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Course Technology Policy

Dearest Dragoncitos,

Let’s talk about electronics. This brief note is to remind you that you won’t need any electronics on this course. If you would like to bring something, please follow these guidelines:

Not permitted: Cell phones, computers/laptops, tablets, e-readers, and music/mp3 players

Permitted: Cameras (none with phone/internet/wifi capabilities)

If students arrive on course with any of the non-permitted items they will be held by the instructors for the remainder of the course. Instructors are not responsible for items that are lost, stolen, or damaged. We prefer not having to lug your stuff around all semester, and you won’t be able to use those items at any point during the course.

For permitted items (cameras), moderation is key. If students are using permitted items to remove themselves from the experience the instructors will talk with that student. If the action continues the item(s) will be held by the instructors. We understand and respect how important access to technology may be for you. However we ask that you trust the process.

At the end of courses students always mention how thankful they were to be disconnected from technology. You’ll have sufficient opportunities to connect with friends and family via internet cafes and pay phones, though connections will not be as lightning-fast as back home in the U.S.. On average students are able to connect to the internet about once a week.

You are encouraged however to bring a book. Courses generally find they have successful book trades if all members of the group bring something to read and then pass around.

Frequently asked questions

Q: If I deactivate my phone can I still use it as my camera?

A: We acknowledge that smartphones can wear many hats but we’ve found that even a deactivated phone has incredible potential to alter your experience. So to be clear, phones in any form will not be allowed. The same goes for iPod Touches, since they are basically the same as a deactivated phone.

Q: I’m worried about my connecting flights before/after the trip. Can I bring my phone for that?

A: Yes, you can, but we encourage you to try it without your phone because as soon as you meet us in-country, we will collect the phone. To ensure that your travels go smoothly we recommend you carry a hard copy of all required flight information and a physical list of important numbers (i.e. your emergency contacts and the Dragons office’s number +1-303-413-0822).

Q: I feel that it is a waste of money and resources for me to buy new electronics that meet these requirements since I pretty much use my phone to do everything.  What do you suggest?

A: Yes, we realize that not everyone is going to have a point-and-shoot or DSLR camera sitting around since smartphones have replaced most of those devices.  However, many past students were able to borrow cameras from friends and family for use on the trip. Ask around and see who can lend you one! Or, you could purchase a used or refurbished one on eBay or from Apple for pretty cheap. We will also create a shared photo drive at the end of the course so everyone has access to the images/videos!

For family and friends back home, know that the instructor team will be in regular communication with the Dragons Boulder office (even while on treks and in remote communities). If family needs to contact you, they can contact the Boulder office and we will receive forwarded questions. Watch our Yak Board for exciting updates every few of days.

Our philosophy on technology

We want to share our reasons why we ask you to disconnect from electronics. As an instructor team, we value the close community that develops when traveling in a group. We want to give you an opportunity on this course to experience the world through different eyes and to be fully committed to each moment. When humans encounter something unfamiliar, something challenging, or something that just doesn’t fit into our worldview, it’s easy for us to initially step out of that experience and look for something known and comfortable, like a familiar smartphone, in order to disconnect.

Our modern portable electronics make it easy to distance ourselves from our immediate surroundings, whether it be people, places, or unfamiliar language. One of the best ways to understand a culture not your own is to experience it fully, to see the intricacies of everyday life, to feel its joys and sorrows, to see how the people pass idle moments and experience that with them. Even our longest and most arduous travel days, precisely when it’s most tempting to put our headphones on, can hold some really amazing and unexpected cultural interactions, but we need to keep our eyes and ears open to engage in these unplanned moments. There is no greater opportunity to fully engage in the local culture and philosophy than to disconnect from the technology that’s a product of Western thought and globalized ways of living.

As a group, this also leaves space for us to be present with each other.  There is so much to be gained from our conversations and interactions as a group, and these individual devices can distract from that. Leaving these things at home can also alleviate the stress that might be associated with damaging or losing one of these devices as we travel.

Further reflections

We encourage you to read this article on the effect of phones on human interaction. As you prepare for the course and let your friends and family know how much you will be in touch, we hope that you will take the time to consider these questions for yourself so that you are embarking on your travels with mindful intentions towards technology’s role in your life.

  • Knowing that Dragons has this Wonderful And Glorious Yak Board for me to post thoughtful travel writing, how much and how often do I want to be in touch with friends and family from home?  And, vice versa, how much does my family expect to hear from me via the Yak board and email?
  • If you are a heavy user of social media, do you think that that would detract from an immersive travel experience like the one we will have this summer in Peru? How might technology use and social media impact my travel experience?
  • What means of communication will be best employed to communicate the depth of my experience most accurately? Talking on the phone or Skype, email, or communicating once back together in person? Do I want to communicate these experiences while they are happening or afterwards when I have processed them more fully?

We wish you the best as you finish your preparations for our course. We hope that you are able to intentionally prepare yourself and your friends and family for what will surely be the adventure of a lifetime and an exploration of all that the world has to offer. Unplug. Dive in. And get ready for an incredible journey.

Abrazos!

Your Instructor Team: Brian, Vanessa & Anna