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.