Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Creating Learning Communities - Test Your Motivation

I learned more than 30 years ago that one person could not provide all the information that 100 volunteers who grew up in neighborhoods outside of Chicago's Cabrini-Green area needed to know to understand the challenges kids living in such neighborhoods face nor all that they needed to know to become effective tutors/mentors.

At least not in the traditional teacher-to-learner role.

Thus, I began to try to create a learning community, where volunteer, students, parents and other stakeholders would spend their own time reading, reflecting and learning from information I was collecting and sharing with them on a weekly basis. To understand what I mean by a "learning community" read some of the blog articles I share in this link.

This was in the mid 1970s, far earlier than when I began to learn about the power of the Internet.

For the past 30 years I've attempted to engage volunteers, board members, donors, youth, etc. in the Chicago tutor/mentor programs I've led in an on-going learning process. The information I now share on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC site, this blog and other web sites I host all originated from my efforts to support the youth and volunteers who were meeting weekly at a small tutor/mentor program in Chicago.

What I've learned from this process is how difficult it is to engage busy volunteers and under-motivated young people in this effort. Thus, I'm constantly spending time in my own learning, looking for experts who seem to have mastered this process better than I.

On Sunday I spent an hour in an on-line forum with Vance Stevens who is an ESL educator based in Abu Dhabi. I've gotten to know Vance since we were first connected back in 2004. In Sunday's presentation Vance showed a process of student engagement that I think could be duplicated in schools, non-school organizations, faith groups,etc. in many places. You can view the slides and the presentation here.

I'm writing as the Democratic Presidential Convention is taking place.
During last week's Republican Convention and again this week as the Democrats meet, there will be all sorts of claims made that fact-checkers will be testing to determine how far the truth has been stretched. In reading some of the commentary about the campaign fact-distortion one of the fears I sense is that too few people will actually care enough to go to the fact-checking sites to see what is being posted and too few will spend time learning about the issues and building their own personal involvement in providing solutions that government really can't provide very well, not matter how much money is spent.

That brings me back to tutoring/mentoring. Below is a map created using the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator that I launched in 2008. It's intended to support leaders from business, religion, education, politics who want to reduce violence by helping young people have more positive learning, mentoring and job development opportunities during the non-school hours and through the public schools in the neighborhood.

This map is of little use if no one looks at it
, or if no one spends time reading other articles I've posted, and in reflecting, discussing, then building strategies that support existing programs already in this neighborhood while creating new ones where they are needed. I wrote about this same neighborhood in 2010 - see article.

Here's the test. Are you still reading? Did you visit Vance Stephens' site and review his presentation. If so, you are an active learner. We need more people taking this role, including young people.

Here's a PDF I created showing how young people could be involved in community information collection. Here's one showing how they can become journalists, telling stories the media do not tell. Here's one showing how young people can be leaders drawing people together to look at this information.

This presentation (click here) was done in just a few days by an intern from Illinois Institute of Technology, who is a college student from Korea.

Are you still following me? Volunteers, educators and/or staff in youth programs could be applying the concepts Vance Stevens has shared to teach young people in many neighborhoods to do research, reflect on what they read, then communicate their ideas in many formats. Read some of the articles about knowledge management, creativity and innovation posted at this link.

If this type of engaged learning becomes part of the on-going curriculum in many schools and non-school programs, we can grow a generation of young people who are more motivated to be active learners and who will use this process to engage others in community problem solving.

Visit the Chicago Program Links library and browse the list of youth organizations in the region. Find one that is convenient for you to join and reach out to offer your time and talent to organize a learning process like this. As volunteers teach young people to engage in on-going learning they are also teaching themselves.

That's the best thing about being a volunteer in a tutor/mentor program.
Your life can be transformed as you work to transform the life of a young person.

If you don't have anyone collecting and sharing ideas like this in your own community I'd be happy to help you. You don't need to start from scratch. Most of the information that I share can already be applied to your own circumstances.

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