Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Navigating Yourself Through Information Libraries

Facilitating understanding
I started building the Tutor/Mentor information library in the 1970s long before I knew of the Internet. At the tutoring program hosted by Montgomery Ward from 1970s-1999 the library started as four metal file cabinets, then expanded to a wall of shelves. When we moved to the 20th floor of the Montgomery Ward HQ tower in 1993 we had about 400 sq ft of space, just devoted to our library.

That physical library now is down to a few books on my shelves. It's all on-line, which has been happening since 1998, while the space (and funds) available to operate began to shrink.  There's some sadness there, but to me, this is a blessing. The information is available to far more people now than it ever was in the 1990s.

From 1993 to 2000 I used printed newsletters to tell people about some of this information and encouraged them to visit the library at our Wards location.  Many of the tutor/mentor programs launched in the mid 1990s borrowed ideas from that library.  I hosted conferences every six months in Chicago and these became a place to gather new information and to help people understand the information and ideas within the library.

Home Page T/MC website - 1998
We started moving all this on-line in 1998 when one of the volunteers at the tutor/mentor program I was leading offered to build a website for us. We developed the graphic at the right for this first website to show our goal of connecting people from different backgrounds to the information, to each other, and to the Tutor/Mentor Connection. The page design was used help people navigate the information on the site. You could click on any of the blue circles and go to a section where we hosted lists of information/links to other people's websites.

Between 1998 and 2004 I saw a few examples where graphics like this were interactive, meaning if you clicked on one of the blue circles it would move to the center of the wheel, and the spokes would be filled with new circles, showing sub categories of information related to that topic.  The Hub of Creativity and the early version of the Boston Indicators Project (both no longer available) were examples that I hoped to duplicate (but never was able to).

As the library continued to grow between 2000 and today the number of links grew and that made it more and more difficult for people to navigate the library.  In 2011 I worked with Debategraph and created an interactive site that shows the vision and strategy of the Tutor/Mentor Connection / Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.

Mentoring Kids to Careers on Debategraph - click here
When you click on any of the spokes it moves to the center of the wheel and new spokes appear. A narration at the right side of the page explains what that particular strategy focuses on.  This was a good example of the type of navigation tool I was envisioning in the late 1990s, but still did not focus on the various sections of the Tutor/Mentor web library.

Since 2005 I've used concept maps, created with cMapTools, to show the library.  

4 sections of web library
These are static, but they have layers of information. You can link from the cMap to sections of the library.  This map shows the four main sections. Thus, if you click on the small box at the bottom of each node, a new map appears.

In the late 2000s two interns from South Korea/IIT in Chicago built an animated version of the map.  This work was actually done by two different teams. One built it in the winter and the second updated links and added a voice narration in the spring of 2009.  You can see it below.

Resource Map - video

This was created in Flash animation which is no longer supported on many platforms. I created a YouTube video a couple of years ago so that it could still be viewed. It was really creative work.

The Debategraph map, cMaps and this animation all were a form of interactive navigation, intended to help people find, understand, and apply the ideas in the library to help kids in all poverty areas move through school and into adult lives.

This week if found a version of what I have been imagining for so long, on the World Economic Forum web site. This is a "strategic intelligence" map.  View this short video to understand its scope.

World Economic Forum - Strategic Intelligence 
Here's how this works.  On the home page of the WEF website are dozens of categories. Click on any one of these and a map like the one above opens. On this the hub of the wheel starts out stating the global issue, in this case "workforce and development". The spokes show a wide range of related issues. Click on any of those, and that becomes the center, with new spokes.  Notice the inner ring of circles. Click on any of these and related spokes on the outer ring will show up in blue.  Every time you refresh the map a list of resources appears in the box on the right side of the page.

I can't imagine what it costs to build and  maintain this.  I'd love to have someone step forward and build a similar platform to point to all the sections of my library.  This might be organized in several ways. For instance, I wrote a "War on Poverty" article several years ago and created the graphic below.

View PDF that describes this. 
The hub of the wheel might be "What are all the things we need to know and do to assure every youth born in a poverty area today is in a job, free of poverty, by his/her mid 20s?"  The spokes would be points 1 to 7 on this graphic, with an 8th being "using maps".

This same hub could be used with a different version, where the outer spokes would be all the sections and sub sections of the Tutor/Mentor library, and the inner spokes would be the four major categories shown in the cMap above.

Why is this important? Below are screenshots from today's Chicago Tribune, talking about the tragic killing of another child, and pointing out that we've been here in the past, and nothing  has changed.

I could have just as reasonably put in an image from the murder of George Floyd, or the Black Lives Matter Movement.  Both are related.

An information map, like the one the World Economic Forum built, should be created, with "How do we assure that all Black Lives Matter"  or "How do we end these killings?"   The outer circle would be created by people much more deeply informed than myself, but needs to be an exhaustive representation of "everything:"we need to know, and do, to reach a future where all Black Lives do Matter, and we have a much better world for every one to live and raise their kids.

I wrote this article earlier today, saying a Black Lives Matter information hub should be built. Maybe it already has been.  Here's another page from the WEF Strategic Intelligence site, focused on Systemic Racism.

Systemic Racism - click here
I'm not yet certain about what information is hosted, here, but I encourage you to take time to look.

I think the sub sections of the Tutor/Mentor library would be a useful resource for these platforms.

Getting "Everyone" involved

I think the 4-part strategy that I started following in 1994 would be useful, too.  The library I've built, that the World Economic Forum built, and that others, like the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals organizers have created, all represent "STEP 1", which is the information gathering, organizing, and sharing step.

In the War on Poverty graphic, STEP 7 focuses on "building and sustaining public will".  I feel this is where we have failed, over and over, for the past 30 years.  Too few spend time trying to figure ways to do this and too fee provide the on-going funding needed.

STEP 2 of the 4-part strategy focuses on building public interest and drawing more people to the information in the library, while STEP 3 involves an on-going process of facilitation, or helping people find, understand and learn ways to apply the information.

I'm doing STEP 2 and STEP 3 right now.

STEP 4 involves the use of maps, which are also part of STEP 1.  We must know where people need help and we must build tools that show the distribution of needed programs and resources, to assure that we're reaching ALL of those places.


What makes the Tutor/Mentor strategy unique is that in STEP 1 I've been building a list of Chicago and national Tutor and/or Mentor programs.  The result of more people looking at this information and learning ways to help is that more are looking at maps to determine what organizations in specific areas are doing needed work. Then they are looking in their own personal mirror and deciding how, and how much, to help.

They don't way for a proposal. They have used the information in STEP 1 to know what types of programs work and they look on program websites to determine what these programs do and how to help them.

Educating more people to take various roles that sustain needed work in thousands of locations is work that must be included in any knowledge map.

I've been writing about this since 2005, so there are many related articles that you can find by clicking on the tabs at the left side of this blog.  This article about systems thinking would be a good start.

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