Friday, June 19, 2009

SUMMER PROJECT: Can $25 Help Change the World?

The article posted here is actually several years old, but still applicable. It's about an online organization called Kiva that allows people around the world to loan small amounts of money (as little as $25!) to other people in developing nations who are trying to start businesses to improve the economic viability of their lives, their communities and their nations. Click here for a link to the article.

One reason I am posting this article is that my husband Glen and I have become involved with Kiva and have been making loans to some of these entrepreneurs (look it up if you don't know what that means!) in other countries, but we want to have my students decide where to loan that money in the coming year. To do this, you need to become familiar with Kiva so please check out the Kiva website and explore its features.

A related reason I'm posting this article is that I think students learn more when they do more than just read about what's going on in the world. Our Kiva class project will allow you to become actively engaged in what's going on in the developing world by having an economic impact on the lives of those to whom we lend. Maybe it's just a few lives that are being impacted, but when you add up all the loans being made by individuals around the world through Kiva, the potential for change is immense.

Once you've read the article and checked out Kiva's website, respond to one or more of the following questions:

Should we as people of the richest nation in the world lead the way in helping developing nations, simply because it's the right thing to do (moral idealism)? Or should we do it because we might get something in return (political realism)? What benefits might result from assisting developing nations?

Does Kiva refute the argument that technology isolates people? Why or why not?

Are you surprised that virtually everybody who receives a loan from Kiva pays it back? If so, why are you surprised? If not, why not? Are your personal biases about developing nations reflected in your response? What is your image of the typical loan recipient?

Why do you think Kiva has taken off the way it has?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

SUMMER PROJECT: And you thought Facebook was just for fun...

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm pretty addicted to Facebook and Twitter. I love finding out what friends and family are up to and what they're thinking about. But social networking isn't just for socializing; it can be used for business, educational and even political purposes. In Iran, for example, where the results of the recent presidential election have resulted in massive demonstrations and political upheaval, the government has shut down access to events in the country to members of the foreign media. Find out how individuals in Iran are getting information out to the rest of the world, including the U.S., by clicking here. Then respond to one or more of the following prompts:

Why is it so important that "technology is able to play its sorely needed role in the crisis"?

Who might try to shut down access to social networking sites by Iranians? Why?

Why do you think the U.S. is trying to stay out of the election outcome dispute in Iran?

Can you think of other ways that social networking could be used politically in the U.S. or any other country? Please describe.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

SUMMER PROJECT: English Milestone: One Millionth Word

At 5:22 a.m. on June 10, the English language gained its one millionth word, according to the Global Language Monitor. Find out what that word is when you click here to read the article! Then comment on one or more of the questions below:

Do you think including words (or word phrases) like "Obamamania," "defriend," "wardrobe malfunction," and "zombie banks" are legitimate additions to English, or should we be pickier about what we include? Explain why or why not.

I like this article because it provides one more example of globalization, in this case, by one language. Is this a positive development in your opinion? Why or why not? If your answer is yes, would you feel the same if the dominant language was something besides English? Why or why not?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

SUMMER PROJECT: Health Care Reform

I found a terrific article that paints the big picture of some of the problems with the American health care system. Click here to read it.

During the school year, we will occasionally use a procedure called the Inventional System of Problem Solving. Below are some of the questions that the problem solving model poses. To respond to this post, please address some of these questions, based on the article and any other background knowledge you have on the issue of healthcare and healthcare reform (do some additional research if you need to):

What evidence exists that there is a problem with our healthcare system?
What harm is resulting from the problem?
How widespread is the problem?
What is causing the problem?
Is the status quo (the way things currently are) at fault?
Should the present system be changed?
What are some possible solutions to the problem (either partial or comprehensive)?
What might be some positive outcomes from these solutions?
What might be some negative outcomes from these solutions?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

SUMMER PROJECT: Obama's Speech in Cairo

On June 4, President Obama made a speech at Cairo University in Egypt that was televised in many parts of the Islamic world (except Iran which blocked satellite transmission of the speech).

Click here to read a commentary on the president's speech, and then respond to one or more of the following prompts:

What do you think President Obama was trying to achieve in making his speech in Cairo?

Perform an internet search for the author of this article, Arsalan Iftikhar, and comment on how his background might impact his point of view in this article.

Do you agree with Arsalan Iftikhar's analysis of the president's speech? Why or why not?

The author of the commentary points out that "President Obama concluded his remarkable Cairo address by highlighting the individual mandates for peace in each of the major Abrahamic religions". Why do you think the president may have chosen to do this? Do you think it's appropriate that he did so? Why or why not?

Why do you think would Iran block the transmission of the speech so that Iranian's couldn't watch it?

Study the cartoon on this post. Who are the people in it? What's up with the big ears? Why do some of the people look happy and some of the people look grumpy, and how is that related to age and gender? What is the cartoonist trying to say?

SUMMER PROJECT: China and the Missing Modernization

This week marked the 20th anniversary of the Chinese government's violent crackdown on demonstrators in Beijing's Tienanmen Square. While China has made enormous progress toward achieving the "Four Modernizations" (agriculture, industry, technology and defense) it set forth in 1978, the so-called "5th modernization" of democracy remains a direction the Chinese government has been totally unwilling to go. Click here to read an article about the 20th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square incident; then respond to one or more of the following questions:

Why do you think the Chinese government is so unwilling to pursue steps toward democracy?

Do you think the U.S. government should apply more pressure on China to embrace democracy? Why or why not?

Freedom of the press is a fundamental principal of any democracy. How are advances in communications technology such as the internet threatening the choke hold the Chinese government has on the spread of democracy?

In our increasingly globalized world, do you think democracy is inevitable in China and other countries that are resisting it? Why or why not?