Monday, August 17, 2015

Sharing ideas. Who's Listening?

This graphic illustrates the purpose of this blog, and the work I've done for the past 40 years. I'm trying to connect people "who can help" with people and organizations in places "where help is needed"..usually defined by high levels of segregated poverty.

I've been sharing ideas on web sites since 1998, using email newsletters, social media, blogs and other tools to try to extend the reach of these ideas. Last week I received a copy of the White Papers from the 2013 UIC Forum which focused on uses of information technology in different regions of the country, with a focus on Chicago. The first article in the book was titled "TOWARD CONNECTED, INNOVATIVE AND RESILIENT METRO REGIONS" and written by Karen Mossberger, Chen-Yu Kao, Kuang-Ting Tai of Arizona State University.

Scroll down on the PDF to Table 1 and Table 2, which show high levels of Internet use in more affluent neighborhoods of Chicago, and low levels in low income areas. This disparity is troubling because it means the most of what I've been sharing is not being seen by people in low-income neighborhoods. Many years ago someone pointed out this disparity to me and I said, "I understand the lack of technology access and use in high poverty areas. However, my goal is that people who have talent and resources needed to change this, who live in more affluent areas, are looking at the information I share." This group represents "those who could help" in my graphic. If they are motivated to do so with any consistency, they could dramatically change internet access in low income areas.

However, if you look at Table 1, it shows that while nearly 90% are using the Internet, only about 50% of users in affluent areas are using the internet for on-line courses, or learning. That could mean that almost half of those who could be helping are not even looking at the ideas I'm sharing. That's a concern.

In different parts of the world this gap in Internet access and use is even more severe.

While I was leading volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs between 1975 and 2011 I made an effort to recruit technology-skilled volunteers who set up and managed computer labs at our program sites in the Montgomery Ward corporate office. In the early years these primarily gave kids opportunity to access learning games via disc based programs. As the Internet became a resource in the late 1990s they expanded the range of learning resources volunteers could introduce to kids.

During the 2000s it became more and more urgent that we find ways to motivate kids, staff, volunteers and others to become active learners, who spent their own time visiting web sites and learning from information available. I used weekly newsletters and the tutor/mentor program web site, to point students and volunteers to information in the homework help section of the Tutor/Mentor Connection web site, and in the research section. As I was able to raise funds in the mid 2000s for a technology coordinator at the tutor/mentor program, I created the graphic below, to show learning goals.

At the core of this was a goal of developing a habit of visiting organization web sites, now, and in the future, to get information, give information, connect with fellow student and volunteer alumni, etc. in ways that provide on-going benefit of the mentoring and tutoring community to each participant.

In 2008 the financial crisis began to have a huge negative impact on the program I was leading and by 2010 we had lost funds for a technology coordinator and in 2011 I also left the organization. Thus, the on-going effort to teach web learning habits was not in place long enough to have the impact I was hoping to achieve. I cannot tell from the organization's current web site if they are continuing this strategy.

I created the graphic below to illustrate the need to constantly expand the network of people who were looking at information and ideas we're sharing so that at some point in the future we could tip the scales for people living in concentrated poverty because we've innovated ways to build empathy, understanding and involvement from more people who don't live in poverty...which would also result in the on-line engagement of more people who do live in poverty.

I point to more than 200 Chicago youth serving organizations on this page of my web site. I point to other youth serving organizations and networks around the country on this page. I browse these sites every year and don't see many who show a technology learning strategy similar to what I've shared above.

Is that a reflection of activity not taking place, or the inability or organizations to show process and strategy on their web sites, or both? So many future jobs are dependent on youth learning the skills I show on the Learning Chart above, it would seem that donors would emphasize and encourage technology learning programs within every site-based tutor/mentor program.

I'll close with one final chart. This shows the potential for site-based tutor/mentor programs that operate in the non-school hours in different neighborhoods to recruit volunteers from different business and education backgrounds. These are people who already use technology for everyday work and learning who could be modeling technology uses for kids, and for the tutor/mentor programs where they volunteer. How many programs show this type of graphic as a model of the type of program they are building? This PDF shows more about this chart.

As we start the new school year I hope programs who are trying to build web learning habits in their youth and volunteer corps will share their strategies, on their web sites, in their blogs, and in research papers. As some share, others will learn. I'd also like to find a sponsor/partner who'd create a MOOC that draws programs, volunteers and donors together to talk about this topic and share strategies (or who is already hosting this discussion).

If YOU are one of those who are on line, and looking for ideas, please share this with others in your network.

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