31 July 2010


Here's a funny story--I went to my public library and found that they do not have Paul Levinson's The New New Media, but they would be able to get it in a few weeks through inter-library loan. Then, when I was reading the 2010 Horizon report, I discovered that each section concluded with an annotated list of suggested readings. I was partly excited for the lists, and then I began to dread them because I didn't want to wait weeks for more books to come through inter-library loan. I pictured myself waiting--forever--for that one book I really want to read for my research, the one that's only available in the library on Mars.

I laughed at myself when I came to my first annotated list: there wasn't a single book, only websites. Phew! Those libraries on Mars can just keep their books! All the information I need is only a cut-and-paste away.

So now, I'm reflecting on my impatience regarding inter-library loan. Each Horizon Report lists some changes in contemporary culture that are manifest in new technology. The second (and they're listed by rank) is that "people expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to." This is certainly my expectation. I complained just as much as my roommates when our apartment didn't have internet access for an entire semester--how are we supposed to do our homework, check our grades, email, get on facebook, blog, or watch that new video on YouTube if we can't get online? BYU campus, including the Salt Lake Center, has wireless internet access almost everywhere, and it's no less than I expect. Many students, many of my friends, have internet access through their cell phones as well. We need it! We need access to email when we forgot whether or not the professor cancelled class today. We need access to wikipedia when we have no idea what a French jupe provencal looks like. We need access to dictionary.com when our roommate uses the word "antidisestablishmentarianism" because she's a history major with a fetish for long words.

The report notes that continual access to the wealth of information online "maximiz[es] the impact of learning by ensuring it is timely and efficient." Do we retain more when we find the information moments after it occurs to us to search for us?

Since February 2005, Dharamsala has had high-speed Internet access all throughout the city, indoors and outdoors, from the social enterprise AirJaldi and the Tibetan Technology Center. Over 2,000 computers are connected in Dharamsala. Do the people of Dharamsala have the same same regular need for access to email, wikipedia, and dictionary.com? Norbu Jinpa, an admin for the TCV facebook page, posts almost every day and sometimes more than once per day. To what extent do they use the internet for work or school? What kind of access is available in Bylakuppe?

28 July 2010

Adventures in the World of New Media

Well, I just spoke to Dr. Burton who is my mentor for this adventure, and he helped me to see where I can go from here. I have over 1,000 potential contacts through the Tibetan Children's Village facebook group, and I may even be able to conduct interviews via the internet before I go to India.

Because Dharamsala is becoming more touristy, we may go to Bylakuppe instead. Bylakuppe is a protected city (not accessible to tourists) and it is home to two Tibetan refugee settlements. There is a TCV school in Bylakuppe (pictured to the left) with 1530 students. My program facilitator, Nephi Henry, has worked with students in the past who were unable to gain access to TCV schools, so he thinks I'll need to find a different school for my research. Right now I am inclined to agree with him as I have not received a reply to the email I sent some time ago. I'll send a few more--to Janyeal Tamdin, the director of the Bylakuppe school, and the general email address for teachers at the lower TCV in Dharamsala. I hope that I'll be able to establish contact with some of these teachers and administrators and thereby prove that I am trustworthy. If that doesn't work, then there is also a Central School for Tibetans in Bylakuppe, which is equipped with a computer lab.

I've just created a profile on EDUCAUSE, which is "a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology." As a member, I'll have access to other members who have registered interest in India or are from India. EDUCAUSE collaborates annually with The New Media Consortium to publish The Horizon Report, a research enterprise established in 2002 which "identifies and describes emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry on college and university campuses."

Here are some plans for my next posts:

  • More on the 2010 Horizon Report
  • A profile of Paul Levinson's book The New New Media
  • Nicholas Negroponte and the OLPC

Since I still don't know my focus, my efforts feel somewhat random to me, but as I continue to delve into this new world I'll be able to find what is interesting to me--such as this fascinating New York Times article about cell phones in third world countries. Dr. Burton told me that cell phone technology in third world countries tends to leapfrog that of first world countries--for example, in Kenya you can pay for a taxi by cell phone. I don't know if this is relevant to Tibetans in India, but it's certainly intriguing!

07 July 2010

Internet Exploration

I think it is important that I conduct my preliminaty research online. First, I am researching technology in education, so I may as well practice what I preach. Second, any books published about this modern, ever changing medium are likely to be outdated as soon as they are published.

On that note, I have a heap of interesting information about technology in Tibetan education! I was extremely excited when I discovered the facebook group for the Tibetan Children's Village! The group has 973 members, and I believe that many of them are current or former students of TCV schools. Here I found that technology (in the form of computers) is "being introduced to students as early as possible" and is part of regular curriculum. The Dalai Lama has facebook and twitter as well. In 2005, the TCV had a film workshop and this was the result--a beautiful tribute to the TCV. Clearly, technology is prevalent in the Tibetan community in India, especially in their educational system.

I still have a wide array of options and a long way to go to a specific research topic, but I now have a basic understanding of the extent to which technology is prevalent in Tibetan education. Next, I will try to contact some teachers in TCV schools and perhaps the primary administrator of the TCV facebook group, Norbu Jinpa.