Sunday, July 31, 2005

A tutor/mentor program is a place where idealism meets reality. Day 2 at o-net.

mI was only able to attend the O-net conference for half a day Saturday. However, I read through all of the summary reports and blogs this morning. I hosted a conversation on Saturday, focused on creating a group of active o-net members who work to draw people from universities into o-net conversations, with the goal of recruiting resources to support o-net projects.

As I said after Friday's day-long session, I'm really impressed with the talent of the people who are participating in the conference, and who have posted introductions at www.omidyar.net. One person I talked to yesterday was a PhD student at Purdue, who is organizing information intended to be used to help connect people doing good work with resource providers. Another person was a technologist who had great ideas of creating alternative currencies that would encourage people to share talent with each other. A third was a women with an idea of creating visual databases to map assets.

I was really inspired by the Peace Tiles project. I hope we can duplicate this in Chicago tutor/mentor programs and connect our kids with kids in African and on other continents.

When I read one of the blogs, one person was questioning whether or not O-net was just a lot of talk, or if it was stimulating action (providing resources for O-net members to do their various projects). I'm hoping that my participation accelerates the rate at which people help each other, or draw new resources into o-net that end up helping members of the community do their work.

However, until this happens it is idealism within a world where the daily papers remind us of reality. A few weeks ago I did a Mind Map of the Sunday Chicago Tribune. Today I did another. I found a really great story written by Mary Schmich, one of my favorite writers, telling how people had responded to an earlier story about a computer center in Cabrini-Green being flooded, with all computers destroyed. Because of her first story, people provided new computers, and everything else needed to get this site up and running again. That demonstrates the power of the media.

However, in the same section of the Tribune Metro section was a story about a boy being fatally shot at a playground on the far South side of Chicago. There was another story on the same page about a Muslim teen center re opening, after being closed since 2003. These neighborhoods don't have a feature writer of the Chicago Tribune, or SunTimes, writing regular stories about life in these neighborhoods. Most of the times they get in the news is when something bad happens.

My mind map linked these stories. Every time I read a story about Cabrini-Green, written by Mary Schmich, I just wish she'd end with "and this is just one neighborhood of Chicago where kids live in poverty and need extra help with volunteers, donors, technologist, etc." (and provide a link to web sites that people could use to learn about other places where volunteers, donors and technology are needed).

If she and other reporters were doing this regularly, maybe people would have been helping the Muslim teen center get computers, and maybe the boy shot on a playground (or the shooter) would have been inside sitting at a computer rather than out on the street where something terrible happened.

When I sit with my friends at O-net and talk about ideas, it is with an urgency of putting these ideas to work to help more kids in cities like Chicago have safe places where they can gather to learn, be mentored, have access to computers and the world around them. The reality is that while we talk of great ideas, we are losing kids to the streets and to poverty.

Maybe I cannot convince the media to consistently tell the rest of the story when they write their stories about individual tragedies or triumphs, but maybe I can enlist a few technologist at O-Net to help me create a map gallery that would show where negative news happens and where volunteers and donors are needed. If hundreds of friends at communities like o-net were to take on the same goal, we might create a much larger public involvement and flow of resources to every place in the world where good people are trying to do good work to help people who need extra help.

What about you? Can you help?

2 comments:

lhtorres said...

hi dan! just checking in to see if there is any way i can support your students connecting with children and youth in africa through Peace Tiles. Perhaps there is an issue you would specifically like to address, or just build bonds and stimulate creativity across a broad theme? i'd love to help you!

www.peacetiles.net

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

I also would like to find a way to connect with Peace Tiles. I think it's a great concept. I've encouraged volunteers in our art club to consider incorporating this into a future project, but it's not taken hold yet. One way to brainstorm this, and possibly engage leaders of other tutor/mentor programs, is to start a discussion thread on Peace Tiles in the T/MC portal at http://msg.uc.iupui.edu/TMC/html/index.php

If you're interested, go to the portal, log in and introduce yourself. Post an invitation for people to join in a Peace Tiles project and then lets see who we can get into the conversation.

Thanks for your post.