Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Are you part of the Revolution?

Today is Earth Day and I continue to wonder where the world will be and how will things be different in say 20 years. More importantly, what part are you playing in the digital revolution? In the last few days there has been a lot of discussion (read blogging) about "being here for the learning revolution."

I have been involved in technology for many years but only recently has it seemed as if the world has suddenly opened up to me about the power of what I sit in front of, my laptop. After the last two weeks, I can no longer refer to this piece of equipment as merely a tool. I can no longer say that I am alone in Dallas, TX., writing for myself, I can no longer ignore the fact that we are all called to make a difference, and yet I am almost at a point of not knowing what direction to go.

Last week we met with a Sister of St. Mary of Namur by the name of Immaculee Mukabugabo from Rwanda. She was visiting the school for several reasons but the biggest was to make connection with us as we try to put together what we refer to as a "Global Partnership" with another SSMN school in Rwanda. We asked many questions and were having a wonderful discussion when the question of the 1994 genocide came up and how this had affected the children who are at the school.

Sister talked at length about how at certain times of the year the students struggled with just getting out of bed because of the memories of that period, or the loss of family members. Then Sister took the chance of trusting and being comfortable enough with us on only the second day of her visit to tell her story of what they went through trying to protect innocent people as well as save their own lives from the horrible destruction. I truly felt as if I were standing on Sacred Ground while listening to Sister tell her story.

With the help of Wes Fryer's posts about the Celebrate Oklahoma Voices Project, we decided we needed to start our own voices project. In the next few days we hope to have posted to our school site a section called "Voices." This will be voices of people that have spoken to the students on different subjects with Sister's being the first one. We also hope to include many others who have stories to tell. The power of the voice will truly be something for us to be a part of, continuing to take us further down the road of revolution.

Our next hope is to help bring the revolution to our global partner in Kibuye, Rwanda. They exist in a situation where they hope to get equipment to bring not only TV to their school but also Internet service as well. I continue to look for ways to help make that happen.

So many voices to listen to and so little time.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Earth Day - Celebrate it

Over the weekend many places were holding Earth Day activities. As I watched some of the traffic on Twitter, I saw a couple of post saying that solar energy is not as good what many people seem to think it is. With that in mind I did a search for an old reliable book that I used many years ago trying to teach students about the need to conserve, reduce, reuse and recycle. The book 50 Simple Things You Can Do To Save The Earth was easy enough to find on the web and I had to go digging through my stored boxes of books to find my original version of the book.

The new version has been updated. One of the things that it says it to simply pick one thing, one item from the book that truly interests you and work on that, get that word out, help others to understand what that means to you and maybe, that one item will become someone else's and the ripple effect will start anew.

I recently changed the majority (about 80%) of the bulbs in my house to compact fluorescent bulbs. While I realize there is still a bit of a problem with disposal, I have decided that it is necessary to begin making a change in some way. I have also decided I will hang on to those bulbs that burn out until I can find somewhere that will properly dispose of them.

When we first moved in to the house we now live in, we added insulation in the attic, we installed new, energy efficient refrigerator, washer, dryer and central ac/heating system as well as installing a programmable thermostat. Just recently I replaced one of my water heaters with a new high efficiency water heater. The affect of all these changes was that my utility bill has dropped.

Tuesday, April 22, is Earth Day. Celebrate it, embrace it, do something to help keep the Earth green.

50 simple things to help sustain the Earth, which one to lock in on!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Cost of Not Getting an Education

Tonight I had the opportunity to listen to the Honorable Craig Watkins, District Attorney of Dallas, TX. He spoke at the school as part of our Geo-Tech Lecture Series. The lecture series was started to bring speakers of influence in to speak about social justice and human rights issues.

Mr. Watkins is the first African American District Attorney in the U.S. He is also part of a program that has helped 16 incarcerated individuals to be released from prison through the use of DNA testing. The national program that is in place is called The Innocence Project. Today the 16th person was released. Mr. Watkins has been instrumental in the program here in Dallas.

So what is the cost of not getting an education? According to the statistics I heard tonight, 75% of those incarcerated did not graduate high school. Add that statistic with the latest statistics concerning the number of students that drop out and we are in for some serious prison building if we don't reverse the trend. Now don't get me wrong, there are plenty of people that don't get a high school degree and are great citizens, but if we continue to cause our students to "power down" when they walk in to our buildings, then we aren't helping the cause.

Another statistic thrown out this evening was the amount of money given to a school to educate a child in Dallas, was $8 a day. The amount of money given to the prison system for a person that is incarcerated is $34 per day. How does that happen? Four times as much money given per person to the prison system than to the education system?

I look forward to Mr. Watson coming back to the school to speak to our seniors in a smaller setting, and I applaud him for the tremendous work he has done, but maybe we need to rattle the cages down in the capital to help them get the funding priorities straight.

More research to do.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Rwanda on the Horizon

This week at the school we will be visited by a Sister of St. Mary of Namur who was the principal of Sainte Marie School in Kibuye, Rwanda. The information received from Sr. Immaculee Mukabugabo was very interesting. They are primarily a boarding school with 303 students, 301 girls and 2 boys. 293 of the students are boarders living on campus and 10 come in each day from the town. The students range in age from 12 - 19.

At each level of the educational process the students must take a National Exam and this determines whether or not the student progresses to the next level. The 6th year of Primary results in the National Exam and if a student does not pass they may take 6th grade for up to 4 times. She did not say what happened if they did not pass after that time. The students then move to the secondary school cycle which has two levels a basic studies and a senior cycle of high school. Each of these also ends with aNational Exam to see if the student progresses to the next level.

Tuition at this school is $163 for older students and first year students pay $195. They take 7 to 8 hours of classes a day and also help with the care of the classrooms and the campus before classes begin. When Sr. Immaculee was asked about needs of the school, the first thing mentioned was more classrooms to accomodate the children that want to come to school. They just don't have enough rooms. The second thing mentioned was the lack of Internet access. They have no telephone connection at the school because of the expense of getting the line to the school. Her third item was a parabolic antenna for being able to access television so that students could at least know what was going on elsewhere in the world.

As I reflected on all the things we have available to our students, I thought there has to be a way to make some of these things happen. I am currently part of a team that hopes to journey to Rwanda in December to make connection with the school and the teachers there. My hope is to also help begin to bridge the gap that they are experiencing. The one thing that Sister mentioned was that the poverty of the students and the families they come from is so incredible and then for them to try and pay $160-$195. If we can get them on the web the need for a better vehicle to take the students on educational field trips is lessened to some degree because then the world is open to them.

I look forward to the trip and I look forward to any and all input for ways to help make some of these things happen. More information will be forthcoming when Sr. Immaculee Mukabugabo visits on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

So many gifts and so many to share.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It's not about the hardware

Today I received a call from a company that works for Edline, our online portal for parents, students and teachers. The gist of the call was that they had a local station that wanted to come out and do a story on how we were using different ed-tech tools, especially Edline for the benefit of students.

I spoke with the principal, a couple of teachers and several students to give them a heads up about what was going to take place and we wanted them to talk about it on camera. On arrival, the reporter, a graduate of Incarnate Word High School in San Antonio, was asking me questions about some of our programs. We are currently in the 2nd year of an iPod initiative with our incoming freshmen as well as many other things to hopefully help encourage our students to become life long learners.

As we progressed through the discussion and the interview it seemed to focus more on the hardware than education. As I watched and listened to the questions and the direction of the interviews I began thinking how many people feel the same way? How many people feel that as long as we have a lot of equipment we are doing well? Or how many people feel that because we don't have certain equipment then we can't do what we need to so maybe we shouldn't try? I may be jumping too hard on the interview process as I have not seen the final product, bad storms in the area have taken much of the news time this evening.

After reading Miguel's entry on "What Is Your Stop Doing List" I think maybe looking at what we do in that manner may open some new mental doors.

So many wonderful reads out there and so few hours in the day.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Breaking Ground

As I have said before, I am new to this so I am not breaking any new ground in most instances. However, I have already had a couple of people approach me about "this blogging thing" and "how do you do it?" That is always nice to have someone feel comfortable enough to say can you show me this...?

The reason I bring this up is that there is currently conversation taking place in the blogosphere asking the "community" question. Are bloggers, twitterers, im'ers, social networkers, etc., actually a community?" My initial response would have been yes until Miguel tossed M. Scott Peck's 4 Stages of Community in to the mix.

Based on those 4 stages - 1. pseudocommunity - where niceness reigns; 2. chaos - when the emotional skeletons crawl out of the closet; 3. emptiness - a time of quiet and transition; and finally, 4. true community - marked both by deep honesty and deep caring; I would say that maybe all of this bblogging, twittering, etc is at the #1 level but I truly feel that it all begins to break apart after that.

While others have already talked er rather blogged about this same question, I await and look forward to Gary Stager writing about what is and is not a community in the next few days to get his take on it. If this was divided up into segments like pre-k to 5, middle school, high school, university and above, I still do not believe that you would be able to say that you have a community, yes you might get a few people that become closer and take more time to go deeper into certain areas but I truly think community is involved in face to face, dealing with the same issues and working hopefully toward a common goal/good. While there are many conversations going on and people trying to solve many different problems, I still think there is a lack of truly delving into the deeper aspects of what makes a community just that.

That being said I think this blogoshpere of people has very easily descended into area 2 of Peck's hiearchy of Chaos however the skeletons are not those of emotion that are coming out of the closet, it is rather the skeletons of those who have not progressed beyond their own universe to truly make an attempt to try and realize not only the technical tools available and their potential, but also their own personal tools and potential that they have been gifted with to share with those they come in contact.

So many wonderful reads out there and so few hours in the day.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Global Partnerships

Today we had an opportunity to meet with Sister Patricia, SSMN, who has been very active at the Dallas Peace Center in Dallas, TX. Sr. has been a great activist for many social justice issues and has spent some time in jail as a result of her activism which I applaude her for. The Sisters of St. Mary of Namur were the founders of BDHS which actually started out as Our Lady of Good Counsel.

While we try to be a very ed-tech oriented school trying to infuse technology throughout our curriculum, we have also been working on global partnerships. We feel that it is important to get our students out of themselves so to speak so as to be more equipped to deal with local things by seeing global things. While we have taken many local oriented trips to places such as New Mexico to visit the Anasazi Ruins for geological and geographic studies, to Washington D. C. with Close Up, to Austin, TX the Capital for governmental education, we have also tried to reach farther than the coasts of North America. We have a relationship in Honduras which is four years old that some of the other Catholic High Schools have joined, we have had a group of students go to Ghana, a group of our students just returned from Costa Rica where they did GIS work and explored the country side as well as spent time learning the culture.

Our meeting today with Sr. Patricia was to continue working toward a plan to go to Rwanda. The Sisters have a great history of mission and education that has spanned the globe and we want to make sure we can help to connect the dots. Our desire is to eventually create this partnership with a couple of schools in Rwanda that the Sisters run and hopefully learn things that are similar to us like getting along with different cultures in the same areas, making do with what we have and using the resources and tools that we have all been given to make a difference in the global community and not just in our own back yards.

In reflecting on this meeting today I felt as if the communities that I belong to online are about the same thing, making differences as a result of the connectedness from a network of caring people who also want to make a difference. I can see the possibilities of using some of the things I have learned from this vast network with Google Earth, Flickr, Ustream and many of the other tools available. I hope the forces that have brought this Rwanda group together will continue to drive us toward a full fledged visit. Then along with learning I hope to teach though the use of the tools I have come to know with this electronic global partnership that I am a part of today.