Thursday, May 01, 2008

Professional Development Bliss: Lead Learner as Student

About a week ago, I lead a wiki professional development session for a few people involved in a grant our school and region is currently working with. The BRIDGE (Bay Region Initiative for Digital Gap Elimination) grant is a group of Northern California Community Colleges, High Schools and Regional Occupation Programs working together to develop career paths in the digital arts. Part of our mission is to build the capacity of the faculties of these institutions in the teaching of courses in the digital arts, the dissemination of best practices and facilitate articulation agreements between K-12, Community Colleges and ultimately to UC/CSU campuses.

Our wiki workshop was designed to use wiki's as a collaborative tool that can be used as a class website or as an individual student portfolio to house their work. I also wanted each participant to create a wiki that they could implement immediately. One of the participants was a Audries Blake, who is the new chair of the grant committee from Cabrillo College in Aptos. As I began to teach the section on embedding video into wiki pages, she called me over for assistance. She showed me her current work, which was a wiki dedicated to the work of her father, J. Herman Blake, an educator going back to the early 1960's. She had found a video on the University of California, Berkeley web site that was an interview from October of 1963 with a UC Berkeley Professor; her father, who was a graduate student at UC Berkeley at the time and Malcolm X. Yes! "THE" Malcolm X! We had a little difficulty embedding the video directly from the UC Berkeley site since the video was in Real Player, but a quick 'YouTube' search found the video in several 3 to 4 minute pieces.

In working on this with Audries, I found myself drawn to her father's story. After the workshop ended that day, I took some time to research her father's career. J. Herman Blake was a graduate student at UC Berkeley at the time of the video above. He eventually earned a doctorate in sociology from UC Berkeley. In 1966, he became the first African-American professor at UC Santa Cruz, Dr. Blake also served as the President at Tougaloo College and in leadership positions at Indiana University, Swarthmore College and Iowa State University.

Dr. Blake is the utmost authority on Gullah culture, a group of African-Americans living along the coast of South Carolina and Georgia and in the Sea Islands. Dr. Blake also wrote the Introduction for Huey Newton's autobiograhy, 'Revolutionary Suicide.' I also found out that the Black Panther Party's famous march on the California State Capitol was 41 years ago, yesterday. May 2, 1967 which was also my 5th birthday. Reading between the lines, Newton and Blake's paths coincided in the late 1970's when Newton was a student at UCSC and Blake was on the faculty.

So... what is the point? The teacher became the student, a Lead Learner! Through my own personal initiative, I learned about something I didn't know before. I enriched my life because I took the time to learn about someone else. I was able to do this quickly and easily because I knew how to learn. I had the skills to teach myself. If we stop and think, isn't what we should be doing with the students in our classrooms? Teaching students how to learn and teach themselves?

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