What kind of teacher am I?

I will describe a little bit about my most recent classes and describe the process of work, learning and output that are expected.
I find myself as a sort of wandering teacher (21st century Erasmus?) so I teach sometimes in California at Marymount California University (MCU) and other times (1x or 2x per year) in Thailand at the Institute for International Studies, Ramkhamhaeng University.  I also plan to go to Shanghai to teach in the upcoming year.
As you might know the British higher education semester is made of units. Each unit is a few weeks or a month in duration with a semester-long structure.  I find a lot of inspiration and rewards doing what do because I am able work within the US and the UK systems.  In Thailand, the university uses the British system.
In all of my teaching I aim to find ways to build intrinsic motivation in learning, mostly about professional practice, theoretical and contextual aspects of work, and the building and re-application of technical skills and knowledge.  Besides the process of development, writing, production and editing in digital media production I focus a lot of class time on presentation, discussion and reflection (blog, verbal and in writing).
In a recent “History of Multimedia” class at MCU all the students were undergraduate digital media majors, but my class was about critical/historical studies.  Normally the students would research and write a conventional research paper and I would lecture all the time.  I find that approach to be constricting and it limits self-reflection, expression and deep learning, plus it exceeds the attention span of most students.  I try to teach in an experiential and integrated way so it is different than the norm—reluctantly tolerated by old-fashioned thinkers.
At MCU, each student applied individual creative skills in digital media and design to build a web-based timeline of communication history, from about the Gutenberg press forward (using (posted on wordpress.com).  Students built new data and knowledge about the history of multimedia, then integrate creative/tech kills (photoshop and other programs and skills) and demonstrate their scholarly knowledge.  Students commented on their deeper learning and retention of the historical themes, persona and events throughout the project.  It was a successful project that integrates scholarly research, writing and creative expression.
In Bangkok, at the Institute for International Studies, Ramkhamhaeng University–most recently I was teaching two courses–Principles of Multimedia Writing and a TV Production.  Each year as I have returned for the past five years, my classes are a different mix of students from around the world.  Many of the students take both units (about 15 total) at the same time—so I have many of the students all day, every day for a specified period of time.  I also try to integrate the two classes to a useful degree but am mindful that each course has its specific focus.
In the writing course, the students did interviews with a person of their choosing.  The focus was to interview someone “who makes the world a better place.”  Students prepared one open question (Grounded theory, Glaser) and recorded the interview with their phones (aiming for best results, although no equipment is made available by the university).  Students produced an interview/response to the open-ended question, transcribed the interview, re-interviewed and expanded the scope of the inquiry, re-transcribed and presented an edited audio podcast that was posted on the WP free website they built for the class.  It was very interesting and well received by students because of their integration of practice, theory and professionalism.  All this is in an ESL context and took about three weeks in total.
In the TV production class—again we have no university equipment—I focused the learning about the visualization/story board/production/editing of entirely visual (silent) process and interaction sequences.
NOTE; I recommended (not compelled) that the interviewee could be the on-camera person for the recorded process and interaction sequences (integration). Most students positively responded to that suggestion and were happy with their results.  Students were using phone cameras to shoot video and laptops to edit silent sequences—they learned to do the whole production process with their imagination, a pencil and paper, their mobile phones and free software on their laptops, all uploaded to their free WP site for that purpose.
Ultimately, students in the TV class would edit and integrate the audio interview (from the other class) and use some or all of that audio as voice over in the visual project/work in the production class (creative and skills integration).
We ended up with very good and inspiring works in both classes in Thailand and at MCU—creative and informed/integrated work.  Students seemed to appreciate this kind of learning and I believe it effectively encourages praxis and reflection.

Teaching an online course

In Bangkok, at the Institute for International Studies at Ramkhamhaeng University, I am trying to integrate online learning in my classroom teaching.  This integration is a challenge on several levels, but is effective and worthwhile.  My ability and success are a work in progress, but my intention is to apply experiential and integrate learning theory in my teaching, whether it is online or in the classroom.

This is a good article about developing and teaching an online course.

Mozart, Brahms and Duke Ellington



One of the most wise and effective teachers I ever had was Maestro Mehli Mehta.  Maestro Mehta said very wise things most of the time, but this one gem was particularly great.  He said “there are three great composers for wind instruments.  Mozart (no dispute), Brahms (true, no dispute), and Duke Ellington (absolutely true!)!

I’ve come to realize over the years that Stravinsky could possibly be on that list too, but Ellington is truly masterful in achieving a celestial sound particularly with winds.

Mehli probably got to hear Duke and his band back in London or NYC, live in concert in Harlem?  I always thought it was the highest compliment I ever heard Mr. Mehta give another mortal—Ellington was given holy status by Mehta—equal status with Mozart and Brahms!  That is an honorable place in the Mehta-view of history.

I am discovering the freedom and spontaneity of Ellington’s music as I binge listen to all 15 hours of my Ellington playlist.

Returning home in Bangkok

Today I appreciated the notion of home in a deeper way.  I am in Bangkok at this time.  When I come home to Bangkok for teaching at Ramkhamhaeng University my home away from home is SC Park Hotel in Bangkok.  It is located in the heart of massive urban sprawl with an interesting presence of many Thai Muslims in the local community of hurrying Buddhists.  But all religions step aside for the crass and continuous commercialization palpable in this deep city.  Plastic christmas trees with fake santas and muzak snowflakes are everywhere these days in shopping-crazed Bangkok.

Finding a casual and serene place to stay that prioritizes peace and quiet is and has always been my goal.  The Atlanta is near all the great Arabic restaurants in Bangkok, and The Atlanta is great and affordable too but it is way too far away from the University.  SC Park has a peaceful vibe, an excellent restaurant but no bar.  There is a calm pool with very nice open garden that clouds the noise.  This hotel is close to the Institute for International Studies where I am teaching.  Lots of pros and a few cons.  But I digress.  I ventured and strayed away from home.  I stayed out of curiosity at a different hotel this time.  A fine looking place from the exterior, a good location, and an appealing online presence.  I imagined an even better situation so I bought the lotto ticket and it failed.

After a fitful night of restless sleep on a peculiarly odiferous pillow and a poor to mediocre breakfast offering, I worried and wondered if I had made a mistake in my adventure away from home.  Then I noticed details as I walked through the dark hallways and corners.  Soon thereafter I was convinced to return my Bangkok home for the same price but an exponentially greater feeling of contentment and productivity.  It’s all in the details.  I feel better now.

Is America declining?

Is America declining?  This is a question that we are compelled to consider.


According to the Brookings Institution, here are the arguments in favor of America as a place of positive growth, not decline:

  1. First of all, it is difficult to determine at present whether the difficulties faced by the United States during and after the international financial crisis will be long-term or not.
  2. Second, the stability and influence of the American political system, ideology, and value concepts have indeed been greatly affected in the 21st century, with the impact of two wars, high consumption, and a major financial crisis.
  3. Third, the United States remains the world leader in scientific and technical strength but there has been no change in the strength, status, and influence of the American capability for innovation and its global competitive power. In science and technology, higher education, culture of innovation, military strength, world politics, and security, the United States is still ahead of the rest of the world. According to recent statistics,
  4. Fourth, it is evident that American companies remain very competitive on a micro level, just as the economy as a whole is on a macro level. In recent years, even though the U.S. economy was not performing very well, far more companies in the global top 500 came from the United States than from any other.
  5. Fifth, the advantages of the United States are even more obvious in terms of soft power. No other countries in the world, including Europe and Japan, can compete with the United States or be on the same level as the United States in terms of soft power. Both the financial crisis and the lack of strength in the economic recovery after the crisis so far have not made the United States lose its fundamental advantages in hard power and soft power. The United States is still the most powerful and the most influential country in the world, and it is also the only superpower in the world.
  6. The current difficulties facing the United States may last a while, or they may be resolved in the next few months or years. Either way, no signs of overall and fundamental decline in the United States have yet emerged, to say nothing of an “irreversible decline.

There are several arguments that America is in decline.

One major problem facing the United States is the problem concerning the capability and competitive power of its manufacturing industry. The percentage of the United States’s share of global manufacturing has dropped over the last several decades, and has lost its leading position in some fields.

A second problem is the problem concerning the health, stability, and quality of relevant service industries, such as finance. The United States has already become a post-industrial economy and society. The main part of its economy is the service sector.

A third problem is the problem of wealth and income distribution and sustainable development. \

Since 1980, the actual income of ordinary workers in the United States, including the middle class, did not increase even though the economy was growing and profits were increasing during the same time period. It seems that the fruits of economic development were carved up by a few capitalists and entrepreneurs. Consequently, society in the United States has become more unbalanced, and the gap between rich and poor has been seriously enlarged, a trend which for many was illustrated during the recent financial crisis, when a few senior executives from some companies with huge losses were awarded “bonuses” that were as high as several millions or tens of millions of dollars.

A fourth problem is the problem of fiscal and trade deficits. The government, Congress, Federal Reserve System, and all walks of life in the United States have realized that the huge fiscal and trade deficits are a serious problem that affects the country’s economic development. In 2010, the fiscal deficit in the United States was US$1.3 trillion, or roughly 9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and equivalent to 35 percent of government outlays that year.[3] Based on international standards and compared to the figures of relevant developed countries, such as Japan, this number is not the highest, and may not even be too high.

A fifth problem concerns military spending and international strategy. Just as debt service takes a large share of U.S. government spending, so does spending on military affairs, foreign wars, and foreign interference.

A sixth problem is the problem of population size and structure.

The rise and development of China and India in the last several decades has once again proven to the world that a certain size of population is still one of the basic factors for productivity and economic development. At the same time, the experiences across the whole world also have proven that population growth alone cannot generate positive effects for economic development either. Instead, it should also be accompanied by improvement of population quality at the same time, including education, skills, income, and consumption. In that case, population growth can generate active effects for economic development.

A seventh problem is the problem of social culture and value concepts.

Relevant social movements that started to appear in the 1960s in the United States, such as the anti-war movement, human rights movement, hippies, and sexual liberation, not only brought active progress in relevant areas, such as democracy, freedom, and human rights, but also caused many social problems, including the expansion of personal desires and power consciousness, and a decline in a sense of duty among parts of society; many feel that discipline has become lax, and the will of the people to learn new things and work hard has become weaker (it should be noted that this trend is lamented in a number of countries, not just the United States). Work, learning, efficiency, capabilities, and skills have dropped, and American students are falling behind their counterparts in many countries on certain standardized tests.[8] Also, the service level of the service sector has dropped, efficiency is not high in certain fields and services, and the competitive power of some areas in society is not strong enough. All of these are directly related to people’s cultural concepts and values.

What are FOUR SECTORS of the economy?

What is the service sector?