Tag Archives: social networking

Graduations: A Shared Event and Two-Way Invite

Graduations have symbolized an event of change and progression: A farewell to present, a welcome to a bright future. In the midst of the accolades, bravos, and congrats, beyond caps and gowns, speeches and spirits, there appears a missed opportunity—an opportunity that began when the individual and institution first met and continued until commencement day.

The missed opportunity comes in establishing long-term relationships between school and student, faculty and family, institutions and communities.  The typical scenario is that the worthy graduate will reach higher heights and someday return and give back, as an alum, in the form of financial support.  Ironically those who contact alumni, may have never met them while attending. Likewise, the graduate is seen in isolation and not as a social network connected to friends, families, communities, even cultures.

More recent discussions about engagement between educational institutions and learning communities have often ignored the event of graduation as an invitation to reaffirm a lifelong relationship. The best advocates for keeping campuses and communities together are indeed graduates, who represent dual constituencies, or at the least, potential community voices who can speak well on the behalf of their alma mater.

Still an opportunity forgone, if not nurtured and communicated from the start.  Perhaps three significant changes that could happen at graduations: 1) partnering graduates to interested individuals for mutual benefit; 2) providing an ongoing list of projects that graduates could volunteer, consult, or offer expertise inside and outside the institution; and 3) solicit ideas for how graduates’ families, friends, other graduates and students can take part in an institutional and communal agenda.

This is not to say that these actions have not taken place in some small measure, but that graduations are the “best campaign platform” for sustained engagement and relationship-building for future graduates and commencements to come.


‘Waiting for Superman’ Creates a Secret Hero

After watching this compelling work about the nation-wide damage to American elementary and highschool education, it leaves me bewildered. I’m taken back by how America continues to allow failing schools, bad teachers, and disadvantaged students—On second thought, I’m not surprised.

The documentary looks into the lives of at least four kids at different stages of their academic marathon. Unlike a marathon based on skill and talent, these kids hope to be selected to better schools based on a lottery, a game of chance where the probability of acceptance is too narrow to draw-out a starting line.

The highlight is that instead of “waiting for superman,” a few have taken the initiative to save the educational system one-child-at-a-time. An example is Geoffrey Canada (his name not the country) and the lifelong teaching improvements from his school in Harlem, New York.  These mere-mortals are featured as signs of hope in this real-life tragedy.

Actually, in this episode, “Superman” is the government; or any wish that America, with its equality-promise, would save us from our educational calamities:

Guess what?  No-one came. All are not saved.

If there’s a superhero, then there must be a villain.  Clearly the film picks one:  Teachers unions. 

Teachers unions, with their out-dated policies and bureaucracy, make for an easy target with overwhelming facts against them.  These unions are also politically organized. I suspect some push-back for ‘playing the bad guy’ without given a script—yet again, I’m not surprised.

As in any story, there’s a cliff-hanger conclusion:  What will happen next that could really make a difference to our schools?

In response, I’m not surprised about the facts and figures, friends and foes, in our educational system, because they support a status quo.   How else could we see the same damaging arguments, but different groups with different aims come up with different responses? 

The conclusion is no cliffhanger at all: Adults and job security are getting in the way of real education. 

As any comic book, I’m left with a moral message (somewhat opposite than what the feature intended): 

I see  the secret and potential ‘real superheroes’ are the parents and communities.  They are the ‘kryptonite’ to the educational system including all teachers and institutions: good, bad, or from another planet. 

In other words, if parents became lifelong educators, mentors, and guides, then the community would not seek out good teachers, but create environments where education is another standard of living, like money, food, and a good movie.  Parents add to childrens’ learning by teaching them, being living examples or what to do and what mistakes to avoid. 

In this new direction: Hope turns into responsibility and results. It takes education out of the hands of teachers into the arms of a national family that includes all.  Thus the new heroes are not only a few supermen and women or dynamic duos; but a mighty multitude, a courageous crowd that continually teaches and learns.

32 Days without a Cell Phone

ole bage phoneand still counting… What started as a refusal to pay an overpriced bill has turned into a personal research project.  I wondered what it would be like to not use a cell phone, and I came up with 3 major findings so far:

1.   Cell phones are biological just as red & white blood “cells.”  Imagine if you lost an arm or even a best friend.  There are bonds to our cell phones that we ignore until it is lost or gone.  Cellphones are mini-representations of ourselves and make statements about who we are.  Look at the Blackberry- i-phone war going on now: it’s really personal and we discover that ‘cellphone blood’ is thicker than plastic.

2. Cell phones are not actually for talking.  Some call these smartphones or super smartphones, but many applications attached to cellphones makes it unnecessary to speak.  In fact, due to texting or checking emails; talking is an afterthought.  A better outlook is that they are used for contacting and locating each other.  It’s probably weird today for someone to make a surprise visit stopping by while pressing a doorbell.   

3.  Cellphones acts as contact information.  What I mean is that having a cellphone is what people keep for the sake of others.  Additional examples are: home phones (some cells act as such); business cards; websites, and of course a facebook page.  If you are without any of these, you may appear outdated, disconnected, anti-social, or even suspicious.     

Overall, what I noticed in these 32 days is that I am more free. Free from checking my phone so often that I never  concentrate on one thing at a time.  Free from frustration when my signal is low, battery dying, or periodic drop calls.  However, although I enjoy these freedoms, they are  only temporary.  I’m still bound by the wave of social connection and constant communication.  Having what could be considered as a PC bagphone on your hip, you have complete access to the world. 

But, when I finally succumb to being cell-phoned again, I hope to keep in mind that my life is more than devices. I’m convinced that being truly connected means being fully linked-in with oneself.

Entertaining while Educating

www.northeaststage.comWhen I sit down to see a movie or play, I slouch in my seat waiting to be entertained. I’ve become a critic at best by analyzing acts, second-guessing performances, and judging the proper use of lines or voice for most effect.  At the movies, I might even comment on camera angles, acting skill, or a scene’s usefulness.

When I’m sitting in a classroom, lecture, training, and the like, I may not slouch but I’m still an observer. Watching powerpoints, handouts, effective use of time, and key points explaining why-we-are-here-in-the-first- place.  There’s nothing that triggers my mind to see an educational classroom differently from a performance theater. 

Should this be the case?  Should classroom and theater be treated as equal?

Despite a clear answer, we see teachers, speakers, educators, professors, even a student lecturing for the day, feel compelled to entertain us instead of educate.  Maybe that explains “icebreakers?”  These mostly pointless activities to keep us interested yet having nothing to do with the overall objective.

What these classroom ‘entertainers’ might consider is to do away with the performance bit.  Instead of finding ways to entertain, they should disclose what’s behind the scenes…even share the script…giving their audience speaking lines too.  Imagine if I went to a movie where I was an actor.  Wouldn’t I call it “my movie” and would invite all who knows me to come and gaze at the screen.  I might even sell “authorized” dvds!  The point is that I’m not a distant observer anymore but an active participant and promoter of the film.   

What if educational settings were directed in such a way? Where the students and learners have essential parts to play.  Both practitioner and learner would have necessary roles— not for entertainment, but for learning shared by all      

Looking for a Universal Learning Language

edtechroundup Idea Image

When seriously thinking about Lifelong learning and continuing education, it becomes not an idea just for America, Canada or even Australia, but for the entire world.  But if educators are to consider a global perspective, what is the common language or practice we share? (Especially when we have different cultures, lifestyles, social classes, economics, and all the rest)

What can a professor in Kenya learn from a teacher in America; how can an instructor in Seoul gain anything useful from a trainer in Montreal?

This common language in my view is the very practice of learning and education itself: the activities, lessons, and methods teachers use in education.  We must start to analyze lectures, group discussions, role plays, and demonstrations just like surgical tools in medicine.  All educators as professionals should know in what ways to use a learning method and what level of skill or competence is necessary to perform it. 

This may seem like an easy task, but through my entire experience as a student and an evolving educator, I have yet to see a comprehensive ,well-detailed synopsis of teaching activities and methods with very clear purposes.  Instead what we have seen are professional assessments of teachers’ philosophies, beliefs, and values assuming that once understood, instructors can shape these activities and methods how they see fit….Really?

For example, just because I may know that I subscribe to an educational philosophy, or being a learner-centered teacher with the students’ interest in mind; this does not address my actions. For when I teach, I am no more knowledgeable about what steps to take to ensure my educational philosophy and intentions, or whether they are being met thorough my teaching performance.

Therefore, this blog is to announce my intention to research these activities of learning. Not just as a means of American education, but as a key to establishing a universal language of teaching learning and improving the learning profession.  I know that the major accomplishments of mathematics with its universal symbols will never be challenged, it would be nice to find a way for educators to speak to each other across the world.