28 February 2011

Helping, Fixing, Serving

I just read "Helping, Fixing or Serving?", an article by Rachel Naomi Remen for my prep class, and I highly recommend it!  It triggered my religion neurons heavily, but it didn't really trigger any academic neurons, so I'm not sure how this post will turn out.

"How do you serve?"  Deborah D. Lattimore

The essential premise of the article is this:
Helping, fixing and serving represent three different ways of seeing life.  When you help, you see life as weak.  When you fix, you see life as broken.  When you serve, you see life as whole.  Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.
This is a profound and beautiful statement.  It reminds me of this quote I've seen on the wall in my workplace:
If you come only to help me, you can go back home.  But if you consider my struggle as part of your struggle for survival, then maybe we can work together. --An Aboriginal woman
What do these mean in relation to my three months in India?

25 February 2011


For my prep class we've been reading applications for IRB research approval from previous years and analyzing the flaws contained therein.  This has been a very useful practice for helping me to see what pitfalls I will need to avoid in my own proposal and to get me to think of my proposal in more concrete terms.

One minor area I'll need to consider is compensation.  I am going to apply for one more research/study abroad grant soon, and if I get the money I will use it first for living expenses and project expenses like printing surveys.  However, depending on the amount of money, I may have funds to compensate people who consent to interviews.  In that case I will need to submit a change notification to the IRB and make sure it is kosher, but I will wait on that until I actually receive the grant.

A more pressing matter is my methodology.  I am supposed to ground my project procedures in some sort of established research methodology common to my discipline.  I don't . . . know . . . that English has an established methodology, let alone English teaching, but perhaps that's just me displaying my ignorance.  Here are the steps for a non-scientific or discursive thesis, which is the one that fits my project best:

Treating the Ophelia Syndrome

My classmate Julia wrote a good, concise synopsis of our last reading, "Diagnosing and Treating the Ophelia Syndrome" by Thomas G. Plummer.  I don't quite agree with the article yet, but I just realized how ironic that is when I responded to Julia's post, our classmates posts, and the class discussion on this topic!

You know, Julia, I was just scanning some of our classmates blogs and I found that everyone agreed with the Ophelia Syndrome article. I still am not sold on the idea. But, ironically, I realized that by being skeptical about the merit of this article I am actually doing many of the things the author suggests--I am trusting myself with this opinion, living with the uncertainty, and essentially thinking independently of my classmates, despite both my professor and the author of the text establishing its legitimacy. Isn't that funny? I am going against the grain but, at the same time, going right along with it.

I think a lot of my attitude has to do with my perfectionist/overachieving nature. I do not use the terms perfectionist and overachieving as a compliment to myself. This morning I took a final, had an emotional breakdown, cancelled my trips to London and Paris, decided I should probably change my major, and slipped into a depression because I feel like a failure. There are plenty of negative aspects of overachieving. Whatever it does to me, I am a perfectionist when it comes to schoolwork, and that always involves giving the professor what he or she wants. Does this mean I cannot think independently? Are the concepts mutually exclusive? Perhaps, but I think there is at least a possibility that students can give the professor exactly what he wants without giving up their individuality.

23 February 2011

Drafting a Project Proposal

We've been drafting field study and IRB proposals in my prep class lately, and it has got me thinking about the ethics of my project, the potential benefits for my research participants, and the intricacies of accurately articulating methodology.

Tibet 2003 (Foto: Erik Törner)

With my mentor Dr. Burton's encouragement, I have been documenting my research efforts on this blog, from feeble beginnings to rather remarkable events.  Also at his suggestion I worked on establishing contacts, especially contacts in my program location in Dharamsala.  I did not use Norbu's name on my blog to invade his privacy, I simply used it because I didn't know any better.  He is now so ingrained into my research project that changing his name to protect privacy is impractical and, I think, unnecessary.

But what if I am wrong?

22 February 2011


I learned in my prep class a while ago about mapping, and I had some pretty cool ideas for how I could incorporate it into my project.  Here's what I'm thinking:
  • Generate maps of physical locations significant to digital literacy (e.g. the physical classroom, a computer classroom, an internet cafe, an administrative office)
  • Social mapping--students draw, on a world map, whence come their international friends/ acquaintances/ blog readers/ facebook friends, etc. 
I guess I actually only had two ideas :)

But I think these maps would be incredibly informative and useful!  I don't know if a given student would have contacts who live internationally or have a blog with international attention, but if so this would be a great way to illustrate it.  I think I would ask the students to illustrate it themselves, but if I am dealing with blog statistics then I could certainly help fill in the map.

When One Conversation Generates Another

[2/21/2011 11:17:07 PM] tnsakalsang: Hello

Kristen Nicole: Hello

tnsakalsang: Are you on line?

Kristen Nicole: Tashidelek
Kristen Nicole: How are you?

tnsakalsang: Thank you I am fine here

Kristen Nicole: I'm glad

tnsakalsang: My interview came in your blog It was nice and there some comments. Some people agree and some will not. That is bound to be

Kristen Nicole: I'm glad you got to see it!  And I'm glad that people commented, too
Kristen Nicole: it's always good when my posts generate a discussion

tnsakalsang: Again this will come in your blog?
tnsakalsang: I must be more careful in terms of using correct words.

Kristen Nicole: Oh, no
Kristen Nicole: not if you don't want it to
Kristen Nicole: Your English is excellent
Kristen Nicole: but if you don't want me to, then I won't post it on my blog

tnsakalsang: We will have informal discussion on any subject but if you fell to make it public then it is up to you

Kristen Nicole: Okay.  I'll try to be better about asking for permission, though.  I've not been very good at that

tnsakalsang: I didn't mind if our discussion helps other

Kristen Nicole: Great, thanks!

tnsakalsang: Now time for lunc here in India. Good night and see you next time. I will not be in office for coming three days. Going to see another culture. To visit Golden Temple in Amritsar.

[2/21/2011 11:51:34 PM] Kristen Nicole: Enjoy your trip.  Thank you so much!

21 February 2011

Thanks for the Comment and Thoughts on Digital Literacy

digital natives
digital natives
My classmate Matt wrote a thought-provoking comment on my last post about the Frontline program.  Here's what he said:
After reading this I'm wondering what the thesis of your project is. I always figured that you would be focusing on why digital literacy is good, or how it helps people, but this sounds like it's saying digital literacy is bad and makes people less responsible. Of course, in the broad scheme of things you can't really call it "bad" or "good" because there are elements of both, but I guess I'm just wondering what the focus of your study is, or what it is that you want to prove or find out.
I feel like we don't really talk about our individual projects in class at all. I really don't know much about anybody's project except for mine and Julia's of course. I guess that's why we're supposed to be reading everyone's blogs, but it's a lot to keep up with.
I began to type a comment in reply, but I quickly realized that what I wanted to say would not fit in the comment box.  Here's what I wrote:

16 February 2011

digital_nation: life on the virtual frontier

If you want to get a really good picture of what my research is about, and you have an hour and 20 minutes to spare, I strongly suggest that you watch the embedded program from PBS's Frontline. (side note--I discovered the most wonderful thing yesterday.  I can download French podcasts onto my iPod for free!  Isn't that beautiful?  I listened to poetry and a French woman talking about her day while I cleaned my apartment yesterday.  My next download will be Frontline's Digital Nation podcast)

Some of the most important things I learned from watching this were possible indicators of high digital literacy: multitasking, being easily distracted and unable to focus "beyond a paragraph," fascination with or addiction to internet games like World of Warcraft (including an interesting historically based explanation for this phenomenon), having too much to do, virtual connectivity and online relationships rather than in-person connections (including an interview with the creator of second life, who has dangerous ideas about his brainchild), and disinclination toward reading.

14 February 2011

Recommended Reading: Tibetreport

I don't recall how I found this blog, but I love it! 

The most touching recent post is about the author's father-in-law, who recently died in Dharamsala.  He gives the eulogy, mentioning his active involvement and leadership in the local Tibetan community and affinity for Tibetan radio programs, which he preferred to the TV programs that he found distracting.  The author concludes with this striking phrase:
My own father passed away many years ago and with the passing away of my father-in-law now I am reminded of the gradual generational change taking place in the Tibetan community.
Another good post is about the Tibetan ad in the Super Bowl broadcast.  He astutely notes that "American football fans being what they are, they want the commercials to also bring in the same excitement as the match."  He notes that the Tibetan reaction was generally positive; they were grateful for publicity about their situation.

Another intriguing post, an article written for the Tibetan Review by the author himself, I haven't yet had time to read, but is titled "The Dalai Lama's Master Plan."


My university has an institutional review board, the IRB, which reviews and monitors faculty, staff, or student research "to assure that research with human subjects is conducted in accordance with federal regulations and basic ethical principles."  I just completed a tutorial that helped me to understand basic principles of IRB review, and I discovered some important considerations for my project.
A subject's participation in research must be completely voluntary.  Great care should be taken by investigators to avoid even the appearance of coercion or undue influence when recruiting potential study subjects.
Since one of the methods I hope to use is a survey distributed to various classes in the school, I will have to make it very clear to students and teachers that the students are not required to participate in the survey.  Would the best procedure be to give every student a survey after informing them that they can choose not to answer the questions, or would it be better for students to choose to take and complete a survey?  With the first method more students would complete it because they wouldn't feel at all self-conscious about walking to the front of the class in the middle of a lesson, but the second may be more in line with IRB protocol. 

11 February 2011

An American Classroom

I spent my high school classroom observation today taking copious notes in the back of the room.  We were discussing Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.  Here are the highlights:
Because of an incident last week, in which the teacher made a mistake entering grades that resulted in many students seeing online that they were failing English, the teacher promised that he would bring donuts for his class.  Grades are entered online now so any student or parent at home can look at their grades (instant information) and the students were mad that it took him so long to bring the donuts (instant gratification). The students have very short attention spans--they're supposed to be writing about the journal prompt but begin talking the minute after instruction.  They multi-task-- read novel, write journal, search for assignment, talk to friend, look up words in online dictionary on an iPhone, etc.  Do we, as teachers, take away the cell phone or let them keep it to look up a word online?  It's a paradigm shift here.  How do you explain to kids that they need to spell properly when they argue in favor of text speak and spell check? 

09 February 2011

Ogyen Trinley Dorje, 17th Karmapa

The front page of yesterday's New York Times featured this article entitled "Tibetan Lama Faces Scrutiny and Suspicion in India."   The essence of the problem is that Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa, is accused of being a spy for the Chinese after police found boxes of cash from more than 20 countries, including China, in his monastery.  One of the Karmapa's lawyers said that the money was from pilgrims who had come from all around the world to see the Karmapa. 
Within Tibetan Buddhism, the Karmapa ranks third after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, with each man believed to be reincarnated through the centuries.  After the death of the previous Karmapa, a bitter feud broke out between the high lamas charged with identifying his successor: at least two other people now claim to be the Karmapa, though a majority of Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, recognize Ogyen Trinley Dorje.

07 February 2011

Observations of an English Teacher

I am majoring in English teaching.  I am currently enrolled in a field experience class for English teachers for which I spend six weeks in secondary schools observing English teachers and students.  BYU's method, however, for student observations is active rather than passive: I perform the work of the teacher under his or her instruction (lesson planning and execution, answering student questions, grading papers, marking roll, etc.) much more than I sit in the back of the classroom scribbling notes. 

One day, when I was reading an article with a seventh grade class, a student from another university came to observe the class.  When I had a moment to talk to her she seemed surprised that it was only my first semester in my program, yet I was already teaching in a public school.  Her observations consisted of choosing a different classroom each day and observing that teaching for a few class periods.  She'd ask the teacher any questions she had and then head to a new classroom the next day.

Aren't these Tibetan students adorable? 

04 February 2011

Football and Family

I'm a little . . . shocked.  I just got on Skype, asked Norbu if he could find anyone who would be willing to participate in a Skype interview with me for my prep class, and ended up talking to the executive secretary for the Tibetan National Sports Association.  I have suddenly become painfully aware of my audience--I just looked over my blog with this man's perspective in mind and realized that I would probably have made different choices along the way if I'd known who would see it.

[The photo I wish I could put here is copyrighted, so I will settle for a link to it instead]

Here is my interview (I've added notations of my ethnographic elements in brackets):

02 February 2011

Indian Women and Marriage

For my prep class today we were to find our own reading, specifically an article about marriage, gender, and or family.  My dear mother, who is sometimes more excited about this India trip than I am, has now purchased two different traveler's guides to India, one of which was published in 1996.  Though it isn't recent, much of the text is still relevant to modern India.  In the "people and society" section, the book begins by acknowledging the diversity of India--Tibetans and Kashmiris in the north, Bengalis in the east, dark-skinned Dravidians in the south, and so forth--and then continues by uniting all these people residing in India under the term "Indians," which I will continue for this post.