Transformational Learning in a CyberLearning Summit

Some of us as pioneers in STEM and in technology, have been working in computer learning and use of technology so long that we had begun to think that change would never happen. Working in minority areas we are always running to catch up.

I was participating in technology well  enough to be on the National Information Infrastructure Advisory Council. We helped to frame the vision of what technology would be in the United States. We wrote documents and shared methodology. But change was slow in coming. Years have passed and not much has happened in some teaching and learning spaces. Some of our dreams and ideas are still waiting to be fulfilled, like Broadband for all. In case this information is history here is a link if you need a history lesson.

So we go from conference to conference and speak those who believe change will come. We continue to learn and try to keep carrying the message of the use of technology. But it has been hard. We pioneers are talking about computational sciences and the latest headlines from Apple regarding the repurposing of textbooks. You have to look at that picture, because the end of the conference talked about the reality of that happened. That was Chad Dorsey of Concord.org. He is the reason I was able to sit and sit and sit.. though the conference was great it was a long time to actually BE on line. Did I mention NSF? I take it for granted having taught in Arlington, with access  to their information. I remember being laughed at when we used the first iterations of digital media, but NSF was firmly in support. CUSEEME? the reporters said it was stupid. So much they did not know.

There was a reference to a cyber conference from the National Geographic . If you have ever had professional development from the National Geographic you would jump at the chance….the resources for teachers are so many. Their  training is outstanding and it is inclusive learning. So with NSF and SRI and National Geographic  I knew the offerings would be outstanding.  You can still participate in the portal to help build knowledge.

This was the site, for the webcast. If you know me,You know that I do not love webcasts because so many of them are really bad.  I also love the excitement of talking to the participants and the exchange of ideas. What I usually do  to go to the National Academy of Sciences and attend the workshops , when I know about them. It is a singular joy to learn in this way, but the experience from yesterday expanded the audience, created a collaborative group of people even beyond the projects that I love the most wbich are the Supercomputimg Comference and Cilt.org which is no longer an entity but a great model for what happened yesterday.So I was not included.. well really I was, there was the online group  you can look here to see the program  for the webcast. My friend from SRI gathered the best and the brightest to inform the public and to share the resources. I knew their work was from excellence since they were a part of Cilt.org. This may be their new way of :

What a powerful example of transformational learning . Here’s to the creators of the conference. You should join the thought parade. Thanks to all who created an inspirational day. Hopefully some of these ideas will be made a part of the national conversation on the use of technology.

How Do We Involve Girls in STEM? What would make them be able to say, “I Got This!!!”for STEM

In the media, we hear Jennifer Hudson say, ” I got this! ” She muses about building her first mansion.  Similarly, we hear about Beyonce and the birth of her child. I guess it could be jealousy, that I pay so much attention to it. But then JLo.. we see her and some other women splashed about the media. I guess except for Hillary Clinton , and a few astronauts, girls don’t see accomplished women or successful STEM people. They see Angela Jolie, or Snookie,Lady GAGA or Nicki Minaj, and  Paris Hilton coms to mind. So what does that tell girls about thinking about the future? You tell me. What do they see on television? You know, it certainly is not role models for STEM. I am not jealous, been there done that. I stated my adult life as a model. But academics lured me away. Teaching was what I loved.

I remember seeing an icon of supercomputing in my community. Grace Hopper used to visit Arlington Schools. All I knew was that she was an older woman that the Navy seemed to worship and I kept thinking, what is it that she does? She wore a wristlet and told us about a nanosecond, but I did not have a context in which to place her outreach. This is the story of  a computer pioneer. I only knew that my mother did card punch at the Navy Annex and she thought Grace Hopper was really smart. Grace Hopper

NASA empowered Christa McAuliffeto mesmerize another generation of students and teachers and to engage them in space science education . I was lucky enough to be a Christa McAuliffe Educator, for the NEA, NFIE and we did transformational teaching and created a seminar at Stanford. We got some headlines and inspired some students boys and girls. It may have been the astronaut suit or the frequent visits that scientists made to my classroom.

Boys and Girls learned from a teacher who had great professional development and resources,

There were also astronauts who worked with teachers, and students in the Christa McAuliffe Center and my kids and I were excited to work those programs.  Mae Jemison may now be the person that girls could pay attention to , if they knew who she is and what she does.

Mae Jemison Wikipedia/NASA

A project to pave the way for humanity’s journey to the stars will be helmed by a former astronaut, Mae Jemison, already a pioneer in her own right. She will lead DARPA’s 100-Year Starship project, the BBC says, citing DARPA documents.

Jemison, the first black woman in space, was one of scores of people to submit proposals for DARPA’s ambitious project. It doesn’t seek to build an actual starship per se but rather a program that can last 100 years, and might one day result in one. As DARPA told us last summer, it’s more of a thought experiment than a construction project. The idea itself sparked some other pretty audacious proposals, including one by J. Craig Venter to send human genomes toward the stars and reconstruct them.

For all girls there is this,

Talking Points
Comparing U.S. K-12 Students’ Math
and Science Performance Internationally
What are the facts, what do they mean for educational reform,
and how do I talk effectively about the issues?
In the popular press and in public debate, one ofte

AAAS , Teragrid, AAUW and the NCWIT groups help teachers to lead STEM initiatives

There are groups who work to trnasform education

hears that U.S. students are performing poorly in math and science in comparison to other countries. What is the basis for these claims? What are students’ actual scores and rankings? How should we interpret and use these scores? A better understanding of the evidence is important for making effective policy decisions that affect computer science and other STEM fields.

Here is the place to analyze the informaiton and to be educated about the reality of these
statements
What is the basis for the
international comparisons?
The source for these comparisons is the Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS), an international test administered every four years to 4th and 8th graders.* The test was first given in 1995 in approximately 20 countries. The most recent test was administered in 2007 to 4th graders in 36 countries and to 8th graders in 48 countries. The average score for each country is determined and used to rank all participating countries.
*The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a similar international test given to 15-year-olds. While PISA is less frequently cited, it also has limitations similar to TIMSS.

Jemison apparently won a contract for her proposal titled “An Inclusive Audacious Journey Transforms Life Here on Earth & Beyond,” BBC said. Her organization, the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, is already a partner on the project with a non-profit called Icarus Interstellar and a group called the Foundation for Enterprise Development.

To Engage Girls in STEM, Include Role Models and Watch the Messaging

Posted: 11 Jan 2012 05:19 AM PST

Two recent stories illuminate the benefits of after-school STEM programs for girls. Plus, teachers go back to school to learn how small classroom changes can improve girls academic achievement in STEM subjects.

http://mindshift.kqed.org/2012/01/steering-girls-to-science-and-tech-careers/

Girlstart   http://www.girlsinstem.org/

LEGO has released a new line of building toys called LEGO Friends aimed at bringing in more of a female based audience. This line has miniature figurines of girls that come with “girlish” accessories like lipstick …NJ.com · 1/3/2012
This new project was not so well received, but at least to me it was a start.
Some parents and educators think LEGO could attract more female users if the company featured more girls in its general products and advertising, instead of dividing boys and girls into different markets. Even Riley Maida, who is 4, has questioned why toys for girls seem to come in only one color, and she has garnered much attention for her tirade against the pinking of toy aisles: “Why do all the girls have to buy princesses? Some girls like superheroes, some girls like princesses. Some boys like superheroes, some boys like princesses. So why does all the girls have to buy pink stuff and all the boys have to buy different color stuff?” (Diane Sawyer was impressed.)Peggy Orenstein, author of “Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture,” recently wrote anop-ed in The New York Times on the nature vs. nurture debate as it relates to children’s toys. Orentstein notes that while research shows that boys and girls generally have different playing styles and gravitate toward different toys (though they unite around stuffed animals and books), that’s not justification for enforcing a divide. In fact, there are many good reasons to do the opposite:

The Future of Education and its Technology ( Guest Post)

The Future of Education and its Technology

Posted by Ebonstorm on April 27, 2009  snagged to share with those who think about these things

Imagine the Future

We like to see the future filled with possibilities. Education would be freely available to everyone and would come in a variety of new experiences; students using their telephones to attend classes online, while they are on their way to work, content management technologies connecting classmates from areas of the world once considered unreachable, and interactive 3D environments replicating real-time classrooms with tele-presence students and real students in the same lecture hall. In this new world, education would enhance the lives of the people who use it and they are able to freely interact with universities and business organizations instantly, in real time, to find collaborative answers to pressing and difficult questions and having the best sources to choose from all over the planet. Such collective efforts will permeate all areas of business, art and engineering, harnessing the power of multiple minds in a way never conceived of in earlier periods of history. They are sending video messages, having tele-presence conferences, storing and accessing data, and sharing results with the best and brightest of their generation regardless of their social status, race, creed or color. Computers and robotic machines handle the grunt work of society keeping us in the electronic tools and devices we will one day take for granted. Meaningful work is plentiful, no one works doing anything that doesn’t mean something to them. Some work on reclaiming the Earth from earlier generations of abuse, others are organizing the planet’s resources for better accessibility, many are managing the remaining plants and animals of the world for future generations. Businesses of all sizes are handling tasks and filling the needs of a happy and industrious planet. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Learning from the Past

Building that future is much more difficult. Any responsible advocate of higher education must address the nature of change in our society. Change is unavoidable. All institutions experience it, and some weather it better than others. The education engine of America has failed to maintain pace with the changes in society and the economic realities faced by people working today.

This is not a new problem. Its echoes can be traced back to the end of the Agricultural Age. During the late 1800’s as mechanization overtook the worker-heavy farming industry (i.e. the cotton gin), education became the means for people to transition to life in the cities with non-farming jobs, crafts and work in the industrial guilds. By the advent of the Industrial Age in the early 20th century, education was used to prepare workers to be absorbed into the new factories and industrial engines of that period’s productivity. Note there was an economic collapse during that period of transition. Like a computer after a crash, the societal infrastructure needed a restart to handle that transition. This was a second opportunity to recognize the imminent threat to American culture.

As the Industrial Age began to wane, again due to mechanization and process improvements in the early 1970’s (i.e. factory robotics and better information management) more was able to be done with less input by workers. This transition began to move people into the Service Industry as the birth of the Information Age began to create more advanced calculation devices to aid in the development of new sciences. Computers would change the landscape of the working world in ways unseen even by their creators.

We are at that crucial point again. An economic collapse has made it clear that business as usual has ended. The Information Age has made new waves of unemployment as factories close down and the service industry burgeons with the masses of workers displaced from the only life many have ever known. There is more information available than can be managed effectively by any single individual but the educational engine is still the one from the 1950’s, with its emphasis on individual achievement, its designated work periods and repetitive mind-numbing tasks, ready to churn out people to work in factories that no longer exist.

Now people are relegated to an overburdened service industry that employs them poorly and wastes their human potential. No matter the rhetoric spoken in government, education cannot continue to be last of our social priorities, if for no other reasons than, without quality education and its reform, the fabric of society continues to erode and tatter. The resource of the future will be innovation and problem-solving ability. Our only path to innovation can be found in the development of the human capital through education. Welcome to the Innovation Age.

At the Crossroads

Community college campuses are uniquely positioned to capture the population of the future workforce and direct it into one of the most economically powerful areas of the world today. California, being the world’s fifth largest economy will need a workforce constantly updating its skills, its knowledge and its capabilities to continue to compete in a more aggressive, world-wide, world-wise, and diverse economic structure.

In addition, students will need access to the most advanced concepts possible. Cooperative thinking, adaptive reasoning, an understanding of natural law and scientific thinking will be the keys to the workforce of the future. It will not be enough to simply memorize rote facts, the employees of the future need to be able to link those facts, find hidden relationships and solve problems from those facts, with skill and alacrity. They will need to have greater facility with language, mathematics, analysis, cultural awareness, and environmental consequences than any humans in history. A community college’s ultimate goal should be to allow its location at the center of the information technology, bio-technology and new sustainability revolutions to prepare its students for opportunities as members of a future when the synergistic explosion of these technologies co-mingle and improve each other.

Technology’s advance in our society has continued to change how workers and employers interact and provide services for each other. This constant growth and evolution has removed more workers from the workforce than it has employed, thus creating a form of ‘technological unemployment’ or unemployment created by the success of our technology! Fewer workers, armed with technology and technological concepts (robotics, development protocols, software and hardware) are producing more goods than ever in history. This fact has not been lost on governments concerned with educating and employing their populations. Unfortunately, the solution cannot be addressed without planning for future periods of unemployment, similar to what we are experiencing now. This problem can only be addressed with innovation, new ideas, and a revolution in the educational process.

A Modest Proposal

I propose Community College Districts nationwide begin to prepare their technological future to address the issues of a workforce whose path has become uncertain. The future of community colleges is to prepare for this new model of work by assisting students (who will eventually become employees and later employers) in the development of smaller, problem-solving enterprises. Ideally, these enterprises will be staffed by individuals who can see a way to improve society’s ills with the application of reasoning skills, technological acumen, attention to detail and access to a nexus of resources available to them, before, during and after they leave college. The future of education revolves around teaching people that they will perpetually be scholars, and their livelihood will revolve around their ability to creatively solve problems and promoting innovation in all that they do.

We can ill afford to throw money at problems hoping for a solution. We cannot expect the issues of Oakland, or of California or of the United States to be solved by people who do not live here. Nor do we have the luxury of time to resolve issues such as global warming, population overcrowding, and disease management. These problems need solutions now. People are disheartened with the recent economic collapse and many Baby Boomers struggle with their own obsolescence and the realization that their work lives have left them no better off than indentured servants. Society’s security blankets (Medicare, Social Security, 401K, IRA) have continued to lose value in the face of economic collapse. It is likely that older workers will continue to have to support themselves long after they expected to retire. Generation X and Y see little value in aspiring to the same fate as their parents. They view their parent’s dilemma as a systemic failure of our educational model; hence their lack of trust in society and their indifference to education.

A community colleges goal should be no less than the development of a way of thinking that allows its students to constantly be willing and able to adapt new ways of interacting with the world and to be a resource to the workforce no matter where they may be, since with the breadth of the Internet, that workforce can and will likely be anywhere (that also means that students may also be anywhere). The same way FaceBook, Twitter and MySpace have invaded the lives of young workers, community colleges and other organizations promoting education will need to perpetuate a love of continual learning in their students and to be a resource for them to make data-driven decisions no matter what career they are involved in; any place able to define itself as an always available resource will not lack for returning students, seeking an environment that promotes intellectual advancement and continues preparing them for the constantly changing workforce.

IT Challenges of Higher Education

With all of these things as challenges, the question is asked, what part does Information Technology (hereafter, IT) play in this? The developed world has to adopt a more global paradigm that inter-relates all manner of human endeavor, science, technology, education, environment, physics, psychology, sociology, and medicine shifting from the archaic industrial age to the advanced technology of the information age. Our educational model must be revamped, retooled and re-energized, in order to prepare our students to meet the challenges of the new global paradigm. IT is the architect of that paradigm.

Learning institutions need to empower our students to address issues based on information-based decision making using reason, training and problem solving skills enhanced by technology. IT is a vital element in that ability to solve problems by potentially providing ready access to real-time information for decision making; However, a real-time monitored and data-driven environment has not been created (unless you work at the Pentagon) and will be the first real challenge of the proactive organizations of the future. The ability to get digital information regarding resources available to solve problems is the first step to being able to direct human capital, energy, manpower and training toward those issues.

A community college’s goal is the same as any organization that manages information. To create a unified information data complex that allows fast, easy and yet secure access to any information required by any user of the data complex. This simple sounding idea is years away and paving the road to that ideal will require us to have information organized and categorized in such a fashion that it can be understood, transmuted, and translated while maintaining its accessibility to a variety of future users.

Defining the Problem

Organic (non-structured, non-intentional) development of IT within most college campuses has caused a divergence of standards and technologies resulting in a lack of uniformity of services, overlapping educational programs (i.e. business and IT classes), and a lack of ability to effectively manage or identify different technologies district-wide. All campus IT has been relegated to localized management, under the supervision of various IT support staff of widely differing capabilities. Organic IT development is not unique to a particular district; as both UC and California State University systems are battling this same conundrum. This does not imply those managing these IT resources are in the wrong, however, without a guiding set of principles for the purchase, maintenance and development of IT data structures and resources, such multiplicity of systems is bound to occur prohibitively increasing the complexity and the costs of those services. This decentralized management of IT systems, has resulting in an increasing cost of IT overall, a lack of standardization and poorly centralized management and coordination between the groups managing the many resources including IT classrooms, computer labs, library technology, and student service programs (EOPS, DSPS, career centers) across the district.

There are two primary challenges facing any educational facility with advanced technological capabilities. The first is hardware/software interface and infrastructure. What hardware should we use? What software should we use and support? What is the best way to reach our respective goals using what technologies? How do we effectively connect our staff and students to the internet in a secure, effective, and stable manner but not slow as a snail or overburdened with security software? How do we organize our administrative technology so it provides high quality service and is still relatively easy to use? Technology continues to grow and evolve at a prodigious rate, how do we know if we are keeping pace and providing the workforce of the future with the tools it needs? There are six major dynamic forces opposing the creation of any IT infrastructure, service or device. These forces are responsible for all decisions made on any hardware, software or service used in IT.

They are as follows:

Technological Standardization vs. Autonomy/Experimentation

Service innovation vs. Stability/Reliability

User friendliness/Accessibility vs. Security/Privacy

Consensus in decision making vs. Efficiency in decision making

Centralized management of services vs. Distributed services

Proprietary software vs. Open source software

The second challenge facing any educational facility with advanced technological capabilities is resource management. IT is a collection of diverse resources accomplishing a variety of objectives. How do we manage, control, maintain and organize an amazingly complex series of network services to make it possible to administer, educate and enhance the educational experience of our students now and in the future? How do we effectively train staff, faculty and administrators to think progressively with an eye toward future needs? How do we maintain a leading edge without losing our financial shirt maintaining this gigantic infrastructure of hardware and staff?

In addition to those six dynamic forces there are two additional meta-concepts to be considered along with a number of pertinent questions. Those two meta-concepts are Operational IT and Organizational IT.

Operational IT: comprised of educational, infrastructure and administrative services these are the physical hardware and software tools utilized to create the IT environment in total.

  1. Educational IT – Primary reason higher education exists. These are the tools used in the dissemination of information and education and in the development of learning resources for students.
  2. Infrastructure IT – Tools used to maintain the IT infrastructure including telecom services, network services, datacenters, classrooms, wireless, research facilities and labs.
  3. Administrative IT – Tools used by the administration to organize and maintain university information; HR database services, ERP and other student databases, financial services databases, student aid services, administrative and faculty offices.

Organizational IT: the organizational and management protocols, procedures and processes required to effectively manage, lead and organize IT services in any environment

  1. Governance – How the IT organization is managed i.e. Governance Committee, Technology Committees, and Division IT leaders and whether IT management is centralized or decentralized or some combination thereof.
  2. IT Resource Organization – best practices, SLAs (service level agreements), Staff management, training and retention, asset management, asset retirement and replacement schedules, policy creation and management
  3. Operating Costs – Management of the costs of IT: Who is responsible to determine the budget for IT resources campus-wide? Chancellors, Deans, Division Chairs, IT Staff? How are these long term costs computed? What are the hidden costs of inefficiencies in the IT structure?

A Path to Greatness

Developing IT for any environment is a constantly evolving organism. Clearly defined principles, committed staff, considered metrics for success and a well developed plan of action are the elements of a successful IT group. This path requires an honest and forthright assessment of all of the IT resources available to the district office and the attendant campuses. Blame is not being sought, but answers to the question of how to realize the potential of the IT infrastructure. For a community college’s IT to develop toward the ideal described in my opening paragraphs, we must devise a plan that integrates stability (ensuring service operation by trained and qualified staff), reliability (ensuring operation by industry established standards), security (the reasonable assurance of a secured data structure and policies) and scalability (the ability to add and extend the growth and development of the network without compromising its performance or operation).

An outline of that plan follows:

  1. The first step is to establish IT as an integral element of the any college organizational structure. IT must be seen as a member of the Administration, complete with its own resources (i.e. budget, staff development resources), support teams and autonomy to solve problems that may have lingered for years without effective resolution. IT management must be given the authority to resolve issues, as anything less will ensure the failure of IT projects in the future.
  2. Create a unified help-desk system to manage workflow and document change orders to improve service and to monitor costs. Include a knowledgebase and information wiki able to be updated by any in the IT workforce.
  3. Review the major themes to be covered by the district’s strategic plans and look at how technology can be directed toward those business ideals. This requires a review and a breakdown of the district office and the local campuses strategic plans to determine how those plans for future development can be supported by IT infrastructure at the strategic and operational levels. Meet with the technology committees already in existence and review previous successes and current challenges.
  4. Create a unified IT strategic plan document which encompasses the business ideals, IT development plans and the educational technology requirements of the district office and each campus.
  5. Document and build a model of all IT existing infrastructure, mapping hardware, software and services; this will ultimately require a grand re-organization of the network at all levels (from largest to smallest). However, this restructuring will pay off with the development of future services, allowing for remote management, remote deployments of new technology and standardization across the district. Standardization reduces costs, increases efficiency, and improves management of technology across an environment.
  6. Ensure the stability of those networks by establishing the guidelines and policies for their economic, technological and security requirements to be met on an agreed upon level (determined by Service Level Agreements). Those requirements need to be reviewed regularly to ensure they are as effective as when first established.
  7. Review and monitor all IT business structures and projects, services, vendor cost allocations, vendor-managed projects, IT budgets, and district-wide funding for IT.
  8. Develop an ERP Portal. The creation of an IT Steering committee and the installation of a project manager who is aligned with the needs of the staff, faculty, and administration’s will help to complete migration to this portal technology. Because of the portal’s ubiquitous nature and presence on all college campuses, this should be one of the highest priorities of the district, and for the same reason, the portal needs to hold to the highest standards of service.
  9. Define a technology path or potential specialization for each campus. This would reduce redundancies and improving coverage of technologies by the district. This would be done in accordance with educational development plans already in place.
  10. Craft an outline for a technology development plan for the campuses. Integrate technologies and develop economies of scale to reduce costs and to improve performance and services to all campuses. This step will take into account new technologies including secured wireless technologies, biometric security, new laptop and netbook hardware, server virtualization (where responsible and effectively improving services), imaging and print management, document and information management systems, centralizing networks and network security and fail-over firewall technologies.
  11. Redefine IT staff development processes (standardizing job descriptions, redefining duties of IT staff across the district) to determine staffing requirements for each campus and the district office. Consider models to improve performance for each campus, including the options of centralizing or decentralizing management of technology resources. The rule is: centralize for control, decentralize for innovation. This is likely to include the hire of new staff where appropriate and the training of current staff to improve their ability to function with the increase in technological development and complexity.
  12. Review, recommend and standardize on information management, content management and educational support technologies. These include reviewing open source programs for web content management including Drupal, WordPress, Joomla, Blackboard, Sakai and Moodle.
  13. Develop conceptual models such as the Information Technology and Infrastructure Library (ITIL, CMDB). This includes the creation and use of process and project management tools to promote the successful implementation of IT infrastructure, development, and operations. Utilize project management techniques (perhaps even hire a dedicated project manager) to get a handle on outstanding or underperforming projects in the district and prioritize resources to improve their completion and success rates.

Is this all it takes?

Not even close. I won’t lie to you. Implementing this will likely take some time. Designing the priorities will be the first step toward the development of IT at any Community College District. Nothing written on five pages can prepare you for the scale of the undertaking. But I have a plan. The principles outlined here are solid and tested. Best of all, they are scalable, so they can be adapted the concepts to any size organization. What you have here is not just a plan but a vision of the future. I will leave you with my favorite quotation. I hang it on my wall wherever I work. It inspires me to always do my best and reminds me that nothing I attempt is impossible.

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Bibliography

LELAND, JOHN. “Skills to Learn, to Restart Earnings.” The New York Times Online 01-04-2009¬ 2 Apr 2009 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/02/business/retirementspecial/02reskill.html?em

University of California, Berkeley Strategic Planning Task Force, UC Berkeley Strategic Academic Plan, 2002, Page 22, http://spc.vcbf.berkeley.edu/document/AcademicStrategicPlan.pdf

You can find links to a lot of my writing in all of these places: http://myonepage.com/ebonstorm

Google+: http://gplus.to/ebonstormTwimagination: http://twimagination.com/user/ebonstorm (short story collection)

A Matter of Scale: WordPress – http://ebonstorm.wordpress.com/ (technology, politics, commentary, writing)
Mediasphere Curation: Tumblr – http://mediasphere.tumblr.com/ (news curation site: technology, science, politics)
Tales of the Twilight Continuum: Weebly – http://ebonstorm.weebly.com/ (author’s website, excerpts, science articles)
Hidden Realms: Posterous – http://hiddenrealms.posterous.com/#!/68615711 (webfiction site)

Hayward’s Reach – My recently published Sci-fi and fantasy short story collection

Digital Divide, Mobile Divide, Knowledge Divide, Access Divide, Are We a Nation of Opportunity?

TECHNOLOGY         We Still Have a Digital Divide and it is growing!!

In recent years, it’s become clear among academics, community organizers and government policymakers that addressing the issue of access is just the first step, not the whole solution, to the digital divide.

Once connected, some people don’t have the skills to make full use of the Internet, or don’t participate in social and civic life online because they’re too busy working two jobs to make ends meet.

The barriers are numerous and complex, meaning that the problem remains persistent, and not subject to a single, easy fix.

But without universal broadband adoption and full participation in digital life, to use one example, governments must maintain digital and paper systems that are duplicative and wasteful. The divide also makes it hard for schools to embrace digital tools, knowing some students have them and some don’t. And with more job applications moving online, being on the wrong side of the digital divide can make it harder to get a job.

“The size, the nature, and the endurance of the digital divide has a lot of impact on the U.S.,” said Tessie Guillermo, president and CEO of ZeroDivide, a nonprofit based in San Francisco that works with community groups across the U.S. to address issues of digital exclusion. “In terms of global competition, innovation and economic power, if 20 percent of our people are not on the Internet, their contribution to the economic vitality of the U.S. is not being maximized.”

When you can't get it in school use a technology center

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

Back in 2010, the FCC released a National Broadband Plan that was an ambitious attempt to reach universal broadband adoption while addressing the many complexities of the digital divide. Rather than fading away, the FCC made three important announcements this year that show it still has momentum:

  • The Universal Service Fund that for decades had been dedicated to telephone adoption was transformed into the Connect America Fund, which will generate $4.5 billion to help millions get access to broadband connections.
  • Connect to Compete, an agreement with broadband providers to create a $9.95-a-month plan for families that are eligible for federal lunch programs.
  • And the creation of a nonprofit public-private partnership with a long list of telecommunications and tech companies that will provide digital literacy and skill training.Remarkably, it’s all being done without cutting other services, or raising any taxes. And while not revealing details, Genachowski said he expects more progress in 2012.We are still a long way from closing the digital divide, to be sure. But by keeping the topic on the national agenda while also managing to make progress should be considered a huge victory for Genachowski and the FCC.
  • Barriers to Use

    Affordability: 36 percent of non-adopters, or 28 million adults, said
    they do not have home broadband because the monthly fee is too
    expensive (15 percent), they cannot afford a computer, the installation
    fee is too high (10 percent), or they do not want to enter into a
    long-term service contract (9 percent). According to survey
    respondents, their average monthly broadband bill is $41.

    Digital Literacy: 22 percent of non-adopters, or 17 million adults,
    indicated that they do not have home broadband because they lack the
    digital skills (12 percent) or they are concerned about potential
    hazards of online life, such as exposure to inappropriate content or
    security of personal information (10 percent)

    .

    Relevance: 19 percent of non-adopters, or 15 million adults, said they
    do not have broadband because they say that the Internet is a waste of
    time, there is no online content of interest to them or, for dial-up
    users, they are content with their current service.

    Digital Hopefuls, who make up 22 percent of non-adopters, like the idea
    of being online but lack the resources for access.
    Few have a computer and, among those who use one, few feel comfortable
    with the technology. Some 44 percent cite affordability as a barrier to
    adoption and they are also more likely than average to say digital
    literacy are a barrier. This group is heavily Hispanic and has a high
    share of African-Americans.

    Julius Genachowski

Literacy today depends on understanding the multiple media that make up our high-tech reality and developing the skills to use them effectively

Prior to the 21st century, literate defined a person’s ability to read and write, separating the educated from the uneducated. With the advent of a new millennium and the rapidity with which technology has changed society, the concept of literacy has assumed new meanings. Experts in the field suggest that the current generation of teenagers—sometimes referred to as the E-Generation—possesses digital competencies to effectively navigate the multidimensional and fast-paced digital environment. For generations of adults who grew up in a world of books, traveling through cyberspace seems as treacherous and intimidating as speaking a new language. In fact, Prensky1 recognized such non-IT-literate individuals as burdened with an accent—non-native speakers of a language, struggling to survive in a strange new world.

We who have technology complain about or love the various changes that happen on a daily basis with the use of the Internet.

http://www.businessinsider.com/incredible-things-that-happen-every-60-seconds-on-the-internet-2011-12

Internet Access A Right!!

Vint Cerf had some reflection on the state of the art and whether or not it is a digital right. He said.”

Although some countries around the world argue that Internet access is a fundamental right, one of the “fathers of the Internet,” Vint Cerf, doesn’t see it that way.

“Technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself,” Cerf, who is also a Google’s chief Internet evangelist, wrote yesterday in an editorial in The New York Times. “There is a high bar for something to be considered a human right. Loosely put, it must be among the things we as humans need in order to lead healthy, meaningful lives, like freedom from torture or freedom of conscience. It is a mistake to place any particular technology in this exalted category, since over time we will end up valuing the wrong things.”

It is no secret that the recession has hit our nation hard, particularly in low-income and minority communities. Naturally, many government institutions and private organizations have turned to broadband to help them cut costs by streamlining various processes and keeping productivity levels high. In general, this is a productive use of a transformative technology – and embracing it to improve efficiency is certainly the right thing for these organizations to do. But what about the millions of Americans who lack a home computer and who remain unconnected to broadband? How are they supposed to apply for government benefits online, access Web-based job search sites, and otherwise participate in this digital revolution? The short answer is that those who remain unconnected are relegated to second-class digital citizenship. Enhancing the broadband adoption rate across every demographic group must be priority number o

ne for policymakers at every level of government. Without more robust broadband adoption, too many Americans will be stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide. Social justice and continued economic prosperity demand a concerted effort to get these non-adopters on a path toward first-class digital citizenship.

Links to Sources

My ideas for education have not changed . The technology has. How can minority kids learn computational thinking, and new supercomputing ideas if they are not connected?

A fourth “r” for 21st century literacy- How do we give teachers professional development for it?

A student today needs a fourth R:  Reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic  and ’rithms, as in algorithms, or basic computational skills.

From the floor of the Supercomputing Conference where teachers go to learn, and take courses

Immersion into Supercomputing

So my question is, how do we expect this to happen if the only outreach is to the teachers who are being wonderfully made a part of outreach who have PHD’s? There are ways to infuse interest, information and create the steps to the fourth “r” but for many students who are taught by teachers with little or no science training. Remember, with NCLB( No Child Left Behind) science was really neglected. Within the supercomputing community, some of us have started to push the envelope. Here is a paper that we wrote to open the challenge to other teachers. Computational Thinking, Computational Science and High Performance Computing in K-12 Education: White Paper on 21st Century Education

We are a small group seeking change and inclusion. Do you have to be a PhD to understand the new literacy? I don’t think so. If that is the passport to computational learning there are groups with so little membership that they will never catch up. Look at this data.


www.nsf.gov

This report continues a series of Congressionally-mandated biennial reports, providing data on the participation of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering education and employment.

SOME CORPORATE VISIONS OF WHAT HAS TO HAPPEN

The Power of US is an ambitious, nationwide initiative that aims to transform K-12 education, and provide a customized learning experience for every child in America. This is a call for a major effort, similar to a ‘NASA moon shot’, with every student, teacher, school, and community involved in lift-off!  Our founder, Jack Taub had an interest in infusing the curriculum into schools K-12 so that computational science would be a natural part of the teaching learning process.

Academics seem to push away the classroom teachers, and there will be more PhD’s ,but who of them will serve the minority , urban, distant and poor communities, the ones who need resources the most?

There have been countless commission and organizational reports validating the WSJ CEO Council’s conclusion and describing the extent and impact of the lagging quality of America’s K-12 public education system.  The following are excerpts from a few current ones.

  • In April of 2009 McKinsey & Company took a close look at the impact of the education deficit between the U. S. and leading foreign countries.  They concluded:  “If the United States had in recent years closed the gap between its educational achievement levels and those of better-performing nations such as Finland and Korea, GDP in 2008 could have been $1.3 trillion to $2.3 trillion higher. This represents 9 to 16 percent of GDP.  … Put differently, the persistence of these educational achievement gaps imposes on the United States the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession. The recurring annual economic cost of the international achievement gap is substantially larger than the deep recession the United States is currently experiencing. (Based on GDP decline in the fourth quarter of 2008 of minus 6.3 percent.)” [1]
  • The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) recognized and addressed another major issue.  Without belittling the need for students to have a solid understanding of the content represented by the academic standards, P21 advocates the inclusion of another essential body of knowledge and/or skills as illustrated in the following quote from their website: to help the U.S. education system keep up by fusing the traditional 3 Rs with the essential 4 Cs (critical thinking and problem solving, communication and collaboration, and creativity and innovation).” (http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/)  The problem is, in many of today’s classrooms students are passive, dependent listeners, not active, engaged learners.  As a result, they do not have an opportunity to learn or use critical 21st century skills.
  • America’s leaders frequently bemoan the dropout problem, and rightly so.  However, we also have a diploma problem – people who graduate from high school without actually receiving an education.  To quote a recent study called “Diploma to Nowhere: A hoax is being played on America. The public believes that a high school diploma shows that a student is ready for college-level academics. Parents believe it too. So do students. But when high school graduates enroll in college as many as one million students fail placement exams every year. Well over one third of all college students need remedial courses in order to acquire basic academic skills.
  • This is a way of looking into the future. Future Work Skills. You will note the computational sciences here.
    http://cdn.theatlantic.com/static/front/docs/sponsored/phoenix/future_work_skills_2020.pdf

TEACHER SPECIALISTS Say…..

Linda Darling Hammond and Tom Carroll do understand the ebb and flow of teacher candidates and the fact that there should be support , infrastructure and community to make significant changes. If you are really interested in change view this video by Linda Darling Hammond.

Is there a level of understanding in the academic higher ideational scaffolding about how to broaden engagement and make this new literacy available to all  teachers by inclusion? Surely we are not going to go back to the old model of teaching just the eleventh gaders and above who have managed to enter a career path that has been inclusive of computational thinking. The problem there is that there are teachers who have not been exposed to the computational resources to use to develop the skills. Ok let’s tell the truth.Math is not the strongest academic area for most teachers. So how can we make this tremendous change. There are groups working to make this change. But we need the teachers in the classroom to be educated. There are few PhD’s in the minority communities and even those are not in the areas where we need them to teach to create the kind of change that is needed.

If you read how people get hired in the essay /interview from Linda Darling Hammond, minority students will hardly get a chance to be taught by someone who is skilled in the computational sciences, or math, or science. We have to change that.

Pat Phillips has a wonderful powerpoint that shares the ideas.

FROM THOSE ACTUALLY INVOLVED IN TEACHING?

Diane Baxter and     Mano Talaiver who work with K-12 teachers

These two women know to link with the teachers in the classroom and to provide outreach to the teachers , to the learning community and link to the universities. Mano is at Longwood University in Virginia , and Diane Baxter is at the San Diego Supercomputing Center.They have been funded to create change and to help teachers make the neccesary  transistions.’

Here is a reason for the immediacy of the change to curriculum.This is long.

As a minority , as a woman we are always running to catch up. Technology is ever evolving,

Vint Cerf says, this in a wonderful essay.

“What about the claim that Internet access is or should be a civil right? The same reasoning above can be applied here — Internet access is always just a tool for obtaining something else more important — though the argument that it is a civil right is, I concede, a stronger one than that it is a human right. Civil rights, after all, are different from human rights because they are conferred upon us by law, not intrinsic to us as human beings.”he says.

“While the United States has never decreed that everyone has a “right” to a telephone, we have come close to this with the notion of “universal service” — the idea that telephone service (and electricity, and now broadband Internet) must be available even in the most remote regions of the country. When we accept this idea, we are edging into the idea of Internet access as a civil right, because ensuring access is a policy made by the government.”

“Yet all these philosophical arguments overlook a more fundamental issue: the responsibility of technology creators themselves to support human and civil rights. The Internet has introduced an enormously accessible and egalitarian platform for creating, sharing and obtaining information on a global scale. As a result, we have new ways to allow people to exercise their human and civil rights.”

In this context, engineers have not only a tremendous obligation to empower users, but also an obligation to ensure the safety of users online. That means, for example, protecting users from specific harms like viruses and worms that silently invade their computers. Technologists should work toward this end.”

The Answer Sheet

This was written by Cathy N. Davidson, a Duke University professor, self-described “technopragmatist,” and author of Now You See It:  How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. 

By Cathy N. Davidson

What basic skills do kids today need to thrive in the 21st century digital age? The 3 R’s of “reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic” were deemed essentials of mandatory public schooling in the 19th century Industrial Age where mass printing and machine-made paper and ink made books available to just about everyone for the first time in history. A student today needs a fourth R:  Reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic  and ’rithms, as in algorithms, or basic computational skills.   By getting the youngest kids started on algorithmic or computational thinking, we give them the same tool of agency and being able to make (not just receive) digital content that the 3 R’s gave to Industrial Age learners.

Here’s a definition of algorithm adapted from the Wikipedia dictionary.   “Algorithm: A process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, esp. by a computer.”  Algorithms are the basis for computational thinking, programming, writing code, and webcraft.   Just as the last century saw a major educational initiative aimed at basic literacy and numeracy for the masses, the 21st century should be pushing for basic computational literacy for everyone, starting with kids and, of course, with adult and lifelong learning possibilities for all of us.

Before mass printing, universal literacy and numeracy were not considered important because the division of those who ruled and those who were ruled was skewed radically, so a small aristocracy controlled the majority of people.   With the rise of the middle class in industrialism came compulsory schooling and a push towards universal literacy.   Simple access to print doesn’t mean much unless you can read and write.  You can’t be middle class without some control over your own budgets, income, earnings, spending, and savings so elementary numeracy is crucial.

Algorithms are as basic to the way the 21st century digital age works as reading, writing, and arithmetic were to the late 18th century Industrial era. Here’s some of what the fourth “R” of “algorithms” adds to the standard syllabus of 21st century learning:

*Algorithms and algorithmic thinking give kids of the 21st century the ability to write software and change programs to suit themselves, their own creativity, and their desire to self-publish their own multimedia work.  Wonderful open source, nonprofit (free!) multimedia programs like Scratch , designed by the MIT Media Lab, inspire kids to “create and share your own interactive stories, games, music, and art.”  Or kids can take advantage of the free online web remixing programHackasaurus , created by the nonprofit Mozilla Corporation that develops the Firefox browser.

*Learning basic algorithms allows them to create not just content but the actual structures of Webcraft that govern their lives today, including interaction with other kids learning the same skills they are.

*It allows for more diverse participation in the creation (not just the consumption) of the digital cultural, as well as the economic, educational, and business products of the 21st century.

*It helps to end the false “two cultures” binary of the arts, humanities and social sciences on the one side, and technology and science on the other.   Algorithmic thinking is scientific but also operational and instrumental — it does stuff, makes stuff, allows for creativity, multimedia and narrative expression — all worked out within code that has been generated by these larger human and social and aesthetic priorities.

*By making computational literacy one of the basics, it could help redress the skewed gender balance of learning right now, with an increasingly high proportion of boys failing and then dropping out of the educational system, a disproportionate number of women going into teaching as a profession, and an abominably low percentage of women going into technology and multimedia careers.  Starting early might help level the playing field in several directions at once.

*If we don’t teach kids how to control this dynamic means of production, we will lose it.  Computational literacy should be a human right in the 21st century but, to access that right, kids need to learn its power, in the same way that the earlier literacies are also powerful if you master them.

*For those kids not destined to be programmers when they grow up, this Fourth R gives them access to computational thinking, it shows them what webcraft is and does, and it shows them how the World Wide Web was originally designed; that is, with algorithms that allow as many people to participate as possible, allowing as much access and as little regulation, hierarchy, and central control as possible.

*For the Fourth R to catch on, we’d also have to invest in teacher training. That might include scholarships for college students who wanted to go on to be teachers of basic computing skills.  Think about the range of societal impacts this would have.  It may be true that simple code writing today can be outsourced and off-shored — but teaching the building blocks of literacy for a digital age is an important skill and requires good teachers.

*Unlike math, which can often be difficult to teach because of its abstractness, teaching basic programming skills allows kids to actually do and make things on line, that can be shared within the various educational communities supported by programs like Scratch or Hackasaurus.  Grade school kids can very soon manipulate, create, and remix, in their very own and special way, with unique sounds and colors and animation and all the things that make learning fun and the Internet so vital.

Some have argued that the most important 3 R’s in education are really rigor, relevance, and relationships.  Adding “Algorithms” to reading, writing, and arithmetic also helps with that goal.  The rigor is not only inherent, but it is observable. You get your program right, and it works.  No end-of-grade testing required.  Algorithms only when you make them right, so you don’t need external measures.  Your progress is charted, tracked, and can be measured against that of others every time you solve a problem on line.

What could be more relevant to the always-on student of today than to learn how to make apps and programs and films and journalism and multimedia productions and art for the mobile devices that, we know, are now almost ubiquitous in the United States, if not by ownership then by availability in town libraries, schools, and elsewhere?

Finally, relationships: teaching algorithms is hands-on, even when it is done digitally.  You correct on a minute level, you learn, you go to the next level.  Someone guiding you can make all the difference.

If every child began to learn programming along with basic reading, writing, and arithmetic, the world of computer scientists and software entrepreneurs would be far more diverse — in gender, educational background, income level, race and ethnicity, and region.

How would our world change if we had something closer to universal computer literacy equal to the old forms of literacy and numeracy which were the object of 19th and 20th century public schooling?  What could our world look like if it were being designed by a more egalitarian, publicly educated cadre of citizens, whose literacies were a right not a privilege mastered in expensive higher education, at the end of a process that tends to weed out those of lower income?

The 4 R’s.   Reading, writing, arithmetic, algorithms.    Think about it!

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Teacher Tales of Salary, Data / Cold Hard Facts/ Are Teachers Over or Under Paid? Read and Have Your Say!!

You probably know where I am going with this blog on teacher pay.Liz

In the private sector, people with SAT and GRE scores comparable to those of education majorsearn less than teachers do. Does that mean teachers are overpaid? Or that public schools should pay more to attract top applicants who tend to go into higher-paying professions?

 

Outside groups enriched my teaching and my resources

Prodessional development is key!

READ THE DISCUSSION »

If you saw this New York TImes piece, you probably had to reflect a bit on how teachers get compensation.

WASHINGTON — During her first six years of teaching in this city’s struggling schools, Tiffany Johnson got a series of small raises that brought her annual salary to $63,000, from about $50,000. This year, her seventh, Ms. Johnson earns $87,000.

I taught for 30 years and my compensation was so small, I won’t post it. But I will say that my rewards were from outside the system and I am highly qualifed. The first thing I learned in working the country, was NOT to talk about teacher salaries. No matter how great an idea I was pushing, I learned that this is hot button stuff.

First the article then some information.

In Washington, Large Rewards in Teacher Pay

By SAM DILLON

In a new system to retain young talent, about 476 teachers received sizable bonuses this year, with 235 of them getting unusually large pay raises. Interesting article.

.

You will note that this blogger wrote this piece back in the fall to give a perspective on teaching and salaries.

By Andrew Otis, The Writer’s Network

https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=204480739622960

Pay for teachers in the United States varies widely. The median or mean teacher salary in the U.S. varies per whichever source you decide to use. The two most reputable sources for teacher salary estimates are the US Census and the American Federation of Teachers, a US teachers union that represents most of the educators in America.

Charter vs. Public

 Charter school teachers generally have lower starting salaries than do public school teachers on average. According to the American Federation of Teachers, the average starting salary of charter school teachers in 2006 and 2007 was lower than public school teachers. Starting charter school teachers earned an average of $34,817 for their beginning salaries. In comparison, average starting salaries for public school teachers was $41,106 during this same period.

Census.gov Estimates

According to Census.gov, the US census website, the average pay for classroom teachers in 2009 was $52,900. The PDF for this data was created in 2011.

Teacher pay has increased dramatically over time. Census.gov has evaluated teacher pay and found that it has increased on average from $23,587 in 1985, $37,264 in 1995, $45,884 in 2005 and $52,900 in 2009. So, not accounting for inflation, classroom teacher pay has almost doubled in 25 years. Meanwhile, salaries for principals and administrators have almost tripled in some cases. Superintendents who made on average $56,954 in 1985 now make $155,634 on average as of 2009.

American Federation of Teachers

The American Federation of Teachers, a teachers union that represents many teachers throughout the US, posted its own teacher salary estimates in 2007. The American Federation of Teachers estimates that after “15 years of relative stagnation” in teacher pay, teacher salaries have been on the rise during the first half of the last decade. The mean teacher salary, according to the American Federation of Teachers during 2006 to 2007 was $51,009. Salaries have generally remained frozen during the current financial recession.

High Paying State and Low Paying States

Teacher pay, as mentioned earlier, varies a lot depending on which state you teach in. California ranks number 1 in teacher pay with an average pay of $63,640. South Dakota ranks number 50 in average teacher pay with an abysmal $35,378.

High School vs Middle School vs. Elementary School Pay

The data on average teacher salary comparisons between high school teachers, middle school teachers and elementary school teachers is spotty at best. One website, payscale.com, estimates that high school teachers have the highest salaries of the three on average, followed by middle school teachers and finally elementary school teachers. According to them, high school teachers are paid an average $43,386, middle school teachers $41,762 and elementary school teachers $40,060. These data are significantly lower than those reported by the American Federation of Teachers or the US census, so take the results with a grain of salt. The most important pattern to understand here is that high school teachers have the highest salaries on average, followed by middle school teachers and finally elementary school teachers. However, the pay differences are not terribly significant on the whole.

Another report on teacher salary with recognition of variables around pay by region. here

The profession is notorious for losing thousands of its brightest young teachers within a few years, which many experts attribute to low starting salaries and a traditional step-raise structure that rewards years of service and academic degrees rather than success in the classroom. They don’t talk about the politics of place, the ideational scaffolding within a system, and the fact that teachers who move to another state may find that they are not eligible to teach in another state. So they go.

Another discussion will take you to the point where you are told that anyone can teach and that retirees from other walks of life are better teachers.

Tom Carroll at the Wireless Workshop talked about how there are many artisanal teachers , when what we need is a process to create, support and inform teachers to be the best they can be. Here is some of his groups work.
Who Will Teach? Experience Matters (January 2010): Full Report
Between 2004 and 2008, 300,000 veteran teachers left the workforce for retirement. Baby Boom teachers who made lifelong commitments to education are retiring, and in many cases are taking their hard-earned wisdom with them. Why can’t we just recruit our way out of this challenge? Because the rate at which new teachers leave has been increasing steadily over the last 15 years.
For other “Who Will Teach?” Resources click here.

The Next Generation of Learning Teams (October 2009):
Phi Delta Kappan cover story by Tom Carroll.

Learning Teams: Creating What’s Next (April 2009): Full Report
Snapshot of State-by-State Demographics of the Teaching Workforce: Report Appendix
According to new NCTAF research, and a national survey of teachers and principals, the nation stands to lose half of its teachers to retirement over the next decade. The report finds that over 50 percent of the nation’s principals and teachers are Baby Boomers. To avoid a potential school staffing crisis, NCTAF recommends the concept of Cross-Generational Learning Teams, in which experienced veterans could stay in teaching longer by working with new teachers, providing mentoring, coaching and instructional assistance that will help to improve student performance and reduce attrition rates for new teachers.

Interesting Infographic on what the public thinks.

And what do you think?

Women in the World… it is not a Flat World for Women /Different in the US, Unbearable Trafficking Internationally

A colleague sent me this story. Sad to say, since I read the international news and am connected with some people in developing countries, It was not new to me. Actually if you pay attention to www.ncwit.org, we have a way to go in the US.

First , the data from the US

Introduction of technology to new users

HANDS ON tECHNOLOGY

How aware are we of the socio cultural kinds of things we support in other cultures, or not? My mother was Native American , my father Black, which makes me Black in America or did before Obama.

In America we talk about opportunities for women and ways to point them to opportunities.

NCWIT Talking Points
While working around the world, I found that being a single , American female was not  necessarily a good
talking point. I was often asked, ” Do you have disease?” and questiones about why I was not married at the time.
I was teaching STEM initiatives in Jordan when the men entering said. ” Where is the teacher, this is a woman?!!”
Meanwhile if we add minority status to the mix. we get this data.

“Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will,” explained the South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela.  Success is a difficult thing to measure.  How do you determine success when your neighborhood is flooded or teachers at your child’s school are being laid off?  Is the freedom to succeed something that most Americans feel in their daily lives?

Although Nelson Mandela highlights how the powers of money are limited, he also suggests that people struggle to be successful when they do not have access to work and economic opportunity.  In the United States, the disparity of wealth among the people is a grim reality.  It is particularly glaring when you look at the median income for people grouped by race and sex.

Women of every race made less than men.  Those who usually worked full time had median earnings of $683 per week, or 82.4 percent of the $829 median for men.  The female-to-male earnings ratio varied by race and ethnicity. White women earned 81.7 percent of their male counterparts, compared with black (95.0 percent), Asian (80.4 percent), and Hispanic women (90.4 percent).  Although the gap between black men and women’s salaries is not as gaping as within other workers of other races, this figure may say more about the staggering degree of discrimination against black men than lack of sexism against black women.

The Department of Commerce gives us this information on women in America.

International Status of Women

But in my travels, I found women to be set aside in technology, or at least minor players in the technology world. I had been appointed by the President and worked internatinally, but who knew that women were looked at askance in other cultures.

“[Opium] is the only means of survival for thousands of women-headed households.”

I will talk about Afghanistan because most of the stories I am getting are from there.I have worked in Africa with the boy soldiers and the girls who were forced to be with them and the soldiers.They told us about the boys, but one had to pry to find out about the girls.OPIUM BRIDES?

                         In the country’s poppy-growing provinces, farmers are being forced to sell their daughters to pay loans.

Khalida’s father says she’s 9—or maybe 10. As much as Sayed Shah loves his 10 children, the functionally illiterate Afghan farmer can’t keep track of all their birth dates. Khalida huddles at his side, trying to hide beneath her chador and headscarf. They both know the family can’t keep her much longer. Khalida’s father has spent much of his life raising opium, as men like him have been doing for decades in the stony hillsides of eastern Afghanistan and on the dusty southern plains. It’s the only reliable cash crop most of those farmers ever had. Even so, Shah and his family barely got by: traffickers may prosper, but poor farmers like him only subsist. Now he’s losing far more than money. “I never imagined I’d have to pay for growing opium by giving up my daughter,” says Shah.

The family’s heartbreak began when Shah borrowed $2,000 from a local trafficker, promising to repay the loan with 24 kilos of opium at harvest time. Late last spring, just before harvest, a government crop-eradication team appeared at the family’s little plot of land in Laghman province and destroyed Shah’s entire two and a half acres of poppies. Unable to meet his debt, Shah fled with his family to Jalalabad, the capital of neighboring Nangarhar province. The trafficker found them anyway and demanded his opium. So Shah took his case before a tribal council in Laghman and begged for leniency. Instead, the elders unanimously ruled that Shah would have to reimburse the trafficker by giving Khalida to him in marriage. Now the family can only wait for the 45-year-old drugrunner to come back for his prize. Khalida wanted to be a teacher someday, but that has become impossible. “It’s my fate,” the child says.

Afghans disparagingly call them “loan brides”—daughters given in marriage by fathers who have no other way out of debt. The practice began with the dowry a bridegroom’s family traditionally pays to the bride’s father in tribal Pashtun society. These days the amount ranges from $3,000 or so in poorer places like Laghman and Nangarhar to $8,000 or more in Helmand, Afghanistan’s No. 1 opium-growing province. For a desperate farmer, that bride price can be salvation—but at a cruel cost. Among the Pashtun, debt marriage puts a lasting stain on the honor of the bride and her family. It brings shame on the country, too. President Hamid Karzai recently told the nation: “I call on the people [not to] give their daughters for money; they shouldn’t give them to old men, and they shouldn’t give them in forced marriages.”

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/opium-brides/

December 20, 2011, 12:08 pm ET

In Opium Brides, airing Tuesday, January 3, 2012, at 10 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings), award-winning Afghan journalist Najibullah Quraishi takes viewers deep into the remote Afghan countryside to reveal the deadly bargain local farm families have been forced to make with drug smugglers in order to survive.

“Other News” is a personal initiative seeking to provide information that should be in the media but is not, because of commercial criteria. It welcomes contributions from everybody. Work areas include information on global issues, north-south relations, governance of globalization. Roberto Savio  //Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited, article sent for information purposes.//

AFGHANISTAN: Husband, 60, Wife, 8

By Rebecca Murray 

A colleague sent me this story. Sad to say, since I read the international news and am connected with some people in developing countries, It was not new to me.   

KABUL, Dec 29, 2011 (IPS) – Activists voice concern that Afghan women’s rights continue to be marginalised, and nowhere is gender inequality more starkly illustrated than in the country’s flawed justice system.

Yasmin’s case is one. Although the legal age for female marriage is 16 years, she was only eight when her family, in a remote area of Nangarhar province, arranged her marriage to a 60-year old man. After four unhappy years, Yasmin fled with a man she was in love with from her village.

When the couple was arrested for running away and marrying again, she was pregnant. Having her baby in prison, Yasmin has since been released. She has moved to a Kabul shelter, fearful that her family and first husband, now 70, will kill her to protect their honour.

“The first step we are planning for her is to get a divorce – she is 18 and has that right,” says Huma Safi, programme manager for Women for Afghan Women, an organisation that provides female shelters, legal and family counseling. “The second step is to arrange a proper marriage with the second husband who she loves. This marriage will decrease her husband’s sentence also. Then she will go and live with him.”

When the second Bonn Conference on Afghanistan convened on Dec. 5, Afghan women fought for a voice at the table, exactly one decade after the international community initially gathered in the German city to plan Afghanistan’s institutional road map with an emphasis on civil rights.

The priorities of Bonn II, within the context of a 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of international coalition forces, is the security transition, peace talks with the Taliban and future regional relationships.

The World Bank has warned of Afghanistan’s dependency on international aid – more than 90 percent of its 17.1 billion dollar national budget – and Bonn II is a marker for cuts in donor cash. Afghan women advocates worry their projects will be some of those hard hit.

Selay Gaffar from the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN), a national coalition of women’s organisations, had just three minutes at the conference to urge continued support of women’s rights. Bonn II’s concluding statement briefly linked gender equality to the Afghan constitution in governance and with peace negotiations.

Female activist have made an impact raising awareness of gender rights, and improving access to education and healthcare, mostly in urban areas. Women’s shelters have also been established, including for those released from prisons and now stigmatised from returning home, but the women in them say they don’t feel safe or have freedom of movement.

Despite these advances, a Thompson-Reuters poll released in June 2011 ranked Afghanistan as the world’s most dangerous country for women due to violence, poverty and lack of healthcare.

“From 2001 to about 2003 there was a lot of attention on women’s rights, and then it decreased,” says Huma Safi. “Our main concern is that we don’t want to go back to the situation we had 15 years ago. Not only during the Taliban, but also before the Taliban.

“During the Mujahedeen’s civil war a lot of women were raped,” she explains. “People then were so tired from war and we were forgotten by the international community.”

On the eve of Bonn II, President Hamid Karzai pardoned Gulnaz, a 21-year-old rape victim sentenced by an Afghan court for adultery, who bore a child in prison from the rape.

But the presidential pardon in the high-profile case of was an anomaly; the majority of the roughly 700 women in Afghanistan’s variously overcrowded and squalid prisons are convicted for crimes of adultery or “zina” (sex outside marriage), usually their punishment for running away from forced marriage or chronic abuse. Many have their children jailed with them.

“There are two main types of cases, with plenty of variation, you hear over and over again,” explains Heather Barr, a researcher with Human Rights Watch. “One is usually young girls about to be forced into a marriage against their will who run away to avoid it. Sometimes on their own, or sometimes with a man who helps them, but not who they are romantically involved with.

“Another category are women who have married someone almost always against their will, and there is abuse at home,” she says. “Usually physical abuse, sometimes just cruelty, and they run away. These often turn into zina cases because there might be a man accompanying them.”

Barr says that while all the women she interviewed had defence attorneys, the quality of representation appeared poor, and the trials lack investigation and proof. “Sometimes a man manages to bribe his way out, but the woman does not,” she adds.

“Zina is in the penal code, but running away is not. When I talked with judges or lawyers about this, they say that by running away the woman are at risk for zina.”

A large part of the population still relies on traditional mechanisms within communities to resolve disputes outside of the formal court system, Human Rights Watch says.

In 2009 President Karzai signed the Shia Family Law, which included provisions for 14-year-old girls to marry, and for married men to forcibly have sex with their wives. After an outcry by civil society and the international community, the Shia legislation has been amended.

The same year, the Afghan government enacted the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law which criminalised acts like early or forced marriage and rape.

A United Nations analysis of its implementation last month says, “Judicial officials in many parts of the country have begun to use the law – but its use represents a very small percentage of how the government addresses cases of violence against women.”

Female victims like Zuhra continue to get blamed. Living in Kabul, she was 12 years old when she was married to an older man who already had three wives. He forced her into a daily living of prostitution until their house was raided. After her arrest and two-year prison sentence, she is now 17 and living in a shelter.

“We got her a divorce, but now she wants to marry again. We are trying to make her understand she has time, there is no rush,” says Huma Safi. “I cannot blame her when you are out of prison, the only option they are thinking is if you have a husband you are protected.”

*Names of women have been changed to protect their identities. (END)

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