What I’m learning from all of these opportunities to share and connect with researchers, students, teachers, and teacher educators
To say that I’ve had a busy speaking schedule since starting this adventure in the Southern Hemisphere might be as much of an understatement as saying that the climate here in Java is “warm.” It started the weekend after I arrived in Semarang, and I’ve kept up a schedule of between one and three talks per week since that time, including my time in Australia. As I prepare to submit my Fulbright mid-term report, it feels like an opportune time to look back and reflect on these experiences, highlighting cultural and educational lessons learned and celebrating connections made.
All of these events have really connected me to the academic community here in this region, giving me the chance to talk and learn with researchers, teachers, teacher educators, students, policy makers, funders, ministry officials, and more. I am getting MUCH better at crafting and delivering my messages about digital literacies, qualitative research, and more through these events. Gone is the little bit of waver in my voice that had been part of my experience of beginning any public speaking activity.
I’m also learning more about what matters to the different audiences, and working hard to illustrate my messages in ways that reach each in personal, relevant ways. This helps me address a question that a friend (who also does work in international contexts with marginalized populations) recently emailed me. She asked, “Is it ever weird being the white person bringing the knowledge to the people of color?!” About her own experience, she wrote …”it’s still so weird, being the outsider but also being seen as the ‘expert’.” And, I agree – I am very much positioned as the expert white scholar/international distinguished professor, the “bule”, when I am in these situations. But, I have disrupted the performative, reserved, lecture-based, VIP-treatment culture a bit, where I can, turning invitations to give “lectures” into “dialogues” or “conversations.” I build time into the beginning of my presentations to get the audience to talk about what they bring to our session, in addition to talking about the experiences I bring. I take time to articulate the latter as a way of grounding what I offer firmly within my professional identities, not my citizenship or outsider status. Most importantly, I make the effort to talk with people before, during, and after these engagements, staying out of the VIP rooms for speakers when I can (much to the organizers’ chagrin!), and really fostering meaningful connections whenever possible. I love hearing about the work and lives of teachers, researchers, and learners, and try to structure our interactions in ways that privilege their culture, knowledge, and experiences when putting them in conversation with what I have to offer from abroad.
Already, these events have introduced me to a host of potential collaborators, and have led to more speaking invitations than I can manage in my remaining time here. I also had the opportunity to interview an Indonesian fanfiction writer about her experiences, which was quite a treat! More than anything, these events have reinforced to me the Indonesian people’s commitment to showing hospitality to guests/visitors. Due to restrictions of the Fulbright grant, I am not allowed to accept money for work here in Indonesia, but have been graciously supported with accommodations, travel, gifts, tourism opportunities, meals, and more. There is a great deal of effort that goes into making me, and other speakers, feel welcome and appreciated at the various campuses, and I have been grateful for chances to see other parts of the region and to meet many different people!
The Calendar of Events
September 14: ELTLT Conference My first plenary speech happened very soon after my arrival. This 8th annual conference hosted by the English Department here at UNNES was my first introduction to Indonesian conference culture, something I wrote about in an early entry on this blog. I met a member of Puji’s Indonesian “academic family” – Atti Herawati – and hope that we will be able to visit her in Bogor, if not on this trip to Indonesia, then on a future visit.
September 20: Guest lecture at UNNES’ Graduate Campus In what I called “Coffee with Dr. Lammers: A Conversation about Qualitative Research in Education”, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with with Early Childhood lecturers and students at the Pascasarjana (“post graduate”). We talked about my experience with designing and publishing qualitative research and connected that to their own projects. Out of this conversation came the question: “But, why do we need to code the data?” This discussion about moving from description to interpretation greatly informed the way that I prepared for a workshop I gave to FBS faculty in October.
September 27: Research presentation at a conference in Solo Presenting at the “Qualitative Research on Language Education in Contemporary Asia: New Perspectives, Directions and Innovations” conference gave me a chance to experience Indonesian conference culture from the perspective of just one of many attendees/presenters – though based on the fact that the students manning the registration table called me by my first name before I could say a word to them, apparently I didn’t blend! As it happened, the organizers placed my paper in the same session as Puji and Girindra’s paper, so this conference afforded me a “proud advisor” moment as I listened to Puji present about their critical meta-analysis of research here in Indonesia.
September 30 – October 11: Australian adventures Getting to travel to Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne were incredible experiences. I’ve already talked about the time in Brisbane, presenting at YCC and AoIR. Thanks to arrangements made by my longtime collaborator and friend, Jen Scott Curwood, this trip also gave me the chance to talk about my longitudinal study of an adolescent writer, in conversation with Christian Ehret’s work with video gaming in an after-school club setting in Montreal. We gave a combined talk hosted at the University of Sydney’s Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation. Finally, I traveled to Melbourne, at the invitation of Catherine Beavis, to spend a day at Deakin University talking with various stakeholders connected doing work in English/literacy teacher education in that region of Australia. This has already led to a future collaboration on a panel at the AATE/IFTE Conference next July in Sydney, assuming our proposal is accepted.
October 17: International Public Lecture at Unisbank in Semarang This lecture was an opportunity to speak at Puji’s husband, Teguh’s, university. He is an English lecturer specializing in creative writing at one of the other many universities in Semarang. In addition to the chance to chat with students about digital literacies and to offer their lecturers suggestions for tapping into technology for relevant, interest-driven English language learning, the visit included a tourist visit to the Sam Poo Kong Temple and enjoy dinner with Teguh and the recent grad who was our driver for the day.
October 18: UNNES Student Research Conference As an extension of my involvement in the ELTLT conference back in September, I also served as the keynote for the student research conference that the English department organizes in conjunction with that conference. This event gives students a chance to practice presenting their research – here at UNNES, undergraduates have a culminating research project to do in their final year of their program. It was at this talk that I connected with the writer who would later come talk with me about her experiences going from Twitter-based role play games in Indonesian to K-Pop idol fanfiction she wrote in both Indonesian and English on Wattpad and other online sites. A fascinating opportunity to learn from a young writer!
October 19: Plenary speech at the 2nd International ICESSR Capping off this busy week back in Indonesia, I was one of six plenary speakers at the International Conference on Education and Social Science Research held at the Universitas PGRI Semarang (UPGRIS). Here I heard presentations from an outgoing director in the Ministry of Education and Culture that informed me about the state of research productivity here in Indonesia. According to him, Indonesia ranked #1 of the 10 ASEAN countries in number of scholarly publications in the past year, but #7 in terms of impact of those publications. He explained the thousands of grant proposals he’s funded, and the numerous schemes available to support Indonesian researchers and to foster their collaboration and publication with international scholars. I made connections with some of the other plenary speakers, particularly with two American expats living/working in Singapore and Yogyakarta who each invited me to visit them and speak at their institutions. I learned a great deal about Indonesian higher education and more from our conversations over meals.
October 23: University-level Dialogues for Faculty at UNNES To try and accommodate the numerous requests from the various faculties around UNNES who each wanted me to come speak to them, Puji and Girindra helped me organized a series of dialogue sessions around four different topics. I designed these 90 minute sessions to be equal parts me presenting, them asking questions, and all of us discussing connections between what I shared and their teaching and work realities at UNNES. Only two of the dialogues – Digital Literacies and Student-Centered Teaching in Higher Education – ended up happening in the end. These sessions were a great opportunity connect with lecturers from Math education, Education Psychology, Economics, Sports Science, Language and Arts, Law, Social Sciences, and more.
October 26: International Public Lecture in Jepara At some other point, I will write about the experience of visiting and touring Jepara, which is a wonderful coastal town about 60 km away from Semarang. But about this lecture, arranged through a connection that Puji has with a lecturer at UNISNU Jepara, an Islamic university, I want to highlight a few things. First of all, I so appreciated the way that the organizers of this International Lecture interpreted that label, making me feel very much included when they played the Star Spangled Banner after leading the crowd to the typical sing-a-long of the Indonesian national anthem. Also of note in this lecture – it was an opportunity to share the stage/banner with Puji, as she made her first foray into redefining herself as a literacy scholar. And, just after it was my turn to take the microphone and begin talking to the crowd about digital literacy, the power went out for a few minutes and I carried on without my slides, using my best teacher voice to project and be heard in the large room!
October 29: International Workshop on Qualitative Research Methods for FBS Faculty This workshop fulfilled a request made by the FBS Vice Dean of Academic Affairs within minutes of my meeting him back in September – he wanted some sort of assistance for his faculty to learn more about how to design publishable, rigorous qualitative research. From his higher-level view, he recognized the needs and opportunities of his faculty and hoped that I could help. Drawing on the teaching I do at Warner (ED506) and the work of my colleague MJ Curry and her longtime collaborator Theresa Lillis, I engaged this large group of faculty in 3 hours of learning about the importance of designing qualitative research based on a strong logic of inquiry, and introduced them to a variety of resources and practices to support their writing. The Vice Dean and I continue to talk about opportunities to further support the research development and productivity of the FBS faculty, and this workshop encouraged at least one faculty member to start joining me for my regular writing sessions at the guest house.
November 2: Keynote Speaker for FBS Workshop for Teachers I wrote about this experience in a separate entry, including sharing my excitement about how one teacher attendee contacted me the following Monday to let me know that she was already incorporating some of what I shared into her classroom! This day was also when Zulfa Sakhiyya launched the new Literacy Centre – a research initiative of FBS UNNES. In her speech, she outlined the mission, vision, proposed activities, and the collaborating partners in the this new research center. I’m excited to be included among the international collaborators and look forward to continuing to work with her and the others in years to come.
November 5: Public Discussion at the American Corner All over the world, the U.S. Embassies and State Department fund areas known as “American Corners” to promote mutual understanding through supplying libraries with American material and to serve as a space for Americans to share their expertise. As part of my U.S. sponsored Fulbright experience, I was asked to give a talk at the local American Corner, housed within UIN Walisongo in Semarang. In a hot room, decked out with posters of American cars from the 1950s, U.S. landmarks, and the past Presidents of the United States, I talked to faculty and students in Biology, Communications, and Political Science about digital literacy. I spent the afternoon talking with my hostess, Tara Puri Ducha Rahmani a biochemistry lecturer who had previously spent time in California as a high school exchange student, and two librarians involved in the American Corner. They were lovely hosts! (The featured photo for this post is from that event)
November 7: Workshop for Humanities Faculty at UNDIP Most recently, I gave a workshop on using digital media for language teaching to humanities faculty and masters students in the English and Japanese departments at the other, larger, state university here in Semarang, Universitas Diponegoro. They were very receptive to how they might incorporate digital writing, listening, speaking, and reading activities into their curriculum, and the crowd seemed eager to try new things. My host, the Head of the Linguistics and English Language programs, Dr. Agus Subiyanto, and I talked at length about Indonesian higher education, his time studying abroad in Australia, and a possible visiting professor opportunity for me to continue working with the faculty in the summer of 2021.
- November 16: This weekend, Puji and I will travel to another island in Indonesia, Kalimantan or Indonesian Borneo, to visit another Warner alum as we serve as plenary speakers in a conference at her institution. It promises to be a grand Warner-Fulbright reunion with Yanti!
- November 19: I worked my own literacy research community connections to bring Roberto de Roock, former post-doc at ASU and current Research Scientist at the National Institute of Education in Singapore, to Semarang for a public lecture at the UNNES graduate school.
- November 21: I will be traveling to Jakarta on my way to meet my sister for some Thanksgiving holiday travel and a well-earned vacation. But, I’m using the stop-over in the capital city to meet with people at AMINEF and to give a talk about qualitative research at UNIKA Atma Jaya, a Catholic university.
- Early December: After vacation, I will be traveling to Yogyakarta, the town south east of here that everyone says I need to visit. I will be speaking about digital literacies to the faculty of the scholar I met at the ICESSR conference last month.
- Other requests that still have yet to be scheduled: A workshop on qualitative research and publication for the Faculty of Sports and Health Sciences at UNNES; a workshop for English teachers in the Demak region – a Community Engagement Project hosted by Fulbright English Teaching Assistants I had the pleasure of meeting last month; a talk at Atti’s university in West Java; and a research report presentation at AMINEF in Jakarta as part of my close out of the Fulbright grant period.