The Russian Cultural Literacy site is the part of the Russian Language Mentor (RLM) project. The goal of this site is to introduce a user to Russian geography, history, literature, religion, art, etc. It consists of the virtual course Developing Russian Cultural Literacy (self-quizzes with expanded answers), Interactive Research Index (alphabetical index of all names and titles mentioned in the course), Supplementary Cultural Literacy Materials (the quest for intellectual contributions to the course), and Recommended Readings, Films and Websites (the list of links and annotated references).
Type of Material:
The Developing Russian Cultural Literacy course consists of the interactive quizzes with the immediate expanded feedback ? original essays (in English) on Russian history, geography, literature, etc. with images, maps, and links to other sources.
While the site is designed as a self-paced, self-study tutorial, it can be used for anything from a prerequisite for beginning Russian studies to a background course for advanced area studies lectures. It also provides opportunities for individual contributions from specialists or collaborative high school or undergraduate classroom projects.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
Learners will expand their knowledge of Russian culture. The course is written in English but the Russian is provided for important terms or when there are potential problems in translation or transliteration. This would certainly improve learners? ability to read authentic Russian texts.
Target Student Population:
The course would be helpful for linguists, analysts, Area Studies specialists, individuals traveling to Russia, or anyone else who requires either an introduction to, or a review of, the basics of Russian geography, history, literature, philosophy, religion, etc., to include native Russians as well.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
The users of this site can be the learners with any level of Russian skills because all the information is in English.
The core of this site is the Developing Russian Cultural Literacy course, which consists of 100 questions divided into six broad cultural categories: Geography, The People, History, Literature and Intellectual History, The Arts, Science and Technology. It is stressed by the site creator that the question-answer format is not intended to "test" the student, but rather to generate interest and keep course materials moving forward - something of a Trivial Pursuit game with the answers explained. The course is meant to be informative, interesting, and an "easy read", and so it is. the 100 questions are basically a ?lead in? to the Mentor Essays ? detailed ?mini-lectures? for every question. All the materials for Mentor Essays come from lecture notes from courses the author and developer of this site, Dr. Bogdan Sagatov, taught at Duke University, Goucher College, and the Johns Hopkins University. All the essays are written in English. The information presented in mini-lectures is accurate. Yet it?s not something impersonal and dry. It is written in a unique style ? concise yet informative, humorous, and graceful. Sheer elegance! On each subject, the author presents several points of view including his own, providing entertaining details. For example, the plethora of ?nicknames? that the Rurik dynasty left to history is prefaced by the likes of William ?The Refrigerator? Perry and ?Too Tall? Jones. The plots of ?Crime and Punishment,? ?War and Peace,? and ?Anna Karenina? are framed in a discussion by couple on whom to invite to dinner ? they decide on Boris and Natasha of ?Rocky and Bullwinkle? fame. and it is noted of Pushkin,
the most famous Russian writer and poet, that he is the only 19th century Russian writer whose poetry has been published in Playboy magazine. The facts like that can spice college lectures on Russian culture and sparkle students? interest toward Russian literature.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The Russian Cultural Literacy site can be used as a frame for Russian culture courses. The site can be used as a cultural literacy reference as well. If the texts are translated into Russian, the site can be an excellent source for reading assignments for intermediate and advanced Russian students.Because the Russian Cultural Literacy was intended as a dynamic or, better yet, an open-ended and on-going project, it also can be a valuable source for those Russian teachers and instructors who would like to involve their students in collaborative projects. Students can be assigned different topics to develop, engaged in summarizing or reviewing Russian novels and/or movies or making new questions for the quizzes, etc. There is a huge field for imagination and creative work.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The site is easy to navigate. The images and maps download relatively fast. There is a good use of bold and italic fonts. The great technical advantage of this site is separate windows for links. It makes the navigation painless. Those who still manage to get lost in the site can click the button Important Navigation Tips and get some help.
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