Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Case Study: Oberlin College and Social Networking Sites

Curious about how other liberal arts colleges are leveraging technology, I spent the past weekend checking out the websites of several colleges. Oberlin College seems to be ahead of the game. Let’s see where it’s leaving its technological footprints.

Facebook? Check. Oberlin’s Facebook account has over 2,000 fans. Kind of low for a college with a long history, eh? Well, not when I found out that Calvin’s Facebook group has a grand total of… 136. Calvin 0, Oberlin 1. Moving on.

Twitter? Check. Oberlin maximizes the beauty of Twitter, a site that uses one-line teasers and leaves it up to the reader to find out more. Many of those posts highlight students’ achievements in winning prestigious fellowships and scholarships. Twitter’s unique selling proposition and Oberlin’s excellent academic record make a good looking couple. Even though Oberlin only started to use Twitter earlier this month, it might want to work on getting more people to know about its Twitter account and creating a broader base of loyal followers. Calvin’s official Twitter page (http://twitter.com/CalvinCollege), on the other hand, has about 9 times more followers than Oberlin. Calvin 1, Oberlin 1. Yay, go Knights!

Blogs? Oh boy, Oberlin beat us hands down. It almost seems like Obies – faculty, staff, and students – are a community of bloggers. Check out http://blogs.oberlin.edu/. Calvin 1, Oberlin 2 :/

So Oberlin is using major social networking sites in the market. Even though Calvin is moving towards the same direction, Oberlin is racing far ahead of us—Oberlin is #5 of all liberal arts colleges that truly understand how to use technology (http://www.languagemonitor.com/college-rankings/college-rankings-april-2009). In summary, Oberlin knows what the internet world of consumers are looking for and it knows how to be the producer of information in a presentable and efficient fashion.

What’s the lesson here? Calvin and Oberlin understand that the unlimited reach of technology stretches to the ends of the earth. Calvin and Oberlin realize that there is the physical community that we reside in, as well as the virtual community called the web. Social networking sites are the gathering space for virtual communities to come together like the situation room for readers and bloggers to share information, the virtual laboratory to test hypotheses that advocate social change, and the boardroom to re-gather and re-strategize. Therefore, social networking sites allow web administrators to be relationship weavers who keep the collegial fabric intact. Oberlin, with its extensive and sophisticated use of technological tools, could reap greater benefits if it can get its alums engaged and involved in its technological endeavors. Our S-LC blog draws alums and new friends in. Somehow, we are doing something right somewhere. Calvin 2, Oberlin 2.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Wash Your Hands, People!

Public health officials around the world are paying close attention to the Swine flu outbreak in Mexico. This outbreak has claimed 68 lives as of about an hour ago (i.e. Saturday, noon EST). CNN reports that this "new strain of swine flu has resisted some antiviral drugs" (http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/04/25/swine.flu/index.html), which naturally makes the world anxious about whether the flu might become a global pandemic. Minimal contact with pigs should reduce the possibility of catching the flu, although direct contact with those already infected by the flu increases the odds. As we wait patiently for the WHO and our Federal govt. to issue useful advice and provide analysis of the situation, good personal hygiene is the way to go for now: cover your mouth when you cough/sneeze and wash your hands regularly with soap (especially after using the bathroom and before eating). Nevertheless, go ahead and shake hands at church tomorrow or if you meet your girlfriend's father. Remember, however, not to touch your face if you have not washed your hands.

Disease is scary. It is scary because we do not know how scary it can get. Because it is scary, it serves as a wakeup call to the complacent ones. Having visited several agencies that serve small children in this neighborhood, I noticed that the kids usually do not wash their hands before meals. I wonder if we have not being teaching our kids how to protect themselves, public health policies needing some tweaking, our attempt at saving water, or some combination of these possibilities.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Who Is My Neighbor?

On Monday, I introduced the topic of community helpers to my kindergarteners with the help of my Uncle Jeff, a pilot, who came to visit. Later in the day we were discussing what a community is and how community helpers help those living within the community. We decided that our classroom is a community, as well as our school and our neighborhoods. We even defined our state, our country, and the world as larger communities.

Then, one of my students suggested that God was a community, or maybe part of one. "What do you think?" I asked. I wasn't sure how to respond. I sure wasn't sure what I thought. I wonder, as I believe my students do, Is God ever part of our human community? Does God want to be part of us, to "pitch his tent" among us, as Jewish tradition suggests? Or are we too presumptive, too bold to consider God, in some ways, as "one of us?" Perhaps we spend a disproportionately low amount of energy on the idea of God as a member, if not the most important one, in every and all of our communities. Perhaps we strive to remember and care for all of our human neighbors and we forget that God shelved his divinity to live as a person for awhile and desires the same commitment to him that we give to others. Or maybe that thought isn't differentiating enough between who is human and who is divine.

So, who has an answer for my kindergarten friends? Is God part of our community? Who is my neighbor?