Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Information-based problem solving libraries

If you've followed any of my articles for a while you'll see that this blog is part of an information collection/sharing strategy that I started almost 40 years ago in an effort to support the youth and volunteers in the tutor/mentor program I led in Chicago.

From 1975 to the mid 1990s this library was housed at our tutoring program location within the heart of the Montgomery Ward Corporate Headquarters complex in Chicago.  Each spring I produced a yearbook showing kids, volunteers, activities and the team of volunteer leaders.  This link points to a page where I host these, plus links to newsletters I sent in the 1990s.

The graphic below shows the volunteer leaders who helped me organize and lead the program during the  1976-77 school year when student/volunteer enrollment was around 125 pairs of elementary school kids and workplace volunteers.. 

This second graphic show the volunteer committee 15 years later, in 1991-92 when enrollment had grown to 440 kids and nearly 550 volunteers.  Up until spring 1990 I held full time advertising management jobs with Montgomery Ward, so had very little time to lead a program of this size. That's why the involvement of other volunteers was so important, and why the number of volunteers helping grew as the size of the program grew.

From my first year of leading the program through 2011 when I last led a tutor/mentor program I realized that I could never provide one-on-one, or group training, that would satisfy the needs of every volunteer. Thus I began building a library of manuals, "how to" books, research on poverty, etc. and used weekly newsletters to encourage volunteers to do their own learning and to help other volunteers do the same.

In 1993 when we created the Tutor/Mentor Connection (which I now lead via Tutor/Mentor Institute,LLC ), we expanded the library to include information about other  Chicago area tutor/mentor programs and a larger body of research showing why they were needed, and ways leaders could raise money and recruit volunteers.  We started sharing that via printed newsletters sent to 300 people in 1993 and over 12,000 by 2002, and a May and November networking conference, which I continued to offer until 2015. 

In 1998 we began putting the library on a web site so we could share it with more people. When we lost our donated space at Montgomery Ward in 1999, the use of the Internet as a library became much more important.

I've always organized information in the library by topic, just like any other library. When we went on line I tried to create visual tools to help people find specific types of information. This graphic was on the home page of our first website built in 1998 by a volunteer tutor in the Cabrini Connections program. It uses a hub and spoke design that shows the range of information available in the library to support youth and volunteers and the programs I was leading, and that was also available to support every other tutor/mentor program in Chicago and in other places.  I've continued to add to this library through 2020.

I often saw libraries on other websites where the links on this graphic were interactive, meaning, if you clicked on the Hot Links circle, it would go to a page with a list of website links related to that topic.

However, I never could find consistent talent and funding to do this as well as needed.

I was reminded of this goal in the past couple of months as I saw two examples of visual organization of libraries on Twitter.

The first was a Stanford University Basic Income (UBI) Lab website. At the left I show an interactive concept map on their website. Click on any of the nodes and a new page opens with information specific to that node.  A second page shows a geographic map of the world and places where UBI experiments are taking place.

The World Economic Forum has also created an interactive guide to help people find information in their web library. At the right you see a screen shot of one sub section. I wrote about this in a previous article

At the left is another interactive graphic that points visitors to a vast library.  This is the Digital Promise Challenges Map, showing the highest priorities of education leaders.  I pointed to this in a 2019 article

Yesterday I watched one of the panel discussions of the College Promise Careers Institute, featuring Stan Litow, President Emeritus, IBM Foundation, Chuck Ambrose, President and CEO of KnowledgeWorks and Lisa Petrides, president of the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education. 

As I listened to Stan and Chuck point out challenges of preparing K-12 students for a changing workforce, I wished someone who was also listening would creating a diagram and concept map, outlining the many points they raised, so that it would might guide more people through this thinking and into action stages that actually solve the problems they are describing. 

The examples I've pointed to show ways to help visualize information in a library, to help more people find and use it.  

As you look at these I urge you to look at the articles I've posted showing the four part problem-solving strategy that the Tutor/Mentor Connection/Institute has followed since creating it in 1993.  All of the information in these libraries is only part of STEP 1.  Step 2 and 3 involve actions that get more people to look at the information, help them understand it, then (STEP 4) apply what they learn in one or more places where the research shows more help is needed.

This is on-going work and the information I've been collecting, and that others are collecting, needs to be constantly updated and made consistently available.  I keep looking for institutional and/or university partners who will step forward to help me make the Tutor/Mentor library and resources more easily to access and understand, and to keep them available in future years when I'm no longer around (I'll be 74 in December ..  see my birthday fund me page).

Look again at the two graphics that I posted above, showing teams of volunteers helping me lead tutoring programs in Chicago. Then look at the graphic at the right.  Versions of those teams need to be supporting youth tutor, mentor and learning opportunities in every high poverty neighborhood of the Chicago region (and other places) for many years.

The information we host in our libraries can help such teams learn and grow.  It can also show challenges, such as funding, that must be met, if we're to ever reach more than a small percent of all the kids who need extra help.  

This blog, and the MappingforJustice blog are parts of the library.  Together they include more than 2000 articles like this one, many with links to external resources or to resources within the Tutor/Mentor library.  No one is able to digest this information in just a few days. It needs to be part of on-going curriculum and learning, building greater understanding over many years.  

I'm on Twitter @tutormentorteam. I hope you'll connect with me there to share your own ideas and let me help you understand what I've been writing about. I'm on Linkedin and Facebook, too.  See my social media web addresses on this page

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