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Silk Road Technology Policy

Greetings Students,

Technology can be amazing. It has the ability to connect people in the most remote parts of the world, to spread ideas and to inspire us. However, we’re sure you’ve seen the ugly side of technology as well. Tools like smartphones and social media that are designed to unite us, often isolate us. The ability to access the internet 24/7 can make it so that we are not present in the moment. One of the things that makes Dragons courses so magical is that without the tempting distraction of a smart phone lurking in our pocket we are forced to be fully present in our experience. We see China/Kyrgyzstan and more importantly we see ourselves in real time. So with the support of Dragons Admin we’d like to present a list of approved/not approved electronic devices.

  • Not permitted: Cell phones, computers, iPads, other tablets, iPod Touch, Music players.
  • Permitted: Cameras and electronic books only (none with phone/internet/wifi capabilities, i.e. no Kindle Fires)

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 summer, and you won’t be able to use those items at any point during the course. That said, we understand that some students and families want students to travel to and from Los Angeles (or wherever you are meeting the group) with a cell phone to contact home, and we’re ok with that, as long as you’re ok with us holding on to your device once we begin the program – see below for a bit more detail on this point.

For permitted items 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. 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. At the end of courses students always mention how thankful they were to be disconnected from technology.

Given China’s internet firewall and your lack of phones be prepared to be pretty disconnected for these 6 weeks. Family and friends can expect to hear from you about once a week.

*We will be using a VPN which allows us to bypass China’s firewall and access sites like google. With that being said many students have still had trouble accessing gmail and social media sites while in China. We recommend you create a Yahoo email account to connect with loved ones while in China.

A couple of commonly asked questions:

1) If I deactivate my phone can I still use it as my camera and music player?

Response: 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.

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

Response: Yes, you can but we encourage you to try it without your phone because as soon as you meet us in Los Angeles (or in China) 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, your I-team’s phone number if you’re meeting us in China, and the Dragons office’s number 001-303-413-0822).

For family and friends back home, know that the instructor team will be in regular communication with the Dragons Boulder office (even while hiking and in remote communities). Throughout the summer if you have questions please post them here on the Yak Board and we’ll reply as quickly as possible. Or contact the Boulder office and they will quickly forward questions on to us. Watch our Yak Board for exciting updates every few days.

So unplug. Dive in. And get ready for an amazing adventure.

Tindy, Noam and Zack.