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     Volume 2 Issue 29| July 18, 2010|


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Land for Pabna University
of Science and Technology

Ahmed Humayun Kabir Topu

THE Pabna district administration has handed 30 acre of land at Rajapur village in Pabna Sadar upazila to the Pabna University of Science and Technology (PUST). After getting the land Vice Chancellor of PUST, Prof. Mojaffar Hossain, told the writer that it is the first step towards fulfilling the dream. The construction work would be launched this year, he said.

“After getting the land we have overcome a major obstacle. Now it is a matter of time to establish the full-fledged university. We are hopeful about starting the construction work within this year.”

At the handing over ceremony, among others Md. Mojibur Rahman, Chief Engineer, Education Engineering Department and Saydur Rahman, Additional Deputy Commissioner (Education) were present. “ The university would be built at a cost of Tk. 72 core. We hope to start the construction of two buildings for PUST in October or November this year. In the first phase, the 5-storied building would be constructed on a foundation for 10 stories”, said Md. Mojibur Rahman.

The Pabna University of Science and Technology has started its journey in 2007-08 session with four subjects: 'Computer Science and Engineering', 'Electrical and Electronic Engineering', 'Mathematics' and 'Bachelor of Business Administration'. There are over 4 hundred students in in last two sessions.

Four new subjects are now being offered, which are: 'Information Technology &Communication Engineering', 'Physics', 'Applied Physics & Electronic Communication Engineering' and 'Economics'.


Laughter's secrets: No funny business

Kate Douglas

ACCORDING to a classic study of laughter by Robert Provine of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and his colleagues, laughter is an unexpectedly serious business. Observing the human animal in its natural habitat - the shopping mall - they documented 1200 instances of laughter, and found that only 10 to 20 per cent of them were responses to anything remotely resembling a joke. Most laughter was in fact either triggered by a banal comment or used to punctuate everyday speech. Furthermore, says Provine in his book Laughter: A scientific investigation, we are 50 per cent more likely to laugh when speaking than when listening, and 30 times gigglier in a social setting than when alone without a social surrogate such as a television. As such, it comes in many guises. Our first laughs occur at between 2 and 6 months of age - even in deaf babies. They are triggered by surprise in a safe situation (think peek-a-boo), and don't just endear babies to their parents. Since laughter is associated with activity in the brain's dopamine reward circuitry, it encourages babies to explore the world by making them feel happy and safe. When infants begin to engage in rough-and-tumble play, laughter signals that the intentions are not serious, allowing children to test physical and social boundaries without serious jeopardy.

The conversational laughter Provine observed essentially acts as a social lubricant. It engages listeners and dispels tension, aggression and competition by putting people at ease. Nervous laughter can make light of a stressful or psychologically difficult situation. And, through its catching nature (see "Why is laughter contagious?"), laughter can unify the mood and behaviour of a group, promoting coordinated activity for the greater good (The Quarterly Review of Biology, vol 80, p 395). Laughter also has a darker side. "You can influence the behaviour of others through laughter," says Michael Owren, a psychologist at Georgia State University in Atlanta. He believes that as we master the subtle cues of laughter, so we begin to use it to manipulate those around us. An "in" joke can exclude outsiders from a clique, for example. Laughter can be used to show who is boss and malicious laughter is an effective weapon of intimidation.

(Kate Douglas is a feature editor for New Scientist)

English teaching seminar in AIUB:
Routing roots of innovation in ELT

Dr. Silverine de Silva

‘INNOVATION was the one thing lacking in our classrooms and we have now learnt the art of bringing innovation into our classrooms,' said a participant from Comilla at the end of the 2-day Seminar on 'Bringing Innovation to the ELT Classroom'.

The BELTA-AIUB-THT Seminar 2010, hosted by the Department of English, AIUB, was jointly organised by the Bangladesh English Language Teachers' Association (BELTA), American International University-Bangladesh (AIUB) and Teachers Helping Teachers (THT) of Japan. The 2-day spread covered a wide range of topics beginning from “Building a learner-centered classroom in the 21st century” to “Creative writing in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) and English as a Second Language (ESL)”.

The enthusiasm of the participants numbering over 80 from all parts of Bangladesh kept on growing as the different topics were covered. The facilitators, Dr. Patrick Thomas Dougherty, Faculty Higher Diploma Foundations of the Higher Colleges of Technology, Abu Dhabi Men's College UAE and Professor Dr. Steven S. Cornwell, of the Department of International & English Interdisciplinary Studies, Osaka Jogojuin College, Japan, ensured that the participants held on to the enthusiasm that crept in from the inception of the seminar.

Dr. Dougherty grabbed and kept the participants' focus in the opening topic “Building a learner-centered classroom in the 21st century” by drawing their attention to a little movie that projected the value of building learner-centered classrooms. Other topics he covered were: “Assessment for Learning”, “Classroom Management: A Velvet Approach”, “Creative writing in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) and English as a Second Language (ESL)”.

Dr. Cornwell's approach was a contrast to the former in that he used a variety of exercises and utilized the active involvement of the participants in the topics he covered which ranged from “Vocabulary Learning: Theory and Techniques”, “Grammar Dictation and other Grammar Fun”; “Preparing Students for Exams”, and “Second Language Acquisition for Classroom Teachers”.

Both facilitators together talked on “Using Student Heritage and Native Culture in the ESL Classroom”, and “Classroom Assessment Techniques and Five-minute Activities”.

References to teaching methods of various countries were made by both Dr. Dougherty and Dr. Cornwell, especially in the context of UAE and Japan respectively where the two of them are currently serving, tailoring their presentations to the Bangladeshi context. Teachers helping Teachers (THT) is a grassroots organisation founded by members of the Himeji City Chapter of JALT (the Japanese Association of Language Teachers) in 2004. THT is dedicated to the aid and assistance of fellow educators and students in the developing nations of the Asia Pacific region.

Dr. Faheem Hasan Shahed, Head of English Department, AIUB, mentioned that the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement, and welcomed everyone in that BIG room during the innovative training sessions for two days. He highlighted the overwhelming support of the AIUB management, particularly the Vice Chancellor Dr. Carmen Zita Lamagna, Vice President of HR & Treasury Mr. Hasanul A Hasan, and Dean of Arts & Social Science Dr. Tazul Islam, in making every arrangement smooth, and thanked both BELTA and THT for associating themselves with this noble venture. Professor Dr. AKM Siddiq Hossain, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, welcomed the facilitators, partners and participants, reiterating the importance of English Language to the present generation.

Dr. Rubina Khan, president of BELTA, stressed the importance of empowering teachers at all levels to facilitate effective communication within the English language teaching community and improve the standards of learning and teaching English throughout the country.

The penultimate session of the seminar was a panel discussion, with the participation of prominent ELT personalities, which witnessed a threadbare discussion on the problems of English teaching and testing, classroom management and language education in our country.

The panel discussion was followed by a cultural program where one of AIUB's foreign students Ms. Nur Wahida from Indonesia recited a poem, followed by a Bangla duet from Debasish Biswas and Soheli Akter (AIUB's English Department faculties), a wonderful ghazal by Soheli Akhter, a solo number by Sushmita Rani (Lecturer, Daffodil International University), two classic English hits of yesteryears by Dr. Charles Villanueva (Dean of Business Faculty) and a 5-minute play by a group of Cultural exchange students from USA.

Prof. Dr. Anwar Hossain, Pro Vice Chancellor of AIUB, appreciated the role of everyone involved in this unique program and highlighted the importance of innovation in English classrooms for the sake of creating efficient workforce from our next generations. Prof. Arifa Rahman, General Secretary of BELTA, finally gave her vote of thanks to everyone and wished that the participants will use their creative judgments in implementing the skills they had gained from the sessions.

“Bangladeshi English Teachers are among the most dedicated teachers I know. Their love of language and dedication to their profession always moves me. The seminar was not an exception. I look forward to being able to return,” were Dr. Steve Cornwell's words of farewell.

(The writer is an Assistant Professor of the Department of English, American International University-Bangladesh.)


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