Learning Journal

I didn't want to do this, but I need to move these learning journal entries to the main blog page.  It's for the best since this one is getting ridiculously long, so this will be the last time I post on this page!  For more about my learning, check out the home page!

Learning journal 6
Don't laugh, but I just found out that India is right next to Pakistan.  Embarrassing, I know, but I am not a geography major!  Anyway, my point is that I found this great article which I used to write my ORCA grant, and it's about digital literacy in Pakistan, which is right next to India, which is also a developing country, which I have therefore concluded is relevant to my research.  The article is entitled "Information and digital literacy: a stumbling block to development?  A Pakistan perspective."  Fortunately, the authors of this article, Kanwal Ameen and G.E. Gorman, summarized their findings in a few sentences, so I'll quote them here:
"It was found that in Pakistan, as elsewhere, IL/IDL (informational literacy/ information and digital literacy) practice and training are not the norm in libraries or in education; they are not operational priorities.  The low level of IL/IDL among the educated classes contributes to the status quo of information illiterate citizens.  It also establishes that becoming 'critical consumers' of information is essential for personal and national empowerment."
It will be especially interesting for me to compare these findings, which are from Pakistan in July 2008, to the situation in India, and particularly in the Tibetan community in India.  Is India included in the "elsewhere" that Ameen and Gorman mentioned in their summary?  Are the Tibetans in particular more digitally literate than their neighbors?  I would say, from what I've learned about computer education in TCV schools, that Tibetan children will exhibit high levels of digital literacy, but I've also learned that students generally don't have regular access, which will likely change things.

As for the relationship between the status quo and digital literacy, I imagine that it is the case in India just the same, though I note that the TCV was founded as "a means to care for the many children who had been orphaned or separated from their families during the arduous escape from their homeland" and is "a centre for destitute children," which strives to provide care and education for many refugee children.  Thus, the orphaned and destitute children receive the same education as all the others, though I would imagine that the TCV cannot provide for every child.  In this case, I wonder to what extent digital literacy is tied to social status or wealth.

As for the last sentence of Ameen and Gorman's findings, I think that being a "critical consumer" of information is an essential trait of the digitally literate.  Otherwise, how could you get anything accomplished while surfing the web?  Perhaps one component of my project could be observing students navigate the internet, noting what they read and what they process.

For my final question, does the "personal and national empowerment" aided by digital literacy mean that the Tibetans in exile will be able to use this literacy in their crusade to preserve their culture?  I'm thinking now that the culture they preserve will not be their traditional heritage, perfectly intact.  My Tibetan teacher, who grew up in Tibet, fled to India, and moved to the United States for school, told us that the Tibet he remembers was almost a medieval culture, with horses for transportation.  He did, however, remember seeing a bicycle when he was growing up.  So is that the culture that Tibetans will preserve in India?  Not likely, seeing their already-high digital literacy.  Perhaps the question is what mix of old and new, of Tibet and India, will become Tibetan culture?

Learning journal 5
I may or may not have fallen in love with Charlie Gere's book Digital Culture today (I'm leaning towards the may not have, but it is a great book anyway!) for all the research help it provided.  Here are some of the highlights from the introduction and conclusion:
"The concurrent development of science, media and capital under the aegis of digital technology produces a kind of fast-forward effect in which everything appears to take place at an accelerated rate and to produce dramatic change in a very short time.  This excites both euphoria and terror, not least because of the shocking pace at which things happen" (10-11).
So, I thought, wouldn't future shock be an appropriate measure of digital literacy?  I would have to think of a way to test it, of course, but I think that is certainly a component of digital literacy.  I could ask questions about how one feels browsing the internet, how one feels when he or she can't find something they want through a search engine, etc.

"To some extent the terms 'computer technology and 'digital technology' have become interchangeable" (11).

In some ways, digital literacy is equal to computer literacy as well, and this made me curious to explore the motivations behind computer classes.  Why, if digital literacy disrupts their traditional culture, would the Dalai Lama and school leaders encourage computers?  The following quote made me more curious about this question:

"Digitality can be thought of as a marker of culture because it encompasses both the artefacts and the systems of signification and communication that most clearly demarcate our contemporary way of life from others" (12).

"The discourse of digital culture, as represented by much of this work, appears to be animated by two interconnected beliefs.  One is that such a culture represents a decisive rupture with what has preceded it, and the other is that digital culture derives from and is determined by the existence of digital technology . . . .  [However], as a culture it is neither as new as it might appear, nor is its development ultimately determined by technological advances.  It would be more accurate to suggest that digital technology is a product of digital culture, rather than vice versa . . . .  Digital refers not just to the effects and possibilities of a particular technology.  It defines and encompasses the ways of thinking and doing that are embodied within that technology, and which make its development possible" (13).

This passage is exactly what Dr. Burton had been talking about the other day.  Digital culture is suddenly no longer the product of technology but the source and inspiration of that technology.  I do not need students who own laptops or live in cyber cafes to observe their digital literacy, the literacy that has necessitated this digital world in which we live.  Gere's book has complete reversed the way I think of digital culture and literacy, and I really, really like it!

"Technology is only one of a number of sources that have contributed to the development of our current digital culture . . . . [Another is] counter-cultural utopianism" (14).  

This connection reminded me of my questions regarding classroom technology as the "holy grail" of teaching and my first conversation with Norbu, in which we both professed belief in the power of technology to improve the classroom.

And here's Gere's agenda:

"[Many] fail to see how [new technologies and media] are part of an apparatus of dominance, control and exploitation . . . .  It is against the technological enchantment practised by these figures that this book is written.  In particular it is a response to the soothsayers of the digital age, the futurologists, futurists and techno-utopians whose message of combined technological and social progress charms us into complacency" (15-16).

with which I do not wholeheartedly agree, though he certainly has a point.

Finally, from the conclusion,

"This book can be understood as a kind of cultural archaeology, digging under the surface of our contemporary digital landscape in order to reveal the underlying structures that gave it its present shape.  It is these structures rather than any natural tendencies within the technology that have determined how and when we use it" (198).

So I guess the question after all of that is whether I can use Gere's ideas and text in a way that fits my vision without necessarily fitting his?  I am not interested in his political agenda--I have enough politics to be getting on with.  I do think it's possible, however, that I will find that technology is not at all the "holy grail" when it comes to Tibetan cultural preservation--indeed, that it may harm more than it helps.  Perhaps in that case Gere would be more inclined to agree with me.

Learning journal 4
(Side note--I just began using Google Notebook to keep track of sections of the reading that I wanted to remember or reference as I wrote this learning journal, and it's pretty fantastic!  I have, essentially, already written this entry before I've begun it, and I've connected a quote from class discussion that I was able to quickly Google and attach as a comment to one of my notes.  Ah, the beauties of technology!)
Another chapter from Babbie's book that I just read for my prep class, entitled "Reading and Writing Social Research," has inadvertently given me specific ideas of what I will be doing in India, what my final paper will be like, and what pitfalls I need to avoid.  It was inadvertent because I was reading the section about how to read social research to learn how to evaluate the books, articles, and reports I will read for my literature review, and I ended up learning more about my own research project.  Maybe this isn't what my professor had in mind, but I certainly found it helpful!

"A review of the literature is the way we learn what's already known and not known."

I have read quite a lot concerning digital literacy, literacy in general, and Tibetans in exile, and I have come across few timely materials that link these topics (apparently, Tibetan digital literacy is not a hot topic in the academic world.  Who would have thought?), though my recent Google scholar search yielded this highly relevant and timely article that I want to read more carefully.  As for digital literacy itself, I found this resource published in 1998 that gives an excellent definition of digital literacy.  I think, however, that Tibetan digital literacy, specifically in the TCV school faculty and students, is a topic unique me, and the trends of digital literacy itself are evolving as quickly as Apple can come up with a new app for the iPhone.  Thus, Babbie's notion of "digging into the body of knowledge that previous researchers have generated" is, of course, important in my field study, but less relevant than, say, someone studying malaria, which has been around quite a bit longer than computers have and has generated mountains of research already.

Babbie recommended the following questions, among others, for evaluating research reports.  I am going to use them to show how I am now thinking about my own project.

What indicators--either qualitative or quantitative--have been chosen as measures of those dimensions and concepts [relevant to the research]?  Is each indicator a valid measure of what it's intended to measure?  What else could the indicator be a measure of?  Is it a reliable measure?  What else could the indicator be a measure or?  Has the reliability been tested?

This is a crucial question for my field experience.  What behaviors and events will I use as evidence of digital literacy in the Tibetan culture, and how will I determine the validity of those indicators as measures of digital literacy?  As I stated in my ORCA proposal, I am going to rely on the standards of digital literacy established by the International Society for Technology in Education, which are that digitally literate students will "demonstrate creativity and innovation, communicate and collaborate, conduct research and use information, think critically, solve problems and make decisions, and use technology effectively and productively."  I think there's a distinct possibility that some of these traits, taken alone, would not be reliable indicators of digital literacy, so I'll need to establish a way to connect them to the last standard or to prove that they are, in fact, unique to digitally literate students.

Has the researcher guarded against his or her own bias creeping in during the coding of open-ended responses?

This is one I definitely need to consider.  I will be assuming lots of things coming into the field study--that Tibetan students and faculty use computers, though not regularly, that their use of computers is fundamentally similar to my own, that computers and technology are a significant part of Tibetan culture in India--and my bias could easily color my interview and survey questions.  For example, say I ask how they use a computer to communicate with other Tibetans.  That questions assumes that they have access to a computer and that they know how and choose to communicate using their computer, when that will not always be the case.

Are all the questions clear and unambiguous? 

This one is tricky--I need to be specific enough so that my questions are interpreted correctly, but I also want to avoid references to specific tools like Facebook and Wikipedia.  Those are certainly default programs in my culture but not necessarily in Tibetan culture.  Therefore, my questions about internet encyclopedias and other basic information sources should clearly establish my definition of those tools but avoid mentioning Wikipedia itself.

How would you yourself answer each item?  Any difficulty you might have in answering might also apply to others.  Then, try to assume different points of view (for example, religious and unreligious) and ask how the questions might sound to someone with each point of view.

This is a great point.  If I had to answer my own question about how I use my computer to talk to other Americans, the question might throw me for a loop if I didn't use Skype and literally use my computer to talk to other Americans.  My question should perhaps address communication in more specific terms, maybe involving email or social media.

Has the researcher looked for disconfirming cases that would challenge the new theories?

I absolutely love this question.  It makes me wonder how I can prove myself wrong in the course of this field study.  I don't think that everything I see or experience will prove the points I have imagined in my preparation, and I think that some or many will contradict what I think, but that is exciting!  Joseph Smith, jr. said, "By proving contraries, truth is made manifest," and that is what I hope to do in India.

Learning journal 3
In my prep class we've discussed field studies' philosophical foundation in inquiry-based research a great deal.  My classmate Brianne, responding to the question "what is inquiry-based learning?" said,

It is realizing what you don't know and what you want to know, having humility, and being open to new views.

I attend a religious institution of learning, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Brianne's response tied my faith to my research methods.  Suddenly, humility has become crucial in my field research--I must acknowledge that I don't know everything and will need to make adjustments to my methods as I gain more experience.  I feel as though I will be well prepared for what I find in India, since I've been communicating with several contacts for months, but I am certain that things will not be exactly as I expect!

 (As a side note, I just tried to think of an example of something that won't be as I expect, and I could not :) I think that proves my point.)

These are the steps of inquiry-based learning as I understand them:
  1. question
  2. plan and predict
  3. gather resources and investigate
  4. analyze and summarize
  5. draw conclusions and report findings
  6. reflect
 I am not, however, keeping these steps separate and following them in order.  I started with questioning and gathering resources, I've planned and predicted with my ORCA application, I've investigated through interviews on Skype, Facebook, and email, and I've analyzed these interviews and drawn conclusions that improved my questions.  It sounds a bit messy, but I think it's working well!

Learning journal 2

Alright, here's another fabulous tidbit from the article we read for last time, Pico Iyer's "Experiment in Exile:"

Dharamsala is not really a community, in short, but an experiment, in which the Dalai Lama and the people  around him craft a new incarnation of Tibet--a Tibet 2.0--that aims to be modern, open to the world and, for the moment, outside of what is traditionally, physically, Tibet.  The idea reflects what one sees in Shanghai, in Vietnam, even in Cambodia: out of hardship, people will try to create possibility.  As long as the Dalai Lama cannot go back to Tibet, Tibet must come out into the world, and in a new and improved form.

Wow.  This journalist is an astute, talented writer!  I love his description of Dharamsala as Tibet 2.0.  In any case, Iyer has explicitly linked Tibetan modernization (which, as far as I am concerned, is evidenced in the use of computers and internet) with Tibetan political and cultural identity.  I can observe this from afar, and even Skype my friends in India, but field research yields superior results.  "By going directly to the social phenomenon under study and observing it as completely as possible, researchers can develop a deeper and fuller understanding of it" (Babbie [photocopied assigned reading] 314).  The field research will "defy simple quantification" and instead lend itself to a written analysis of my discoveries.

Mainly I'm excited to refer to Dharamsala as Tibet 2.0 :)

Learning journal 1

I've spent a lot of time thinking about the ways Tibetans in general, and Tibetan students in particular, display digital literacy and use technology to preserve their culture and achieve their political goals.  Now, I think this is an appropriate focus, but I just got a new dimension that shook my ideas a bit.  Here's a paragraph from an article in the 2005 Time magazine by Pico Iyer entitled "Experiment in Exile:"

Thousands of refugees from Tibet keep pouring into already overcrowded Dharamsala every year--hundreds of youngsters who arrive at the Tibetan Children's Village, half-broken by their flight across the mountains; old people who merely want to see the Dalai Lama before they die; and dissidents eager to tell the world what's going on in Tibet.  Once or twice a month a bus deposits 50 or 60 new refugees from Tibet in a makeshift reception center, where they will stay, sometimes two to a bed, for a month or so, until new homes can be found for them.

When you're "half-broken" from a dangerous journey across the highest mountain range in the world, as these Tibetan children are, computers and internet are not present on your priority list.  I wonder to what extent this survival mode, the semi-chaos that I feel from this passage, prevails today in the Tibetan community in India, because people in desperate situations like that need to focus on basic survival needs, not relatively useless objects like computers.  Are some Tibetans shell-shocked, as it were, to the point that the luxury of internet seems a trivial nothing in the face of their challenge to survive their own lives?