Thursday, September 11, 2008

Technology and eLearning - SVHATS 2.0

We started the new school year at Cabrini Connections this week, with orientations sessions for students and volunteers.

One of our goals is to teach students, volunteers, staff and leaders to use advancing networking, learning and collaboration tools in their daily interactions. The result of this is that students and volunteers will build learning habits that help them succeed in school, and compete more effectively for 21st century jobs.

One of our strategies is to use an on-line documentation system, (Student-Volunteer History and Tracking System) to document actions and encourage communications between students, volunteers and staff. While we created this system in 2003 and have been encouraging use since then, some of the communications features have never been working as well as we'd like because we have not had the manpower to upgrade the system.

This fall our eLearning and Technology Coordinator, Vjeko Hlede, has rebuilt SVHATS2.0 on a Moodle Platform. While this is for the Cabrini Connections community, I encourage other leaders of tutoring/mentoring programs in Chicago and beyond to review the system introduction.

SVHATS is just one way we support our students and volunteers and learn from their actions. Blogs written by staff and volunteers is another. These focus on different parts of what we do, and offer different perspectives than if there were just one instructor giving information to everyone.

Furthermore, Cabrini Connections is just one of hundreds of volunteer based tutoring and/or mentoring programs we support through our Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy. We maintain a database of hundreds of programs and an email list of more than 4,000 people. Each month we send information to everyone on the list that points to research on tutoring/mentoring, ideas being generated by different programs, and blogs and forums where people can connect and share ideas. Our aim is that other people help spread this information via their own technology. Here's an example.

Part of this points to the Student and Volunteer pages on the Cabrini Connections web site, and our Weekly News. We use this information to support our own students and volunteers. However, we believe that anyone in the world could operate their own program, and coach their own students and volunteers, using the information we provide each week to our own group. If you visit the Tutor/Mentor Institute, you'll find pdf essays that share our vision of a comprehensive, volunteer-based tutor/mentor program where the long term goal is that kids who start with us in elementary school our middle school, are still connected to the program, some of the volunteers, and each other, as they are looking for job interviews as a young adult.

Research shows that the community where you grow up has the greatest influence of your economic success in life. A tutor/mentor program like Cabrini Connections in a high poverty neighborhood changes the mix of adults and experiences that influence and support a youth's aspirations, and opportunities. Thus, if organizations in different parts of Chicago, or in different cities, want to create programs like Cabrini Connections, they can borrow liberally from the material on our web sites to design such programs, and to support their weekly efforts.

As you take that role, link to our sites and you'll provide a wider range of knowledge to your students, volunteers, staff and supporters. Participate in the conferences and forums we host, and we can share ideas and learn from you on a more consistent basis.

This is what Enterprise 2.0 and Web 2.0 are all about and if we can teach our teens to use these concepts, we can give them tools they can use throughout their lives.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Using Technology to Support Youth as Leaders

Many people talk about youth as leaders, but in my own personal experience, leaders are people who have a passion for something, and who invite others to help them solve that problem.

My passion is helping tutor/mentor programs like Cabrini Connections grow in high poverty neighborhoods. Within each of these programs my passion is to inspire the youth, volunteers, staff and donors to constnatly learn from the work of others that they meet via the Internet, to innovate on a daily basis better ways to help our teens stay in school, stay safe during non school hours, and build an adult network that will help them move into jobs and careers as they go their their mid-twenties.

One way I do this is to share ideas that I find via my networking on the Internet.

Here's a link to a youth program in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, in which youth are becoming environmental advocates, and are learning to use web technologies to organize and communicate their messages.

What are the causes our youth might become passionate about?

How about the envirionment? How about the health issues of wounded soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan? How about the social injustices and inequalities of poverty?

How do we lead our teens into this type of involvement? We recruit volunteers who have a passion for these issues themselves, and who will form learning circles at Cabrini Connections, or who will use the tech club, art club, video or writing clubs, as opportunities to teach the communications tools kids need, while providing content ideas through study of social issues.

Are you the type of volunteer who would like to help organize these types of learning circles? If yes, contact us at 312-492-9614 or

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Year End Dinner Celebrates Community of Youth and Adults at Cabrini Connections

On June 12th Cabrini Connections celebrated the 2007-08 school year with a dinner and awards ceremony. We recognized the work of 75-80 teens and nearly 100 volunteers who met weekly for one-on-one tutoring/mentoring and/or group learning. Four of our students were high school graduates. Most will be in 8th through 12th grade next year and will continue to need our help, and support from our donors.

When we say "tutor/mentor" most people might think of an image of a youth and volunteer sitting together. How many think of a diagram like the one posted here.

If our aim is to help our 7th graders be starting jobs and careers by age 25, what are the actions that need to happen each week and every year? What are the roles of kids, volunteers, parents, donors and others who need to be involved?

The goal of our elearning strategy is to create an on-line community which includes all of our stakeholders, who each spend time thinking about this goal, and their role in helping us achieve it, and then share what they know with others, via on-line collaboration communities. We've created a technology wiki for people to participate in this process. If you'd like to add your talent to help with planning, marketing, or to be a project manager in one of our technology activities, please introduce yourself.

We've also created a library of ideas and technology tools that our kids and volunteers can learn from. As more and more people visit these sites we hope they will gather in forums like Classroom2.0 to share and learn with others from around the world who are using technology for learning.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

End Of Year

With the end of the school year Cabrini Connections last official days of tutoring for the 2007-2008 school year are Wednesday May 21st. and Thursday May 22nd.; however, mentoring is a year round affair and we will still be open Monday - Friday throughout the summer. We encourage our students, parents, alumini and volunteers to come in and continue to use the technology resources for communication, research and learning during our tutoring/mentoring open house every Wednesday evening from 6:00-7:30 p.m
This is a great opportuinity for volunteers, student and/or their parents to continue "Coming Together and Growing Together"!

Additionally, we will continue to have both Tech Club – Tuesdays 7:00-8:00 p.m. and Art Club – Mondays 5:45-7:15 p.m. throughout the summer and encourage our youth members and volunteers to continue attending.

Our students are currently vying for a seat on the bus to Great America. There are just 3 weeks left in the tutoring sessions and only 10 students are poised to get on the bus. The only requirement for students to go to Great America is that they show up at Cabrini Connections as normal and sign into SVHATS. Its too easy to not make it. By signing into SVHATS over the next 3 weeeks all current enrolled students have an opportunity to go.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

SVHATS Revisited

In our efforts to better improve communication between students, volunteers and staff Cabrini Connections instituted SVHATS (Student and Volunteer History & Tracking System) in 2003. Since that SVHATS has proven to a an invaluable tool for gathering important information concerning the needs and wants of our volunteers and students.

To assist those who have expressed a problem finding the SVHATS hyperlink we have enhanced the lettering on the sidebar menu in both the volunteer and student section of the Cabrini Connections website. This enhancement although small will help as a visual reminder to our members to sign on to SVHATS everytime they log onto our site.

Additionally we have modified the "Weekly Reflection Sheet"; we changed the 5 points awarded to the student based on the volunteer signing in before 6:05pm to 5 points awarded for the volunteer signing onto SVHATS. We will also include a section in our Volunteer Weekly Newsletter that will reflect how many students and volunteers signed onto SVHATS the previous week.

We appreciate everyone who uses the SVHATS tool and encourage others to use it more often.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The 15th birthday of the web browser.

Tim Berners-Lee wrote the first web browser on a NeXT computer, called WorldWideWeb, finishing the first version on Christmas day, 1990. He released the program to a number of people at CERN in March, 1991, introducing the web to the high energy physics community, and beginning its spread.

In an article in the MorningSun from last week. The authors wrote "no other group is as entrenched in that technology as teens, who were just being born when that first Web browser came to be and were in first grade when the first Palm Pilot went on the market.

In most cases teens are using the media for social networking or to download music or for gaming. Prior to the Spring break it would be a good idea if both students and their mentors would consider exchanging not only email addresses but also social networking information as well.

As you know our technology goal at Cabrini Connections is to encourage a culture of learning among our students and volunteers and to further this culture of learning by teaching students and volunteers how to effectively use the Internet for learning and collaboration.

This week during the celebration of the teen years of web browsers would be an excellent time to help achieve part of goal by communicating with your student or tutor over the Spring break.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Building Blocks for Character

Positive Character is not something that a child is born with, it has to be taught. Children are constantly learning. They learn when we sit down and teach them, and they learn by watching others. Every influence they are exposed to has an impact, whether they observe their parents calmly discussing issues in the household, or they sit in front of the television watching violence. These influences shape their character.
As adults, we learn that to be successful in life we have to have mulitfacetted characters. WE don’t treat our spouses like we do our coworkers and we don’t treat our coworkers the same as we treat our friends. We must work to help our students apply these principles to their own lives now to begin to prepare them for a successful future. Many times a young person will tell you that acting respectful isn’t part of their character that they’d feel phony.
We have to remind them that there persona has to be multidimensional in order to make it in life. They can’t treat their mothers and fathers the way they do their friends on the street or they wouldn’t have a successful relationship with their parents, the same in school they shouldn’t treat their school time as they would their time in the streets, or they won’t have a successful chance at an education.
Self- Control... Honesty... Respect. These are all character traits that must be learned, we all know what kind of world we live in... but they can live in a better world.
It is so important to establish a foundation for excellence by teaching right from wrong and positive ways to deal with conflict in our lives. It is a given that every child born will face conflicts and have to make choices on a daily basis. If we can give them the tools they will need to be able to weigh their choices and choose to act in a positive manner, then they will have that foundation to be upright, moral citizens in the societies of tomorrow.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Connecting with our teens

These days, teens are growing up in a digitized and exciting ad world where bands promotes their iPods, McDonald's gets them to see Star Wars and an EverQuest II video game delivers them Pizza Hut. But with all these branded entertainment campaigns, what's working and what is doomed to turn off the savvy teen today?

1. Know what's hot.Teens are passionate about the following: Electronics and entertainment; iPod accessories; Target, the place to be seen; NetFlix, which is gaining momentum over Blockbuster; "American Idol", the only must-see TV show for teens.

2. Pick music over film any day. Music is something that does not have a shelf life of three weeks. Looking at music versus films, films are great, but there is a buzz about a film for three weeks and then it goes away. The buzz about an album that can last for a year or more.

3. Turn off the TV. TV is something that is in the background for teens as they are IM'ing with friends or doing other things. TV is "there" and present, and is something they pay attention to, but it does not define who they are.

4. Get into their social networks. 89% of the 200 kids surveyed by Buzz Marketing Group said they were fine when friends send them info about products through "My Space", but on the flip side, 92% of them were not fine when advertised to directly on "My Space".

5. Integrate causes that matter. Cause marketing is very important to teens. They care about changing and improving the world for the better.

6. Let them explore and discover. Wells calls teens the "Google Generation" because "Google" is more than a search to them. It's a window to things that they may not have gotten to so easily before.

7. Give them the tools to customize and document. Young people are really big on owning their own universe, being able to document it and share it with friends, which is why uploading photos or writing music are big trends.

8. Keep them communicating and connecting. Teens are creating their own community or "pods," as they're called. Instead of just having a big group of trendy friends, young people exist in their own "pods," mixing and mingling.

9. Find them on their cell phones. Since teens are on their cell phones more than ever, you can move a lot of her traditional research practices to cell phone based.

10. Be funny, cool and on the Internet. The company called "Myspace" is a great example. Teens sent its sites around to their friends right away, because it was the funniest thing they had seen.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

DIY (Do It Yourself)

The do-it-yourself mentality is one of the things that built this country, and it is most certainly still deeply embedded into the fabric of American sensibilities. FedEx was dreamed up by a college kid. Apple Computer started out as a pet project of Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs that they birthed in Jobs’ garage, and Google was founded in a dorm room by a couple of grad students from Stanford University. The list of spunky and successful startups goes on and on. Do-it-yourself projects (DIY for short) have been brewing in garages, basements, and college dorm rooms for years. It was inevitable that these ideas found their way onto Web sites dedicated to DIY projects of all types, and the sites feed the growing legions of people searching the Internet for answers on how to do everything from knitting to building a computer to home remodeling. There is even a man whose DIY project is being considered the first cure for cancer. There is a bevy of interesting, wildly entertaining, and even mischievous Web sites out there that offer articles, instructions, and video of DIY projects. Have you ever wondered how to make your own solar-powered bicycle? Or wanted some creative ideas for entertaining kids at a party? Or tried to figure out how to fix your car without sending it to a repair shop? The answers are out there. Here are a few I've come across...