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A Multidimensional Approach to Definitions, Applied to e-Learning in Language Education

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A presentation by Professor Steve McCarty at the Minpaku Linguistics Circle, National Museum of Ethnology, Suita, Osaka, 20 July 2014

ABSTRACT

Dictionary definitions tend to be circular, as in: big means large and large means big, so for all these years have they been getting away with not truly defining words? What would it mean for a bilingual dictionary to define words fully or sufficiently, particularly so that their situational usage would be clear enough to convey how to use them appropriately for intercultural communication? Is it now possible to create dictionaries that define words in their fuller dimensionality?

When it comes to technical terms in academic fields, abstract definitions may fail to contextualize terms that are sensitive to changes over time, new media, and so forth. Moreover, what is the difference between a field and a discipline? The author will illustrate the problem with three terms that tend to be used synonymously or defined without regard to their historical and disciplinary development: distance education, e-Learning, and online education.

The main focus of this presentation will be a chart that illustrates the method to define technical terms more clearly and fully than before, by contextualizing them in three relevant dimensions: cultural / institutional, disciplinary, and historical / temporal contexts. This approach will be applied to examples including e-learning in language education, from past to future.

Participants will also be able to try the method with the handout form, and see if their chosen field or concept is defined in fuller dimensionality. Questions and comments are most welcome for a wide-ranging discussion.

Author’s online library of publications, in English: http://www.waoe.org/steve/epublist.html
or in Japanese (日本語版): http://www.waoe.org/steve/jpublist.html

Published in: Education, Technology
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A Multidimensional Approach to Definitions, Applied to e-Learning in Language Education

  1. 1. A Multidimensional Approach to Definitions, Applied to e-Learning in Language Education A presentation by Professor Steve McCarty 大阪女学院短期大学・大学 教授 スティーブ・マッカーティ Minpaku Linguistics Circle National Museum of Ethnology (国立民族学博物館) Suita, Osaka, 20 July 2014
  2. 2. ABSTRACT Dictionary definitions tend to be circular, as in big means large and large means big, so for all these years have they been getting away with not truly defining words? What would it mean for a bilingual dictionary to define words fully or sufficiently, particularly so that their situational usage would be clear enough to convey how to use them appropriately for intercultural communication? Is it now possible to create dictionaries that define words in their fuller dimensionality? When it comes to technical terms in academic fields, abstract definitions may fail to contextualize terms that are sensitive to changes over time, new media, and so forth. Moreover, what is the difference between a field and a discipline? The author will illustrate the problem with three terms that tend to be used synonymously or defined without regard to their historical and disciplinary development: distance education, e-Learning, and online education. The main focus of this presentation will be a chart that illustrates the method to define technical terms more clearly and fully than before, by contextualizing them in three relevant dimensions: cultural / institutional, disciplinary, and historical / temporal contexts. This approach will be applied to the example of e-learning in language education, from past to future. Questions and comments are most welcome for a wide-ranging discussion.
  3. 3. How can we understand or analyze a field or concept? “… as an analogy, three animals — a rabbit, a horse, and an elephant — cross the Ganges. The rabbit swims across without touching the bottom. The horse may or may not touch the bottom. The elephant fully touches the bottom. “When Tathāgatas cross this river, they are like the fragrant elephant, so they are called Buddhas. “Through quiet meditation, observance of the precepts, and energetic progress, Tathāgatas have arrived at the shore opposite that of saṁsāra, achieving liberation, so they are called Buddhas.” Notes: Tathāgata = 如来 in Chinese and Japanese = One who has thus gone (how Gautama Buddha referred to himself in the Pali canon). saṁsāra = the cycle of rebirth, ignorance, desire and suffering (i.e., this world) Sūtra of the Upāsaka Precepts 『優婆塞戒經』 , fascicle 1. Translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in the Northern Liang Dynasty by The Tripiṭaka Master Dharmakṣema. Retrieved from http://www.sutrasmantras.info/sutra33a.html
  4. 4. How can we tell the difference between conflated terms?
  5. 5. Contextualizing fields and terms in their fuller dimensionality
  6. 6. HANDOUT Institutional / Cultural Context Disciplinary Context <pastHistorical/TemporalContextfuture> Choose a field or area of study to define: ___________ Choose a technical term or concept to define: ___________ Your analysis and conclusion about this approach to definitions?
  7. 7. For background information (articles and presentations below), and links to the author’s publications, see http://www.waoe.org/steve/epublist.html "Global Communications in a Graduate Course on Online Education at the University of Tsukuba." GLOCOM Platform. International University of Japan. "Cultural, Disciplinary and Temporal Contexts of e-Learning and English as a Foreign Language." eLearn Magazine: Research Papers. New York: Association for Computing Machinery. "Definitions and Knowledge in Successive Educational Media." International Conference on Pedagogies and Learning: Meanings under the Microscope. University of Southern Queensland, Australia. “Ubiquitous Language Learning from Mobile Internet to iPod to iPad” (forthcoming 11 August 2014). Symposium on “Utilizing Emerging Technologies and Social Media to Enhance EFL Learning.” With Obari, H. & Lambacher, S. (Aoyama Gakuin University), Sato, T. (Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology), and Nozawa, K. (Ritsumeikan University). AILA World Congress, International Association of Applied Linguistics. Brisbane, Australia. Thank you!

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