Tuesday, November 25, 2008

TMC Conference - potential for eLearning

The Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference (November 21st, at the Field Museum) assembled over 100 tutor/mentor experts and enthusiasts. It was a day full of intensive, interesting discussions, workshops and lessons about mentoring, managing nonprofit mentoring organizations and utilizing technologies :).

You know those timeless questions: Quality control, marketing, networking, designing students’ activities, digital natives (net generation) vs. digital immigrants, and of course, budget... we can not forget the budget. All of that was discussed throughout the Conference. Some workshops have become real brainstorming sessions. Unfortunately I was not able to participate in all of them, so I will describe just the most interesting ones that I participated in.

Panel discussion How to incorporate arts, writing and technology into a volunteer based mentoring program was almost ‘how to do it’ tutorial. Panelist Robbie Telfer (Young Chicago Authors, www.youngchicagoauthors.org), Mindy Feber (Open Youth Networks, www.openyouthnetworks.org) and Patrick Shaffner (826 CHI, www.826chi.org) presented very interesting and dynamic activities they are providing for their students.

For example Young Chicago Authors use ‘real world simulations’. One of them is: students are collaboratively writing a story for a journal. However, there is an ‘invisible evil editor’ who is constantly sending their story back for improvements. At the end, when they are almost certain that the story is good enough, the invisible editor sends a message that they need actually 30 stories, and the deadline is in 35 minutes. Panic… you can fill the tension in the air… How? We do not have time! Should we quit… Is there a solution?
Well, let’s make 30 different endings. Each student should make his own ending of the story. At the end of this dynamic game, they had 30 different stories, each student had experienced collaborative writing, individual writing, they felt a few real world challenges (team work, roles, boos, deadlines, quality control) and they had great fun. Those are great results for one evening. Right?

Idea. In their situation ‘the evil editor’ is a person who is behind a black curtains and they can see only her/his hand when s/he is receiving the article. In our situation (Cabrini Connections), the editor can be in his office (in NY or in the same room – who knows) and communicating with writers through the internet.

Workshop Nuts and Bolts of the Juvenile Justice System. Mrs. Elizabeth Clarke (Juvenile Justice Initiative, www.jjustice.org) presented the challenges that are confronting the Illinois Juvenile Justice System. You can find out more at www.jjustice.org. I will just mention a few interesting facts I heard during the workshops. Illinois is one of 12 states where minors (kids under 18 years old) can be tried as adults . And the USA is the only country in the world where kids can be tried as adults… The majority of minors that end under adult court jurisdiction are there because of nonviolent crimes.

Kids do stupid thing sometimes, and although those ‘stupid things’ are not something we should always tolerate, we should know that if we incarcerate a 17 years old kid – there is almost a 50% chance that s/he will become a professional criminal. Scary, right? That explain why states (and countries) that do not have juvenile prisons and do not send minors to adult courts have much lower juvenile crime rate than those who do. Find more at www.jjustice.org.

Workshop Social networking: who do you know and how can they help you? Marian Casey (www.answersforspecialkids.org) and Allison Youngblood (www.jlchicago.org) lead an interesting and very interactive workshop. How to network? Ways to network? Should we use technology or is face to face communication OK? Which technologies?… Those were just a few of the issues we discussed. This video summarizes the most important topics of this Workshop. So, please, turn on your speakers and enjoy the following 2 minute video presentation.

How do you build your network?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cabrini Technology Wiki

As you probably noticed, the Cabrini Technology Wiki is available at http://my.mentorforme.org/. Each Cabrini Connections member with an SVHATS account can collaborate on development of this document.

And here we are - working together – because together we can do it.


Most parts of our technology strategy are fine as they are now, some parts can be improved, and some minor parts should be changed. But, probably more important than updating the Strategy is understanding the Strategy. Because… there is no strategy or plan that can be accomplished without support of volunteers, students, staff and sponsors (Bates 2004). Everybody should understand what we are doing, how we are doing it and why we are doing it? Additionally everybody should feel/know that Cabrini Connections’ technology strategy is designed to support her/his activities in Cabrini Connections. And everybody should know that our technology strategy is their strategy.

Therefore we all should discuss it. What do you think would be the best way to implement that strategy? Would you like to change or add something?

What are your thoughts?

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory .

Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Source: www.gpworldwide.com

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Let’s collaborate!

Have you checked SVHATS in the last couple days?

Yes, yes, that is because we are upgrading our web server. We are migrating from an expensive and insufficient virtual private server to one that is half as expensive but with better service. So, if you come to the SVHATS site in next few days, I am confident that you will notice the difference. A positive change.

Those days everybody is talking about change…
So are we :)

You will also notice a new design, a few videos incorporated into the site… Well, we are moving forward. Slowly but surely…

Soon we will add few e-learning activities. And…
Do’nt forget to check out our new computers. Actually they’re not really new, rather they are 4-6 years old, but we are reinstalling them and they now run like new!
Also, don’t forget to check your documents.

OK, first each Cabrini Connections member has to get a network password. Username is the same as for SVHATS: last_name.first_name. With that data you can log to any computer at Cabrini Connections as if it were your private computer: you will have your own documents, your own favorites… Of course there is also a shared folder, so students, volunteers and staff can exchange files with one another.
It seems to me that our e-learning environment is becoming much better.

OK, let me finish the technical part, and then we will talk how to utilize the technology.