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India >>>>> Indiana – What Brought Me Here

India >>>>> Indiana – What Brought Me Here

In this post, I would like to talk about my field of study. I am a doctoral student in Learning Design and Technology or LDT, which is known as instructional design in some universities. I want to discuss what attracted me to this field and brought me here, all the way from India.

I wish to describe myself as an avid learner and a passionate educator. My work experience spans different career paths. I have worked as an electronics engineer, as a faculty in a computer hardware training institute, as a STEM subject teacher, University lecturer in a business school and as a technical writer. However, the career I enjoyed most was teaching Math, Physics and Environmental Science to middle school students. The curiosity that my students showed and their interest in exploring beyond the curriculum encouraged me to expand the boundaries of my teaching.

The Learning Design & Technology field has opened several avenues for me to put my education to practice in addition to stimulating my creative side. The Master’s degree and the Ph.D. programs in LDT at Purdue University, have provided the theoretical foundation for how to make learning appropriate for different audiences. LDT brings about a beautiful amalgamation of learning theories and emerging technologies to make learning fun, easy and meaningful to learners, whether in K-12, University, corporate sector or in adult basic education classrooms.

At Purdue, I’ve received maximum support from my faculty and I am involved in many research projects. My adviser applied for a fellowship for me and helped me receive the David Ross fellowship that supports my Ph.D. education. Not only me, several international students have received good fellowships and teaching assistantships which help them finance their education at Purdue. Within a year into my Ph.D, I was able to publish two scholarly papers in noteworthy journals and have a few more papers under review. In addition to working on research papers, I receive plenty of opportunities to work on other projects.

At present I am working with faculty on different projects ranging from evaluating MOOCs, studying attitude change in online and face-to-face (f2f) education, teaching f2f under-graduate educational technology courses, co-teaching an online course on Project Management, developing a repository of educational technology tools for online teaching and so on. As a service I am also developing STEM based learning modules for adult basic education (ABE). This semester, for my internship, I will be working on creating educational content which will be used by programmers to develop lessons using Augmented Reality (AR) technology. All these experiences, I believe, will make me a better teacher, collaborator, learning design technologist and educational technology expert.

On completing my Ph.D., my immediate goal is to teach in a research oriented university and gain valuable experience interacting with faculty, mining their expertise and expanding my knowledge. I really enjoy reading literature pertaining to educational technology, researching learning environments and writing scholarly papers. The joy of seeing my work, published in peer-reviewed journals is undefinable.

​Long-Term Goals​

I always wanted to establish a School of Practical Learning in India. This school will scaffold the theoretical learning in STEM subjects that is provided by other regular schools. It was with this vision and to update myself with what is new in education, that I enrolled in the LDT program at Purdue University in January 2015 to earn my 2nd Master’s degree. My journey continued into the Ph.D. program. I fervently hope to identify ways to augment the learning of students, with regards to socio-scientific topics, like environmental sustainability to make them better citizens of this world. ​

Someone once said, “If you are not willing to learn, No one can help you.

If you are determined to learn, No one can stop you.”

I’m determined to learn – Shamila Janakiraman

     

Home Away from Home

Home Away from Home

When I moved to West Lafayette in August 2015, I did not expect to discover my new Home. Although I was floored by the hospitality of the local people, I yearned for something connected to India. I saw numerous Indian students in Purdue campus, but in the College of Education, I did not meet many.

A casual walk one day revealed a “little India” here. Just across the road from my apartment was the Indian cultural center. With my heart pounding within my rib cage, I entered the building which looked more like a huge shed. There was a little Hindu temple attached to a very big hall with a stage on one side. Bharatiya Temple & Cultural Center of Greater Lafayette or BTCCGL is the organization that runs all operations in the cultural center.

There were several flyers pinned neatly on a soft board which revealed that there existed a vibrant Indian community in this city. Few words exchanged with the lonely couple sitting there, threw more light on the center’s activities. On weekends, besides religious activities, the center offered Yoga, Sanskrit, Bal Vihar and Bagwad Gita classes. This was like any town or city in India. Little did I expect this here. I paid a visit on a Saturday and was amazed at the number of people attending the classes, both parents and little kids dressed in colorful Indian attire. If I was shocked by their numbers which was, say around 50, it was nothing compared to a bigger tremor that was coming.

Yummy dishes from India here in WL

 

On Diwali, an important festival of India, the hall attached to the temple was full to capacity. I walked into the hall, being drawn by the aroma of Indian food and was taken aback by the sheer numbers of people. There were nearly 400 people at any time and people kept leaving and coming continuously. I asked a friend, (yes, I made some friends) whether all the people were connected to Purdue. She replied that several Indians worked in companies like Caterpillar and in the many research laboratories in West Lafayette and Indianapolis. Parents worked in Indianapolis and preferred to have their homes in WL because of the good schools and safe environment. They did not mind commuting to Indy every day. This is a lot to say about any place.

In WL, all the Indian festivals were celebrated with great pomp and show. I enjoyed dressing in Indian attire, which I do rarely when in campus, and eating mouth-watering food from every state of India. There was always a grand spread of 7-8 dishes and soon I started looking forward to any celebration. I came to know that every festival was celebrated by the Indian community with great fanfare. Moreover, all these activities were organized by BTCCGL volunteers. Men and women and even children participated eagerly in organizing events, dancing, singing, putting up plays, maintaining a small library and what not.

Come November, I bought tickets to go to the Celebration of India event organized by the Indian Women’s Association or IWA. The Faith West community center was full. Now, were there a 1000 people or 1500? I never even thought in my wildest dreams that a little city like West Lafayette located in the United States, would have these many Indians. There were Purdue professors, Purdue students, their families, engineers from companies, doctors and people from every profession.

As is normal back home, there were numerous dance performances and bands belting out music from Indian movies of various languages. Performers traveled all the way from India to entertain the population here. Again, there was food, food, food……. from samosas to biriyani, all my fav food was there. My excitement was evident when I related my experiences to my mother that night. “Are there so many Indian families,” she wondered.

The story of the Indian community in WL will not be complete without me talking about the IWA. The small but efficient group of ladies organized several fun activities like summer picnics, Cricket matches and Holi celebrations. But, IWA was about something more. They used their funds to award a scholarship to a woman researcher at Purdue whose research focuses on women centric issues. They also collect money to donate towards rehabilitation efforts taking place in regions where nature unleashed its fury. In December 2015, my hometown, Chennai, was ravaged by floods and IWA immediately started arranging for help. Locally their services have been valuable to the Lafayette Food Bank, Asha Purdue Chapter, YWCA, and Lafayette Urban Ministry. They do not shirk from expressing solidarity with issues affecting the Indian community in the U.S. I know for a fact that public demonstrations were avoided even in the big cities regarding such issues.

Every year IWA publishes a magazine called Sanskriti which carries articles about global tourist attractions, critical issues, current events and also short stories. Sanskriti gives voice to many aspiring writers who live in WL. This year they published a beautiful cook book named, “Dash of Desi.” All the credit goes to the women behind IWA.

I was learning so many things about the WL Indian community and was baffled at the myriad activities they were involved in. Any big city in the U.S. houses a huge Indian population, I know, but for a small city like West Lafayette, it was amazing. The festivities, friendship and fun were reminiscent of the harmony among the Indian community. I am sure I’ll have a ton of stories to share when I visit home next summer after three long years. I can go on and on about my findings about this city, but let me keep some for my next blog post.

By the way, did I mention the word HOME, in my previous paragraph? Isn’t this like home? When I wrote that sentence, I got my title to these ramblings, “Home Away from Home.”