NeltaChoutari and Professional Development
by Ganga Gautam
It’s been two years since we have the NeltaChoutari with us, a wonderful professional blog that brings us ample Khurak of diverse tastes not only from Nepal but from different parts of the world. Initially this blog began as a kind of discussion blog as Shyamji puts it on the very first issue of neltachoutari (January 2009):
“Over the course of the last few months, Bal, Prem, and I have been talking about a random but very significant set of issues via email (copying among the three of us). I am beginning to wonder if we should redirect that time and energy into something more productive, more shared, and more beneficial for a larger community. As Prem and I talked on Skype this afternoon, we should archive and share these discussions through blogging (I created this blog after our talk), through a wiki (I set up knowledgemaking.pbwiki since that email also), a discussion list (way to go), or anything better than email–email is not designed for collaboration, for Pete’s sake!”
Now, I feel that it is much more than a discussion blog. I consider this a very powerful tool of professional development. Currently I am in Boston University and I am browsing the various professional development network on the web. Comparing NeltaChoutari with other internationally known blog, I can say that NeltaChoutari has offered us no less than any professional sharing blog has offered. Yesterday, Shyamji called me and asked me if I was in a position to share my observations about the blog as its regular reader and occasional contributor. I happily agreed.
I quickly glanced the archives of NeltaChoutari and looked at what we have shared and discussed. I found the list amazing ! The key themes that we have talked are:
a) Critical Pedagogy
b) Methodology of ELT
c) Native and Non-native Issues in ELT
d) Global and local varieties of English
e) Bilingualism and Multi-lingualism
f) Trends and Issues in ELT
g) Role of and positioning of English in Nepal
h) Language Barriers
i) World Englishes
j) Reforms in ELT in Nepal
k) Classroom Humor
l) Alternative Curriculum
m) Teacher Training
n) Teacher Professional Development
o) Practice Teaching
p) Professional Networking
q) Classroom Dynamics
r) Interviews with the ELT Celebrities
s) Teachers’ Anecdote
t) Conference Sharing
The list can go on and on. I just wanted to mention that we have shared a wide variety of topics that are the buzz terms in the ELT undercurrents. This shows that the forum has been able to offer the most updated ELT materials from home and abroad. If someone compiles the discussion (probably NELTA can think of doing it), it would produce an excellent ELT Anthology with a Glocal ELT flavour.
When I read the interview by Prof. Jai Raj Awasthi and the articles by Prof. Govinda Raj Bhattarai, Mr. Vishnu Singh Rai and Dr. Bal Mukunda Bhandari in the last issue and several other articles from many other colleagues from Tribhuvan University and Kathmandu University, I felt that ELT in Nepal is growing as a dynamic discipline and we have been able to set the ELT parameters in Nepal along with the global advancement. I feel very proud to be a part of the recent curriculum revision project in Tribhuvan University and there were many colleagues involved in it. Prof. Awasthi has already highlighted on the new courses in his interview last month. On this occasion, I would like to quote Dr. Numa Markee, Professor of University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign while asking him for his observations on the recently revised teacher education course of B.Ed. and M.Ed. that he reviewed before they were finalized. He said, “Overall, I think that the quality of the curriculum you have devised is certainly comparable to that of British, American and Australian universities with which I am familiar”. This shows that we have been following the current ELT world and we also have a lot to offer to the global ELT community. Professional forum such as NeltaChoutari are the excellent platform to learn and help others learn.
Shyamji told me that we have over 9,000 views with an estimate of 500 unique readers on NeltaChoutari as of December 1. This is not a small number. When I shared this blog as a part of my presentation in one of my classes in Boston University, I received very good response from them. They said that they will ask their students to use this blog to get the resources for their research work. However, the readership is not enough. We need think of ways of getting people engaged in the professional communication and sharing. This is the most difficult and challenging part particularly in Nepal where English teachers have to be extremely busy with several assignments and obligations. Nevertheless, we need to find some time for our professional growth. At this point, I would like to make few suggestions to make NeltaChoutari a more productive forum.
a) NeltaChoutari not only offers the thematic discussion but it also connects us to the vast amount of ELT resources that are available online. Teacher education campuses can encourage the students to make use of those resources. Students will find them highly useful for the course work and practice teaching. There are wonderful lesson plans on the web which our student teachers can use them readily in their classes. Similarly, the articles from these resources will complement the topics they discuss in their classes. NELTA can organize a short orientation program for the teacher educators both at the center and at the branches and give a demonstration of how best these resources can be made available for our students. The teacher educators can also be encouraged to share their experiences through this blog and learn from their colleagues around the globe.
b) One of the key challenges for our thesis writing Masters students is the literature review. I remember my students having this challenge and I used to recommend them to visit to NeltaChoutari and find the relevant ELT resources for their review. There are archives of such resources which can be accessed via this network. If people really need some articles that are not freely available, there are NELTA colleagues around the world who have kindly offered their help to make them available if request is placed. So, I can see that it will be a great opportunity for our students to explore NeltaChoutari during their research. Once they are into it, I am sure they will be addicted to it.
c) In order to engage the primary and secondary level English teachers in the discussion, we could organize a session in the NELTA conference as we did last year and share with them what this forum can offer for them. Also, NELTA Central Committee can organize a short session to orient the branch representatives on the use of this forum.
In a nutshell, what I am trying to say is that professional networking and sharing is the best way to develop ourselves and the more we share the richer we become professionally. Please do read NeltaChoutari and engage yourself in the professional discussion and I can assure you it will pay you back !!!!!
Thank you Shyamji, Balji, Premji, Kamalji and Sajanji and recently Hemji for making NeltaChoutari a special ELT forum for all of us !!!!!!!!!!
Happy reading !!!!!!!!!!!!
Ganga Ram Gautam
Hubert Humphrey Fellow – 2010/2011
Boston University, USA