"To inspire them to realize more and more of their capacities for living meaningful lives. Because there certainly is meaning to life."
-John Coltrane on Uplifting Others

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Historical Context for Final Project

Originally, we had Civil Disobedience as the Historical Background for our project, Digital Literacy without Borders. However, because of the touchiness of the Tibetan-Chinese situation, we as a group decided to change the Historical Context for our project.
We decided to see the way frontiers change or influence culture. What happens when a person removes himself from the center? Is there cultural evolution (or devolution) occurring? What can a community do to preserve their culture?
I would answer these questions here, but I feel it more apt to direct you to our site. With the permission of my group, I rewrote the section "Historical Context." Feel free to comment on it. Is it understandable? Did I miss the mark? What's the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Web 2.0

1. Last night, after several failed attempts on our part, Sean, Kristen, Parker, and I sat around a kitchen table in Provo, UT, and conducted a thirty minute interview with Norbu Jinda, the director of a TCV (Tibetan Children's Village) in India. On several points during the interview, a group mate would look at another with amazement in his or her eyes. That amazement spoke (among other things), "Can you believe this? We are talking to a man in India."
2. A few months ago, I quit my job as a shift manager at Little Caesars to begin a new employment opportunity. I now teach English to students scattered in South Korea and Japan, from a center in Provo. How do I do this? Through Skype, as well as other programs. I did not think it possible, but I feel a connection with these kids who are half way across the world.
3. There is a blog I follow with delight. Written by a college English professor, it details her struggles with teaching and understanding students, as well as her thoughts on knowledge. I have commented a few times on her posts, and was much surprised to see her and others respond to my thoughts. I even braved (thanks to the encouraging words of my professors, Drs. Burton and Zappala) to link a post of my own into my comments on her blog. This professor, whom I have never met, commented positively to my ideas.

How are these three opportunites and connections possible? Simply put, the Internet is changing. When I was younger, the things for kids to do was join chatrooms; parents were in an uproar. Still, I remember the amazement of talking with someone from England, without paying exhorbant landline fees. Now, I stay connected with friends in Mozambique through Facebook and Skype. I can see their pictures, read their ideas, and comment. The Web has evolved at a speed equivalent to Moore's Law. And it is still changing, accomadating to man's need. I read this article on CNN about the next Facebook; does anyone remember MySpace? I did not have time to watch or read the materials prepared for this lesson, so I did my own research.
This is not the first time I have embedded a video by Michael Wesch. He is an Anthropology professor at Kansas State University. In this video, Dr. Wesch explores the Web 2.0. I hope you pay attention to his insights at the end. They tie in nicely with the goals laid out by Digital Literacy Without Borders, and our desire to see how the evolving web connects and influences culture.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mass Media: Some Anecdotes

As many of you know, I teach Korean and Japanese students English over the Internet. It has provided plenty of laughs, but also opportunities to see just how "different" our cultures are. For one of my sessions, I talk one on one with fifteen year old middle school students, and we fly through the material. That way, we can talk about other things. I was teaching "Leo" (his English name. He chose it, not me!) and asked him the following question
me: So Leo, what kind of music are you listening to right now?
Leo: Hmmm, have you ever heard of Eminem?
me: (slight pause) Just a little, yes.
(Some more conversation happened, including a challenge issued from me for Leo to check out Outkast. Laughter also pervaded the conversation, but we move to this next point.)
me: Leo, what do you like to watch on TV?
Leo: Cartoons...
me: Oh, you mean like Korean anime -what's it called -manhwa? I like that stuff.
Leo: (laughs) no, I like Spongebob
me: (shocked) Spongebob?!! Me, too!

As I ended my Skype call with him, I couldn't help but think Leo is more American than I am. The shattering of my nationalistic center and ego was further when I attended Dr. Hickman's lecture on the Beatles' influence on America. He submitted an interesting thought to the audience. He said the Beatles weren't the flagship of a British Invasion. On the contrary, they were indoctrinated in American culture. He pointed out that being from Liverpool allowed them access to the latest American rock and roll records. When John, Paul, George and Ringo made it to the Ed Sullivan show in '64, they were British only in nationality. In reality, they projected to Americans an image of themselves.
I have thought of these two incidents in terms of mass media. I think sometimes we focus so much on the differences between "us and them," but the truth of the matter is media is slowly bringing the world together. In his book Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers,(2006) Kwame Anthony Appiah discusses that man is essentially the same, with each culture adding a uniqueness to the world. He says "People everywhere, buy and sell, eat, read the papers, watch movies, sleep, go to church or mosque, laugh, marry, commit adultery, go to funerals, die. Most of the time, once someone has translated the language you don't know, or explained some little unfamiliar symbol or custom, you'll have no more (and, of course, no less) trouble understanding why they do than you do making sense of your neighbors back home" (94). What then, is the language we must understand or have explained?
I suggest it is the digital language. I love when I look up videos on youtube, just to find comments left by people from around the world. I posted earlier about the relationship I have with Norbu, the Tibetan school administrator my group will be interviewing. I said then -and reiterate now -that the two things we have in common is education and digital means to communicate. But there is so much more we have in common: appetites, the ability to be tired, the emotions of love, pain and regret, etc.
Have any of you had these experiences of recognition? Leave your stories in the comments and I'll highlight a few in the upcoming posts.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Final Project: Questions

Our project is to bring awareness of digital literacy's impact on Tibetan exiles in India. I'd like to thank Parker for this posted goals. As part of our project, we will be interviewing Norbu, one of Kristen's contacts there, but he is scared (intimidated, maybe) by the interview. To assuage his fears, we are preparing 10 questions each for Norbu, although with overlap, there will probably only be 25-30 questions.
The issue I am facing with asking these questions is language barrier. From my experience teaching ESL students, it is hard to ask questions. Often times, the problem lies in my wording; my questions have to be as simple as possible. This language barrier only highlights a common thread in Digital Literacy Without Borders; in today's world, the lingua franca is continuously becoming education and digital media. What do I have in common with Norbu? A love for education, and an Internet connection.
On that note, here are some questions going through my head. You can check out the others on our website.
Tell me about the Tibetan culture. What is it?
How have computers and the Internet changed your culture?
How are students educated in your community?
How do they learn with computers?
How do you view Tibet, your native land?
How do you use your computer to talk with fellow Tibetans?

Do you have a question for Norbu? Leave it in the comments, and maybe we will ask him.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Interstate is the Bomb.Com!

Remember those bumps, you know the ones when crossing state lines? The best is between the Texas and Louisiana border, travelling east on I-20. That bump is ridiculous! It literally catches your breath, and it holds it there, along with memories.
The Interstate Highway System, which was passed in 1944, took civic precedence during Eisenhower's administration. While many may cite technologies as the automobile or telephones as shaping America, but for me and a few others, the highway system encapsulates the American Dream. Here's a quote:
"In the Interstate Highway System we have done nothing less than express our vision of ourselves ... Ultimately, the Interstate have become a physical expression of the part of the American character that desires to resolve our destiny in this seemingly limitless land."
Tom Lewis Divided Highways, 1997

As we mentioned the Frontier, I should mention the Interstate's role in it. While the highway system brought the continent together, it allows more Americans movement than previously thought. What would take days, even weeks now takes a matter of hours or days. There are correlations between the importance of the highways and the Internet, but I choose the right to remain silent. If you see the similarities, comment, please.
In the meantime, enjoy this short cartoon from Disney. Just like bumps, it brings back memories of my childhood.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Reflective Post, Take Two, Take Two

So Bri commented on Reflective Post, Take Two, and made me realized I was suppose to review her blog. Big Whoops to me, but I'll double back and take care of business.
Bri's blog, Bri Colorful, is wonderful in its simplicity. Her blog is not bogged down by widgets or distractions. It is all about the writings. Bri is good at synthesizing historical and digital content. Furthermore, she is adept at bringing in outside classes. Let me explain.
In her post "Digital Coordination," Bri demonstrates an example of using digital tools in another class. I believe this post gets to the core of what Drs. Burton and Zappala want from this class. They want us to use the digital tools and ideas we discover from Digital Civilization in other parts of our lives. Bri has shown through her posts ways to extend digital literacy to other classes, screenshots, and personal life. In fact, Bri has done the best job of any blog I've read in balancing historical, digital, personal and other sources in the posts.
Bri, I am impressed, and you all should be too!

Friday, November 12, 2010

An Interesting Timeline

While checking Google Reader, a blog I follow posted this timeline. I liked it, because it encapsulates our journey in digital learning, through a viewing of the past. Thanks to Education Innovations for making this.

Education Innovations (Timeline)
By: eLearners.com

Reflective Post, Take Two

For this post, I am focusing on Kristen's blog.
I first met Kristen in a British Literary History class, so I know her. But I did not know her dreams of a field study. Her blog is focused on her upcoming field study to Tibetan exiles in India. If I can say nothing else, she is consistent in her objectives. At the beginning of the semester, she clearly stated her goal was to see how digital literacy affects not only people in the States, but how it is shaping the lives and culture of Tibetans. She has varied her posts, from historical content to Skype conversations with her Tibetan contact. She has branched further than most in the class as far as creating PLN's; she has contacts from all over the world. Added to this is Kristen's blog is easy on the eyes (not a mess of divergent widgets), and her posts are enjoyable to read. I believe of everyone in the class, I have commented more on her blog than any other.
(Not that I don't like the other blogs; I do. Simply put, Kristen and I share similar ideas, so I am intrigued with what she writes and observes.)
So Kudos to you, Kristen C. You and your blog are going places.

Photo courtesy of love-your-neighbor.blogspot.com

Reflective Post, Take One

In preparation for this post, I returned to my first from this class. I had hoped to find some list of goals or aspirations that would enhance or guide my learning throughout the semester.
There were no such goals, only abstracts written down. I wish to clarify this oversight right now.
For the remainder of this class, my goals are as such:
1. I will post on the historical content a minimum of two times a week.
As I have read through the materials, I see the correlation between the digital age and historical paradigm shifts. When I read on the Atomic Age and its influence on all aspects of early and mid 20th century history, I focused on the way media shaped and influenced public perception. The frontier ideology of the 18th and 19th century is still alive, though the exploration is not of lands stretched into the horizon. Rather, we explore the capabilities of computers and the connectability of man.
2. I will focus my writing to reflect my own tastes.
I am a bland blogger. That's right; I wrote it in bold, because I feel it true. I don't allow my personality to come out in my blog writing. Hidden behind these words should be sarcasm, witticism, a sly smile that is slightly off kilter with the world. I fear I am not reflected in my own blog, and that is a scary thing.
But that is the superficial problem. How many of you reading this blog post know I want to be a teacher? That I study comedy? Or that I cook exceptionally well? One of the goals behind this Digital Civilization course is to connect with others through digital media. Am I attaining this goal? I fear I am not, so I will allow more of myself into the text.
(This is the same issues playing in The UnCommon Reader by Alan Bennet. I encourage to read this novella, or at least a plot summary. It is meta!)
3. I need to prove I'm a consumer.... but not the kind you're thinking of. Kurt Witt reviewed my blog, and noticed that I don't bring in many outside sources. My use of the Diigo group is also subpar. So, what is there to do? I need to mark my education down, using digital bookmarks. Watch out kids, I can go on tangents in understanding class principles.

Those are two defined goals for not only the end of this semester, but the rest of my life. Why, Mike, be so dramatic? Because the idea behind this course should course through my veins, I am being desperate. I will be a teacher in a few short years. How can I teach my students anything if I have stopped learning? Or, if I say "I have my Facebook; that is enough?" Digital media and social networks are reshaping communication. If I don't "keep up," I run the risk of not knowing (this shows the fallibility of English. We have know for countless meanings. What do I mean? At least in portuguese, there are two words for know; this knowledge falls into the conhecer family.)
how best to reach them. This is all the time I have at the moment; class begins soon. I will post more in due time.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Atomic Age, Part 2

Going further with this discussion of the Atomic Age's propaganda, I found this website called Modern Mechanix. If you peruse their various articles, taken from papers and journals written in the 30's and 50's, you will see how technology shaped the World of Tomorrow. What does this all have to do with the Atomic Age?
As discussed in class today, the technological breakthroughs of the twentieth century are interconnected with aspects of war and the arms race. People embraced these modern conveniences, and even took them a step too far (see Pooch in the Automobile article on the above linked website for proof). Heck, we wouldn't have the Internet today if military forces didn't need a new connecting source.
What are some other conveniences we have today due to the technologies of the Atomic Age? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

A Call for Help

For my final piece in Creative Writing, I have decided to experiment with something Stephen King mentioned in his "memoir" On Writing. He encouraged writers to use music as a source of setting mood for a piece; if you want anger, blast Metallica. However, what would happen if you created your stories from the music itself?
My idea is to create a playlist on which I can create short stories based on the imagery and story I hear within the music, its movements and its lyrics. Here is where I need your help. Leave me suggestions of songs to put in my playlist.
Here are two songs I've already decided on. Hope you take the time to listen to them.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Atomic Age in Media

Don't think the Atomic Age was a big deal? Look no further than Godzilla. Before then, no one had thought of giant lizards as being radioactively enlarged; they had come prepackaged. In 1954, Godzilla changed the world. One critic said, "Godzilla is pop culture's grandest symbol of nuclear apocalypse." Indeed, he is. Enjoy the trailer, though here's a warning: It is in Japanese.

After today's lecture, I realize how much this post missed the mark. The Atomic Age affected the entire political structure of the world. As the A and H bombs propelled the United States and Russia into a prolonged Cold War, both sides used media for their own use. For the second part of this post, I will focus on the United States' use of the "Atomic Age" to portray an Era of Technology and Prosperity.
When I think the Atomic Age, my mind turns to bombs first, then families. It was in the 1930's that the term Nuclear Family became popular. The television during the 1950's and 60's was inundated with Leave it to Beaver-esque families.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Economy Today and the Digital Age

Forewarning: This is not the best post in the world. I acknowledge that, so tread through it with mercy. Thank you.

I am currently sitting at a cubicle, a blue screen draped in the background. Another teacher is sick, and as I am the only other person in the office who understands how to teach NodaJuku classes, I will be in the office all night. What can I say but C'est la vie!

As I am tied up at work, I did not have enough time to go over the material about economy today; I don't know much about Keynse theory (or if I am spelling his name right). What I can say is how the economy is changing because of the digital age. I believe Keynse theorized that supply and demand was not the foundation of modern economy; rather, the market fluctuates on investment and consumerism. The digital age has proven this true with shopping.

Beforehand, if you wanted a specific shirt or LP, you had to either search for it around town. If the stores were out, there were only two options: special order or go without. Today, people don't have to leave their homes to shop. They can shop online for the things they want, and generally the supply across the world is limitless. So then, what drives the modern market? I don't know; perhaps you can comment and school me a little. What are your thoughts on the modern economy?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Final Project Website

I need to get this off my chest: I hate Google Sites! The user interface is confusing at times. I especially don't like having to exit the Edit interface in order to check for mistakes. Where is the preview option?

With that said, our team is preparing the website for our final project, Digital Literacy Without Borders. Here is a link to the site; I wrote the "What We're All About" page. I hope it gives a good idea of what we are trying to achieve with this project, and that it simply is not a means to a grade. I believe that all of us (Kristen, Parker, Sean and I) are invested in using digital tools to better improve our understanding of other cultures and our own. Hopefully we can take the spirit of Digital Literacy Without Borders to other parts of the world.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


ENIAC was a beast! Originally conceived to make ballistic charts, it led the computing world for several years. Here is an artice called The ENIAC Story, as told by Martin H. Weik, in 1961. In the story, Weik makes a point of ENIAC being an internally programmed computer. Take a look at this newsreel unveiling ENIAC to the American people.
Just as Babbage saw a chance to compute algorithms with the Difference machine, the government saw an opportunity to use computers to reshape war. Weik opines the computer "was provided by the extraordinary demand of war to find the solution to a task surpassing importance." This reminded me of something Dr. Zappala mentioned about the Internet. He said the Internet was created and owned by the United States' military and government for years. Is it just me, or is anyone else disturbed by the way technology seems to go hand in hand with war or industry? Or am I being pessimistic?

A Story Worth Telling

Recently, I began teaching English online to students in Korea and Japan, and I must say, The job is Boss! Last night between sessions, I talked with another employee, Danny, who told me a miraculous story of a Chinese student he tutors in the Salt Lake area. Granted, I do not know all the details (neither did Danny), but the idea behind the story is powerful. Notice I said idea, not moral.
Harrison is an abnormal student for the private school he attends. He is a wizard with chemistry and physics; he builds websites and creates animations from scratch. However, he struggles with history and English, because Harrison is an abnormal student. He is a refugee (for lack of a better word) from China. In authoritarian China, Harrison is a troublemaker in the works. In his 15 years, he has questioned, and his mother, fearing for him, remembered an old friend, a Scottish woman she had met who had moved to the Salt Lake area. Harrison's mother contacted her old friend, and together, they formulated a plan. Harrison would become an exchange student and come live with the family friend. Here, he could escape the pressures of Chinese rule and also receive a better education.
Which brings us to now. Harrison is here. He is studying. He struggles with the language, but as Danny told me last night, he is opening up. I can feign imagine what could have happened to him if Harrison stayed in China. I told Danny about my final project for Digital Civilization, and asked myself how Harrison's story fits into our class goals. I suppose Digital Media paved a way for Harrison to connect with Danny; they share a love of video games. The impetus behind the move comes from a mother who reacquainted herself with an old friend; she must have used e-mail or Skype to reconnect.
Now the family friend is trying to get the capital for an exchange student program, which will help bring teenagers from troubled parts of Asia to the United States. That way, they can escape government oppression, receive a better education, and also introduce a higher level of digital literacy. Students like Harrison and the Tibetan exiles that Kristen knows have a higher level of digital consumption than American students. The cross cultural perspective works with my final project: seeing how digital literacy works within other "developing" countries and their education systems. However, Harrison's story works within microfinancing as well. What could happen if that group got a hold of this Scottish woman's company, and gave out micro loans to bring students over here. What do you think? Is there a link, or am I looking for the trees in the forest?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Psychology, G. Stanley Hall, and Adolescence

I thank Dalton for his wonderful post "From Philosophy to Psychology." In it, he linked to a wonderful history of psychology, which I will not link to; you will have to go to there yourself. I was surprised to find G. Stanley Hall on the list.
It was Modern American Literature, 1915-60; Dr. Matthews introduced the course's theme: Adolescence. To introduce adolescence, she had us read the introduction to Adolescence. The author? G. Stanley Hall. He not only introduced psychology to America, but he advanced child development. From what I understand, until the late 19th century, most people thought of children and teens as miniature adults. Hall placed teens apart from both; he coined the term "storm and stress."
So, thanks G. Stanley Hall! You have given us a way to understand what teens don't know. Do you have an interesting story from your youth? If you tell, I'll tell one too.