Saturday, January 5, 2008



The central idea for this blog post comes from a podcast where a gentleman from the Buckinghamshire educational district in England made a point about the new-found freedom the world wide web has given people to publish their views and ideas without intermediaries. In traditional academe, publishing was the monopoly of refereed or peer-reviewed journals entry to whose clubs was highly filtered. In the world of mass communication, getting published even in a local daily newspaper was a big deal. I remember the first time I had one of my poems published by a Riyadh newspaper. That was a grand moment. To be invited on a radio or television talk show is not given to everyone; you had to be a recognized expert of some level of renown. With the internet revolution, getting oneself published has become an unmarked, regular event that everyone and his sister could do without pain or fatigue.
I would like to elaborate on this issue of empowerment through offering concrete examples drawn from my personal experience for the most part. Below is a list of internet means and spaces where virtually anyone with an idea can virtually see themselves published. What is important to highlight is that this idea does not have to be at any level of maturity, sophistication, and 'far-fetchedness' if you will. It does not have to go through the filter of a jury or an editorial board to be given the seal of approval. In a globalized and wired world, it is never a question of one's ideas being simple, naïve, banal, immature or irrelevant. There is thankfully plenty of room for all, and all of our thoughts are always at some level of elaboration. The point is that it's through interaction, tossing around of ideas, getting feedback on those ideas from circles and persons that you least expect to be interested in the issues raised that ideas change, grow, gather moss, and see the light. I guess I am addressing myself basically here to those that never tried the following avenues for speaking their minds out. The list I produce is certainly not an exhaustive one, but it's a place to begin the sharing journey.
1. Make a youtube video
I begin with
www.youtube.com because of the ease with which anyone, techie or not, is capable of airing video material for the world to see. You needn't be a member of any association, nor do you need green light from anyone. A fair representation of youtube is that it is, like many other spaces that do the same function, an open space for use by the most erudite, the shrewdest, and most sophisticated people as well as for anyone that has anything to share, be it even a view of the city or country where they live, a show of talent they possess, a news story they have witnessed, a drive or walk through an island, or a novel trend or a fad, or a parody or whatever. All you need is a sequence of video of your own making, or for which you have right to publish, and there, in just a few minutes, you can share it with the rest of the world.
2. Start your own web site
This may be a little bit more demanding, but given that there are more web hosts that allow you to build your own site than I know of or care to name, it is tempting for anyone to try and make a representation for themselves, without having to go through third parties. Of course, if you'd rather give the contents of your web site to a company that specializes in building web sites, that's fine, but otherwise, you can go it alone. There is normally plenty of online support to guide you through the process, and with some dedication, it is normally possible for anyone to have a working web site of their own possibly within minutes. For a free web site, try 0catch:
http://signup.0catch.com/signup?p=0catch , or try the more popular geocities, also for free: http://geocities.yahoo.com/
3. Make your own blog
Blogging as a way of networking and communicating with a wide audience on specific or general areas of interest for the blogger has been gaining popularity for at least the past three to four years. You can make your blog as high-tech or academic and high-brow as you like, but that is not the intention at all. If the content you wish to publish in your blog is in the form of a rigorously composed research piece with a systematic review of the literature and a principled section on data collection method, and so on, then a traditional journal article will be a better venue. If, however, you mean to communicate informally or semi-formally, and wish to share your ideas in a more personalized way than is usually permissible in the world of academic publishing, starting your own blog is the answer. There is no dearth of free blog hosts but here are two, just for the record. The first is where you are reading this very posting:
https://www.blogger.com/start . Another celebrated space is: http://wordpress.com/signup/. Try them out. They will give you a voice that would have cost dearly only a few years ago. Now, they are free, and free for all.
4. Create a podcast
Podcasts are similar to blogs except for one difference. Whereas blogs are pieces of writing for the most part, podcasts are defined as: 'a n audio broadcast that has been converted to an MP3 file or other audio file format for playback in a digital music player or computer. Basically, all you need is a microphone connected to a computer, and a sound-recording software available by default in all versions of MS Windows or Linux. For MS Windows, simply do the following: START>PROGRAMS>ACCESSORIES>ENTERTAINMENT>SOUND RECORDING. Click the recording button, improvise or read out what you wish to say, save it, and find a podcast host for it. There are many such services available for free. I am certainly not here into the business of recommending any particular podcast host, but following is the URL for one that I have used, which requires very little technical knowledge:
http://www.ziddu.com/register.php. For the price of entering your contact information, you get to publish your podcast, and you may even get paid for that if you wish.
5. Contribute an audio podcast of material written by someone else before 1923.
This is a variation of creating your own podcast. Whereas in 4 above, you go ahead with authoring the very words of your own podcast and express your own point of view, what you are invited to do here is to read out excerpts or full chapters of books that are considered to be part of the public domain and for which copyright laws are no longer applicable. In your own voice, you can read and store for public use sections of ancient and pre-1923 poets, philosophers, thinkers, novelists, mathematicians and whomever you think should be introduced to the wide world. Take for instance Open Culture as a repository of educational and cultural podcasts, Make your voice heard by choosing an author of your choice and be part of an international community of readers that is intent upon making classic books and writings available on a wide basis. The address to contribute is:
6. React to other people's writing
This actually can take many forms. Look for example at the bottom of this blog, and you will find a comment's button. As you read this blog, there may be ideas that pop into your mind by way of endorsing or questioning what I am saying here. The privilege will be all yours to just air your views in writing, and sometimes in video, as you now can, after watching a youtube video. The only rules to follow when responding to whatever is being posted is that you should avoid offensive language, and using other people's ideas or words without acknowledging the source. Otherwise, you will be free to leave a trace of your take on what you read, and this is precisely what the author wants you to do. I had a chance to react to tips sports people gave on how to stay healthy. While this is only a response to what someone has written, you may actually develop your response to be a full entry in its own right. You can use a nickname or your real name, and voila, your are getting published, and are sharing your views with the Smiths, Saeeds and Su Chis of the world.
7. Review a product
This is yet another way to make your voice heard on products that you have purchased and have formed an idea about it. Here, I think there is room for espousing an extended view of the term ‘product’ to include electronic gadgets that you have bought, like a notebook computer, a microphone, an iPod or washing machine, or books or articles that you have read, and on which you wish to share your view, expert or not. Just look up the exact name of the product, give a clear idea about its specifications or contents, and say exactly what you feel about it. Another place where you can make such reviews is, for language scholars, an electronic publication called 'linguistlist': http://linguistlist.org/. When you subscribe to this publication, you can avail yourself of books for review. The review process is rigorous but it is generally less demanding than getting published in a regular print journal.
8. Author an article in Wikipedia
Wikipedia is 'The world's largest encyclopedia available on the Web at www.wikipedia.com’ that relies for its contents on material jointly authored for the most part by regular people writing in 253 languages of the world. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia). As such, anyone with a computer and an internet connection is entitled, if they so desire, to start, edit, or improve upon an article or an article stub. The working and empowering assumption seems to be that authoritativeness in creating and producing information and knowledge is no longer the privilege of the expert and that the average person is capable of sharing their own representation of reality. Knowledge is thus no longer only constructed by those in the know so to say, but is being levelled democratically. Thus, if you wish to give information about the school where you studied in any part of the world, or if you have some true information about someone you think readers might be interested in, then, the privilege is all yours to write about that person or that issue.
9. Publish your course on a free VLE
Virtual learning environments, also called learning management systems (LMS) are the catchphrase in the corporate circles as well as in primary, secondary and tertiary education environments. These represent the perfect place for any teacher or trainer to host their material and make it available for their students or trainees. You won’t need to know too much about how to furnish these learning spaces. And if you do need to, there are communities of users who will provide plenty of explanation for you to start your first steps in making use of web-based instruction. Nor do you need to pay fees. Many high quality VLEs are free, open source platforms, Your school, university or company administrator may install the platform for you, and you will be able to author your course. For those who are still technophobic, you can try the user friendly Internet Classroom Assistant (ICA) called Nicenet at
www.nicenet.org. Within a few clicks, you will find yourself in an environment that is intuitive and self-explanatory. You can make a difference in the lives of learners who may not have the time to travel all the way to the training or study site. For others who are ready to explore a bit before populating the platform, there is a most celebrated learning platform called Moodle. Just visit www.moodle.org. Install a local version on your PC and familiarize yourself with this promising space.
10. Contribute an article to an online journal
This is not a challenge by any stretch of imagination. The grip print journals once had on what is considered publication-grade is weakening. Internet readership seems to require a different level of writing with a less dense style. E-zines and e-journals are proliferating by the day. Even print-based journals are shifting to having electronic versions of their journals, and sometimes electronic only. To be sure, online refereed journals do have their own standards and follow recognized, if still negotiable formats, but they represent a real chance for young researchers to publish their work and get read by a wider audience than they were capable of, say ten years ago. The Reading Matrix,
http://www.readingmatrix.com/ is one such journal that you can try for your next article or paper in the area of second language acquisition and more generally in applied linguistics. You can also try the Internet TESL journal http://iteslj.org/ and send research articles, lesson plans, book reviews, and activities for students of English.
What I have shared with you above are tried and tested ways of getting published by sidestepping academic gate-keeping mechanisms. Writing that is composed following scholarly submission guidelines will remain important. However, students and young researchers will have much to gain from reaching a wider audience than the audience the print-based article is limited to. To be sure, there are dividends accruing from being read by highly specialized panels and boards, but there is also a way of growing and maturing through sharing with the average reader. In a private communication following the 2003 CLTELT Conference held in Dubai, UAE, Pr. Robert Phillipson insightfully wrote about the necessity of having experts speak to journalists in order to be able to communicate their messages to a wider audience: At professional conferences of this kind in many parts of the world there might be a press conference towards the end, at which the effort would be made to ensure that journalists, who cannot be expected to be experts in the area, can be properly briefed. Next time? There are advantages in having a team of people talking to the press rather than a single 'expert' being interviewed. Phillipson 2003. Personal Communication.
KEYWORDS: VLE; LMS; youtube; blog; product review; nicenet; moodle; wikipedia; podcast.
Interview with Ian Usher, E-Learning Co-ordinator for Buckinghamshire County Council's School Improvement Service about 'The use of Moodle authority wide’. Conducted by Leon Cych. Retrieved from the World Wide Web at: www.l4l.co.uk/mp3/L4L003.mp3

Phillipson, R. Personal Communication. May 12, 2003.

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