Sunday, July 31, 2011

Networked Learning via MOOC

Vance Stephens who is one of the creators of the Webheads network is one of the people who constantly inspires me with his thinking and writing. Today I read this article and this article.

The first article introduced me to the concept of a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course)

It pointed me to this blog where a short video video gives a quick over view of what MOOC is.

Follow the other articles in this blog from one written May 28, 2011 to the most recent and you can see how a MOOC has been developing around an "e portfolio" course. You may be interested in the topic, or like me, you may be interested in the networked learning process.

The second article makes the connection between Josh Grobin, volunteerism, mentoring, and the innovative thinking of Sir. Ken Robinson, which you can see in the video below.

In sharing these links I'm trying to inspire people in Chicago and throughout the world to see that volunteer-based non-school tutor/mentor programs reaching youth in inner-city neighborhoods could provide the type of learning sparks and opportunities Robinson envisions, even when they are not provided by the local public or private school.

Since I can only reach a few people with my own articles, and there is so much information to learn if we want high-quality tutor/mentor programs to be available in most of the high poverty neighborhoods of big cities like Chicago, the ideas of a MOOC really appeals to me. It's a way to organize the information I've collected in the Tutor/Mentor Institute and share it with thousands of other learners, collaborators and experts who have their own ideas to contribute to this process.

Learn more about MOOCs. Learn more about what motivates volunteers to give more time and talent to a cause than paid workers often do on a job. Think about how these ideas intersect in a long-term process of learning, innovating and actions.

UPDATE: 8/22/2011 - This slide share by Vance Stevens provide a great deal of additional information about MOOCs and self-directed learning.


Imagine a MOOC timed to coincide with the November 2011 and May 2012 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences, or with the National Mentoring Month event in January.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Network Building - Who Is Helping?

This was the front cover of the Chicago SunTimes in October 1992 when I formed the Tutor/Mentor Connection. The editorial writer says ending this violence is "everyone's responsibility". For 18 years I've been reaching out to build a team out of "everyone" who would work collectively to make more and better non-school, volunteer-based tutoring, mentoring and learning centers available in all high poverty areas.

Due to recent changes I am creating a new organizational structure to continue this mission. It's called Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC and is based on the ideas I've been sharing on this site and this blog for over a dozen years.

This is not a non-profit structure so the challenges I face in building a team of people to help me are different than when the Tutor/Mentor Connection has a non-profit status with the Cabrini Connections program. I intend to build a new leadership team and re-establish the T/MC as a Chicago non profit, but that will take up to a year. By creating the Tutor/Mentor Institute I can continue to support the T/MC web sites and can offer my expertise to help similar networks grow in other cities.

So "who is helping?" That's a question people have asked me for many years. I'm connected to so many people, and the way people help is often in short term bursts, that it's always been difficult to describe the range of help offered. So I've created visualizations to demonstrate this and I continue to look for volunteers who can convert these into interactive Social Network Analysis maps.

This graphic shows the range of talent needed in the Tutor/Mentor Institute and in almost any innovative social enterprise. You can see the live version here.

If you click on the nodes at the bottom of the different units on this map it will take you to groups on the T/MC Ning site where you can see people who are "members" of that group. You can also see links to Twitter, Facebook and Linked-in pages that point to groups of people, or individuals who are working more closely with me. Ultimately a visitor should be able to click on any of these boxes and find names, profiles, discussion groups filled with people who are working in various ways to help the Tutor/Mentor Institute achieve its mission. Right now few of the boxes are filled and updating this map is a time-consuming process.

While my maps are built using power point and a free c-map application, this video shows how networks can be visualized using emerging free applications. I'm trying to apply this technology to show the growth of the T/MC and the different constellations and networks of people within the network. I just need to find the talent, time and/or investment to build this.

Introducing Gephi 0.7 from gephi on Vimeo.

However, if you are already working with the T/MC or want to help me help volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs reach more inner-city youth in Chicago and other cities, you can show your involvement just by joining one of the Ning groups. As you take an active role, it will be demonstrated by the work you do in each group. For those who want to go to another level, you can even join the OHATS group on Ning and become a recorder to document your actions.

"Rome was not built in a day" is a saying that implies the long term effort to build anything that is great and stands the test of time. This map will not fill in in a few months and might take years. However, as it does fill in with partners, volunteers, investors and leaders who share the same vision what we do to change the path from birth to career for youth living in poverty will dramatically change.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Indianapolis Mentoring Summit - Aug. 11

This page shows how the Mentoring Summit in Indianapolis is borrowing from ideas of the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in Chicago.

Join the Tutor/Mentor Conference planning and follow up group on the Tutor/Mentor Connection forum.

I'm trying to organize a November Conference in Chicago, but need to find at least $10k in sponsor dollars and/or donated space. We'll offer this under the Tutor/Mentor Institute LLC structure which I've created in July to support the continued growth and operations of the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago.

Contact me on Skype, Linked In, Twitter or Facebook, to offer your ideas and support. Sign up for the Indianapolis Summit via their web site.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Embracing visualization

This video is a demonstration of Gephi 0.7 which is an open source network analysis tool. If you read some of the network building articles I've written, perhaps you can envision how the different groups I've connected with over the past 20 years could seem like constellations and could be visualized using a tool like Gephi 0.7.

Introducing Gephi 0.7 from gephi on Vimeo.

My goal is to demonstrate that network building has a value, and must be supported consistently over many years if the size, composition and impact of the network is to have meaning. If we can demonstrate this then we can also teach network-building practices at universities and high schools and coach it in businesses and civic organizations.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Growth of the Network

This graphic illustrates the growth of my network since October 1992. At that time there just seven volunteers created Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. However, as this timeline shows, I had been building a network since 1973.

What I've not been able to do is show the growth of this network, nor show what people and organizations have helped in the past, or are helping now. This article is a list of people and organizations who help in the 1990s.

Now I'm preparing to launch the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, using the ideas we've been sharing on this site for over 12 years. Through the Tutor/Mentor Institute I'll continue to fund the web sites that support the Tutor/Mentor Connection and I'll continue to host conferences, one-on-one consultations, and on-line meetings and forums. My goal is to attract revenue from more than philanthropy so that the tools and services we build can have greater impact on the growth of tutor/mentor programs than we have been able to provide in the past due to lack of revenue and leadership support.

While many people have offered encouragement and some are more involved in helping me with this transition, I don't have a good way to visualize this, or to connect the people who are helping to each other.

I've been using concept maps to illustrate the range of people and organizations who need to take ownership of the ideas I've been sharing and how I've created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC to support the growth of the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago as well as similar groups in other cities.

This map is my first effort at showing the goals of the Tutor/Mentor Institute.

Today I'm working with a new concept map that illustrates the range of talents I need, and points to groups where I'm connected to people with that talent, as well as to some people who have stepped forward a bit to help me recently.

If you've been helping me already your name may show up in one of the nodes on this chart. If it's not there and you want to add it, just join one of the groups on the Tutor/Mentor Connection forum and take an active role, or join the Tutor/Mentor Institute Facebook group.

There is much to do and too many holes not yet filled on the talent chart. If you share the vision and want to take some ownership, please connect with me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Obama Urges Business Support for Education

July 18th article in Washington Post talks about an "unusual education roundtable" hosted by President Obama. It's considered unusual because business leaders and not educators are the main attendees. 

 I posted this comment: It would be great if these leaders were using their visibility, communications and influence to do on-going advertising that draws employees and customers to schools and non-school youth tutoring/mentoring programs in high poverty neighborhoods and if teams of employees were volunteering time to help high-quality tutor/mentor programs grow and operate in the same manner that corporate offices help hundreds or thousands of branch locations operate throughout the country.

Such a strategy needs to go beyond supporting the brand name and well known organizations that only serve a small fraction of the kids in neighborhoods with poverty and poor schools. Cities need to create on-line program locator/map-based directories such as the one we host in Chicago. See .

With platforms like this volunteers can choose from programs in many neighborhoods. They can help small and under funded programs constantly improve, while helping well funded programs draw from ideas of local, national and international programs to also constantly innovate new ways to keep youth and volunteers connected. 

Several cities do have program locators, but don't use these as platforms to attract volunteers and donors directly to the programs they list. It's hard to know if they use them to assess the distribution and availability of needed programs in areas with highest concentration of need based on poverty and locations of poorly performing schools, or high drop out rate schools. 

The service we host in Chicago is a pilot and has room for much improvement. Yet, I've found few map-based marketing strategies used by business to encourage volunteer involvement in programs designed to provide long-term mentoring, tutoring and career-education resources. 

President Obama was a speaker at a conference we hosted in 1999. Arne Duncan attended our first conferences in 1994. I hope they'll come back and take another look and apply some of these ideas in their efforts to expand the networks of support for kids living in high concentrations of poverty. and use them to attract volunteers and donors directly to

Friday, July 15, 2011

Life is a Jouney. Detours happen.

Today is my last day on the payroll of Cabrini Connections, the Chicago tutor/mentor program that I and six other volunteers created in the fall of 1992. I've been the president CEO for the past 18 years.

While we operate a single tutor/mentor program serving a small group of youth, my 35 years leading a tutor/mentor program, and my advertising background with the Montgomery Ward Corporation, led me to create the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 at the same time as we were creating Cabrini Connections.

Our goal was to build a system of supports that would help more children in Chicago be able to participate in high quality tutor/mentor programs by increasing the way those programs are supported by volunteers, donors, media, etc.

The video below illustrates some of the ideas I've developed over the past two decades.

Unfortunately we've not been able to attract the high profile leadership, celebrity or political support that is essential to raising the philanthropic capital needed to do what we're trying to do. In the end, the struggle to find money to operate the Cabrini Connections part caused the volunteer Board of Directors to decide they can no longer support the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Thus, I'm leaving the organization I started and have led for so many years and re-launching the Tutor/Mentor Connection. Initially I'm creating Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, which will enable me to move forward in organizing a November Conference, and see financial support from investors and others who believe in what we're trying to do.

I'll be working from my basement in Park Ridge and from donated space at HIGHSIGHT, located at 315 W. Walton in Chicago, which is one of the many Chicago tutor/mentor programs I've been connected to for more than 15 years.

The change from being part of Cabrini Connections to being a separate entity has happened quite quickly so many of the important details -- like how to generate income to support what we do and pay me and others to provide our time and talent -- have not been worked out.

Yet, in February 1990 when I left my job at Montgomery Ward, I did not know where the money was going to come from, yet I was committed to continuing my leadership of the tutoring program at Wards which I had led as a volunteer since 1975.

When I left the my role as Executive Directory and founder of the Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program in October 1992 I did not know where the money and help was going to come from to start Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection. Yet we've raised more than $6 million and involved more than 580 teens and 800 volunteers in the Cabrini Connections program since 1993. We've created a Tutor/Mentor Connection that connects the web sites and ideas of most of the tutor/mentor programs in Chicago to each other, and connects Chicago programs to the ideas of others around the world.

We still don't have a leadership system in Chicago or any other city that applies the ideas of the Tutor/Mentor Connection or draws consistent financial support to tutor/mentor programs in every neighborhood on a consistent and on-going basis. Thus we have an uneven distribution of programs, uneven quality, and inconsistent growth caused by constant changes of personnel.

So by leaving the CEO role at Cabrini Connections I will have much more time to devote to building tools that support collective efforts, collaboration, innovation and the on-going general operations of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and in other big cities of the world.

I hope you'll follow my progress, join the journey, and help put some financial gas in the engine so we can do this better then we've been able to in the past.

Thank you all for your support and thank you to the youth, parents, volunteers and friends of Cabrini Connections who have let me be part of your lives for so many years.

To those who give, much is given in return. I have given over 35 years to Cabrini Green youth and I believe I have been well rewarded through the love and friendship of the people I've met.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

RIP Latino Education Alliance

I received this message in today's email: "Latino Education Alliance (LEA) is closing its doors after 10 years as a nonprofit serving Latino high school students and families in Chicago. The decision to close Latino Education Alliance follows a year-long effort to reduce costs, the exploration of an affiliation with other agencies and conversations with our historic funding partners."

If you've been following my blog you know that Tutor/Mentor Connection also faces an uncertain future. Funding challenges have led the Directors of the Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection to decide to no longer support the T/MC strategy. Friday, July 15, 2011 is my last day as President, CEO of the combined organization.

However, it's not yet the final act. I've decided to create Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC to continue to innovate new products and services that can help cities support the growth of high quality, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs that reach a growing number of k-12 kids living in high poverty areas.

For me to succeed I need to attract volunteers and leaders with the skills shown in this graphic and/or I need to attract investors and donors who will provide the funds for me to hire people with these skills.

This is not starting over, or even starting new. I'm continuing on the same road, just changing from one mode of transportation to another. For a while that might seem like a move from a used 2005 Ford to a used 1999 Chevy. But as long as I'm able to steer and stay on the road, I think I can find a newer vehicle to carry the T/MC forward in the future.

If you're interested in helping join in at the T/MC forum on Ning or lets connect on Skype. My handle is "dbassill".

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Another shooting in Roseland

Today's Chicago SunTimes includes a half-page story about a nine-year old boy being shot in his back yard.

According to the SunTimes story there have been 114 weapons-related crimes committed in the last year within a half block radius of where this shooting took place.

What is going to change this?

I've written about the violence in Roseland and in Chicago many times in the past six years. The maps I include are from the Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Locator, which hosts a directory of non-school tutor/mentor programs operating in different parts of the city.

My intention is to follow up "bad news" media with a much more consistent call to action that recruits volunteers, leaders, donors from the suburbs and the city to help a wider range of volunteer-based, k-12, tutor/mentor programs become available in more parts of Roseland and other areas where poverty reduces the range of opportunities and activities available to youth in the area and gives a wide open path for gangs and negative influences to expand.

My stories alone will not raise the type of visibility needed to change the flow of resources and the availability of high-quality non-school learning and mentoring centers. However, anyone can use the Program Locator to create their own map-stories. This guide shows how.

When students and volunteers from high schools, colleges, businesses and faith groups begin to use these maps and create their own stories we will create an orchestra of voices that will have the collective weight of a U2 Concert, and a collective impact on the growth of programs in all high poverty areas of Chicago and other cities with similar problems.

The Program Locator is available to everyone but it is currently funded by no one. If your company or philanthropy want to help us keep this resource available for Chicago and share it with other cities we need your financial investment. Email Dan Bassill at if you want to offer your help.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Inviting University Partnerships

This spring we've hosted interns from the Adler School of Professional Psychology and from Illinois Institute of Technology. You can see examples of the work these interns have done by reading the blog articles on the Tutor/Mentor Connection forum. You can see more intern work on this blog.

Joseph Kruel served a five month internship. He's a first year graduate student at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. His goal was to learn about the Tutor/Mentor Connection and communicate that to his network and his university.

In this article Joseph writes "Throughout my internship at T/MC, I have been struggling with the idea of how universities can become actively involved in the nonprofit sector and with tutor/mentor programs, and even provide a source of constant revenue."

He concludes with a "call for partnerships between universities and nonprofits such as T/MC, much in a similar design that the partnerships in the report were designed as."

I've written several articles showing ways universities and their alumni could become strategic leaders of Tutor/Mentor Connection strategies in their own communities.

This PDF is a strategic plan developed by grad students at DePaul, intended to kick-start the planning a university might go through to adopt the T/MC.

With the Tutor/Mentor Connection going through a restructuring now would be a great time for an alumni of one of the hundreds of universities located in urban areas of the US to decide that his $35-$50 million gift ought to go to establishing a Tutor/Mentor Connection Institute on his own campus.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Freedom is not FREE

Last night I watched a documentary showing how African Americans have fought and died in every major conflict from the mid 1700s through the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They fought for freedom, despite the fact they they enjoyed so little of the rights of freedom in America.

 In the past six years I've written about the price of freedom and the sacrifices citizens need to make tohave the future we want. You can read all of these under the HERO tag. Here are a few headlines.

Feb. 8, 2006 - "the difficulty of success does not relieve one of the obligation to try

March 4, 2010 - "What Level of Commitment?

March 14, 2011 - "Hero. George C. Marshall

All of these articles have a common theme. The freedom and future we all want comes with a huge price. We need to innovate ways to involve more people in the work that needs to be done and the sacrifices that need to be made--not just the men and women in our Armed Forces. 

I'm re-starting the Tutor/Mentor Connection in the next few months. I have no board of directors, no source of funding, a huge mountain of decisions that need to be made. The main T/MC web library is not working. The maps need to be updated with 2010 census info but I've no money, or source of income, to do this. It's a huge challenge. 

Yet in the 35 years since I began leading a tutor/mentor program I've touched the lives of thousands of youth and adults in Chicago and around the world. Charles Cameron is one. He's hosting forums on Social Edge to help me rebuild the T/MC. 

If I can just find a way to reconnect with the people I've touched or reached out to over all these years I can find the talent, manpower, dollars and other resources needed to not only create a new organizational structure for the T/MC, but to make it much stronger than in the past. 

Here's an article I wrote in October 2009 titled "Nobel Prize. Earn it.

We can do this if we can find a way to create this BIG REUNION over the next few months. Email me at if you want to help.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Photos from 1973-2011 Tutor/Mentor Journey

Here's a slide show with photos of me and people I've met through Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection since 1993.