Differences in the English Language in a Post-Cultural World

Guest Post

Regular readers will be aware that I have occasionally presented ‘Guest Posts’ on behalf of colleagues.  I’d like to introduce yet another Trans-Atlantic contribution.

This time the post is by Angelita Williams [see by-line below].  We would both welcome your comments to this special Guest Post, especially as the differences between our written languages is such an issue (especially for me!!!)

Differences in the English Language in a Post-Cultural World

I know; the title of this post is quite a mouthful. Not to worry though; I plan to take this topic in stride, offering first a brief history of American English and how it has differed from British English. As for the “post-cultural” idea, I will in essence be describing the evolution of the English language in the midst of the uprising of the Internet as a primary communication tool, particularly for international correspondence.

Brief History of American and British English

Aside from natural differences in dialect and culture that occurred between the isolation of these two English speaking countries, one of the first “active” catalysts which has differentiated American from British English is Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language.

Make no mistake, Webster was a politically charged revolutionary aiming for American independence from British culture. While this may seem a bit extreme or xenophobic even for our modern, melting-pot standards, do remember that Webster’s dictionary was published just over a decade after the War of 1812. And at this time, most nations were much more filled with nationalist pride than our modern day standards (particularly in America … despite what our Republican party may have you believe).

To be honest, most of Webster’s dictionary involved hair-splitting differences, notably in spelling (such as color rather than colour or center rather than centre or defense rather than defence). Some innovations never even caught on, like his spelling of tung as opposed to tongue. While many of these changes were discrete, I feel that they opened the doors of divergence between the two dialects. Also, I find it interesting that these differences have become more noticeable now that text has become the most popular communication tool online (a noticeable jump from previous mass media such as television or radio).

Since that publication, most changes between the two dialects have been due to natural variations of usage trends and connotations of various words. There are few words with completely different meanings between the dialects; more likely, there are words with both multiple shared and different meanings between the two. For example, the word “fall” means “to descend” in both languages but also means “to become pregnant” in British English and “autumn” in American English.

Post-cultural English?

Before I dig into this idea, I would like to disclaim that this term is entirely made up by myself and stems from the idea that an unofficial standard English has developed through mass media and the internet. For a good time, this spoken standard was American-favored, as American media has left its mark in Europe and the rest of the world for quite a few decades in the late 21st century. As demonstrated by the guardian, Hollywood still has a strong influence over British culture.

However, what are we to make of the English language as it appears on the internet? The memes, the multitude of abbreviations (“wut r u up 2?”), and, most importantly, the slang that passes for the English language is beyond puzzling. And it is also incredibly hard to track or even assess on a holistic scale because every site seems to have a wide variance of what it views as acceptable language. Take, for example, Hipster Runoff as opposed to Wikipedia. Or, for better measure of how massive amounts of people use English on the internet, compare Reddit and 4chan.

While perhaps none of these sites (with maybe the exception of Wikipedia) have set any sort of standard for an online dialect of the English language, they do all seem to have self-contained dialects that also share odd similarities, an online community dialect so to speak. And it is difficult to tell which country (if any) is responsible for these trends in online dialect. If anything, I would say that it’s not necessarily one place as it is one range of age (mostly young adolescents but as old as mid-twenties) from which these trends in internet language originate.

If I am to see any good come of these trends in online communication (trust me, I cannot see many), it would be that those exhibits of language encourage advocates of thoughtful, well-versed words such as myself (and I assume many of you readers) to cling tighter to our written roots. For every online community filled with shallow, poorly executed thoughts, a community like this one has an opportunity to emerge and demonstrate the English language as it should be. Whether American or British, the most important aspect of English in its online form should be quality and clarity.

By-line:

This guest post is contributed by Angelita Williams, who writes on the topics of online courses.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: angelita.williams7 @gmail.com.

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School Cafeteria Lunch Programs in the United States

Guest Post

Regular readers will be aware that I have occasionally presented ‘Guest Posts’ on behalf of colleagues.  I’d like to introduce yet another Trans-Atlantic contribution.

This time by Lauren Bailey [see by-line below].  We would both welcome your comments to this special Guest Post, especially as schools meals (and meals on wheels for the elderly) are such big subjects over here in the UK too.

School Cafeteria Lunch Programs in the United States

With childhood obesity and childhood type II diabetes steadily on the rise in U.S. in the past decade, there’s no denying that our society’s diet needs to be altered. In the past, the term “obesity” was only associated with adults because only adults could become clinically obese. According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, however, childhood obesity affects nearly 25 million children today and is termed one of the most threatening epidemics in U.S. history. The truth is, in most cases, childhood obesity is the result of a flawed lifestyle. Genetics do come into play to some degree, but the only way a child can be clinically obese is if they ingest more calories than they expend. For many years now, the nutritional value of lunches in school cafeterias throughout the country has been under great debate.

School cafeterias have served greasy pizza slices, sugary soft drinks, fattening desserts, and tons of fried side dishes for years and years. In the past, schools’ cafeterias and vending machines were stocked with processed foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt. With our kid’s health classes constantly preaching a healthy diet to help fuel their minds, it’s a strange contradiction to serve extraordinarily unhealthy food choices to our young learners. In many ways, kids were trapped into an unhealthy diet by the delicious, but dangerous food choices their educators and mentors provided them. With Michelle Obama and celebrity chefs speaking out about childhood obesity and diet, movement is afoot to bring change to school lunch programs across the country.


Michelle Obama has made it her mission as First Lady to improve the health of America’s youth. In 2010, she lobbied to Congress for the Child Nutrition Bill that expanded the school lunch program and set new standards to improve the quality of school meals. These government guidelines have helped schools prepare lunches that include fewer fried foods, smaller servings, and no cupcakes. These small steps in school districts across the country have helped make school lunches healthier and more suitable for our youth.


While these changes in school guidelines nationwide have been a drastic improvement, there are several obstacles still in place. One of the most struggling aspects of improving the diets of our children (and our nation as a whole) is money. For some reason, healthier food costs more. This is a huge concern for public schools trying to improve their school lunch menus. Schools receive $2.68 for each free meal that they serve through the National School Lunch Program. This small wage is used to purchase the food, pay the labor, and maintain the facility. Needless to say, $3 just isn’t enough to easily purchase non-processed organic food. Schools are being forced to raise their prices for their lunches, causing some students and their parents to really struggle.


This all just feels very backwards. Why would it cost more to provide our children with healthier meals? Why should schools and parents be burdened with high costs just to keep their students (our future leaders) well fed and ready to learn? Our own health and especially our youth’s health should be of top priority. While things are looking up for school lunches in the United States cafeteria rooms, there is still much to be addressed. But, with the growing awareness of the health risks a poor diet poses and the growing concern about the obesity epidemic among America’s youth, things can only improve.


By-line:

This guest post is contributed by Lauren Bailey, who regularly writes for best online colleges.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: blauren99 @gmail.com

Higher Education Technology: Clickers in the Classroom

Guest Post

Regular readers will be aware that I have occasionally presented ‘Guest Posts’ on behalf of colleagues.  I’d like to introduce yet another Trans-Atlantic contribution.

This time by Lenore Holditch [see by-line below].  We would both welcome your comments to this special Guest Post.

Higher Education Technology: Clickers in the Classroom

Clickers- they’re not just for television anymore. In fact, clickers are being used by students in the university and college classroom as a part of a classroom response system with the potential to encourage student attendance, participation and engagement in class. Let’s take a closer look at what we’re discussing, shall we?

Original courtesy of Kevin Hickey: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevhickey/2657567571/What Are Clickers?

Clickers are handheld tools given to students that allow them to respond electronically when the professor poses a multiple-choice question relevant to the lecture at hand, according to Carnegie Mellon, a global research university in the United States renowned for its technology programs.  The clickers serve as remote transmitters, collecting the students’ answers and immediately feeding them back to the instructor. The instructor then has the opportunity to analyze the data for his/her own purposes or immediately display the data on a screen in front of the class to discuss the answers provided.

A Few Uses of Clickers

The clickers have several uses. For example, prior to exam reviews, professors can use the classroom response system to pose upcoming exam questions to see how many in the room are grasping the material. The answers delivered via clicker reveal to the professor the areas he/she would do well to focus on in his/her upcoming exam review.

Another example would be a literature professor requiring students to click in their answers to questions posed on the most recent assigned reading at the start of class so the professor can get a feel for the students’ understanding of the passages they read.

A philosophy professor might poll the class on certain questions relevant to the class, such as “Do you believe in God?” or “Do people have free will?” and get an immediate response from the class displayed on the screen for how much of the class leans which way. This provides great material for philosophical discussion based on the answered delivered.

Benefits of Clickers

The benefits of utilising such a system are numerous as well. For instance, clickers encourage classroom attendance when instructors require students to “click in” their presence in class as they enter the lecture hall.

Along with this, a New York Times article pointed out that requiring students to make use of the clickers throughout the class essentially forces students to pay attention. After all, if a student is focused on responding to his/her professor with the clicker, he/she likely isn’t napping in class or text messaging a friend on a cell phone.

Also, just like pedagogical strategies that emphasize active learning, use of clickers encourages engagement in class by helping to keep students constantly thinking about what the next question might be. It is something else to add to a professor’s toolbox for keeping students thinking about class while in class.

Last, clickers encourage participation because of the anonymous nature of their recorded responses. Take the philosophical question described earlier, “Do you believe in God?” Some students might be too timid to raise their hand and respond to this controversial question if the professor were to ask for a show of hands and they feel like they are in the minority.

Adult Education Applications

For older adult and nontraditional learners (24 and up, working adults, parents), such technology would be an effective active learning tool for instructors, particularly considering such classes for adult learners that are not delivered online are often offered on nights and weekends. At the end of a long workday or workweek, adult students with jobs and family obligations nagging at them need all the motivation possible to stay engaged in class.

By providing immediate feedback through the classroom response system, promoting learning from peers, and encouraging the sharing of experience, the use of clickers supports adult learning styles. After all, adult learners often want to pick the brain of the other adult learners surrounding them, and the response system allows them to do that quickly.

Finally, digital literacy is of the utmost importance to older age groups, and will be needed by those who wish to retrain for another career.

By-line:

This guest contribution was submitted by Lenore Holditch, who specializes in writing about top online colleges. Questions and comments can be sent to: holditch.lenore @ gmail.com.

Sunny Day in May

I’m taking a bold step here and making the first move towards shifting the Village e-Learning Blog over to WordPress.

boulogneThis has many advantages for me. The original blog is hosted by 1and1 and they (1and1) will continue to host the Village e-Learning web site (for now). However, I have always used MS Front Page to do my web authoring and this is not supported by my main Vista laptop (and I cannot find the Front Page disk, to try it anyway). So, I keep having to use my tired old XP Toshiba (which is still a little workhorse, despite the scratch pad not working anymore).

I have a version of Dreamweaver I could use, but can’t find the time to learn how it works. It’s ok for patching but I’d have to devote time to learn exactly how Dreamweaver works. I really need a solution that works from any machine, anywhere! So let’s see what WordPress can do.

It seems to be the most professional looking blog tool – certainly better looking than some of my other attemps (but this is my first post and I haven’t finished with the design yet – so it might become hideous)

It will remain more of a personal diary than a comment on my work. Nevertheless, work will no doubt be a large part of the blog as that’s what I do for most of the week. But, I still hope to talk about my family, my holidays and to rant about various injustices I come across: usually the food industry!

:0)

David