic, by learning to think systematically.
Before I forget them, I want to record his three suggestions here, and then over the next few weeks ask the questions I need to in applying his suggestions to the main topic of this blog: the relationship between culture, instruction and technology.

His three suggestions were as follows:
1. Because writing for publication is like joining a conversation in progress at an academic conference reception (example from Anne Huff), listen to a topic that sounds interesting, join as a listener (enough to understand the themes, terms, context, actors), and then propose your “unique” contribution. Implication: Goal of scholarship is to add to scholarly conversation (change the mind of experts) NOT craft scholarly soliloquies (e.g. “I learned a lot…”). You start this by selecting the 3-7 best articles that represent the current conversation in that specific field/topic area, and then tape them above your computer.

2. Lay a solid foundation for dissertation to make sure it is systematic and worth all the effort in the following years: Meeting #1 – Discuss only the research question (Why this question, why these concepts, why these relationships); Meeting #2 – Discuss only 2-3 page outline (Study, Rationale, Methods, Conclusions); Meeting #3 – Discuss formal research proposal. But DON’T start with the formal research proposal.

3. Use graphical modeling to understand the context of the research. Begin by making two models reflecting the context/purpose of the project. The first is a BEFORE picture, the current conception/ explanation of X. The second is an AFTER picture, the expected conception with your added contribution/ explanation of X. Include these elements in the model: What (Constructs), How (Relationships), Why (Conceptual Assumptions), and Who/When/Where (Contextual Assumptions).

Dave Whetten made it clear that these suggestions refer only to one of many types of scholarship, and that perhaps the most exciting type of paradigm breaking research will not happen in this way. But his main point is that a large part, if not a majority of scholarship from PhD students and young faculty members should be this kind of systematic thinking in paying the price of understanding and then joining existing conversations and adding insight and value through your particular contribution.

Key Articles

by Clint on 10/23/06 In response to suggestion #1, it is difficult to decide which the most important writings in an area are, but here are a few of what I think are key articles/books in this conversation:

Aykin, N. (2005). Usability and internationalization of information technology. Mahway, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.

Hofstede, G. (1991). Cultures and organizations. Software of the mind. London: McGraw-Hill.

Neuliep, J. W (2006: 3rd edition). Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach.
Ong, W. (2002). Orality and Literacy: The technologizing of the world. New York:

Nisbett, R. (2003). The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners think differently…and why. Free Press. ISBN 0-7432-5535-6

1st, 2nd, and 3rd Annual Symposia on LDS Intercultural Communications and Language Concerns, 1973, 1974, 1975.

Identity by Joseph Shautes, Hiro Tsujioka, and Miyuki Lida, ISBN: 0-19-438574-4 (with student CD); for the teacher: 0-19-437972-8. By Oxford University Press, 2004. Has excellent combination of exercises, audio files, information for both students & teachers on identity, values, culture shock, culture in language, individualism, politeness, communicating styles, diversity, social change, and the global community.

Article in AECT’s TechTrends Nov./ Dec. 2003 (Vol.47 No.6): “Culturally Sensitive Problem Solving Activities for Multi-National Corporations” by Kezia Arya, Anoush Margaryan, and Betty Collis, pp. 40-49. This is a guide of how researchers in the Shell Corporation worked with ethical belief systems, cross-cultural perspectives and methods, culturally sensitive problem solving, and effective ways to carry out solutions. Has many good tables that can be adapted for your projects.

Seminar on Publication and Systematic Scholarship

A call for more systematic and coordinated research

Question Mark

While reading an old conference proceeding, I came across a quote that I resonated with. Lael Woodbury said this: “I know how surprised I was when I was first introduced to the problem of intercultural communications, and how grateful I am that I have been sensitized to it… I’m really quite conscious now of the problems that I hear cited over and over again. Frankly, I’m a little weary of hearing them…I don’t know how to use it or what to do with it…Can we now move beyond the stage of saying we have a problem [the sensitizing process], giving examples of a problem, and hoping that someone, somewhere will do something about it?” (Crossing Bridges of World-wide Understanding)

Part of the issue is sensitizing – and I actually think quite of that is still needed. But so much more beyond that needs a systematic plan of research, or else I can imagine many people getting frustrated because they do not know what to do about it, throwing their hands up, and simply going back to work as usual – because although it is ineffective it was manageable.

I have been developing a systematic plan surrounding certain questions that I want answered, either through my own or others’ research. I am curious what the key questions are in the minds of others in this specific field of the interaction of culture, instructional design, and emerging technologies?
In conjunction with that, I would love to know (and I am working on identifying) what research currently exists in partial answer to those questions, and what additional research we could collaborate on in order to fill the gaps.

Best Practices for making sure intended messages get across

What assumptions Western academics make


In a great article, Spronk (2004) gives what I think is a great summary of what implicit assumptions are often found in Western academia.

These are the kinds of things we need to be more aware of and learn how to either make more obvious to people from other cultural backgrounds so that they can adjust, or learn to adjust ourselves.

It is true that “many features of the academic culture familiar to most learners whose first language is English may strike learners from other linguistic and cultural traditions as alien.” A few of the assumptions Spronk lists which are often embedded in Western education which learners in other cultures might not be used to include:

1. Linear logic, thinking in straight lines, rather than more lateral or spiral logics of other traditions.
2. An analytical approach that emphasizes dividing reality into its component parts, rather than more synthetic approaches that emphasize the whole over the parts.
3. An expository, declarative and deductive rhetorical style that works from the ‘big picture’ or thesis statement down through the supporting details or arguments, rather than an inductive style that requires learners to be more tentative, stating rationales and arguments before attempting a more generalized statement.
4. Encouraging debate, discussion and original thinking, compared with academic traditions such as that which Robinson [22] describes for Chinese learners, for whom three key rules are ‘memorize the lesson, practice the skill, and respect superiors’.
5. Privileging the written over the spoken word. Despite the continuing dominance of the lecture as teaching mode, learners in the West are assessed primarily on their ability to express themselves in written form. In contrast, most of the world’s languages have only recently been written down, in the context of conquest and colonization, hence the cultures associated with these languages are based on the spoken word and oral traditions and histories that continue to inform daily existence. The impact of the written word on oral cultures has been powerfully described by Ong [21]…(p. 172)

Spronk, B. (2004). Addressing Cultural Diversity through Learner Support.” In Brindley, J., Walti, C., & Zawacki-Richter, O. (Eds.), Learner Support in Open, Distance and Online Learning Environments. Oldenburg, Germany: Bibliothecks-und Informationssystem der Universität Oldenburg, 2004, pp. 169-178.


by Kelly on 10/22/06 Although I’m not from western culture, my characteristics are very much aligned with 1,2, and 3. Maybe that’s why i felt more comfortable in the classroom in the U.S. than in Korea.
Many Asian culture didn’t encourage debate or discussion in K-12. At least 10 years ago when I was in school. Therefore, assumption #4 can be dangerous. For #5, I also thought about gestures. Every culture has different body languages and from my observations, westerners use more than asians.

Best Practices for making sure intended messages get across

Story emphasizing need for more cross-cultural competence among instructional designers


In an article presented at AECT this year entitled “Instructional Design in a Flat World” Dr. Russel Osguthorpe makes the point that in a world that is flattening (see Friedman, 2006), instructional design needs to change. Osguthorpe considers three important implications that the discipline of instructional design must consider as it moves forward: (1) changing metaphors, (2) cross-cultural competence, and (3) practice-based theory.

In the section on the need for more cross-cultural competence, Osguthorpe shares this interesting story:

“In the 1980s in cooperation with a foundation based in New York City, I began work on a long-term technology integration project in Beijing, China. At the commencement of the project, I had no understanding of Chinese culture or language. Knowing that I would return to Beijing many times, I became determined to learn something of their language and customs. At one point in the project, the foundation director in New York City called to ask if I would go to Beijing and meet with our counterparts to settle a misunderstanding. By that time I could converse in Chinese and was beginning to understand something of the culture. When I arrived in Beijing and met with the project manager, I could sense immediately that something was wrong. Only after prolonged conversation did he pull out the fax we had sent and pointing to it said, “We don’t agree with this, so we have decided to end the project.”

The fax he referred to was in our view a working document, but to our Chinese friends it was a final non-negotiable letter of agreement. I explained to him that this was simply an initial draft, open to revision—that if there were points he wanted to change, we could discuss those. When he understood that critical point, everything changed. Together we revised the letter of agreement, and the project continued as planned.”

Again and again is highlighted the need to be aware of each other’s cultural differences so that we do not unintentionally offend, or even distract and miscommunicate from what we are indeed trying to say.

An interesting conference

An interesting conference


Here is an interesting conference my friend in South Africa forwarded to me. I would like to go, but can not make it this year. If anyone knows of anyone going, please let me know.

The First International Workshop on Intercultural Collaboration (IWIC 2007), January 25-26, 2007.
Kyoto University Clock Tower International Conference Hall, Japan

The main theme of this workshop is intercultural collaboration, from both
technical and socio-cultural perspectives. Topics will include collaboration
support (such as natural language processing, Web, and Internet
technologies), social psychological analyses of intercultural interaction,
and case studies from activists working to increase mutual understanding in
our multicultural world. Submissions will be considered for papers, panels,
demonstrations, and posters.

This is a unique workshop in a world where physical borders disappear
rapidly and people and cultures are more and more on the move and in
contact. The workshop will feature four prominent invited speakers:

Christiane D. Fellbaum (Department of Psychology, Princeton University)
Yumiko Mori (NPO Pangaea) Gary Olson (School of Information, University of
Michigan) Wolfgang Wahlster (German Research Center for Artificial

Papers: Papers are solicited on any aspect of intercultural collaboration.
Papers can address technologies to support intercultural collaboration,
laboratory and field studies of intercultural collaboration, and case
reports from field workers. Examples of suitable paper topics include:

– Field studies of intercultural teamwork
– Cases of intercultural collaboration using IT
– Computer supported intercultural collaboration
– Internet and web technologies for intercultural collaboration
– Ubiquitous/ambient technologies for intercultural collaboration
– Multilingual dictionaries and translations
– Multilingual NLP web services
– Standardization issues on resources and tools for multilingual processing
– Usability of multilingual resources and the Language Grid

5 Questions Vital to Intercultural Commnication

One center of research to keep an eye on


One of the top centers of research and activity regarding the interaction between culture and educational technology is Joensuu, Finland. The name of the program is the International Multidisciplinary PhD studies in Educational Technology (IMPDET). They have hosted some conferences (TEDC: Technology for Education in Developing Countries; & the International Conference on Educational Technology in Cultural Context) and a series of PhD summer schools that are have been very valuable places for international partnerships to form.

I attended and presented at the PhD summer school at the University of Malta in June 2005 (, and subsequently attended and presented at the conferences in Taiwan in July 2005 and in Tanzania in July 2006.