Friday, April 09, 2021

Learning from others. Don't re-invent the wheel.

 I saw this Tweet from an organization called "Education Reimagined" and was drawn to the statement “Hey, they look like our community. Maybe we can do this, too.”

I visited the article and the headline read, "Whatever community you are in, you are bound to find something parallel and worth digging into." I looked through the site and found a page with an interactive map, with six categories exploring different elements of learner-centered education. 

This group was formed in 2018.  It models what I've been trying to do since forming the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago in 1993.  Look at the mission statement shown on our home page.

The mission of the Tutor/Mentor Institute (T/MI) is to gather and organize all that is known about successful non-school tutoring/mentoring programs and apply that knowledge to expand the availability and enhance the effectiveness of these services to children throughout the Chicago region. 


Then, look at the STRATEGY page. 

Since 1993 the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC), which I now lead through the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, has been collecting and sharing information in an extensive web library that went on line in 1998. It's goal has been to provide information anyone starting or operating a non-school, youth tutor, mentor and learning program could use to begin a program and/or constantly improve an existing program.

I created a presentation about 10 years ago to explain the role of this library in stimulating innovation and constant improvement across the entire ecosystem of organizations working with youth. 

Below is a concept map showing the entire web library. Visit this blog article and find links to each sub section. While some of what I share comes from my own experiences of leading a youth tutor/mentor program for 36 years, most points to the ideas and experiences of others. 

Click on any of the featured nodes and you'll open another map, focusing on that area. Open nodes on those maps and you'll go to a section of the web library with relevant links.

This part of the library includes the list of Chicago area non-school volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs that has been the central focus of the library.  It also contains links to other resources that anyone can use to learn what others are doing and find ways to improve their own programs.

I plotted this information on a map based program locator between 2004 and 2010, but that is now only an archive.  

Since 2016 I've been sharing my list on this map, which you can zoom into for more neighborhood level detail.  See it in this article

There are numerous challenges to what I've been trying to do.  Obviously, the first is to find the money each year to collect the program information and web site library links, then to maintain a website and interactive map to share the information.  While I succeeded for nearly 20 years I've not been able to do as much since 2011.  I'm trying to find an institution who will take ownership and rebuild the web platform to be of equal quality to those like  the "Education Reimagined" site.

However, that's not the only challenge.  On the STRATEGY page that I pointed to above I showed a concept map visualizing four concurrent strategies that I've followed since 1993.  Below is the same map, but with each of the four categories I show some of the challenges that need to be addressed

One of the major challenges, not shown on this map, is generating a flow of talent and dollars to EVERY youth program within a geographic area like Chicago, so each can do more to tell what they do,  how they do it, and how others can help them,  on their own web sites.  Along with this would be money for staff, and motivation for them to be constantly looking at other web sites to compare what they do, with what others do.  

A further challenge is to motivate donors to be looking at the same information, in the same conversations, so that when a program says "we should be doing this" a donor says "I'll provide the money."  Wouldn't t hat be great!

The library  has little value if too few people are using it.

My last blog post, on April 1, was focused on information collection and sharing and I highlighted a few groups who were collecting education information, seeking to 'reimagine learning'.  I think there would be a value for someone to be aggregating links to all of these groups, so they could be learning from each other, attracting more attention, and building the public will needed to make solutions available in every place needed, especially the high poverty areas of the USA and the world.

The concept map below shows an example of what's possible.  These are Chicago based intermediary organizations that focus on the well-being of youth.  They share the same geography, but few share links to each other on their websites, or host a concept map similar to this.

I find the same in some of the education innovation groups I follow.  More should follow the advice of  Education Reimagined:

“Hey, they look like our community. Maybe we can do this, too.”

However, someone needs to be aggregating and sharing this information.  Who is doing this?  

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Building Support for Digital Access

This photo shows teens and volunteers using computers during one of the tutor/mentor sessions offered at the Cabrini Connections location in Chicago. I led that program from its founding in 1993 until 2011.  With the help of volunteers we opened a computer lab in the late 1990s.  

Below is a photo from the mid 1980s, showing Don Bohling and Ken Cartossa, two volunteers at the Montgomery Ward/Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program, who created and led the computer lab at their location in Chicago.  We did not have Internet then, but we were teaching kids to use computers for learning.

In both examples we were creating digital access for kids who lived in a high poverty neighborhood and did not have this access at home.  We were able to do this because we were a "site-based" tutor/mentor program where youth and volunteers came to our space on a weekly basis (some came  more often). 

And because we were able to recruit workplace volunteers who used computers in their daily jobs and were willing to share their experiences with kids in our programs.

Yesterday I participated in a webinar focused on digital access and the digital divide, titled, "Turning America’s Digital Divide into Digital Dividends: Ideas for the Biden-Harris Administration". I've posted a few Tweets showing some of the maps and graphics included.

here's one
here's another Below you can see a concept map that I started a few years ago to share links to information I was aggregating about the Digital Divide.

Last year I connected with a network of educators brought together through an initiative at Arizona State University, called  This group is also focusing on the digital divide, broadband access and digital learning. The Tweet below points to a webinar they hosted on March 18.

Miguel GamiƱo Jr. ( @MiguelGamino ), EVP Enterprise Partnerships & Head of Global Cities at Mastercard, was the final speaker at the Turning America’s Digital Divide into Digital Dividends: Ideas for the Biden-Harris Administration webinar. He encouraged participants to share these ideas widely so more people get informed, then involved in bringing solutions to reality.  I posted the Tweet below to amplify that message. Then, I follow this by posting a couple of Tweets drawing from my efforts to encourage universities to mobilize student/alumni talent to help build public awareness and involvement in efforts that help youth from birth to work. Creating digital access and digital learning habits is an essential part of such a strategy. There are many programs at high schools, colleges and in non profits that encourage students to do research on issues and then present their findings. I'm actually going to attend the Spring 2021 Student Project Exposition for the University of Michigan School of Information later this week. Students will present posters, presentations, or video pitches to share their projects from course and co-curricular experiences, internships, and research.   

What I usually find missing is a "call to action".  

Imagine if you could find a map of the country, where icons represented schools (with links to web pages) where students were blogging about the various Digital Divide issues that are being shared by different groups, each with a call to action that mobilizes voters, policy makers, business leaders and activists.

At the same time as the Tufts webinar was providing information about the Digital Divide, the ShapingEDU group was hosting a webinar focused on telling the stories. I show that in this Tweet:
These ideas are related. Good information needs to be shared widely through on-going stories.

So let's get more people looking at this information. Let's find a few companies who will sponsor student research and blogging about the Digital Divide. This "map the system" site is an example of what's possible.  I include a link to that site on a wiki page where I encourage student research and communication projects.  

Step 2 pf the four-part strategy of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, started in 1993, focuses on building on-going public awareness of specific issues.  Skim through these articles to see how important this is. 

One strategy to increase the number of people who care, and support student digital learning, is to help site-based, non-school, tutor, mentor and learning programs grow in more of the high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago, and to point to them with stories of the digital divide, so they can attract volunteers and donors.

If we don't find ways to dramatically increase the number who understand, empathize, then act, too little will change for people living on the wrong side of the Digital Divide.

I hope you'll share this. Thanks for reading.

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