Radio Interview with Bonnie Glass-Coffin

In the spring of 2013, I had the opportunity to take Professor Bonnie Glass-Coffin’s course, “Anthropology 6170: Ethnographic Methods.” She posted on Facebook that she had recently been interviewed on a radio talk show (www.thedrpatshow.com), and after listening, I was so impressed that I thought I’d share it on my blog. At the bottom of this post I’ve inserted a link to Bonnie’s “Guest Profile” page, and then at the bottom of that page, you will find “Play” buttons for each interview. Bonnie has also written some great books, so I’ve included links to those as well.

The webpage offers the following descriptions:

March 28, 2014 Interview: “Bonnie Glass-Coffin, PhD, is a visionary and a bridge builder who believes that educating the whole person (head and heart) should be at the core of a liberal arts education. She has been inspired to build these bridges because of the transformative experiences that she has had while studying with Peruvian shamans for more than 30 years. She has developed and piloted course curricula that celebrate this “whole person” approach to learning while providing tools for inner-exploration and development. She discusses her work with Peruvian Shamanism in her new book which she co-authored with don Oscar Miro-Quesada, ‘Lessons in Courage: Peruvian Shamanic Wisdom for Everyday Life.'”

April 7, 2014 Interview: “Voices of Women with host Kris Steinnes: Peruvian Shamanic Wisdom with Dr. Bonnie Glass-Coffin.”

April 11, 2014 Interview: “Discover what shamanism is and learn what cross cultural shamanism has to offer us in our everyday lives. Explore how interconnected we are, and how living from our wholeness can make all the difference in our evolution.”

Dr. Bonnie Glass-Coffin’s “Guest Profile” Page


Lessons in Courage: Peruvian Shamanic Wisdom for Everyday Life (2013)

The Gift of Life: Female Spirituality and Healing in Northern Peru (1998)






So much uncertainty about “Vaping”: Research opportunities for all…

I’ve been wondering about the effects of “vaping” or using electronic cigarettes since I heard about them a few years ago. This article is from PubMed, and it reviews all the relevant research that has been done on “vaping” since 2008. It’s really interesting, and if you read this, you’ll find loads of ambiguous statements like this: “It is also possible that e-cigarettes may either decrease or increase the incidence of nicotine addiction. Given these uncertainties, will the availability of e-cigarettes provide for healthier U.S. and world populations, as harm reductionists hope, or will other more dangerous ill effects ultimately emerge?” (p. 9). For scholars from any field, “vaping” appears to be an under-researched topic with a lot of possibilities.

Here’s the link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3859972/


ENGL 7800: MLA’s 2015 Conference Theme, “Negotiating Sites of Memory,” and Its Relation to an Ever-Evolving Research Process

Purdy (2010, p. 54), when talking about co-locating writing and research, says, “Research becomes less about being in a particular place (e.g., an archive or library) and more about engaging in a particular activity.” New technology has allowed students to engage in research activity anywhere they have a computer and Internet access, rather than being forced to research at the library. Recently, I saw a call for papers for the 2015 MLA conference. The presidential theme of the conference is “Negotiating Sites of Memory.” I wish I had read this article before the February deadline because Purdy’s argument is especially relevant to the theme, “Negotiating Sites of Memory,” and it’s relation to online education. In fact, I think this whole semester of learning about online education has directly related to MLA’s 2015 theme.

I remember when I was an undergraduate teaching assistant (2009-2010) for a particular professor. Reminiscing about his graduate school days, he would often talk about spending days and nights for weeks on end at his university’s library, devoting his time to research and writing, stacks of books piling up around the edges of his desk. As a graduate student, I’ve certainly spent my fair share of time in the library here at USU. But as an undergraduate, I stepped foot in my university’s library maybe a handful of times because everything I needed to complete my Bachelor’s degree in English was generally accessible through JSTORE. When my professor told me these kinds of stories, 1) I didn’t yet understand what it meant to be a graduate student hot on the scent of potentially groundbreaking research (intentional hyperbole), and 2) I didn’t realize how much technological advances have fundamentally changed the research process. When he told me these kinds of stories, I thought about my own research process, which, at the time, consisted of me at home on my laptop running searches on EBSCO or JSTORE while sitting comfortably in my brown leather recliner.

Indeed, being in a particular place, that holy building where knowledge awaits, stood out as a key detail in my professor’s stories. Conducting research from within the walls of his library represented him making a huge sacrifice by having to physically distance himself from his wife and kids at that time in his life. As I’m writing this post, my daughters are upstairs watching the Disney channel. When I work, I’m still separated from my family, but, at the same time, it seems as if we’re exponentially more connected.


My seven year-old daughter’s experience with research ethics

In my ENGL 7800 weekly discussion board, a fellow student asked the question, ” Yet, are our youth taught enough about ethics and morals [regarding plagiarism and research] to separate themselves and establish standards?”

In response to my peer’s question, I told the story of a recent conversation I had with my seven year-old daughter. Here’s my response:

“I walked into my home office two nights ago, and I found my seven year-old daughter using my computer. She was searching the web for information about Brachiosauruses (a dinosaur) because she has to give a presentation in front of her second-grade class next Monday. I was pleased to see that she was taking notes on a piece of paper about what she was reading. I’ve never had a conversation with her about research or plagiarism at all, so I saw an opportunity to teach her something. I told her that if she uses information from an outside source that she needs to make sure that she always cites it. I was thinking that she would ask why, but she didn’t. Instead, she quickly responded, “Ya, ya, Dad, I know. I have to cite my sources. They teach us that at school.” It was time for her to go to bed after that, so before she finished using the computer, she looked up at the screen to identify her source, and then wrote the word, “Wikipedia,” on her paper below her notes. I was blown away! I couldn’t believe that her class was already being taught ethical research techniques and rules. My respect for her teacher and her school went way up. I don’t remember learning about citing sources at such a young age. I vaguely remember learning about research ethics in high school or perhaps junior high, but (as I remember, at least) the idea of ethics wasn’t emphasized very much.”


7800 – Preparing up-and-coming instructors to enter the digital ivory tower

Fish (2009, p. 283) says, “The ivory tower as it was once known has now firmly established itself as a digital one. […] however, many faculty are reluctant to move from behind the lectern to a computer screen. […] The task ahead is not an impossible one, but it is vital that institutions of higher learning change their traditional practices rather than continue operating as ‘normal’ while adding the huge responsibility of online teaching to an already heavy workload.”

On all points I agree. And with this stream of quotes in mind, I have a few comments. In our weekly PhD meetings, we’ve discussed best practices for getting instructors excited to teach online and adopting online teaching skills into their repertoire. I think Fish’s comment that the ivory tower is now firmly a digital one is generally true, but there are still those who look down at online teaching and won’t accept it. While efforts should be put into converting veteran instructors to accept online education, I think one point that I haven’t considered and that I haven’t heard many people talk about (in person or in the readings) is the efforts directed toward up-and-coming instructors becoming not only proficient f2f but also online educators.

I remember my first semester in graduate school. Like all first-year graduate instructors at USU, I was required to take English 6820, which is the teaching practicum for new college English instructors. As I read Fish’s article, I couldn’t help but think that I was implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) being trained to be a successful f2f and online educator. For example, we were taught to incorporate media into the course that the students could connect to such as Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, etc. These are all online media that could be used in any online course. We were taught the value of electronic grade books. We were also taught the importance of student and instructor interaction. While in f2f courses, I could meet individually with all of my students two or three times during a semester, the idea of presence, at least the way I think about it, is essentially the same: show interest in each student’s progress… and existence.

If the ivory tower is indeed a digital one and if institutions must change their traditional practices, then I think one of the best ways to prepare for that environment is to ensure that the up-and-coming instructors (i.e. undergraduate and graduate students) are trained thoroughly in f2f and online education best practices. Conversations about how to get faculty to learn about and even have good attitudes toward online education, I predict, will be irrelevant in a decade if the current and future classes of educators are trained to enter such a digital ivory tower.

How were you trained to teach? Were elements of online education were implicitly or explicitly taught to you? New GIs out there, how could your recent 6820 course have prepared you better to teach in both f2f and online environments? Perhaps I’ve already somewhat stated this, but I see the future of teaching educators involving a pedagogical practice that teaches f2f and online teaching methods simultaneously, one building on the other.


7800: My first experience with online education… not a good one

With so much attention paid to K-12 online education in the readings this week, I’m reminded of my first and certainly my worst experience with taking an online class. I was a senior in high school in 2003, and I had the chance to take a college English composition class online. One of my friends was taking the class, and he wanted me to take it with him. His main argument echoed one of Globokar’s myths as my friend said to me, “Online classes are waaayyy easy, Dude! Let’s take it!” Of course I listened to my friend because he was online all the time, as opposed to me who didn’t even have the internet in my home, so he must have known what he was talking about…. Right? No. The answer is wrong. He didn’t have a clue. Anyway, after a long talk with my dad about reasons he should pay for me to take this online class, he finally agreed, and the class began.

Then reality set in. Where was the class? Aaaahhh! Poor 17-year-old Ryan, me, didn’t have a clue about online classes like where to find the syllabus or assignment descriptions or how to get in touch with the instructor. Now, I know what you’re all thinking: there must have been someone at your high school who could have helped you, right? No. I asked around, but the best response I got was to call the school, which wasn’t such a bad idea, but what that response really speaks to is how little my teachers knew about online education. I ended up never being able to log in or knowing that I should have logged in to the class on Blackboard (I think the system was Blackboard at the time) to find what I was looking for. To this day and to the end of time on my undergraduate transcript, my final grade for online English composition 101: F.

Ten years later, I’m getting a PhD in English. I’m safe to say that the first college grade that I received doesn’t wholly speak to my intelligence in English studies. Rather, that grade speaks to poor planning and preparation not only by me but also by my high school teachers. I wonder how or if high school students are prepared to take online classes. In my case, a college preparation class that talked about aspects of online education would have been priceless. As Barbour (2010) talks about in his conclusion, research on the failures and not so much on the successes would be useful to the field.

p.s. my friend who also took the class got suspended for the term right after we signed up for the online class, so, no, he wasn’t really interested in helping me figure out the class. gotta love the teenage years…


7480 Abstract: Different Methods, Different Data: Investigating diverging reports of patient experiences from interviews and surveys

As researchers in technical communication confront the ethics and politics of data, they encounter a history rich in diversity and conflict (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000). For example, both qualitative and quantitative data are interested in individuals’ points of view, yet tension arises from debates on which method’s data gives the most accurate representation of observed phenomena. Moffat et al. found that these tensions, and even conflicting data, can “enhance the robustness of [a] study, it may lead to different conclusions from those that would have been drawn through relying on one method alone and demonstrates the value of collecting both types of data within a single study” (n.p.). Our presentation examines these methodological tensions by comparing conflicting data from a recent mixed-methods, intercultural study of patients’ perspectives of receiving care at a free health clinic.

We undertook an action research study in coordination with a free clinic, collecting data from qualitative interviews and quantitative surveys. First, we interviewed eleven participants to gain a better understanding of participants’ perspectives of being patients at a free clinic. Second, we surveyed 129 patients about their satisfaction with the clinic and what information sources and technologies they used to gather health information. Our findings include conflicting data between the interviews and the surveys, especially with regard to how patients gather and use healthcare information.

Mixed-method approaches create research contexts in which genre agents and player agents interact, or, in other words, they create what Moeller and Christensen (2009) call transformative locales. Viewing research methods as genre agents, we see that they always afford certain responses and constrain others. To interpret our research participants’ conflicting responses, we will use Thatcher’s (2012) eight common human thresholds for analyzing patterns in data via intercultural rhetoric.


Denzin, N.K.; & Lincoln, Y.S. (2000). The discipline and practice of qualitative research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed.) (pp. 1–28). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Moeller, R., & Christensen, D. (2009). System mapping: A genre field analysis of the National Science Foundation’s grant proposal and funding process. Technical Communication Quarterly, 19(1), 69-89.

Moffatt, S.; White, M.; Mackintosh, J.; & Howel, D. (2006). Using quantitative and qualitative data in health services research – what happens when mixed method findings conflict? BMC Health Services Research, 6:28. doi:10.1186/1472-6963-6-28.

Thatcher, B. (2012). Intercultural rhetoric and professional communication: Technological advances and organizational behavior. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.


7480 – Making Connections: Activity Theory, Intercultural Rhetoric, and Genre Studies

Thanks to Spinuzzi’s Network, I’m making connections this week that I haven’t been able to make before. This is exciting to me because I’m realizing that all these things that I’ve been interested in since my first semester as a graduate student are actually all connected. Hooray! Breakthrough for Ryan!

For example, I wrote a paper during my first semester that essentially explored the advantages of a tutor asking tutees why they chose to use any particular word in their papers. I argued that by asking, “Why did you use that word?” that tutors could probe deeper into the minds of the tutees, which is really a way for the tutees to probe deeper into their own thoughts during a tutoring session. From there, when a tutee is able to delve deeper into his own thoughts, he can then add more specific details and vivid descriptions to his paper that will ultimately explain his thoughts more coherently to an audience. For example, from my experience as a teacher and tutor, if a student used the word “nice” to describe a situation, I would ask that student why he used that word. The student would then begin to investigate his thoughts and say things like: “the restaurant was nice because the servers were so polite and the dim lights created a relaxed, inviting atmosphere.” In this one example, we can see that the word “nice” in a student’s mind was actually connected to bigger, more complex thoughts. And in composition, we strive to get students to expand their ideas and write using more concrete language, which is what is elicited when a tutor asks a tutee why he or she used a particular word.

In that same paper, my thoughts were founded on the works of Vygotsky. What I didn’t realize then was that my interpretation and application of Vygotsky’s work was connected to what I would be doing now concerning genre studies and intercultural rhetoric. I found Vygotsky and read his works not because they were required readings, but because I wanted to find out more about this Vygotsky character that kept showing up in many of my required readings’ bibliographies. With that in mind, no one ever told me what activity theory was, and from what I read, Vygotsky wasn’t at that point using the term “activity theory.” So, to make a long story short, when I read Spinuzzi’s discussion of activity theory, all of a sudden I found myself connecting all these ideas that have been, at least consciously, unconnected. (On another note, this example shows why class discussions are so important. They help us to make connections from one line of thinking to another. On some level I wish someone had more explicitly explained activity theory to me so that my mind wouldn’t have taken so long to make these connections. But on another level, since I made these connections relatively on my own, I’ve been on some kind of intellectual high that is really personally satisfying.)

At this point in my post, I’ve gone over the 500-word limit, but I want to briefly highlight the connections that I’ve made between genre studies, activity theory, and intercultural rhetoric. Spinuzzi (p. 17) says, “I stress genre as a behavioral descriptor rather than as a formal one.” And, of course, he begins his discussion about genres by paraphrasing Miller’s definition: “Genres—which can be glossed as typified rhetorical responses to recurring social situations…” In his book, Barry Thatcher (2012) describes intercultural rhetoric as an effective lens for understanding “how deeply held, but hidden values structure a variety of activities, essentially explaining the why and what of social behavior” (p. 1). Already, from these quotes we can see connections. Simply put, I now see that intercultural rhetoric is a great theoretical lens through which to view genres. And the underlying theory that supports my thinking is derived from activity theory. Just like asking a student why he or she used a particular word, looking through the lens of intercultural rhetoric, we can interpret an individual’s or a group’s response to, interaction with, or application of a particular genre in a genre field and gain deeper insights into that individual’s or group’s more implicit, even hidden, cultural values. From those insights, we can then shape and approach communicative activities in more culturally competent ways that lead to more fruitful relationships and productive environments.


7480 – Technical Communication Research and Anthropology: Examining Human and Nonhuman Kinship Systems

The readings this week made me think of anthropology and its focus on kinship systems. In technical communication, of course, we are not so much interested in the relationships among families or tribal communities in the same way that an early anthropologist would be when studying some remote group of islanders. But we are concerned with the working relationships among professionals or any group of people combining their skills in order to accomplish a goal or perform a task. Additionally, we are also interested in any relationships among any stakeholders involved in whatever activity is at stake. For example, in my research at the free clinic, I’m not solely interested with the professionals—the healthcare providers or the staff. I’m concerned with the professionals and their relationships with the nonprofessionals—the patients.

Specific to the readings and to our field, we researchers are interested in the communicative activities that occur among the stakeholders. In Christensen, Cootey, and Moeller’s article (2007, p. 2), they say, “We have consciously chosen this terminology, especially field, as a way to demarcate the space where mediation, or transformation, occurs. […] A genre field denotes the entire spectrum of space surrounding a genre artifact or artifacts. It includes the agents, influences, social structures, and constraints that are productive of genres and the relationships that are influenced by the genre.” So as technical communication researchers, we are looking for, more specifically (and not to say exclusively), the relationships among the stakeholders involved in a particular activity and the existing, working genres.

Returning to my initial thoughts about technical communication research and anthropology, I see that when we research, we are examining kinship systems. And in our field, the genre-agent is kin. So far in my research, I’ve researched patients and a doctor—two of multiple kinds of stakeholders or player-agents in a particular genre field. I plan on researching the volunteer staff this semester (as soon as I receive IRB approval) for yet another look at player-agents’ perspectives and relationships. As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that in order to research the equally important genre-agents at play in the free clinic and better align my research interests with the direction of technical communication research, I need to focus my research of the player-agents in a way that allows for a better understanding of their relationships with genre-agents. Essentially, when researching a genre field, we are examining the kinship systems of both human and nonhuman agents.


7480: Where do Computers and Video Game Consoles go When They Die?

One thing from the reading, Games of Empire, that I both don’t know a lot about and that I keep thinking about is the physical presence of all the millions and millions of video game consoles and computers that get created and then have to be destroyed. Like I said, I don’t know a lot about where these consoles go when they die (or, perhaps, when they get old and sick. Where’s the video game console nursing home? The D.I.? Is such a metaphorical place real?) Dyer-Witheford and de Peuter say, “As trailer loads of surplus game cartridges were bulldozed into landfills like so much radioactive waste, the North American game industry annihilated itself in one of the most complete sectoral disasters of recent business industry…” (p. 13). In the context of the quote, they’re talking about the failure of the Atari gaming system. But this is a significant statement because of the relationship of that to radioactive waste. Why did they relate the two? How are they related?

The first time I became aware of the problem of technological waste (e.g. the laying to waste of old computers, video game consoles, copy machines, etc.) was last year during one of the job candidate’s presentation. I don’t remember her name, but she presented the benefits of using a virtual connection to run an entire computer lab. Her argument, I remember, was that too many computers with their poisonous inside components are going to waste in third world countries, and that by using virtual connections in computer labs we would be making a difference by reducing our waste output. For a brief section during her presentation, she talked about and showed pictures of computer landfills. When I saw the pictures, I was both shocked and intrigued. I’d like to see what others know about this seemingly growing issue of dangerous technological waste. Also, what do the short life spans of computers and game consoles say about us as users?