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Five billion people can’t use the Internet

March 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Aleph Molinari – Bridging the Digital Divide

The Digital Divide is a mother that’s 45 years old and can’t get a job, cuz she doesn’t know how to use a computer.

Most news focuses on the roughly 2 billion people in the world who use the Internet.  Economist Aleph Molinari chooses to focus on the other five billion people.  He is working to close the digital divide and empower people, by providing widespread access to technology education.

Español: Logo de la Fundación Proacceso

Español: Logo de la Fundación Proacceso (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 2008, Molinari founded Fundación Proacceso and in 2009 launched the Learning and Innovation network.  The network uses community centers to educate under-served communities and

enable them to use technology for empowerment. In about 2 years, the network has graduated 28,000 users through 42 educational centers throughout Mexico.

Graph of internet users per 100 inhabitants be...

Graph of internet users per 100 inhabitants between 1997 and 2007 by International Telecommunication Union (ITU), source: http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/statistics/ict/graphs/internet.jpg) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Learning and Innovation network

employs a well-designed system to bridge this digital divide.  The system is divided into 4 educational parts.  The first focuses on computers.  The second is the Internet.  The third is office software.  The fourth phase is a 72 hour technology program that produces, in the end, a digital citizen.  While the program sounds somewhat trite, there is no doubt that the programs conducted by Fundación Proacceso and the Learning and Innovation network have made a huge impact on extremely poor communities in Mexico.

Molinari’s arguments are extremely persuasive.  There is no doubt to me that, as he says, “Internet is a right, not a luxury.” We can do a lot to bridge this divide, enabling many of the five billion – most of whom are in the southern hemisphere and Asia – to become active participants as digital citizens of the world.

Although the work ahead seems daunting, it is even more daunting to consider what will happen to our world in the absence of a more fair and just distribution of wealth and opportunity.  It is better to make do with less than to lose everything we love and cherish.

Molinari’s final message is full of hope:

The main message is that technology is not going to save the world, we are, and we can use technology to help us. Most technology is human energy, so let’s use this energy to make this world a better place.

Let it Bleed

March 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Most people say that you should be careful when using sharp objects.  They are trying to tell you to watch out and prevent an accident, whereby you may cut yourself.  Very good advice.

Boy Scouting (Boy Scouts of America)

Being a lifelong Scouter (see: Boy Scouts), I pride myself on being prepared.  Preparedness includes, of course, having the experience and tools to be ready for unplanned circumstances.  It means planning for mistakes and, occasionally, accidents.  It means, too, taking precautions so that most accidents can be avoided.

But when accidents do – inevitably – occur, preparedness helps us mitigate the severity of the pain, suffering, and damage.  There is an adage – no pain, no gain – but this is concerned with planned pain, the work that is necessary to become strong.  Bad pain is the kind you can get when you fall down a flight of stairs – or worse.  Many of these accidents can be avoided with precaution and good habits, a huge part of being prepared.  “Be Prepared” is also about tools, including maps, rain gear, lights, extra batteries, and the like.  Of course, it includes First Aid.

What good is a first aid kit without bandages.  Sure, there are needs for other things, but when you are out on a mission with kids or youth, the lowly band aid is what you often need the most.  It is surely an essential, but it is something you don’t really need to think about, a throwaway.  Or is it?

Help productsHelp is a company dedicated to helping you help yourself.  It makes and sells products to help you when you can’t sleep, have a headache, have allergies, or when you have a blister.  Instead of calling the products by their standard names, often the name of the medicine itself, it names its products by the thing it is trying to remedy – i.e. help® I can’t sleep.

This makes their products a whole lot easier to find – and use.  But then they found a way to go a step further.

Instead of just helping yourself, what if you could help others when you help yourself?  That might be more difficult.  Maybe.  Probably.  But what if it wasn’t?  Would you help?

The answer is pretty easy.  Most people would.  And do.

“Help® I cut myself (and I want to save a life)” costs a bit more than the average bandage.  But you can help save a life when you cut yourself.  And do so without really any substantial effort.  Help partnered with DKMS, the world’s largest bone marrow donor center to provide bone marrow donor registry kits inside packs of help I’ve cut myself.  While you’re bleeding, use the enclosed swab to swipe a bit of the blood.  Then, put the swab in the envelope, fill out the form, and send it off to get it registered in the DKMS database.  It’s that simple.  And, you’re already bleeding.

Watch their humorous video:

So good luck.  Be prepared.  And, next time, let it bleed!

This is a comma, not a full stop. – Ruel Bobet 10/26/2011

February 29, 2012 Leave a comment

LIVESTRONG

For me, LIVESTRONG is not just an organization that provides support for cancer survivors and led by the enigmatic Lance Armstrong.  It is a way of life.

I believe in the LiveSTRONG Manifesto.  I became a LIVESTRONG Leader for 2012 because I wanted to use my experience leading groups through adventure and sports to learn about cancer, cancer survivorship, and its prevention.

We believe in life.
Your life.
We believe in living every minute of it with every ounce of your being.
And that you must not let cancer take control of it.
We believe in energy: channeled and fierce.
We believe in focus: getting smart and living strong.
Unity is strength. Knowledge is power. Attitude is everything.
This is LIVESTRONG.

I just read today in the LIVESTRONG Leaders group on Facebook about a young man who was fighting cancer until last weekend.  His words from last year about how he was facing his fight says succinctly a lot about why I have joined the fight.  His attitude is evident in the title of his post, which I used in my title as well.  (Thank you Ruel, rest in Peace.  You are now, in my mind, an exclamation point.  That will keep screaming out forever!)

TEXAS 4000 RIDE: This is a comma, not a full stop.

I’ve been wearing a LIVESTRONG wristband for  around 7 or 8 years now.  Long enough for it to become as fitting and natural as a watch or – really, as much as I love/hate to say it – my wedding ring.

My LiveSTRONG wristband

My LIVESTRONG wristband

I started wearing it around 2004, when I finally got one at the NikeTown Portland store. (The store was the first of the NikeTown concept, which has now been mostly phased out.) I’ve been wearing one full time since.

I started wearing the band mostly because I loved the way Lance Armstrong competed.  I have been a fan for many years, since he came back from cancer and started winning the Tour de France.  But I first started paying attention to cycling races because of Greg LeMond.  I had already been a fan of cycling itself, but LeMond’s first victory at the Tour de France in 1986 coincided with my being a bicycle messenger in San Francisco.

Then, in 1987, LeMond was accidentally hit by a shotgun blast during a turkey hunt by his brother-in-law,  nearly killing him.  But after losing two years of professional racing, Greg LeMond won the Tour de France in 1989 and 1990.  He was the first American ever to wind the race, but after coming back only 2 years after nearly losing his life, I became hooked.

Then came Lance.  His story is now legendary.  Never came close to reaching his potential (for 5 years he was projected to become a star) during his career leading up to 1996, when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.  Spreads to his lungs and even his brain.  Surgery, extensive chemo, and a long hard rehabilitation.  Two lost years of professional racing.  Then, in 1999, Armstrong amazingly wins his first Tour de France.  Then, even more dramatically, Lance wins the world’s greatest race for 7 consecutive years.

We’re about the fight.
We’re your advocate before policymakers. Your champion within the healthcare system. Your sponsor in the research labs.
And we know the fight never ends.
Cancer may leave your body, but it never leaves your life.
This is LIVESTRONG.
Founded and inspired by Lance Armstrong, one of the toughest cancer survivors on the planet.

I’m not as big a fan of the Tour de France as I once was.  I don’t think it is because there have been no American winners since Lance.  Nor is it because of the lack of media attention.  Part of it is because of the media attention, especially the focus on doping.  But much of it is because I’m more focused on just living and doing, rather than watching others compete.

I’ll keep on riding, running, hiking, climbing, and swimming.  These things are important to me.  They are me.

We are LIVESTRONG.

Come along for the ride of your life!

12 Things Really Educated People Know

February 21, 2012 Leave a comment

12 Things Really Educated People Know

This list was compiled by John Taylor Gatto, a teacher in New York City for 30 years and selected the state’s Teacher of the Year three times.  Gatto is the author of 6 books, including the wonderfully and colorfully titled Weapons of Mass Instruction (2008).

It is a wonderful and succinct list, one that I believe everyone should thoughtfully consider and most to enthusiastically adopt.  I am particularly fond of #s 4 and 5 on his list.

Play to Travel Smarter

December 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Chromaroma from Mudlark on Vimeo.

Chromaroma takes your travel data
and makes it into a game where every journey
counts in a competition for the city!

Play with friends or compete
against them. Set records, earn
achievements, go on real missions.
Travel like you mean it!

This video does not, alone, explain the value that Mudlark intends to instill via their game, Chromaroma, but it does hint at its promise. It is also, I think, a very cool video!

Mudlark is a game development company that says about itself, “(We) are building ways to create entertaining games from the data we create and leave behind without noticing. Mudlark believes games are a way to access this information and to make smart decisions about our lives.”

I believe that the technologies we use and the ways in which they are implemented should be designed to enable people to make smart decisions about our lives. The companies that enable people to make smart decisions should be encouraged and rewarded, while the companies that allow or force people to make stupid and dangerous decisions should be discouraged and penalized. It is clear to me that much of contemporary commerce is designed to encourage people to make poor choices, for personal and environmental well being. It is prudent to build economic incentives that discourage companies and individuals from narrowing our choices to those that are poor, insensitive, unhealthful, but highly profitable.

The concept behind Chromaroma is wonderful. It is a location-based game that is focused on the journey, not the destination. Most location-based games, like Foursquare and Gowalla, are centered on the places we go to, like parks, restaurants, offices, and train stations. They enable us to keep track of where we’ve been to, but not how we got there. Some Foursquare-based games are extensions, like Forecast, which shares not where you are, but where you are going to be. But life, as we say, is about the journey, not the destination.

So how is Chromaroma more like life itself?

It connects communities of people who cross paths and routes on a regular basis, and encourages people to make new journeys and use public transport in a different way by exploring new areas and potentially using different modes of public transport.
At its simplest, Chromaroma is about amassing the most points possible. By watching your own travel details you can investigate interesting new ways to travel and exciting new destinations in order to get more points.
Beyond competition and conquest, Chromaroma’s gameplay opens up the beauty in the city’s transport flows and reveals to its most persistent players some of the mysteries of travel, and even the strange characters travelling through the tunnels in the centre of the system, who may hold the secrets to your city.

Rather than merely tracking where we go and what how we spend our money, then trying to encourage us to spend more money at certain venues, the objective of Chromaroma, then, is to encourage people to use smarter travel means – tram, bus, boat, bicycles, etc. – meet and team up with others to travel to destinations that are meaningful, and discover things together in collaboration and competition.

Chromaroma is currently primarily available only in London. It seems that Mudlark is spreading some aspects of the game to other places, though, such as in Birmingham and Amsterdam. But other venues, it seems, are starting to take notice. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City – MoMA – is one such venue. ChromaMOMA was born in an exhibition that opened on July 24, 2011 at MoMA, entitled “Talk to Me”. The exhibition focuses on “the communication between people and objects”, and how “designers write the initial script that enables the two parties to communicate effectively and elegantly and features projects that “establish an emotional, sensual, or intellectual connection with their users.”

I think that these concepts will begin to spread to other places and directions (journey, not destination!), and will accelerate very quickly. Much has already been written about the tremendous growth of Foursquare. But again, I think that the viral growth of games that encourage and reward smart choices will rapidly rewrite this recent history. For I believe that most people are quite smart. We are smart enough to know that if we can play and win in activities that improve our lot, then it is pretty stupid to remain ignorant and dumb.

Number of Japanese in U.S. universities halves in 10 years – The Mainichi Daily News

November 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Number of Japanese in U.S. universities halves in 10 years – The Mainichi Daily News.

This, to me, is definitely disappointing news in Japan at a time when it is increasingly evident that the only way forward for people in this world to improve the welfare of all people is to communicate effectively.  While there is no intrinsic reason that any particular language is more important than any other, it is certain that English is important as a common global language for business, politics, and human welfare.  The fact that fewer and fewer Japanese seek any education in the United States serves as a reminder that many in Japan seek to further insulate themselves from the global reality.

It is not just study overseas that is suffering a crisis in Japan, however.  I believe that there is a lack of any sense of adventure among most Japanese.  Japanese society today seems to emphasize cultural norms and “harmony” to the extreme, pushing back any diversion from what is considered reasonable deviation.  Ultimately, the current social paradigm which places an extraordinary emphasis on “salaryman” lifestyles can only serve to limit any sense of personal responsibility and adventuresome spirit.

What is lost, mostly, is any real sense of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit.  There is a lack of chutzpah.  I am hopeful that things can and will change.  I think this is a recent phenomenon; certainly, the foreign student numbers reflect a dramatic shift in even a decade or two.  But without balls, there is not only no beautiful game, but no game at all.

How Games can Make a Better World

October 26, 2011 Leave a comment

I think that a lot of people might agree that games are an important part of a better world. That is, games and the fun that result from people engaged in gaming is a critical part of a better world. In fact, stated this way, I think that perhaps most people in the world would agree that games are important in a better world.

However, it is unlikely, I think, that most people would agree that games can MAKE a better world. That is, gaming and the process of playing games will be a critical part of changing the way in which we think about and engage with our world, making it a better place in which to live. This presents a very different position, that games are a solution to our world’s most pressing problems.

I am a lifelong Boy Scout. In writing Scouting for Boys and setting the stage for the international Boy Scout Movement, Lord Baden Powell wrote a book that outlines the principles of Scouting as a series of Camp Fire Yarns. Yarns are, of course, stories; usually they are stories that are long, elaborate, and twisted, but often have a moral. But these stories are punctuated throughout with games; these games are essential parts of the Scout program, that teach youth how to interact and engage with others and be prepared for all kinds of adventures and become responsible and practical adults.

For a Scout, then, it should be no surprise that games can help people develop good skills in solving real-world problems. games are not only an important part of the discovery process, but do very well to instill the practices that are just, good, and responsible.

It should not be so difficult, then, to extend this ideology to suggest that if we posit the most difficult issues of our time in a challenging and resolvable game format, then we are more likely to not only develop more creative and likely resolutions, but instill the habits that improve the odds of resolving these issues. If people are more likely to conduct challenging but vital activities when confronting them in a game than in real-life, then why don’t we make more of what we experience in real-life a game-like activity? What do we have to lose by doing so? More importantly, what might we gain?

If nothing else, real-world gaming might be good practice to resolving problems. But there is much more potentially to be gained by playing our way forward and framing the world’s most pressing issues as a game. For example:

Feeding the World Challenge

With 7 billion people on the planet, the world’s natural resources are currently stretched to the limit. Food, in particular, is at a premium, and half the world goes to bed each day hungry. Your objective in this game is to find a way to share/compete for resources to comfortably feed the greatest number of people, while gradually finding a population equilibrium.

Although this game example does not provide any details about how players play the game, its rules, methods, or devices, I think it illustrates how a game might posit critical real-word issues in a resolvable, creative, and meaningful way. In order to make the game more fun, there should be unpredictable elements, not just those that are associated with intellect or skill. Certainly, though, experience and smarts should count for something. It would certainly give a lot more people the opportunity and incentive to consider important issues and their resolution.

Feeling lucky today? Then give a game a go!

Good Advice from a Beginning Teacher

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

The article written by Brendan Clarke for Yes! Magazine is superb and stands well on its own. There really is no need to summarize or add any emphasis of mine. But merely posting it on my blog is not my style, so I will add a few of my own comments and observations.

Brendan summarizes his advice for new (and not so new) teachers in 5 simple tips. I condense them into 4 – not much of a difference, I know, but mine take less space. :-)

Dress up (1) – costumes, outrageously, humorously – to be fun and memorable. Don’t fail to be fallible (2). Be humble (3). And go outside (4) whenever feasible and possible. The world is what you are trying to teach; enabling the students to be successful “out there” – not in the box you’re in – is the real objective. If you do these things, the kids (and big kids) will generally pay attention, appreciate, and actively participate in thinking about what they are doing and hope to do in the future. Being successful or skillful in any one activity is not that important.

What is important about the advice Brendan gives is that people are likely to learn most from what they remember; that the most important things to study and learn are the things that are unknown, undiscovered, and (currently) impossible; and that if you challenge them to try adventurous activities in the real world – under teacher supervision and with your caring eyes and ears open – then they are more likely to accept these challenges when they are asked to do so for real as adults.

And that is all the reason in the world to become a teacher!

Gever Tulley: 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Another video from TED on learning…

Gever Tulley is the founder of The Tinkering School. The Tinkering School has been featured in Make Magazine and associated with the global Maker Faire community.

Japan has its own Make: Japan community.

Gever Tulley published his book, 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do), in April 2011. He has also a Website on the book and subject.

My two favorites:
Number 28 – Climb a Tree
Number 45 – Play with Fire.

Most people do not recognize the difference between dangers and hazards. In mistaking the two, we actually reduce safety, because children become unprepared to deal with important things in life that should be used with caution, gained through real experiences.

Nuff said – watch the video!

Studio Schools

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Introduction to Studio Schools (UK)

The Problem:
Large numbers of bored teenagers
No interest in school
No jobs, No hope
No line of sight between what they do in school and their future in work

Annoyed employers seeing young people unprepared for the world of business and employability
Both in their attitudes and experience

To find an answer:
They decided to think about what kind of schools would have kids fighting to get in and not fighting to stay out…

Their Answer:
Studio Schools
Renaissance Era Studio – work and learning are integrated
Work by Learning and Learn by Working.

Their Formula:
Small schools – 3-400 pupils
14-19 year olds
80% of study through practical work, in projects in real-life situations
personal coaches, in addition to teachers
timetables, much as in real work environments
public school system and funded, but independently run
no extra cost to students
no selection process
achieving academic qualifications and route to universities

Underlying Concepts:
Learn best by Doing things
Learn best in Teams
Learn best by doing things For Real

The whole concept of Studio Schools turns traditional schooling upside down. Not only did the young people like their experience, but within two years, the students with the poorest performance jumped to the top tier of all students in all of Great Britain.

I have no doubt that this type of school would work anywhere in the world. It can work in a wide range of age groups, with some tweaks to the quantity and quality of teaching, coaching, mentoring, and support, are provided to the learners.

Studio Schools are one of many experiential learning programs that have been supported by The Young Foundation, one of the most interesting organizations bringing together the interests of youth, education, entrepreneurship, and social responsibility. It is not only worth checking out, but I believe that many of its programs should be adapted and incorporated in Japan and throughout the world.

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