Leaving Finland

Lake Jyvasjarvi I have never lived anywhere for 5 months other than Jyvaskyla, Finland. As my Fulbright journey concludes, there is so much to still digest. It will take months, if not years, to truly assimilate all the learning. Before I left Southern California, I wrote about the what I would miss the most from home and what I  looked forward to experiencing in Finland. It is safe to say I met my goals. Top 7 Goals 1. Discussing Education Helsinki Workshop Through professional development programs, Fulbright Finland connected teachers with scholars and researchers, for the purpose of putting inquisitive minds together. The Making Democracies Resilient to Modern Threats seminar provided participants with fascinating research and presentations. 2. Nordic Model Bus station in Espoo What does an efficient and earnest country look like?  It looks like Finland. Yes, people pay higher taxes, but get so much in return. I for one appreciated the well-maintained ro

A Student, An Earthquake, and Twitter

AP Photo/Carlos Espinoza

When talking with some retired teachers about how students have changed in the last ten years, we commented on how the internet has made communication as simple as the click of a button. People have access to information that you used to have to work hard to get, and it doesn't take long to get it either.  You type in a search term, and thousands of sources of information are at your disposal.

This post isn't about the quality of internet resources, but of a realization that technology has exciting implications for students and teachers all over the world.

On Saturday night, while tweeting with "tweeps" from all over the U.S.  I got a tweet from one of my students that read, "8.3 earthquake hits Chile!" This was at 11:10 pm.  Being from Los Angeles, I know the damage an 8.3 is capable of causing.  Immediately, I went to CNN, the LA Times, Yahoo News and found...nothing.  I turned on the TV and flipped to all the 24 hour news channels and saw...nothing.  Returning to Twitter, I typed Chile Earthquake into the search box and immediately got hundreds of hits from all over the world of people tweeting about this event.

From these tweets, a link was given to TV Chile, that broadcasts live, also 24 hours.  Turning to the live feed on the internet, direct information was available from both the anchor and a simultaneous chat feature of mostly Chileans and other South Americans who were giving updates such as, "we felt it in Argentina too" and "the lights are still out in Santiago."  This website gave me all the information one could want.  A few minutes later, CNN and Fox News got their act together and began reporting on the earthquake.

From this event, a few musings come to mind:

Being bilingual or multi-lingual is so beautiful and important
Being that the lines of communication from all over the world are open, it feels amazing to be able to communicate and understand what people are saying.  Our education system has reduced, not increased opportunities for students to be multi-lingual, ever since No Child Left Behind has placed the focus on the most struggling of students, and on mostly English and Math.  Yet parents who are most in the know seek bilingual programs for their children.  LAUSD high schools used to offer Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, German, and even Chinese not too long ago.  Now, Spanish is usually the only one offered, unless the school is a Language Magnet. 

Twitter is the way to go when you need information now
My student tweeted about Chile only 36 minutes after the earthquake that took place on another continent.  This gives "breaking news" a whole new meaning.  Twitter has been a comprehensive source of information on not just current events but ed reform topics such as Race to the Top, the charter movement, merit pay, and the Public School Choice program.  Twitter was our source for news at the UTLA rally last week as someone inside the board room was sending tweets about the vote as it happened. 

We can always learn from our students
The student who informed me of the earthquake is an outstanding Honors student at LAAMS.  When I asked her why she tweeted about the earthquake she simply responded like the gifted, concerned student that she is:  "I care about the world and the people in it."  This incident swells my heart with pride and hope about the lives of my students.  I have always said that students in South Central are even more ready for life because not only do they have book smarts, they have street smarts.  This young girl is already preparing for a life of knowledge and service.  As an educator, could you ask for anything more?

At DFSC, our thoughts are with the people of Chile and Haiti, during this challenging time.


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