24 August 2010

Phuntsok Dorjee

I really like facebook these days!

Recently, I tried to contact Phuntsok Dorjee, the TCV head office computer coordinator, with the email address his colleague Norbu gave to me. Unfortunately, the message twice failed to deliver. I finally searched for Phuntsok on facebook, found him easily, and sent my message through facebook email. He responded the next day and included his email address (it is the same one that Norbu gave me except with ".in" at the end).

Here's what he said (with minor editing):

Teachers do use computers and there are computers in the staff room with internet connection. Albeit, schools have computers, overall computer penetration with internet in the household are not great. Hence, we do have teachers (older ones) who aren't comfortable using the computers. But slowly things are changing . . .

Computer education in TCV schools are started from class 6 onwards. The practical lessons for the students are limited to 3 to 4 classes a week. Currently, computers are limited only to look for reference materials. Things are changing here with younger students referring materials on the internet for their classes. We have an e-Granary digital library from widernet.org installed in the school library with 10 computers for reference.

Technology put to constructive use can help students with their studies.

Phuntsok has a twitter account in addition to facebook. He is also connected to the aforementioned Tibetan Technology Center.

Right now, I'm composing a response to Phuntsok. I hope that he'll be able to help me to know what has already been researched (especially by the Tibetan Technology Center) and what I can and should research. Phuntsok Dorjee is an ideal contact to help me narrow my focus.

As I'm searching for questions to drive my research, I keep returning to that which I know: facebook.

Would an experiment like the one my professor Dr. Burton conducted in my British literary history class (discussed here, here, and here) improve education for Tibetan students? What would change in the classroom use of facebook in their culture? Since, based on the 1,137 members of the TCV facebook group (see this post), a significant number students have private facebook accounts, what impact would an academic application have on their perception of the social medium?

17 August 2010

Nicholas Negroponte

The founder and chairman of the One Laptop per Child Association (OLPC) and co-founder and director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Laboratory, Nicholas Negroponte is an MIT graduate and faculty member. His book, Being Digital, was a 1995 best seller and has been translated into more than 40 languages.

On an August 6, 2010 interview, Negroponte declared the physical book dead--meaning that the digital books (like kindle) will "replace physical books as the dominant form." In fact, an article dated July 19, 2010 declares that kindle book sales have now surpassed Amazon hardcover book sales.

His argument makes a lot of sense in terms of books for developing countries--a digital copy is a much more practical way to transmit text.

12 August 2010

Kelly Walsh

Kelly Walsh is the Director of Institutional Information and Technology at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY. He keeps a blog called EmergingEdTech (or Emerging Internet Technologies for Education) and recently published one of my comments as the basis of his blog post. Walsh believes that:
"the possibilities for the use of current and emerging internet technologies in the education field are limitless, and there is so much potential to tap into. These tools can help educators and administrators engage students, improve learning outcomes, and enhance administrative productivity."

According to Walsh's EDUCAUSE biography (also available on his blog), he has been in the information technology field for over 20 years. Says Walsh, "I have been an avid user of Internet technologies for many of those years. In 2008 I began working for an institution of higher education, where I focused increasing attention on instructional uses of current and emerging Internet technologies. There is so much that can be done to engage students with these evolving technologies. I also feel strongly that educators should strive to be aware of these technologies, and to provide students with insight into them."

Some of Walsh's popular posts are:
The class facebook group that I discussed on Walsh's blog was the launching point for my research in India, and my ideas for a definite project generally linger around this sort of classroom experience. However, I spoke with Ashley today, an employee for BYU's International Study Programs, and she suggested that I conduct research unique to the Tibetan culture--she said that an experiment that could be conducted here just as well as it could in India is not the best vehicle for cultural immersion, which is the ultimate goal of field studies. Ashley suggested that I think about the differences in communication between Tibetan culture and mine and the way that they are manifest in new media. So, how do Tibetans in India communicate differently than I do, anyway? As I've exchanged a few emails with my Tibetan facebook contacts it seems that the differences are no more than the difference between the way I communicate and the way my friends do. Ashley's point is well taken--I must make my research specific to the culture in which I will be living for 90 days.

10 August 2010

TEDx and other good news

I don't know why, but the most fantastic things are happening right now! I got in touch with Norbu Jinpa, the admin for the TCV facebook group, and his response made my day. He is interested in my research and forwarded my message to his colleague, Phuntsok Dorjee, the TCV Head Office Computer Coordinator. According to Norbu, Phuntsok Dorjee is "the right person for [me] to do this research . . . he'll be pleased to accept [me] as research student and [t]o give [me] all necessary guidance and help." So what can I say? I'm looking forward to hearing from Mr. Dorjee!

In that facebook discussion I made several days ago, mentioned in my last post, the first person to respond brought to my attention the issue of the cost and maintenance of technology in TCV classrooms. I haven't spent much time thinking about this problem. According to Passang, most TCV schools do have an interactive media laboratory and internet-cafe. That combined with the fact that over 1000 people have joined this facebook group (most of them, I assume, are or have been students in a TCV school) makes me think that TCV students do have regular internet access, perhaps unlike the others of the community.

Here's a very interesting video featuring Brian Crosby, an elementary school teacher for 29 years, and his fourth grade class. Each student has a laptop and a blog, and the richness of their classroom experience (as demonstrated by one class project in the video) astounds me.

Mr. Crosby, reflecting on the class project, notes all that it accomplished: the students read and wrote to learn, to clarify and share, and to tell a story creatively. His students received feedback from all over the world, thus connecting globally and becoming globally aware. Their audience was authentic--some student blogs had over 100 comments which weren't simulated but from a genuine online community. They will likely remember this project because it was both exciting and fun, and they will thereby remember that which they learned and studied in the process.

I've learned from this video the enormous potential of technology in the classroom. Only three of these 24 students could name the country they live in when they came into the class yet as a class they learned remarkably well and even helped a classmate with leukemia.

With such splendid potential for the tech-savvy classroom, I wonder what can technology do for Tibetans?

07 August 2010

Facebook and New New Media

Today I began a facebook discussion in the TCV group. As Katherine suggested in the comment below, I wanted to show how my research will actually benefit them, so I looked up the goals of the TCV and related two of them to my research. Here's part of what I posted to begin the facebook discussion:

TCV Goal: "Provide effective modern and Tibetan education."

Especially for the modern aspect of the goal, I am seeking to more fully incorporate modern technology into Tibetan education. Clearly, as they're all on facebook, they're just as technologically advanced as I am, but from my own recent experience I think there is a lot of power through technology that education hardly taps.

TCV Goal: "Provide suitable and effective life and career guidance for social and citizenship skills."

Technology is the way of the future. I believe that technological competence will be increasingly requisite for any job, let alone the vast number of jobs for which it already is. The Tibetan community isn't resisting technological expansion--on the contrary, the Dalai Lama has facebook, Twitter, podcasts, and is featured in various YouTube videos. But to what extent is the resource of technology utilized in the classroom for the benefit of the students? I recently took a course in British Literary History and my professor (Dr. Burton) used Facebook for group discussions. That same professor taught a research course in which he required his students to write research blogs.

As I reflect on the use of facebook for British lit history, I marvel in their effectiveness for our class. We'd essentially conduct the class discussion online before even arriving to class. Once class began, Dr. Burton would note what we covered well in the facebook discussion and go over the things that we missed. Thus, we didn't waste any time in class reviewing those aspects of the reading which we all understood well. We were motivated to complete the reading on time so as to avoid the shame of not posting or posting something lame. I was exposed to the brilliant thinking of my peers, and I became closely acquainted with those specific things that Dr. Burton wanted us to remember about the early history of British literature.

I need to switch gears quickly and address Paul Levinson's New New Media. I'm quite fascinated with it and I've nearly read the whole thing in just a few days! First, let me give Levinson's definition of new new media: Every consumer of new new media is (can be) a producer, it's nonprofessional, free, competitive and mutually catalytic. His examples are also the titles of each chapter in his book: blogging, YouTube, Wikipedia, Digg, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Second Life and podcasts.

Nephi wants me to read peer-reviewed material and find the ways that I can justify my methodology. He wants me to not only observe that which these scholars write but also how they use their sources. Levinson addresses this issue in the first chapter of his book. His book, published in 2009, states on page 8 that "most of the sources cited in this book are articles on the Web, for the simple reason that most current books that seek to address new new media, by whatever name, are out of date--even if published in 2008." Levinson goes on to say, "the prime source of much of the information in this book will be what I have learned in my excursions--my work as a writer, producer and publicist--in all the new new media we will consider here."

Likely, my experience will be much the same. While I can find peer-reviewed articles about email, I don't know that I'll find any about Twitter. I have thus far imagined that my field study will be an experiment, such as using facebook as the core tool for homework, from which I would analyze the benefits and potential benefits of such a practice if regularly implemented in classrooms. Perhaps this is narrow-minded, but it seems to me that such an approach would be solid and yield concrete results.

05 August 2010


Well, I've sent that long anticipated email to the Tibetan Children's Educational and Welfare Fund, the Sacred Heart high school in Dharamsala, Aadhunik public school, and the TCV schools in upper and lower Dharamsala as well as Bylakuppe. I didn't realize until afterward that I really should have included a link to this blog, but at least I learned my lesson.

Here's a copy of the email I sent:


I am a student at Brigham Young Univeristy in Utah, USA, and I am planning a summer 2011 field study to your community in India, offered through my university's International Study Programs. Right now, I am developing my research idea and seeking a specific topic within the broad category of technology in Tibetan education. I am curious about the extent to which technology is prevalent in your educational system, and I am interested in the possibility of technology improving the quality of education in the Tibetan community. I have several questions, and I'm certain that I will have more to come as I continue my research.
How often to teachers use media in the classroom? To what extent do students use computers and internet for school work? How and to what extent has classroom media improved education? How can classroom media improve education for Tibetan or other students?
Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kristen Nicole Cardon

I sent the email to nine addresses two days ago. Three failed to deliver and I have yet to have a response. Do I need to go about this a different way?