*PhD in Progress* ICT, Education, and Mongolian Pastoralist Youth

Editor’s Note: We begin 2016 with a report on research-in-progress from Kim Chi Tran, a PhD Candidate who recently completed her data collection. Here, she discusses her research design and methods. Make sure to click the links to see her video compilations. The ACYIG Blog welcomes contributions from students! Email Bonnie Richard for more information.

Unpacking the influences of Information Communication Technologies (ICT) on the educational experiences of youth from Mongolian pastoralist families

Kim Chi Tran
International Institute of Social Studies – Erasmus University of Rotterdam (The Hague, Netherlands)

This research explores how youth from Mongolian pastoralist families experience the influences of Information Communication Technologies (ICT) as they travel between different localities that construct their educational landscape. The research methodology takes a child-centered approach and a multi-disciplinary design in which ethnography is used along with visual participatory research techniques and complementary applications of interviewing and surveying methods, to progressively take the research participants and the researcher through deeper engagements with the research questions over a 9-month data collection period. The research aims to add the perspectives of youth from a non-Western and non-sedentary society to global knowledge production on how ICTs transform conceptualizations and experiences of education, in order to facilitate more grounded and inclusive educational reforms that impact learners from rural communities.


UNESCO (“What is ICT,” 2013) defines ICT as the means by which information is transmitted, detected, accessed, and responded. The following technologies are covered under this definition: radio, TV, video, DVD, phones, satellite systems, computer and network (hardware and software), and related equipment and services such as videoconferencing, e-mail and blogs (ibid). Since my research aims for the participatory and child-centered orientation, I’ve deployed the UNESCO definition as the starting point of the research process. The research participants, based on their own experiences with ICT, have added to the above list by naming other technologies that directly enable the communication of information including handheld transceivers (walkie-talkies), GPS, surveillance systems, and projection systems. They’ve also expanded on the definition to include supporting technologies that indirectly enable the communication of information (e.g. car batteries, electrical chargers and converters, solar panels, and generators). The research participants’ argument for including the latter category is that technological forms of communication would not be possible without these supporting technologies. Therefore, this research defines ICT as the technologies that directly and indirectly enable the communication of information.

The conceptual framework of the research combines Cultural Ecology (Bayliss & Dillon 2011:184) and Critical Pedagogy of Place social theories (Bayliss & Dillon 2011:5-8) with Foucault’s notion of power (Foucault 1982:794) to analyze how the perspectives of learners, whose agency is situated within a collectivistic social context, are shaped by the interrelations between the social, temporal and spatial dimensions of the landscapes where learning takes place. The below diagram (Figure 1) provides a visual presentation of the conceptual framework:

Figure 1Figure 1 Conceptual Framework

The 20 youth who volunteered to be the main participants in the research were selected based on the following criteria: from grades 10 or 11 (as of 2014-2015 school year) at the nucleus site of the field (a school in the Bayankhongor provincial center), from families that live in the remote countryside and are currently practicing pastoralism, and parental consent was given for their participation in the research. Over the seven months that spanned between 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, a workshop was held at the school or the girls’ dormitory on average at least once per week. The objective of the workshops was to progressively deepen the research team’s understanding of the main informants’ perspectives and experience on different aspects of research questions. The research is designed to answer the main question of how do youth from Mongolian pastoralist families experience and perceive the influences of ICT in their lives as they encounter these technologies through formal and informal forms of learning? The main research question is operationalized via the following sub-research questions:

  1. Where and how do these young people learn about ICT?
  2. What are their views on the applications of technologies that they have encountered at school and at home?
  3. How does the combination of ICT and education impact their relationship with pastoralism?

mongolia(blog))10A diverse toolbox of research methods was used to facilitate a process through which main research participants, as individuals and as a community, could engage in critical reflexivity about how ICT impacts their lives from the social, temporal and spatial dimensions. The research team was composed of the researcher, main informants and a main translator. Visual participatory research (VPR) techniques were used to gather either individual and/or collective responses to questions posed by the researcher during the workshops and interviews. The questions were developed from preliminary in-field analysis of data collected from each workshop and interview; therefore the data collection sessions were built on each other as new depths emerged throughout the fieldwork period. The following diagram (Figure 2) summarizes this multidisciplinary methodological framework:

Figure 2Figure 2 Methodological Framework

The data collected from VPR methods are currently grouped in the following categories: collective responses, individual responses, photo essays (click on the following hyper links for videos containing samples of data).

Selected themes from the collective responses of main research participants can be found in this video:

  • Defining ICT
  • General uses of ICT
  • Specific daily uses of ICT and exposure to ICT at school
  • Localities and available ICT of the educational landscape
  • Timelines of ICT availability in soum (semi-urban) centers
  • Geography of personal ICT uses at school
  • Lifestyle differences within the urban and rural spectrum

mongolia(blog))4Selected themes from the individual responses of main research participants can be found in this video:

  • Family’s seasonal migration patterns
  • Social networks at home and at school
  • Specific daily uses of ICT at home
  • Timelines of educational experience and 1st ICT usage
  • Genealogical charts (education, professions and residential localities)
  • Perspectives on personal future post upper secondary education
  • Perspectives on e-distance learning

The research participants used the Photo Voice method to produce essays(photos, videos and corresponding written texts) that portrayed their everyday life in different seasons and places as well as their perspectives on how ICT have been and could be incorporated in these spaces. The following photo-essays were produced: at home (fall 2014, sprinmongolia(blog))6g 2015, summer 2015), and at school (early summer 2015). Selected components of these photo-essays can be found in this video. In addition to the anthropological ethnographic accounts from the researcher’s participant observation of the main informants’ social landscapes, the contextualization of the main informants’ data will also be grounded in a descriptive survey of the school’s student population from pastoralist families, a descriptive survey from the school’s teachers, and interviews from key school administrators and teachers, provincial and national persons from the Ministry of Education, and members of key students’ nuclear and extended families.

Works cited

Bayliss, P. and P. Dillon (2011) ‘Cosmologies And Lifestyles: A Cultural Ecological Framework and Its Implications for Education Systems’, in Lauriala A., R. Rajala, H. Ruokamo and O. Ylitapio-Mäntylä (eds) Navigating in Educational Contexts, pp. 179-190. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Foucault, M. (1982) ‘The Subject and Power’, Critical Inquiry 8(4):777-795.

What is ICT? (2013, December 6). UNESCO. Retrieved from http://www.unescobkk.org/education/ict/technologies/what-is-ict/

Kim Chi Tran is currently pursuing a PhD in Development Studies at the International Institute of Social Studies – Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Her research interests include ethics and practices of accountability, education and mobility of children and youth, child-centered research approaches, and visual participatory research methods. She can be reached at tran@iss.nl.
Linkedin profile: https://nl.linkedin.com/in/kimchi-tran-96b4591b