This little ebook is truly a labor of love. I started putting the text together towards the end of 2018 as part of a faculty fellowship program offered by my institution, partly in response to the need for such a text that I gauged from teaching my courses in a z-format. Over the past year or so, I continued working on the book during semester breaks, incorporating insights I was continually gaining from my classroom instruction. This text is now ready to be piloted in the ELAI 990 Advanced Integrated Skills’ classroom.The text complements the course site on Blackboard that I have created for the capstone course that I teach in a z-format, which is itself part of a larger initiative at my institution to reduce the burden of increasing higher education costs on students.
My Motivation for Creating an Open-Access (Companion) Textbook: Paying it forward
“Where is the profitability?”, a colleague asked me when I mentioned that I was planning to make this book open-access (essentially, free for anyone to go online to read and use for non-commercial and educational purposes). It was an interesting question and point-of-view. I understand what the colleague was asking about, but too often profitability is measured in dollars (or rupees). My perception of what is ‘profitable’, however, has been shaped somewhat differently by my life experiences.
As a college student pursuing simultaneous undergraduate studies in English literature and German language and literature in India in the late-90s, I experienced the burden of purchasing textbooks and other materials. To support myself financially and to contribute to family finances, I began tutoring school students in English, German, and art, and I saw firsthand how textbooks, especially, impacted my budget as well as that of my friends and some of my less affluent students. I loved reading, and I would often buy second-hand textbooks for my English and German literature courses and scour the Sunday Book Bazaar market in Delhi to get books to read in my leisure time–a standard practice for many people like me who came from middle class and lower middle class backgrounds. This, despite the fact that Indian books, especially textbooks, were often a lot more affordable than their Western counterparts–something I became aware of even more deeply when I signed up for German language classes at the New Delhi branch of a multinational private language institute and had to buy expensive textbooks printed by a German publishing company. Later, when I started working in the editorial department of the Indian branch of another multinational publishing company, I saw how the industry functioned as an insider as well. Often, I would find myself working on book projects destined for an American audience, that I knew would be beyond the purchasing power of many fellow Indians. At the same time, the Internet boom was beginning to take hold in India and across the world, and I witnessed the power of online content myself as a consumer when I began to use the Internet increasingly as an educational resource.
When I moved to the U.S. to pursue a Masters in Education (followed by a PhD) as an international student, I felt acutely the cost of purchasing expensive course materials every semester from the limited stipend I earned as a graduate assistant. Fortunately, many of my course instructors were beginning to move away from the printed textbook model themselves and were experimenting with creating course packets of readings and book chapters that could be made available through the university library system. When I began to teach undergraduate and graduate level courses myself as a doctoral candidate, I followed the same format ensuring that my students would not need to purchase books and most materials would be available electronically via the library. At the same time, I was writing and co-writing manuscripts that were getting published in books and journals, thus contributing to the vast pool of work that I myself had been benefiting from. I’ll also forever be grateful for the numerous assistantships, scholarships, and fellowships that enabled me to successfully pursue a good portion of my masters’ and my doctoral studies entirely in the U.S.
When I started teaching ESL and then transitioned to EAP settings after earning my PhD degree, I initially used textbooks primarily because they were prescribed by the programs and also to gain insight into common pedagogical practices in my professional contexts. In 2017, however, I completed an online teaching training program at my current institution and began to transition to teaching the EAP courses in a z-format (which coincided with ELAI 990 being offered for the first time as part of a larger program redesign and reorganization), using appropriate publicly-available materials and designing my own specifically for my high-needs community college context. My decision to switch to a z-format stemmed from sound pedagogical principles (detailed in the section titled ‘For ELT Practitioners, Scholars, and Practitioner-Scholars’). However, there is an additional deeper reason for these endeavors informed by the life experiences I have described above: When I was a student myself, I had a lot of help; Now, as a practitioner-scholar, creating z-courses and publishing open-access materials is my way of ‘paying it forward’.
About The book Cover
Although the template for the book cover was limited in terms of the options available via the website that I used to produce this ebook, I was able to adapt a picture that I had taken in the fall of 2019 in my garden to use as the background image in the cover. The original image is shared here, and I provide a brief explanation for why I felt that this would be appropriate to use on the cover of the ebook.
When walking around my yard one fall day, I saw this tiny volunteer maple plant that had grown unobserved at the edge of the garden border. Perhaps the wind had blown a seed into the yard, and the fertile ground provided the right space for the seed to take root. With autumn setting in slowly but surely, the tiny maple had turned a beautiful fall shade that made it stand out vividly against the rest of the foliage.
What I found striking the day I took this photograph, however, was the fact that a leaf from a full-grown maple tree had also somehow found its way into my yard and come to rest against its tiny sibling. It was truly a study in contrasts. With time, the giant leaf would crumble and feed the soil that the tiny maple was growing in. The tiny maple reminded me of my students–many of whom are fellow immigrants or international students–who have moved to unfamiliar grounds and slowly begun to put forth roots as they endeavor to survive and thrive in their new homes. The larger, more mellowed maple leaf represented the older order of things–original homes, former connections, prior experiences, and formative values–transitioning and creating the foundation for the new as part of a natural cycle of regeneration, and serving as a reminder of the fact that the only constant in life is change, and change itself is essential to the continuation of life as we know it.
- The text is sufficiently ready for piloting as a companion ebook in Spring 2020, but I plan to make further revisions and additions over the year until the ebook can eventually be used as a primary text. ↵
- For a more detailed version of the copyright, please visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/. ↵