Hello everyone!

This is the support blog for Geography 340 (World Regions in Global Context), a 100% online course being offered in the Fall 2016 term. We may use this blog to update you off and on, but most of the substantive course content is accessed via Learn@UW.

My name is Cathy Day, and I’ll be your instructor for the course. Your TA is Andy Davey. Once the semester starts and you gain access to the course website, you’ll get to know us a bit better from our video introductions. In the meantime, you can read our short bios in the course syllabus. In addition, please note that Professor Kris Olds is the main professor associated with this course – he created it in 2012, and coordinated its complete overhaul and transition to the Canvas LMS in 2016 (in association with Cathy Day).

Here are several updates to get some things moving before term officially starts on Tuesday, September 6th.

I. Syllabus & Schedule

12510279_10156337907335234_1715299207821468240_nRead the syllabus and schedule carefully. Because we don’t have a first day of class in person where we can go over the course format and policies, this syllabus is very long. Maybe think of it as a course guidebook.

Please note that the course starts slowly for the first session to help those of you who are taking an online class for the first time to dig around the course site on Learn@UW, sort out the course text issue, read the detailed syllabus, email us with any questions you have, etc., etc. Geog 340 is newish, but we’ve taught it enough times to know how to reduce stress and anxiety – and starting with clarity regarding rolling deadlines that are coming up is one of the tricks. Your first assignment will be to fill out your course profile and to introduce yourself on the course Discussion board. That assignment will be due on Saturday of the first week at 10pm CDT.

II. Website

The course website (which is hosted on Learn@UW) goes live at 8:00 am on Tuesday, September 6. You will need access to a computer to read, watch, and listen to the course content (apart from the textbook), and to engage in discussion forums, etc. We also make ample use of ‘drop boxes’ on the site so you can upload written exercises on it. Again, download the syllabus pronto and read it start-to-finish.

You may also want to learn more about how to use the new Canvas platform. If so, you can access the training course at https://canvas.wisc.edu/courses/13

III. Textbook

The course text this term will be:
World Regions in Global Context: People, Places, and Environments, 6th Edition by Sally Marston, Paul Knox, Diana Liverman, Vincent Del Casino & Paul Robbins, 2017.
ISBN-13: 978-0134183640     ISBN-10: 0134183649

6th edition text

We are using the 6th edition so please acquire a copy of it and NOT the 5th edition. Textbook options include fully online (the cheapest option, especially if you get the 180 day access version):

https://www.pearsonhighered.com/product/Marston-World-Regions-in-Global-Context-Peoples-Places-and-Environments-Subscription-6th-Edition/9780134262888.html

an ‘a la Carte’ edition for a binder (cheaper than the paperback version, but more expensive that the online version)

https://www.pearsonhighered.com/product/Marston-World-Regions-in-Global-Context-Peoples-Places-and-Environments-Books-a-la-Carte-Edition-6th-Edition/9780134153681.html

and the standalone book (without MasteringGeography):

https://www.pearsonhighered.com/product/Marston-World-Regions-in-Global-Context-Peoples-Places-and-Environments-6th-Edition/9780134183640.html

We are NOT using MasteringGeography.

The University Bookstore by Memorial Library has ordered copies of the paperback version and the three-ring-binder (a la Carte) version of the 6th edition. You can buy or rent either of these versions from the bookstore.

And here is the Amazon.com link to search for the 6th edition of the course text – Amazon offers various versions (including rental).

Multiple reserve copies of the 6th edition are available in the College Library and the Geography Library on two-hour loan. This is the cheapest option (free!).

Please note that the assigned textbook is required reading and you will be spending a lot of time with it so please ensure that you are satisfied with the format you are considering.

Welcome to the class!

Cathy Day & Andy Davey

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Hi everyone,

Thanks for all the emails and visits yesterday – I always enjoy meeting 340 students in person.

Over the last few days a few common questions about the projects have come up so I’d like to respond to them in Q&A fashion below in random order. Please review the questions and answers and also remember that you have some guidelines posted here.

Please remember that your paper needs to be submitted via the Learn@UW Dropbox no later than Sunday 29 June at 11:59 pm CDT. It is worth 60% of your final grade so it is important to be making serious progress right now.

Cheers, Kris

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Q: Is there a structure I need to follow?

A: You have flexibility in how you structure your paper but I suggest you include an Introduction (lay some context; outline your research questions/thesis statement and the research process; hint/foreshadow some key findings), 2-3 main components where you discuss the actor, the actor and the region, and your case study, a Conclusion (revisit your research questions/thesis statement and highlight your main findings), and a Works Cited/References section.

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Q: I have not written many social sciences papers before — is there a good resource I can draw upon to get some help?

A: Yes – see http://www.writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/process.html. You can also ask for some advice from Kramer and moi (aka Kris). The Writing Center is also a great resource: http://www.writing.wisc.edu/Individual/index.html

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Q: What is the best data base for the global actor paper?

A: Review all the links posted here. My favorites are:

More importantly, go and speak about this issue with the librarians in a relevant library once you lock in on your actor. The nature of the actor may lead you to different data bases.  Health-related actors and issues should be discussed with health librarians in Ebling while an actor like the World Bank or Human Rights Watch should be discussed with librarians at Memorial and actors like Google or Ford or any other firm should be discussed with the librarians in Business. Be sure to experiment with key words, though, as it takes a while to learn how to search effectively.

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Q: How many resources/citations do I need?

A: Enough! Certainly more than just the course text and some websites. And enough to help you profile your actor/region in the paper regardless of what paper option you choose. We need to see some learning going on and regional richness profiled.  For example, if your global actor is active in Egypt, highlight relevant dimensions of Egypt’s geographies (all the types of geographies profiled in each chapter of the text) and why they matter to the actor in question. Do not only rely on newspaper and magazine articles – you need a few substantial references (e.g., a journal article on how BMW structures its global production network, including a production complex in Bangkok).

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Q: I’d like to adjust the focus of my paper at the last minute – is this possible?

A: Yes, as long as it makes sense given the overall nature of the project. You are not held to a particular actor/region – change if you want to, but be wary of changing too late…and it is getting late, as you know.  But you are not held to what you proposed in the proposal.

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Q: I’ve been facing some research challenges accessing original articles on my actor, and I am concerned about the lack of depth in my paper and an over-reliance on websites (e.g., for a firm or an NGO). Help!

A: Assuming you have recently engaged with a librarian in person, or via email, during the research process, feel free to outline the challenges you faced in the Introduction to your paper. The Introduction is not only a relevant section to outline your paper focus and summarize the broad issues, but it is also a section to discuss the organization of your paper, as well as the research process. Please outline any relevant research challenges you had in the Introduction.

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Q: Is there a certain (or perhaps a range) font style/size that we should use?

A: 12 point font, and a readable style of font.

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Q: I am using some web-based resources and they have very long URLs to my reference list looks really messy.

A: Use an URL shortener like https://bitly.com/

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Q: Can I use ‘first person’ in the paper?

A: Yes this is fine, as long as it is used effectively and appropriately.

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Q: What proportion of the paper should a case study make up?

A: On average 40-50% though this can vary by topic. The logic of the case study is to ensure you get into some depth and detail and move from the general to the specific and get your ‘hands dirty.’ I’ve used the analogy of flying at 20,000 feet for the broader overviews of the global actor, but then dropping down to ground level for the case study. And remember to be analytical and not just descriptive when you develop the case study – choose some angle in on it and focus on a key question you want to explore.

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Q: Can I have an extension?

A: The deadline is Sunday 29 June at 11:59 pm CDT. Extensions are only permitted when people have major personal or family health (broadly defined) challenges to grapple with.

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Q: I don’t use MS Word – how should I load up my paper? Can I email it to you?

A: Papers must be uploaded via the Dropbox on the Learn@UW course site – we have over 110 students in thus course so I practically can’t accept emailed files.  The easiest way to convert a file for uploading is to transform it into PDF.  PDF files are the most stable, and they also hold all images in their spot on the page.

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Q: Subtitles consume space when drafting the paper – is this a problem?

A: No, subtitles usually make the paper much more readable. Don’t fret the length guidelines issue…focus on quality above all else.

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Q: Do you want us to cite each sentence separately if it wasn’t our original material, or is a single citation at the end of the paragraph better?

A: At the end of the paragraph unless you need to specify that specific lines/ideas/data came from specific sources and there are multiple references for the content of one para.

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Q: Where should I place the graphics?

A: You can place them inside the paper (e.g., a resized image with text to the left or right) or in an Appendix.  If you have a lot of large images use an Appendix.

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Q: Do you have a preferred citation style?

A: No, just choose a common one and apply it consistently.

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Q: I am concerned about accidentally plagiarizing.

A: Please review these resources:

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Q: I noted these length guidelines:

  • One person, they should be approx. 6-8 single spaced pages (not including large graphics and references).
  • Two people, they should be approx. 8-10 single spaced pages (not including large graphics and references).
  • Three people, they should be approx. 10-14 single spaced pages (not including large graphics and references).
  • Four people, they should be approx. 12-16 single spaced pages (not including large graphics and references).

BUT I am very concerned I won’t meet them – this seems too long for what I know and can communicate about.

A: Don’t worry and fret the details – just write up your paper so it makes sense and do the best you can; we don’t get carried away applying length guidelines in a stupid/irrelevant way. The key thing we want you to do is learn and then demonstrate/communicate what you have learned about the world region you have focused upon (via a look at a global actor active in the region). Don’t pad/fluff to meet these broad length guidelines, OK!

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And don’t forget to put your name and page numbers on the paper – we’re always amazed how many people forget this basic step!

photo-1

CDG TERMINAL 2

Please link here to download the syllabus for the fall version of Geog 340.

If you have any problems, shoot me an email and I’ll send it directly to you!

Looking forward to the start of the course next week!

Best,

Kris

Yeosu, South KoreaYeosu, South Korea (2012)

Hi everyone,

A few of you have come to our office hours to ask about the concept of “identity” in your first synthesis assignment. It’s a complicated term, but some of you are probably very familiar with it. For those of you who haven’t dealt with it in other classes, here is a short description that should be sufficient for this assignment.

p30919_d_v8_aa-1Identity can and *does* mean a lot of things, but generally it refers to the ways that you perceive yourself and how others perceive you (and these are often closely related to each other). People don’t have a single identity, but many layers of different identities, some of which can seem contradictory. In the past, students have drawn on their sense of global/national/regional/local identity and allegiance, gender, religion, ethnicity/race, interests, values systems/morals, philosophies, personality traits, political leanings or ideas about the role of government, etc. This list is not exhaustive, though!

The prompt brings up the possibility of identity changing either in concert or in contrast to the new context you’re studying in. Changes that bring your identity more in line with the context would be changing “in concert” (for example, having ideas of the role of “the state” (or all the arms of government & quasi-government bodies) become more like Canadians’ views if you study in Canada).

But thinking about the “in contrast” part is also important: Even if the core parts of yourself don’t change, keep in mind that many aspects of identity are relative. Think about terms like “local,” “foreigner,” “really religious,” “liberal,” “conservative,” “loud,” “quiet,” “independent,” “social,” “confident,” “friendly,” etc. All of these descriptions are based on how someone relates to what is considered “average,” but “average” is not a stable category; it is different in different places. (think of the uncle says “‘Normal’ changes every fifty miles.”) So even if there are aspects of how you act and feel that might not change at all, you still need to think about how the ways that you act and feel will affect how you’ll fit in in a new society with different norms.

IdentityJust as an example, someone may have the identity of “the intellectual liberal” in their small rural town in Iowa, but when they come to Madison, there’s a chance they would feel more conservative, less urbane, and identify more with rural lifestyles (this would be “in contrast”). Or maybe they would totally latch onto the dominant Madison culture, for good and/or bad (obviously there is more than one, but hopefully you get the idea).

If you feel like getting even more complicated(!), you can think about how identities are also relational, meaning a single person “performs” or inhabits different identities in different situations and around different people. For example, depending on the setting, a single person can easily inhabit the conflicting identities of daughter, mother, sister, student, teacher, boss, employee; or she might have non-conflicting identities of Latina, female, heterosexual, upper-middle class, foreign-born, well-educated, American, urban, and Catholic that fluctuate between “important” and “not important” at different points of her week. Each of these is bound up with different ideas of the self, perceptions by others, expectations for behaviors, and emotions.

You don’t have to use any of these special terms (relative, relational) in your assignment (and you may have learned different words for the same things in other classes), but hopefully the concepts can help you brainstorm ways to connect yourself to the material presented in the class about the places you will write about.

We hope the above clarifies more than it confuses!

Best, Kris & Rachel

Hi everyone – here is Synthesis Question No. 2. You can also see the text below on the Course Materials by Region section to the left on the main course page on Learn@UW.

Religion and Identity in Three World Regions (Russia/Central Asia/Transcaucasus, Middle East/North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa)

Deadline

Due Monday, March 14th by 10pm CDT. For those of you who are not in the Central Time Zone, make sure you accurately know the time difference!

Questions and Guidelines

There are three parts (A-C) to this synthesis assignment. You may want to write roughly 1/2 to 2/3 of a page (single-spaced) for each part.

This week’s assignment concerns identity and religion, with particular attention to Islam (in parts A and C). While Islam is also very prevalent outside of this week’s study regions (especially in South Asia and Southeast Asia—Indonesia is home to more Muslims than any other country), please think exclusively about this week’s three regions when answering these questions (see map on page 159 of textbook). Many of you will have acquired a wealth of background knowledge prior to the course because of your personal experiences or coursework. It is wonderful to integrate this, but please make sure to ALSO fit your prior knowledge in with the new information you’ve learned from the course materials.

Before responding, please complete all the assigned readings, lectures, podcasts and viewing for the relevant regional units.

Part A: Think about two types of diversity that you saw in these three weeks: a) the religious diversity of all three regions as a whole, and b) general diversity (economic, linguistic, cultural, social, political, environmental…) across the regions’ Muslim communities.

First, what are at least two things you learned related to either type of diversity that surprised you or contradicted your previous conceptions? Please use specific examples from the text, articles (e.g. Diener), lectures (e.g. Harris, Turner, Kaiser), podcasts (e.g. Brottem, Fleming, Alatout).

Second, explain why you think you previously had these conceptions.

Part B: Religious identity may unite certain groups, or individuals of the same religion may feel completely distinct for political, ethnic, linguistic, economic, or other reasons. What are some specific examples from the course materials that show how religion is an important component of group identity? What are examples that show how religion can be secondary to other types of identity?

Part C:
Sometimes people to refer to all Muslim-majority countries as “the Muslim World.” Based on your readings (especially from the textbook) and the information you gleaned from the interviews and lectures, do you think this is a useful and meaningful way to group these countries, or is this a misleading categorization? Or is it only useful sometimes? When? Using course materials, explain and defend your opinion.

Format

Please clearly label your answers to Parts A, B, and C. Use 12-point font, and please single-space your document to make it easier for us to read online. Your final assignment should be 750-1000 words. You will likely find it difficult to fit all of your thoughts in just 1000 words. Write succinctly, and make sure you are sticking to the specific questions!

Make sure to proofread: spelling, grammar, punctuation, and good writing DO count.

Please save the file using your last name and “Synth2” (for example Olds_Synth2.docx) and submit the file into the correct Dropbox.

If you look at the grading rubric on the blog post about synthesis questions, you will see that you will be graded primarily on how carefully and critically you considered course material in constructing your response. This is even more true for this assignment than it was for Synthesis #1. That said, we want to know your personal views, too, as we are speaking about representational issues and preconceptions. So be opinionated, express your views, insert your personality, and engage…just don’t only speak from the heart; also speak on the basis of the content you’ve been engaging with in this course. It should go without saying that all submissions must be respectful.

Kris Olds & Rachel Boothby

Dear Class,

Here are a few tips as you get ready for our first Synthesis Assignment. Note that if you scroll down you’ll see a detailed rubric that we’ll be using to grade all five of these assignments.

1) Read the question carefully, and make sure you’re answering what is being asked of you.

For example, the intention of our first assignment is to get you thinking about your identity. The question is not “what would you do in Europe” or “would you enjoy studying abroad in New Zealand”. You may address these things if they help you write about your personal identity, but always make sure that you are answering the question: how would your personal identity change.

Clearly answer each question posed in the prompt.  It is best to use sub-headings (Part A, Part B….).

2) Use course material when relevant, and cite it.

Your written assignments are the only way that you can prove to us that you are actually “attending” (viewing) the video lectures and completing the assigned readings. Because of this, referring to the readings, lectures, podcasts, etc. is a major part of getting a good grade for you answer. We will not be strict about citation format, as long as it’s clear what you’re referring to. If you are directly quoting a text, you MUST indicate the page number.

Here are some examples for how you could refer to the textbook:

In South Asia, tea has become “a catalyst of economic, social and political change” (textbook: 360). [Has direct quote. Need to put page.]

The textbook explains how tea has affected not only the economies of South Asia, but also the social and political landscape. [No direct quote, so no page needed. Clearly tells us that textbook is being used as evidence here.]

Note that many times the articles are written by the same people who give lectures or podcasts. Make clear which you are referring to. You could use parenthetical citations…

(Lewis, n.d.: 3), (Lewis, lecture), (Corbett 2013), (Corbett, lecture)

…or just give the citation in your sentence…

“Lewis’s article explains…”; “However, in Mark Cooper’s podcast we hear that…”

It is perfectly fine and welcomed to personalize your responses by including personal experiences as examples, especially considering the focus of this first prompt.  Keep in mind, however, you still need to show you can intertwine your personal experience with the material learned in the weekly readings, podcasts, lectures, and movies.

2b) Use a variety of course material–not just one source. When possible, put different sources in conversation with each other. Combining sources to form a single idea or argument shows a good understanding of the material and sophisticated thought. We understand that not every single source is useful for every question, and we definitely don’t expect you to use every single source for every question.

3) Be specific, and justify arguments/claims that you make.

This means answering “WHY” and “HOW” questions. If you claim studying abroad in Canada will make you feel more like a North American citizen rather than just an American, tell us WHY. If you claim that living in Europe would “change” how you relate to your country of origin, you need to explain HOW your relationship would change (and, of course, WHY it would change!).

4) You may use outside information, but this is certainly NOT required and we’re not asking you to do this. Completely cite any outside information that you do use (e.g. full name of book, article, full URL…).

Because we’re using these questions partly to gauge how much you are learning from course materials, using outside sources does NOT take the place of using course materials.

5) Try not to exceed 1000 words. If you make sure that every sentence is helping to answer the specific questions answered, this will be easier to do. Not a big deal if you go over a little bit, but if you are way over the limits, put on your editing hat and do some sentence surgery.

6) If you are not an American citizen, and especially if you are a Canadian or New Zealander or Spaniard, you can still complete the assignment! Just flag the fact that you are approaching the question differently given your identity/background (explain what it is so we know, OK!).  And keep in mind that even if you are Canadian, for example, spending time in Quebec City if you are from Moose Jaw is likely to be just like studying abroad given cultural differences across space in the country. So go for it – just explain how you’ll approach it.

Grading Your Assignment

As the syllabus outlines, the Synthesis Assignments forum activities total up to XX% of your final grade (X x XX%). To help gauge the quality of the response, we will use the following rubric (click to expand):

If you enter your dropbox submission, the rubric scoring will be found there.

Please note, to earn full credit, your response needs to be quite good. This means that it will likely be very difficult to consistently earn 100%. We will be assessing each response individually.

Happy writing!

Cathy & Nicolle

Thanks for all of your participation so far! We have gotten to see a number of the introductions you have posted. If you have not done it yet, remember that your introduction and your update of your Learn@UW profile (including a photo) are due this afternoon at 5pm.

As you know, tomorrow evening you will have access to your first quiz. The quiz must be complete before 5pm on Thursday, 6/23/16.

I want to give you all an overview of what to expect:

  1. Complete all of the U.S. and Canada readings, lectures, and podcasts before you take the quiz.
  2. Make sure to use the provided note-taking guide on the U.S. and Canada page as you work your way through the materials. The guide will help you prepare for both the quiz and for the synthesis assignment coming up next week.
  3. The quiz will cover all of the session 2 materials. Use the note-taking guide to give you guidance on this, but also be aware that anything from any of the materials is fair game. There is a more emphasis on the textbook than the lecture/podcasts, but there are questions on all of them. Carefully read and take notes on the text. (Note that the synthesis assignments put a bit more emphasis on the lectures/podcasts, so work carefully on all of the materials now – you won’t have time next week).
  4. The quiz will be a combination of multiple choice and matching questions. This will include map questions. The questions are randomized, so you will not have exactly the same quiz as someone else.
  5. The quiz is timed and you will have 30 minutes to complete it. If you have official accommodations, you should let us know today or early tomorrow.
  6. The U.S. and Canada quiz will have two matching questions with a total of sixteen matches to make, and fourteen multiple choice questions (30 points total).
Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns. As the syllabus states, we are flexible when we can help you in advance of problems. As always, please email both Nicolle and me.

Hi there – on Monday morning, we’ll be posting the first discussion forum question on the Learn@UW course site. Here are a few responses to questions that are likely to emerge.

Q1: I can’t seem to find l’Auberge Canadian/the Canadian Apartment (the equivalent of l’Auberge Espagnole/the Spanish Apartment).

A1: This is just a hypothetical movie. In other words, once you watch the movie l’Auberge Espagnole, and had to imagine how you would change living in this Spanish apartment for 6-12 months, use your imagination and think through how you might change in a Canadian equivalent based in a Canadian city like Toronto or Montreal or Vancouver or Halifax or even smaller cities like Moose Jaw or Calgary or Winnipeg or Yellowknife). But only do this AFTER you have completed all the Canada/US and Europe readings, podcasts, lectures, etc.

Q2: I can’t find l’Auberge Espagnole on the Learn@UW course site.

A2: All you have to do is:

  1. Go to the Geog 340 course site on Learn@UW
  2. Click on iTunesU in the upper right corner of the main page you see.
  3. Follow the steps through to get iTunesU loaded up. These are self-explanatory.
  4. THEN, and this is the step that trips a few people up, go to the Europe tab (see below) and link to the movie there.

GrabiTunesUEurope

I should add, too, that iTunesU is only to be used for movies — podcasts, lectures, etc., are all available and best viewed/listened to on the main course site (you get the content in the Course Materials by Region link in the left column). In addition, please see the syllabus for further tips on using iTunes in this course.

Q 3: For part A and B, do we just simply state out our feelings as a student studying abroad or we shall also include information about the context (Europe/Spain/Barcelona + North America/Canada/city of your choice).

A3: You should do both…your transformation as a person will obviously be related to the Europeans you are engaging with in l’Auberge Espagnole but also by the Barcelona/Catelonian social, cultural, political, linguistic, food, environmental, etc., contexts you will be embedded in.  So learn a little about the city and the region/country before responding.  The same goes for the l’Auberge Canadian (the Canadian apartment). I would read about Canada (esp via the textbook) and then you should select a province and a city and then learn about these contexts via other sources you yourself identify via Google, the library, etc. But then imagine also living in the apartment with a bunch of Canadians and Americans.  Inevitably you’ll be influenced by their personalities and you’ll change just being away from ‘home’ (the purpose of study abroad) but the transformation you undergo living in Montreal vs Barcelona or Whitehorse (Google it…) vs Barcelona or Vancouver vs Barcelona will be different and similar…in what ways, perhaps? So I’d try and state your feelings as a student studying abroad but also discuss the places (the cities/regions/nations) you’re situated in.

Q4: When is my first (original) posting due again?

A4: One original contribution, no later than Friday 6 June @ 10:00 pm CDT

~~~~~~~

ps: two pics of Vancouver, my hometown, to get you into the mood!

Vancouver-Skyline

VancouverPan

An interesting and fun documentary that includes a stage in the world region we’re dealing with this week.

The instructions for completing this assignment can be found both on pages 8-9 of the syllabus and on the discussion forum page where you’ll be posting your response. The instructions are fairly straightforward, but here are some additional tips and answers to common questions that might help. This FAQ has been updated as students ask more questions, as well as after grading the first two contributions.


A General Note on Reading Foreign Media

Most people are familiar with the biases or general attitudes of the main media outlets of their home countries (for instance, Americans in the course can think of the differences between NPR and Fox News). Keep in mind that the same is true for foreign media sources, so just because you are reading something published in a country doesn’t necessarily mean that it is representative of the dominant views of that country’s population. In fact, it may be especially non-representative if the media source is heavily censored either because a) it is a state-run media source, or b) because the government exercises more control than you might be used to over what non-state entities publish. Lastly, in non-Anglophone countries, English-language media cater to specific audiences, often these are: 1) expatriates (non-locals who live in the country) and 2) local nationals who have above-average education and perhaps different values and worldviews.

These several influences on the media you may be reading–state censorship, state sponsorship, and catering to specialized audiences–doesn’t make your reading less useful. It actually makes it really interesting, and provides you with specific things to look out for and possibly reflect on in your posts. If you’re interested, doing a couple of minutes of background research on a news source–is it run by the government? does it have a reputation for a particular point of view? is it based in a country known for censorship? are the expats in that country mostly aid workers, businessmen, oil and gas employees, politicians…?–can add a lot to your interpretation.


Q: How to I find a media source?

A: You should select an English-language media source so that everyone in the class can read the article that you choose (even though many of you know other languages!). If there is a particular country that interests you in the region, you will likely be able to find a media source by typing (for example) “Hungary English newspaper” into a search engine. For some smaller countries, there may not be any sources obviously available, but it should only take a second to figure this out!


Q: Is [this article that I found] an example of local media?

A: The piece of news that you select must be both: 1) FROM the region we’re studying that week, and 2) ABOUT the region that we’re studying. If you are unclear, double-check to make sure that the source that you have found is actually based in the region. You can often figure this out by going to the source’s “About Us” page or just looking for a Wikipedia page about the source.

Take your time and explore the website of the source you have found. Make sure that the article you choose to write about is ABOUT the region, and make sure that the author is a reporter who works for that source. Sometimes you will see that a website just re-posts news written by a news agency like the Associated Press (AP) or Reuters. See this example from the Times of India. It looks like it is a story from the Indian media, but it was actually written by the Associated Press (based in the US), which you can tell from the little “AP” next to the date under the headline. See another problem? It’s NOT ABOUT INDIA. Usually, if the article is about the same country where the news source is based, then it will be an original article by an employee of that source.


Q: Is [the subject of the article that I picked] a good topic to write about?

A: You are welcome to choose articles about ANYTHING as long as you fulfill the requirements of the assignment. However, keep in mind that a major part of the assignment is being able to contextualize and/or comment on the article using things that you have learned from some of our course materials (interviews, lectures, textbook, articles). Certain topics are definitely easier to do this with than others. By no means are you required to choose articles that directly relate to the lectures or articles. In fact, it’s much more interesting to try to find innovative ways to make legitimate connections between very different topics, but choosing a short, superficial article can make it almost impossible to add good commentary.


Q: What are you looking for in the commentary?

A: The keys to a good commentary are:

  1. You use some aspect of the course materials to react to the article. Maybe the article supports something we saw in our course materials. Maybe they contradict each other. Maybe the course materials give some background information that helps you reinterpret the article. Maybe you can use to course materials to say something about the potential biases or perspective of the author or news source.
  2. The way that you connect the course materials and the article is insightful. Just saying “Nick Lewis talks about New Zealand wine in his lecture and this also talks about New Zealand wine” is not satisfactory. But maybe you could find an article about New Zealand voting for its new flag, and maybe make an original connection between the flag and Nick Lewis’s discussion of New Zealand “branding” itself. Provide some relevant detail regarding the specific content in the course materials that your media story connects too – it’s not enough to say “the article reminded me of a key message in Chapter 12”. What part of Chapter 12, and in which specific ways did that section link in to your media commentary?
  3. Keep in mind Bloom’s Taxonomy and attempt to shift from recalling facts and basic concepts in the latter part of your response to the analysis and evaluation levels. And spend enough time/space on the analysis component of your commentary. It’s hard to demonstrate what you are learning if you just describe and/or assert vs explore in a little detail.Blooms
  4. Try and convey your interest in, and enthusiasm about, the topic you are exploring. In other words, don’t just communicate you’re ‘going through the motions.’ This point relates back to one above – you can choose articles about ANYTHING as long as you fulfill the requirements of the assignment. Choose a media story about a topic you are curious and passionate about.

We would really love to hear other insightful reactions even if they don’t pertain directly to the course materials. However, these writing assignments are the ONLY way that you can prove to us that you are consuming all of the course materials that are assigned. That is why it is so important to us that you reference them


Q: Do I have to connect my article to the lecture?

In the media commentaries you definitely do not have to cite all of the course materials for the region or any one in particular. This said, please make sure you do refer to at least one source from the class in your response (textbook, academic article, lecture, audio interview, or film). Note that we have different expectations for the synthesis assignments, where it is important to synthesize most, if not all, of the course materials.


Q: How are our media commentaries graded?

A: You will receive 0-10 points for each media commentary. It will not be too difficult to get a pretty good score if you do everything that is asked of you, but 10-point scores are reserved for only the most thoughtful and insightful assignments. Here is a very general sense of what the scores represent (though reasons for each individual score will vary!):

  • 4-6 points: You wrote something and posted it, but it did not meet basic assignment guidelines (e.g. not  a local news source).
  • 7-8 points: Met the most basic guidelines, but level of detail, care, or insight was lacking (e.g. not well-connected to course material, summary and commentary not well-developed, hastily written with grammar or punctuation errors).
  • 9 points: A solid assignment with all components completed. Commentary was clearly connected to course materials, with moderate original analysis and insight.
  • 10 points: Same as 9 points, but commentary showed original critical thinking and insightful connections, analysis, and evaluation.

You will lose 0.5 points (5%) per day for late assignments.


Q: Wait, I’m confused. Are we supposed to post these in the Discussion Forum or put these in the Dropbox?

A: BOTH! You must post in the Discussion Forum so that your classmates can read and comment on your media commentaries. Just paste the text of your answer in the forum. Don’t attach a file there.

You must put a file (.docx, .doc, .pdf, or .rtf) in the Dropbox so that we can grade your assignment and make sure your points get into the electronic grading system.

You must post in both of these places before the due date/time to avoid late penalties. Note, however, if you forgot or had upload problems, you can upload anytime…ALWAYS go back and upload the same text as what you posted in the discussion forum as we cannot give you a grade if it is not in a Dropbox (given the way grade recording works, technologically, in Learn@UW).


Q: Should we reply/comment on our groupmates’ discussion posts?

A: That would be great, but it’s totally up to you! You get a lot more out of classes when you can interact with your classmates about the material. That’s really hard to do in an online class, but we hope you will give it a try. Please read your classmates’ posts and respond in a thoughtful substantive way (even if it’s just a couple of sentences) if you feel compelled. In addition to such conversations being interesting, you may also earn extra credit points at the end of the semester based on your active participation in the forums beyond just writing the required assignments


Q: It’s 9:58 pm CDT on the due date and I’m freaking out and am wondering should I post before 10:00 pm or give up or post a little late (say 11:00 pm) or if I’m exhausted should I just sleep and post in the morning when I wake up and have the extra energy and fresh set of eyes (and a cuppa tea or coffee booster rocket)? Help!!

A: These are target deadlines and they matter, of course, but preserve your mental health and post in the next hour (10-11 pm) or in the morning…i.e., no staying up all night or falling asleep at the desk and waking up with neck-strain! It’s very important to plan your time, effectively, and meet deadlines (when you graduate your boss won’t be very understanding, trust us, if you miss deadlines) but university life has a lot of pressure associated with it so keep healthy (mental health included). And if you feel like you keep missing deadlines due to bad planning, come and see us and talk about the challenges you face and we’ll brainstorm some good best practices. We’re here to help you, OK!


CCTV headquarters in Beijing

1600Source: http://oma.eu/projects/cctv-headquarters