Friday, December 12, 2008

Learning 2.0: A Colorado Conversation -- Texas, Maybe, Someday?

What is Learning 2.0: A Colorado Conversation?

Learning 2.0: A Colorado Conversation is a one day conference/meetup for teachers, administrators, students, school board members, parents and anyone who is interested in education. It will be held on Saturday, February 21st, 2009, from 9:00 am until 3:00 pm at Heritage High School in Littleton, Colorado, USA (different location than last year - here’s a map). We assume most folks will be from Colorado, but everyone is welcome to attend, and we are working on some ideas for virtual participation.

Education is conversation. Conversation creates change.

The future of education does not exist in the isolated world of theory and abstract conference sessions. Instead, it exists in conversations. It exists in creating a robust learning network that is ever-expanding and
just-in-time. Learning 2.0 is not the beginning of this conversation. It is merely a stopping point, a time to talk about the visible difference that we all seek.
We read. We reflect. We write. We share. We learn.
Check out Bud the Teacher's blog for more info.

I have yet to participate in one of these conferences, although it's going to happen soon.

It still feels that the gap between the families/students/teachers I'm most concerned about are located on the other side of a wide chasm...the third world that exists within this first world of ours. I'm personally getting somewhat geeky and racking up many hours learning/using social media...
But my dear, dear undersourced and problem-plagued communities, what can I do to help build the bridge? On the one hand I know some very dedicated and powerful grass-roots community leaders who have engendered and catalyzed leadership, self-sufficiency and economic growth in the poorest of colonias in south Texas and who see computer technology, online communication and social media as frills, distractions and unessential to basic community development.

At the other end of this multi-strand, perhaps cubic, environment, are some super-geek/multi-talented classroom teachers who look down their techie noses at some educators just attempting to use email. I overheard one such God's-tech-gift-to-teaching say under her breath "Why are these tech-retards presenting the cutting edge of their tech sophistication by how fancy their Power Point slides are?"

Recent painful experience: A state-wide, required three-day conference for all the schools in the state that are in school improvement (Not passing AYP). My ten minute presentation was followed by a forty minute lecture with what felt like too many slildes. The audience of 600+ administrators did not look engaged.

I was desperately attempting to keep my eyelids from closing and faking intense attention on the speaker. It wasn't just that the technology was mis-used, but that our current 60+ years of well documented/researched knowledge of best practices in the teaching of adults were being ignored. Technology and small group participation could have made that morning a much more lively, productive and memorable (for the right reasons) experience for those beleagered administrators.

Back to Learning 2.0 in Colorado. My dream is to see an explosion of Parents Learning 2.0, in a language undertandable to parents, and in a location close to where they live. I envision the school age children as the ambassadors and bridges for their families to Learning 2.0. I have had some small windows of insight (lower-case and not related to Microsoft) with the Youth Education Tekies So, more power to the Learning 2.0 gatherings.

Nevertheless I am a child advocate who has chosen to focus on family leadership in education, and within that direction to specifically connect with and for families that are poor, minority, and speak a language other than English.
So I and those of the same cause have to figure out simultaneously how to bridge the technology gap in the poor neighborhoods and under-resourced neighborhood public schools.

Maybe the Community Technology Centers could be re-vived and given new life, new partnerships with neighborhood public schools and become the sites where children bridge both language and technology for their families. If the economic boost that the new administration supports includes as serious investment in education and technology we might take some large steps in that direction.

One never loses hope, do one?

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Blog Bouncing Boon - Choiring to my preaching

It started in TWITTER with this entry

@timoreilly Retweeting @SarahM: Nice perspective from @jeggers on why the financial crisis may provide entrepreneurial opportunity: 2
minutes ago from twhirl

I'm not very interested in entrepreneurial opportunities from the economic lemons but curious about the lemonade. The entry was not as interesting to me as a previous post on the side-bar:POVERTY: POOR, DESTITUTION, SCARCITY, DEFICIENCY. and "Blog Action Day" in Life on a shirt. The purpose of Blog Action Day is to bring focus to an issue that matters to all of us by putting the power of blogging behind one topic. This year’s topic is Poverty.
I read through the blog, not totally interested (I'm not an easy sell on how entrepreneural juices connect to economic justice although micro-lending and other very exciting current efforts are catching my attention) but stopped on this response gem:

Nick Siewert October 21st, 2008 at 7:15 am
Great post. I think educational equity and smarter education is a key. As a teacher, I see kids who don’t have any idea what their talents are or how to leverage them or who are thwarted because the talents they have don’t fit or are ground down by cookie cutter school settings. If you like Buckingham’s approach, you have to check out Jenifer Fox’s book Your Child’s Strengths (Viking 2008). She points out that focusing on kids strengths in school is an equity and justice issue. And she shows how to do it.

I went to Amazon and found this Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful: Starting them on a Me Inc. journey , August 22, 2008 By Dennis DeWilde "The Performance Connection"
The older we get, the more we realize that life is a journey of discover into who we are; and those who help guide us along that path are called our most honored teachers. In this easy to read tutorial, educator Jenifer Fox relies on stories from her life and her life's work with children to demonstrate the importance of integrating that process into your child's education and then provides the how-to-do manual.
Arguing persuasively against systems that place all comers into a common box and then looks to identify failure (weakness) as the path to growth, Fox reminds us that we are all unique, individual beings with both weaknesses and strengths. Recognizing that our weaknesses are most often the underside of a powerful strength, educator Fox shows us how to use this strength base as a foundation for growth and learning - starting not when we are adults, but starting from an early age by incorporating this concept into our educational institutions. Recognizing that this strength positioning applies not just to students, but also to the teachers, Fox created an Affinities
Program as an alternative to standardized teaching and testing methodologies.

Then returned to the Nick Siewart connection to find out who Nick is, but the name was hyperlinked to this site: which is selling the book and then to Jennifer Fox’s blog

How About a $700 Billion Bail Out For Our Schools?! She wrote my truth so I added my comments. I also found a site for Marcus Buckinham

"Our company's greatest asset is our people!"
It's a nice motto, but it's meaningless without introspection and application. And the truth is, people aren't your greatest asset, unless they're in position to leverage their
greatest strengths - those things they do well consistently and energetically.

Although he's speaking to the private sector, it's the same asset-based message of McKnight et al, and the 'valuing students' message of my organization's Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program.

Though I didn’t find out more about Nick Siewart but got to several blogs that are 'choiring' to my preaching. This 2.0 world is marvelous. Where was the internet when I was doing my graduate school work!

Posters by WORDLE

Monday, November 10, 2008

Brave Nu Web: From Atomized to Atomic & Rude to Civil

Web 2.0 is the latest way we communicate and interact on the web by facilitating collaboration, networking, and sharing among communities
on TWITTER from @WomenWhoTech womenwhotech

  • nu: a measure of the dispersiveness (or constringence, as it is called) of a lens or prism.
Chris Brogan's recent Communications in a Post Media World at a midpoint read:
We hold the tools. We have the goals. We have permission. It’s us.
What comes next in a post media world, where everything is atomized, is that we work on building molecules. We cast off the old models, and we assemble new forms.
Put up your first signal. Get your voice out there. What happens next? Do people respond? Because what comes next, I believe, is that you gather together the people who share your views. You reach out and connect with those who understand your goals, who share them, who breathe them in the same pulse. And as you learn how to reach out to people? As you tune your signal, you’ll find that you can accomplish more with more people in collaboration.

These thoughts, combined with some rules and etiquette just read in Jenna's Blog
in Blogs by Jenna:
Community Code of Conduct: Rules & Boundaries

The culture of any social venue—whether on- or off-line—reflects its underlying
assumptions, perceptions, and customs, providing the emotional glue or tissue
that defines individual experience. Participants depend the community provider to keep things in order—reflective of the culture and appropriate to the topics they expect. Over the years, our community/moderation managers haves noted some best practices for rules and boundaries in a community:
It’s crucial to define the type of content and behavior that’s allowed (and not allowed) prior to launch. When they sign up, members should get the option to agree to the standards you’ve set, and membership denied to anyone who doesn’t agree to follow the guidelines. Ideally, the standards are available for review at any time. When people are fully aware of the expected protocol, peer pressure and self management strategies work best.

As I experience an online network that is broader and more complex than the regular, 20th century one I have connected with over 40 years, I'm getting the good & the bad; the indifferent & the useless. Somewhere underneath all the manure there's got to be a pony. It sure is helpful to have these young-but-old-in-geek-years guides!!!


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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Linked In...for Education Advocates?

Attending a board meeting of Parents for Public Schools in Chicago I mentioned, during an informal conversation, that I had over 1100 connections in Linked In.

The reaction was on a scale from neutral to wrinkled-nose dis-belief. Many of my colleagues are seasoned techies and effective users of web 2.0, social media and whatever else one calls all the Internet and communication tools we have at our disposal. I guess I have a deep personal prejudice rooted in the condescension and belittling reactions from BayArea cutting-edge, politically correct snobs, who are also quite efficient in selecting and using the social media tools. I have no qualms about my strengths and skills and really get my briefs bunched up when I get a more-progressive-cutting-edge-than-thou response to my admittedly crude but actually quite amazing quick dives into this world dominated by much younger, much more technologically adept geeks. I'm an old, flatulent 60s liberal, but I really see the possibilities in this new world of communication and networking -- clearly a force in electing the new president.

I'm new to most of it and don't yet have an easy grasp of what tool and software are most useful for what uses, and more importantly, how can I use all of these to increase the network of education advocates. I'm going to list a few:

  1. I've got Linked In. Within Linked In I've created two groups: Excellent Public Schools for ALL Children & PIRC & PTA. I invited many to join the first early on, but can't get a real conversation going, and the second I created recently as a place for directors of Parent Information Resource Centers to connect with PTA state presidents and other leaders. I've been told that Linked In isn't the best place to have an interactive group, but that's where I started them, so that' where I'll see what happens, at least for the next six months.

  2. This blog was started about the same time I joined Linked In. I've gotten some responses, and my google analytics tells me that I get visitors every day, from four to a high of 29. I've been told that's not too shabby for a new blog in a what would seem to be a narrow focus and one that doesn't have huge participation from online techies and geeks.

  3. Then there's TWITTER. I'm @aureliom and at it first felt time wasted. Who cares about the coffee you're drinking at the moment or the traffic jam you're stuck in. But amidst the TMI posts, I found some useful information, got some questions answered, and enjoyed the moment to moment reports from NPR et al. TWITTER has brought some readers to my blog, and we are following each other. I do hope to increase connections with education advocates and activists through TWITTER, but it's been better than I expected.

  4. To start the Linked In group I was required, I thought, to have an external group already in place so I started a google group, Excellent Education for ALL Children and with a good group. We started a good dialogue and then it plopped. I don't know why, but it did.

  5. One of my mentors in this huge universe of 2.0 and the Internet, Bryan Person introduced me to Social Voice and I started my Aureliom's Blog. This website seems much more compatible with my social change and educational advocacy goals, but there isn't a large membership and usage, as in Blogspot. But I've gotten some very good contacts and actual conversations going there.

  6. I've joined Classroom 2.0 and think I'm in the right environment, but the educators in that context seem so technologically advanced that it'll be a while before I can get them to converse rather than patronizingly give me 'basic' advice.

  7. I'm using JOTT because it's such an amazing tool to convert my oral notes into emails that then are my working notes for articles, task lists and thoughts captured for future use. This tool is especially useful when I'm driving on a trip that is an hour or longer.

  8. I've organized all my 'favorites' in delicious but I still don't know how to make it available on my laptop because I set it up on my office desktop PC.

  9. I've been recording Classnotes Podcasts at work and on other sites. Lorna Constantini from Parents as Partners invited me to podcast with the EdTech group -- the comments were very positive. A real time chat room was concurrent with the SKYPE conversation.

  10. I've also joined UTTERLI, BOXBE, The PERFECT NETWORKER, StumbleUpon & PLAXO. Many more that others registered me onto or that I signed up but forgot. Most of the connections are for people looking to sell something, get a job or hire someone and other entrepreneurial efforts and so I'm challenged in seeing how to use these for my social networking goals.

So, this list might not be of much general interest, but it's my ongoing catalog of immersion in this wonderful, dizzying new 2.0 world.

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Equal air time (but you have to be online)

I'm blogging at a very interesting site Another blogger, much more experienced, is Judith's blog: Through the virtual looking glass - online focus groups She's been following online focus groups and assessing respondent's reaction to the process. One critical finding is that some participants feel that they have more space to be listened to. I'm a teacher/trainer/facilitator and creating spaces that give participants equal air-time is a constant challenge: allowing those who are under-participating to have the opportunity to express their opinions and toning down those who are dominating the conversation. The online focus group context seems to allow for more equitable participation, but only if you are able to get online, and are literate enough in the language of the dialogue, and have the keyboarding skills necessary to type in your opinions.
So, I'm very supportive of the equity in participation for those who have the access, the skills and the literacy necessary.
I'm still going to depend on face-to-face interviews and discussions because there are many, many poor families that don't meet those minimum criteria and those families most definitely need to be encouraged to talk and give their opinions. I'm working on encouraging their children who have much more extensive contact with and use of technology in school to participate in online focus groups because they also need to be heard as a student group.

I will also contiue to figure out how to bring technology to communities that don't have easy access withoutseeing technology as the Good Ship Lollipop.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Children's HEALTH & safe INTERNET use

Two articles about important services
Flu Shots PTA Pushes Flu Shots for Kids
Richard Kanowitz told me a story that is every parent's nightmare: He and his
wife put their 4-year-old daughter, Amanda, to bed sick one night, and "in the
morning, she was gone." Amanda had died of influenza B, the plain old seasonal
flu...Kanowitz's Families Fighting Flu group has launched a "say boo to the flu!" campaign,
which is offering to vaccinate the whole family at events in cities around the
before Halloween. After that, there's the Parent Teacher
Association's "Let's Fight Flu Together!" program, in which local PTAs can schedule a shot clinic at school, with parents paying $30 per vaccination. (Some health plans cover the cost of flu shots, but not all.) Kanowitz, a lawyer in New York City, is unapologetic about the fact that vaccine maker Novartis is helping fund the PTA
clinics. "Until they create a vaccine to stop me from asking" for money to promote childhood flu vaccinations, "I'll ask," he says... Go to the hyperlinked article for more details
Children's ePals Education and Community 2.0
Posted: 29 Oct 2008 02:05 PM CDT
Community 2.0 has entered the Education space with ePals, which encourages collaboration between classrooms. Growth of this new community has been significant with over 16 million members, in conjunction with 5,000 new classroom joining in as mentioned here. Recently the company was awarded with the 2008 Education Software Review Award granted from the ComputEd Gazette. Edmund Fish, CEO of ePals had this to say regarding their growth:"Increased awareness of safe and effective web-based learning tools, and ePals' decision to provide these services without cost to schools, are important factors in this unprecedented growth. Our members have told us they have chosen ePals because of a combination of a safe, purposeful learning environment; powerful communication tools enhanced for collaboration; meaningful learning opportunities designed to build reading, writing and problem-solving skills that are easily implemented in classrooms; and a large, diverse community of like-minded users so that classroom 'matches' can be global or local, but always productive. This combination makes ePals unique, satisfies user needs and delivers meaningful learning outcomes."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Twitterers that blurt, plop

Expergiscere et coffeam olface[1]

Just read Mr. Keith Burtis, woodworker, media maker, and PodCamp veteran, as a guest blogger on Chris Brogan's blog.
He confirmed what I suspected about TWITTER communications. If you just use it as a place to announce, to sell and to preach, it really won't work because you are not conversing, dialoguing and really engaging in conversation with others.

Example: An organization that I am part of sent me note a few weeks ago asking if I would help announce a particular health campaign item in my TWITTER and BLOG. I did but I didn't like it. I got no reaction, response nor any evidence that anyone paid any attention.

I want to disseminate information but I don't think that just announcing things creates the network and interchange I seek from TWITTER, BLOGGER, LINKED IN and the other tools I'm using. The Brogan/Burtis blog helps distinguish among sharing, promoting, and blurting.
Even when some people seem to be just blurting, I randomly respond to their rants and it's interesting how surprised some are that someone else responds to their posting. I did receive the online equivalent of a cold-shoulder from some educators that were carrying on about their professional in-service and praising a consultant that I consider fairly bigoted and who is gaining great economic and publishing benefit by colluding with common prejudices that many principals and teachers have. I dropped in some comments and was given some quick, dismissive responses. I even emailed some longer articles that logically described my objections and received no further response. It was clear that those teachers didn't want me in their public but actually quite selective online discussion.
(I had been hoping that those whom I was trying to connect with would check my profile, my blog and other online data that would show them that I was a bona-fide educator and could possibly carry on a meaningful conversation. If any of those teachers from that clique did check me out, I obviously didn't meet their criteria. That's OK. I'm also a snob about certain things except I wish they wouldn't dangle their very interesting educator’s chit-chat on my screen. I'm slowly learning the more subtle and intricate aspects of TWITTER communication.)
Let me move away from the TWITTER vines with such low-hanging but very bitter grapes.

I know that just trying to announce, sell and preach doesn't work well on TWITTER and it is not very productive in blogging. Not for the long haul, anyway. It doesn't work in my office, nor with the teachers, parents, students and broader communities that I want to be connected to, and I'll probably occasionally forget my own tenet and then, upon reflection, see why certain on-line communications seem to plop.

What do you think, twitterers and bloggers?

[1] Wake up and smell the coffee. Latin for Even More Occasions. Henry Beard.Villard Books. New York.A.D. MCMXCI

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Caveat blogger - putting on a naive face

The good news: The questions I have posed on the use of social media in community development have engendered responses. That is good. Friends who have more experience with blogs counsel me to keep writing, regardless of the limited responses. My analytics graphs show from a high of 40 visits on one day to three.
The bad news: Posts that are of great personal interest and condense strong feelings have gone almost unnoticed while others that are not as connected to what I'm passionate about get read, and attract responses.
Consider the personal dilemnas with social media that I peridically post. I've gotten into several long dialogues with readers about them. What frustrates is that the responders clearly are reading the problem differently than I am experiencing it. It's especially frustrating when the responder is thoughtful and attempting to give good advice.
But most frustrating is that I realize that somehow my public questions are making me seem unsophisticated and naive at best...stupid at worst.

The fault is clearly in the question posed with little context description. When I posted "What social media to surf" the responses were interesting. See below:

As somone who has substitute taught classes including kindergarten, special
education, middle school and high school classes and worked with computers
for a living as well, I would offer the following comments: COMPUTERS ARE A
TOOL (nothing more) WHY IS IMPORTANT (Computer can be intimidating and take work. Students should be able to state why computers are so important
that they are willing to do triple the normal amount of work to learn them. )

HOW IS ESSENTIAL ( Drill, practice and rehearsal are important just to let
a student feel at home. It is important to do things that make a student
feel comfortable with them. Repitition and consistency are an important part
of building comfort) PLAY BRINGS OUT THE BEST (Students who play and imagine with computers learn much faster because they are driving the process. The
computer help them build self esteem) The thrust behind my comments focuses
on the need to grow student need and awareness of computer software value to
the point where the process is driven by students. As somone who has substitute taught classes including kindergarten, special education, middle school and high school classes and worked with computers for a living as well, I would offer the following comments: COMPUTERS ARE A TOOL (nothing more) WHY IS IMPORTANT (Computer can be intimidating and take work. Students should be able to state why computers are so important that they are willing to do triple the normal amount of work to learn them. ) HOW IS ESSENTIAL ( Drill, practice and rehearsal are important just to let a student feel at home. It is important to do things that make a student feel comfortable with them. Repitition and consistency are an important part of building comfort) PLAY BRINGS OUT THE BEST (Students who play and imagine with computers learn much faster because they are driving the process. The computer help them build self esteem) The thrust behind my comments focuses on the need to grow student need and awareness of computer software value to the point where the process is driven by students.

The response is from a teacher seeking practical solutions within a class but
I'm seeking something outside of that viewpoint. The last phrase 'process is
driven by students' is the most congruent with my point of view.
I'm grounded in a student/parent/client centered approach and my challenges are really much more complex than should I use TWITTER or not. I'm also experienced enough as a teacher that simple formulas don't work, at least not to replace my shortcuts to excellent teaching.

I also must also be ready to accept all those humane, people-centered friends, who though they personally are quite involved in online social media, see computers, technology, the internet and social media tools as a terrible imposition on the poor community with other priorities and urgencies.

The many suggestions to ignore technology, or at least stop imposing it on the community and to focus on cellphones tell me that if blogging, twittering and such are going to be of any practical use my blog should be the third draft of a carefully constructed piece...or continue to be barraged by helpful but off-the-target responses.

Do other bloggers have similar challenges?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

School Holding Power and Attrition: I need to know about these because...

I direct a PIRC: that's a Parent Information Resource Center to you (as if we need one more acronym to learn!). This project, the Texas IDRA PIRC must remind schools to be accountable to families. One important piece of accountability is the school report card required by No Child Left Behind, reflecting Adeqate Yearly Progress (AYP). AYP hinges on the results of a state-required test. But there are other very important aspects of how well schools are doing. The attrition rate IDRA (my organization) has published annually for over 20 years is one such important indicator. We say 'attrition' instead of labeling the issue 'dropouts'. We spotlight the school responsibility as 'holding power'.
The attrition rate – which compares enrollment in the ninth grade with enrollment three years later – is as important as are student test scores in measuring the effectiveness of a school.

If NCLB has school accountability as a priorities for Title 1 Schools (those schools where most of the students come from poor families) and these families are presented with data on the attrition rates of their schools, what actions should these data engender?

1. Schools face the challenge without blaming students and parents;

2. School holding power responses succeed through institutional transformation rather than simply bringing back students that have left and putting them in the same-old, same-old;

3. Family-school partnerships develop positive and pro-active solutions to ensure student success and high school completion; and

4. Moving beyond punitive and siloed classes and campuses toward solutions based on valuing, supporting and having high expectations for students and families.

Concurrent possibilities:
Families take action because they engage in conversations about school accountability.
Meetings and gatherings to examine how schools are doing are opportunities for dialogue and invitations to see the big picture beyond their own children.
Families demonstrate concern about the education of all children.

These conversations (possibilities) exemplify the spirit of Title I parent engagement requirements and have influence far beyond meeting the letter of the law by sending a school report card to individual families. School children, especially those in Title I schools need families and teachers to come together to figure out what will most help them succeed in school.

Yesterday IDRA Released the Texas Public School Attrition Study, 2007-08, “At Current Pace, Schools will Lose Many More Generations of Students.”
The results are in. IDRA’s 2008 Annual Attrition Study for the state of Texas, released today, finds that: Texas schools continue to lose one student every four minutes; One of every three students (33 percent) from the freshman class of 2004-05 left school prior to graduating with a high school diploma. In Texas for 2007-08, 44 percent of Hispanic students, 38 percent of Black students, and 18 percent of White students were lost from public school enrollment. Between 1985-86 and 2007-08, more than 2.8 million secondary students have been lost from public school enrollment in the state.

Graduation4All e-newsletter

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Which Social Media Waves To Surf? A Latino’s Dilemma

Peter Kim’s poster: 234 social media marketing examples
reminds me of a question that keeps gnawing at me. I just saw this poster as I was following Bryan Person's note on missing the Social Media Breakfast in Boston. This phenomenon is new to me but one in which I will probably be participating some time soon because Bryan now lives nearby in Austin. It appears most users are seeing social media as a business development resource. Some are clearly using these tools for community development and social change but most of what I pick up from TWITTER and the blogs of key developers is that it is a business. It seems that these tools are ultimately being developed, explored and refined for paying the rent. That's good and I wish them all financial solvency. (If I’m wrong, the blog responses will give me rich resources to tap, especially if they give me very specific examples that differ and hyperlinks to follow)

But, how can these tools benefit the causes that I’m most concerned about?
Responses to my blog remind me that within the Latino community there are many families that have neither the access nor dexterity to connect effectively online. I agree that in creating community, furthering social change and catalyzing collective action, there is neither replacement nor stand-in, no Avatar, for direct, real face-to-face human contact. (Though I’m concerned about the Chicano/Latino/Hispano community I grew up in, these issues apply to all poor and struggling communities.)

Yet I also know that most young Latinos have access to, and use, phone and online connections that go way beyond what their parents and grandparents have and use. I’ve written before about specific experiences in which the young (pre-teen through young adult) show dexterity in tech use and great generosity and propensity to bring the adults along into the internet world.

My challenge is two-fold: 1) how to give the youth from the disadvantaged communities greater access to more tools and figuring out which tools are the most effective in furthering community development goals, and 2) How to continue exposing, teaching, spreading technology to adults in those communities where it is least present and hardly being used.

So, to return to the poster and the question that I opened with: which of these should be used? Where will the synergy happen fastest? What will enable the critical mass of connections so that the face-to-face organizing is accelerated, enhanced and extended through these tools?
I guess I need something beyond the excellent graphic by Brian Solis which I highlighted last month.

Or, it already is happening, but I’m not privy to that information.?!

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Internet links for poor folks without computers?

Up to now, my most popular blog entry has been the
Conversation Prism by Brian Solis. I now know this because one of my geek/techie co-workers showed me how to get my Google Analytics to work after a frustrating month of getting no data.
But one reader's reaction caused me to do some serious stepping-on-the-brakes:
Thank you for the link. Although I am not part of this original conversation I feel a need to always point out that there is always a divide that we often neglect to acknowledge when it comes to working with our Latino community. Although the model that was presented covers many bases, most if not all the components highlighted by the colorful flower is web or computer based. I would have to say that a great deal of our Spanish speaking community has been left behind or are on the wrong side of the computer/technology divide. Therefore any outreach efforts or opportunities that exist to connect with them are through other sources, including personal one to one community contact - Just some thoughts.

This is so true. For those of us who are interested in the community that happens to be poor and is struggling just to put food on the table and keep a roof overhead, it is somewhat fanciful and impractical to give them information about online resources. Even if there is a computer in the home, dial-up connections (slow and frustrating as they can be) are an added expense that many can't afford. Many education advocates point to the technology divide as the biggest equity chasm these days: any child with a computer and internet access at home has a clear advantage over the one that doesn't.
Nonetheless, there are efforts that some of us are carrying out to directly address this challenge. A couple of years ago I wrote an article about a project in south Texas where we were availing ourselves of the natural connections between Latino students and their families. I'm going to drop in the middle section of the article:

Organizing the Youth Education Tekies
...the participating students decided to form a group to support the ongoing technology connections for their families. Few had computers at home, and even fewer had Internet connections. All of the students involved had ample technology skills and access to computers in school but were not active users of their e-mail addresses because of the lack of access to computers outside of school.
In most cases, they also were the translators for their parents and other adults. Historically, in the large migrant stream from south Texas to the many seasonal farm work sites in all parts of the United States, families have had a great dependence on school-age children to be the linguistic go-betweens for families that are Spanish proficient.
With a commitment from IDRA to support their efforts, 15 students gathered on a Saturday and formed a group. After extensive discussion, they agreed upon their vision and goals:
*Help parents to be strong defenders of an excellent education for all children.
*Provide the leadership of youth through technology.
*Be technology bridges for families and strengthen family connections.
*Develop personally through the use of technology.
They asked ARISE, a grassroots organization in the lower Rio Grande Valley, to be their sponsor and organized themselves under the title of Youth Education Tekies.
ARISE is a collaboration of five separately incorporated non-profit organizations each dedicated to building community so that families feel strong from within. It was founded in 1987 by Sister Gerrie Naughton, RSM, and has been co-sponsored by three religious congregations. ARISE focuses on community development programs for persons who are immigrants to the United States, primarily from Mexico.!_Bridging_Language_and_Technology_-_Educational_Leadership_Across_Generations/
So, those of us who are advocates for the Latino community,
or any other community for that matter, who for economic and social reasons does not own or have easy access to computers, technology and the internet, have to continue with the tried and true, face-to-face and personal, communication approaches that all effective community organizers and change agents have always used.
Yet, those of us who have the technology and the tools must accelerate our own understanding and skills in using them. After all, one of the factors that facilitated the pro-immigrant rallies of a few years ago was the connection that so many young Latinos had and availed themselves of on the internet.
Therefore with complete respect and support for real-time, all-bodies-and-souls-present-in-the-same-room communication and organizing to take critical action in support of the betterment of the community, I will continue to find ways to inform advocates about the tools and the possibilities to support leadership, advocacy and change for the better in all communities that are economically disenfranchised and culturally discounted by the institutions and powers-that-be.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

25 maneras to build your comunidad

I've gotten some requests from new online contacts for advice on how to build online connections. I'm very new to this, so I'm sending you some ideas I just saw today in Chris Brogan's blog. He's one of my online mentors, actually, although we've never met nor had a conversation.

Here are the first six. Visit Chris' blog and also get in the habit of reading his entries if you are interested in becoming more adept at connecting and networking online.
1. Read at least 100 blogs regularly. Not every post, but a variety. Extra hint: go OUTSIDE your particular passion circle.
2. Write brief, tight, actionable posts that people want to reference later.
3. Don’t ignore the value of linkbait and viral content. Don’t ALWAYS do that, but hey, it can work.
4. Give people your best. I know that sounds trite, but I’m saying don’t charge for the best and give away your crap. That’s a yard sale. Be Tiffany & Co.
5. When you write about people, use LINKS to connect your writing to them. This encourages good neighbor policies.
6. Write great titles that draw people in. (Brian Clark is the master.)

for the rest, the other 19, you have to go to the blog address I listed above.

For those new to my blog, please note that this is for my activist friends who are already adept at organizing, informing and generally being advocates but who are new to the social media world.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Conversation Prism by Brian Solis

In his Blog, PR 2.0,
Brian Solis presents a visual that really brings things together for me about current social media and its uses.
He says:
Last year, Robert Scoble and Darren Barefoot debuted the Social Media Starfish to visualize and document the rapidly evolving landscape for social tools, services, and networks.

If you work in marketing, public relations, advertising, customer service, product development, or any discipline that's motivated, shaped, and directed by customers, peers, stakeholders and influencers, monitoring and in some cases, participating in online conversations is critical in competing for the future.

Over the last month, I worked with Jesse Thomas of JESS3, to create a new graphic that helps chart online conversations between the people that populate communities as well as the networks that connect the Social Web. The Conversation Prism is free to use and share. It's our contribution to a new era of media education and literacy.

Even though Brian and his colleagues talk about marketing and seem to be addressing those who are in the business of using these tools to make profits, all this applies to those who are advocating, organizing, and trying to create positive social change in schools and other institutions.
For those of us focusing on family leadership in education these tools can give us more connections, accelerate actions and allow us to make more use of data and information.
The conversation prism affects all social conversations including those about social change.

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Google not just for your abuelita - great title - advocates and activists take note
Visit this blog.
I'm talking to those of us new to the social media network but old to education advocacy.Us older folks just waking up to the powerful networks, connections and online collaborations must take heed. Online connections are not necessarily a community, a movement or actions to change society, but, wow, they sure can help.
We must accelerate action...become more agile at seizing the moment, and connecting directly with larger networks.
Google isn't just for our abuelitas...And while you are at it, check out one of my Techie/Geek mentors, Bryan Person:
This is a great slide presentation on if any of you education activists is thinking about it, get a start with these slides.
Another very important person in social media is Bryan Solis. He's one of the greats and he keeps developing new stuff.
One amazing visual/diagram he developed brings together all the current tools and social media in a rainbow/fan/mandala that, for me, really integrated a myriad of things out there that I didn't know how to put together.
Check out
And there are many more to keep up with and who can guide us through these strange new social media paths.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's really about the STUDENTS

Let not young souls be smothered out before they do quaint deeds and fully flaunt their pride.*

I was going to say 'kids' but that's somewhat adultist...children doesn't usually bring up the image of older teenagers and young adults, so it's students, for now.
It really is about them. You families (adults, parents, older care-takers, legal guardians) just happen to be the ones who will most care and be in the strongest position to defend, encourage, believe in, and hope the best for the students.
I state this because the blog is titled Parent Leadership in Education. I'm not really a parent advocate, per se, but from a practical organizing point of view, have to go with the line of least resistance.
Families are not perfect, but then neither are children. I'm a child advocate because that is the specific group I have made my vocation and my work. It could have been workers or the environment or any other cause that I consider important and vital to a healthy society. I just decided.
As I support parents in having and creating the best possible neighborhood public schools for their children, I'm not romanticizing or idealizing families. None are perfect and few are candidates for sainthood by RC Vatican standards, but they are the ones I will defend and support.Too much is said against them. Even as Cosby and others support a logical and rational taking on of responsibility, I still see institutions, specifically schools, thinking and saying bad things about groups of families and children.
"It is the world's one crime its babes grow dull, its poor are limp, ox-like and leaden-eyed."*
So, to help swing the pendulum toward the other side, to balance out the overwhelming blaming of 'those' families and children, I'll raise the banner high and scream (though it might sound like a strange croak coming from an old geezer) Let's value, who'll be the loudest cheerleaders shouting
"Hooray for the children" er...students.

*Vachel Lindsay's "The Leaden Eyed". One of my favorite poems in the first Junior English textbook I used in San Felipe High School in the mid 60s.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

You talk, I listen. Parent Leadership 101

My definition of a parent leader in education includes two basic characteristics: one who listens and one who can bring others to a meeting or event.
I constantly have to explain, even to colleagues I work with, that I don't see leadership as something that happens after we have done basic parenting classes, and reviewed the responsibilities of parents etc. I'm really not interested in providing a full array of workshops on how to be a good parent. Families must lead and partner with schools to provide a great education for all children.
Leadership is integrated into every aspect of our work. It is fluid, organic and relational. Rather than search for and support an assertive and public spokesperson we want to nurture a community of families that are mutually supportive and that collectively act to have the best possible neighborhood for all children.

Example: An early activity in our series of meetings is Peer Listening. Paired off participants interview each other:

1. What do you think about the quality of your children’s education?
¿Qué piensa sobre la calidad de la educación que estan recibiendo sus hijos?

2. What do you think needs to be done to improve the schools?
¿Qué son las cosas que usted piensa se necesitan mejorar en las escuelas?

3. What do you expect from your children’s teachers?
¿Qué espera de los maestros de sus hijos?

4. What positive things is your school doing to support parent participation? ¿Qué cosas positivas esta haciendo sus escuelas para apoyar la participación de los padres?

5. What more should schools be doing to have more parent participation?
¿Qué mas deben hacer las escuelas para tener mas participación de los padres?

6. What else would you like to tell us about your schools, the education your children are receiving or about parent participation?
¿Qué otra cosa nos quiere decir sobre las escuelas, la educación que estan recibiendo sus hijos, o la participación de los padres?
Their homework is to interview other families and report their findings at the next session.

Emerging parent leaders become careful listeners, which also increases their ability to invite and bring other parents to meetings. Being listened to is a very powerful way to build assets within the community and greatly increases the chances that the one listened to will accept an invitation and actually show up at a meeting.

Our family leaders in education listen to other parents and can get two or more people to attend a meeting.

The first class session in parent leadership in education, 101, has just ended.
Go, interview and invite.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

In education, if shift happens, it's a rare event

I almost wish the phrase "paradigm shift" hadn't come into use.
How often can a human being change, shift, move away from, her/his view of the world? And then if it does happen,is it something that can be replicated in a process?
OK, my dears, line up for the peak experience of your life: guaranteed to change how you explain and organize what you call 'reality'. And if you believe me, I've also got a bridge I want to sell you, it's one of several between Laredo and Nuevo Laredo...

And yet, even if we don't use the phrase cavalierly or simplistically, those of us who want schools to change (meaning a fundamental transformation)are really asking for the principals,teachers and all the other adults on the campus to have a peak be knocked off the horse. It's comparable to Paolo Freire asking Brazilian language instructors to shift to the 'dialogical' when he contrasted teaching that oppressed to that which liberated.

Picture a typical inner-city or barrio school and imagine the setting, the context and the environment. Principals and teachers view the students as unteachable; hopeless...academically dumb. The students collude with the deficit point of view and consider themselves bad students and school to be boring. So as change agent try getting into their heads and re-organize the synapses; or become a miraculous opthomologist and remove the thick lens implanted in their eyes.

Draconian or miraculous measures are called for.

Hope springs occasional (not eternal)when it seems that planned events result in some major change. When the IAF group in San Antonio called C.O.P.S. , perhaps the nation’s most powerful community organization, organized the common folk in the barrios to demand, and get, what was coming to them, some of us thought that we were in a new age of democratic participation and influence by the majority of the poor and working class citizens. But after a while the power returned to the few,as if it had ever really left, and the populist energy was dissipated.
The Greeks really knew something about human penchant for changing the almost impossible ...pushing the boulder of our democratic dreams up the mountain...having it roll down on our dizzy heads...and maybe one dreamer gets a MacArthur genius grant...and a Mandela survives prison and then enjoys a little bit of hard-earned privilege.

So, attempting to transform our schools, advocating for the equity and excellence that all children merit and deserve is a Sisyphean task. Those of us committed to the cause will continue to do it with great hope and little evidence. Leaps of faith with slim proof of impact. I have colleagues that have theories of organizational change that change when you quote or remind them of their previously stated theory. It's almost as if they don't want to be pinned down...and with good reason. Any construct presented can be proven untrue in the next iteration. Not necessarily because the idea presented for school change was wrong, but perhaps because progressives are wedded to playing devil's advocate and are skeptics at heart.

It's very hard to change the people in the schools. Yet, sometimes, we do get the boulder to the top of the mountain. A principal who cares and is adept at managing a campus; teachers that are effective in teaching all children; a campus that is family friendly; and students who are learning and enjoying school. Yet looking down from the promontory of the excellent school, we see acres of boulders and endless vistas of mountains to attack.
So, shift happens in schools, but not very often. Some of us just aren't going to give up on the dream.