A Time to Help

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Social and Community Informatics Course January 2, 2011

Filed under: Community Service,Education,Social/Community Informatics — Anita DeCianni-Brown @ 4:17 pm
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Last year I took a course in Digital Storytelling – it was one of the 1st courses I took at ESC, and really loved the course!  It was through Digital Storytelling and the blog that Professor Mackey kept, that I found out about the Social and Community Informatics course he taught in the past.  I was able to arrange taking this course as an Independent Study, though my personal two cents ~ this should be a general course offering, and a required one at that.


Having a bit of experience when it comes to higher education, I know each college has their own core curriculum.  I work at a major university in the capital region; my daughters are and have done the college searches.  There are the general courses that all schools pretty much require – English – Composition and Literature; Math; Science; Social Science; Humanities; Language; Arts; American History; World History.  Then there are schools that have their own requirements such as Theology, Women’s Issues, Philosophy, to name a few.


I’d like to make a plea to colleges, in particular to ESC, to offer the Social and Community Informatics course as a required course (or at the very least, a general offering as opposed to Independent Study).  Pulled from my learning contract, “The purpose of the independent study is to examine the topic of social and community informatics from an interdisciplinary perspective, using a service learning model.  According to Rob Kling (1999) social informatics is “the interdisciplinary study of the design, uses and consequences of information technologies that takes into account their interaction with institutional and cultural contexts.” In addition, the Journal of Community Informatics, defines “community informatics” as “the study and the practice of enabling communities with Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs).” Through readings in the field of information science and informatics, as well as a field study observation, and service learning project, this study will analyze a range of ICTs within social and community contexts.”

During the course of the semester, in addition to the readings and keeping this blog, I was required to do a Field Study and a Service Learning project.  For my field study, I selected the Regional Food Bank of NENY.  I interviewed Mark Quandt, the Executive Director, and was filled with information about everything the Food Bank does.  In addition to finding out what they did, I found out the staggering statistics of need – in 2007, 18 million pounds of food was distributed; at year end 2010, over 24 million pounds was distributed … a 25% increase in 3 years.  For my Service Learning project, I selected the Green Island Food Pantry.  There, I helped distribute flyers about the food drive, volunteered for the food drive, sorted and organized food donations, prepared baskets for Thanksgiving and Christmas, delivered baskets and created a Facebook page for the Pantry.


Why my plea?  Because there are those in our communities, in our regions, in our world that need our help.  Courses like this can promote the need that is out there, and the good that is done to help others.  Through ICT’s one can search for projects to become involved in, they can become inspired by the work that others do.  When I wrote my Pay it Forward blog post, in less than 5 minutes, I was able to find the inspiring videos that I posted.  I could have posted hundreds ~ and maybe one of those ideas would serve to inspire another person to make a difference.


I mentioned to Professor Mackey that the one thing I would change about the course would be that I liked the interaction with other students.  Maybe something I read, or did, another student might have a suggestion on how to improve; maybe I’d be inspired by someone else’s idea on a new way to help ~ or vise versa.  Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  Courses like this let us do just that.  In the spirit of Paying it Forward, if 25 or 50 (or more) students each semester selected a cause, and volunteered 30+ hours to that organization cause … think of the good that would come out of it.


Students and Technology December 30, 2010

Filed under: Education,Technology — Anita DeCianni-Brown @ 9:27 pm
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I continue to be fascinated by the impact technology has on education.  In 2005,  Critical Issues:  Using Technology to Improve Student Achievement, The Center for Children and Technology pointed out in an article that from 1995 – 2005, the United States invested more than $66 billion in school technology.  State and federal funding has been made available to build a technology infrastructure within districts.  This brought about higher expectations of the legislators and public.  The school district is held accountable for the technology investments, and most of it seems to be tied to student achievement and tie in with standardized testing.  Having technology is one thing, effectively using it, is another.  Districts must invest in the hardware and software, and then an additional investment in faculty and staff training.  Finding what’s right for the district and the students within the district is critical and difficult.  One has to think not of what the needs are today, but what the projected needs are 3 to 5 years down the road because technology changes so quickly.

I think back to my days in high school.  The first Apple computer used in our school came in my senior year.  I remember being enthralled by this ugly little box (let’s face it, Apple/Mac had become a whole lot prettier in almost 30 years).  I took a computer programming class – we created a video animation, the equivalence of Atari Space Invaders, 70’s style.  During the latter time frame mentioned above, our school district was undergoing a building and renovation project.  Updating technology was a piece of that renovation.  Today, in our school, there is at least 1 computer in every classroom, K – 12.  In addition to that, we have computer labs and laptop carts, which have 30 laptops per cart.  At our recent Board of Education meeting, we had presentations on the use of SmartBoards and NovaNet, a credit recovery software program tied to state standards.  These pieces of technology fit together as pieces to an educational puzzle.


NovaNet is a program through educational media guru, Pearson’s created an educational system that assists students who need credit recovery.  Green Island’s School District began using the program this year.  Students who would like to re-take a NYS Regents exam for a higher grade, are able to take a refresher during their study hall.  This programming offers individualized instruction on a web-based platform.  The sell to school districts?  The curriculum is designed to tie into individual state standards.  Students who can take advantage of the program include credit accrual, credit recovery, summer school (though not offered through our district) and dropout prevention.


NovaNet is a wonderful example of how the investment in technology can increase student achievement.




Critical Issues:  Using Technology to Improve Student Achievement.  North Central Regional Educational Laboratory



Green Island Union Free School District.  http://www.greenisland.org/news/2010-11/NovaNET_12_22_10.html