Monthly Archives: May 2012

Taking Time Between Your Timelines – Because #YouMatter

Pocket watch, savonette-type. Italiano: Orolog...

Pocket watch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s that time again, time for one timeline to end and another to begin. We’ve all experienced these transitions, probably over and over throughout life but this time, I want to pause.

I want to take time between the ending of one timeline and the beginning of another to reflect on all that I’ve experienced, accomplished, learned, and shared.

Just a few weeks ago, the timeline of my master’s program came to an end and with it, the even longer timeline of my formal education (for now!). With that ending, came the end of my timeline living in Washington D.C. and the beginning of a new timeline in Philadelphia. In parallel to those timelines, I have been adding experiences and learnings to my professional consulting timeline, which has become the main frame for my work in Philly. And of course within each timeline are smaller timelines, such as Capstone projects or trips to Senegal, and when I stop to think about it, there is truly a lot of change, growth, and learning happening simultaneously in one’s life!

With that in mind, stopping to think and to reflect is exactly what I want to do. It’s so easy for one timeline to fade into the next. For me, transitioning from college to work to graduate school was almost seamless. There was not time (I thought) to pause and celebrate what I had done, consider the change I had created through various campus projects or to record hopes and goals for moving forward during the actual transitions. I often take time throughout my timelines to plan in advance, reflect on my experiences, and think deeply about larger professional goals, which has helped me bring together my various experiences and studies in early childhood, global education, and educational technology in a meaningful way. Yet rarely have I allowed, in addition to that planning and goal-setting, a bit of time for myself between transitions. Now, with the end of another academic timeline and the beginning of new professional experiences, I want to make the time to consider where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going next. I want to carve out time that in the past I have allowed to be so easily eaten up by other priorities (because doesn’t it seem like there’s always another task to finish, bill to pay, or idea to explore?).

Especially in our connected society, I succumb to the pressure to constantly check my email, chat with my Twitter PLN, finish that lingering project and then start a new one because it’s sitting there on my to-do list or popping up in my browser and I don’t want to fall behind. But what if we all take time to put that aside for a little bit and just think about why we matter, about what we’ve done and where we’re going next? As Angela Maiers says, You Matter, and by “mattering”, she suggests you should remember (taken directly from her blog):

  1. YOU ARE ENOUGH
  2. YOU HAVE INFLUENCE
  3. YOU ARE A GENIUS
  4. YOU HAVE A CONTRIBUTION TO MAKE
  5. YOU HAVE A GIFT THAT OTHERS NEED
  6. YOU ARE THE CHANGE
  7. YOUR ACTIONS DEFINE YOU IMPACT
  8. YOU MATTER!

These eight ideas are a lot to process, so that’s why I hope to take the next week or so to actively reflect on each one as I mark the ending of one timeline and the beginning of another. I hope others can take time to pause and notice their own timelines, big and small, because like me, you matter and together we can all encourage one another to remember that and to recognize the value of reflection in times of change.

Lessons Learned in Dakar

Two weeks ago, I was getting on a plane to Dakar, Senegal and a week after that, I was helping to launch the first conference on Child Protection Systems Strengthening in Sub-Saharan Africa. In that short time frame, I have learned an amazing amount about child protection and the unique issues its pioneers strive to overcome; the challenges of bringing new technologies to sub-Saharan Africa; the power of technology for global communication; and even a bit about the city of Dakar.

Working out of the UNICEF office in the days leading up to the conference.

Before I delve into some of the amazing experiences I had in Dakar, I’ll give you a little more background about what I was doing there in the first place. Working as a Technology and Education Consultant for Wellspring Advisors, LLC, I have been designing a social media campaign and building a wikispace to house the discussions and documents related to this conference over the past few months. Through numerous Skype meetings and emails, I worked with international agencies to organize what would ultimately be a conference of 350 people from 40 west African nations. It was exciting to see so many agencies, organizations, and funders come together around this topic. We had representatives from UNICEF, Save the Children, Plan International, The African Child Policy Forum, Terre des Hommes, REPSSI, RIATT, Oak Foundation, and other funders.

Conference on Child Protection Systems Strengthening in Sub-Saharan Africa – Promising Practices, Lessons Learned and the Way Forward

During the conference, I introduced attendees to the new technologies associated with the conference and helped them to actively use the wikispace to share session notes, upload documents, and ask questions or make comments. I learned that there is no pre-existing repository of documents on child protection (e.g., child abuse, exploitation, welfare, justice, marriage) in sub-Saharan Africa so our wiki now serves as a space to collect these from each country.

Additionally, I had the privilege to help many attendees join Twitter and Facebook for the first time so that they could begin sharing their knowledge and thoughts on child protection issues with the larger world via social media. It was inspirational to be reminded of how empowering it can be to gain access to a platform that allows you, with the click of a button, to connect and dialogue so easily with other people around the world. It was also very powerful to see the energy people had as I worked with them to resolve tech glitches and help them access these new spaces for expression and sharing. For many, it was a new experience to learn how social media could be used for professional networking and they were surprised to see how many people and accounts were following the conference online via the tweets and posts I made during each session.

@JNdyeta sends her first tweet after joining Twitter and Facebook at the Conference

Working in Dakar, I was also reminded about the challenges that arise from working abroad. We had a minimum of three languages at the conference (i.e., French, English, and Portuguese) and at times only one router for 350 people. And while Google Translate widgets can be a life-saver they’re still more of a tool than a full-fledged solution – as we discovered when attendees clicked the “edit” button in our wiki and all of their translated text converted back to English. I also encountered issues with firewalls trying to block Internet access and conference websites, problems pasting text into our wiki from foreign computers, and some other minor things that you come to expect when working with technology.

Attendees responded to reflection questions on the conference wiki

Yet, amidst all of the tech troubles, I think for me, the key of the conference was adaptability: Transitioning from “Thank You” to “Merci” in a French speaking nation; re-wording the benefits of Twitter in ways that made sense in our child protection conference context; and re-defining a wiki to fit the needs of attendees. Buy-in is always one of the most important pieces when you introduce a new technology but to have buy-in and the resulting motivation and hopefully momentum to continue its use, you need to communicate things in a way that makes sense. You need to adapt your own understanding and way of explaining a tool to fit the linguistic, geographic, cultural, and technical context in which you are working. This can take time, reflection, and a bit of mental exertion, but I can promise you, it’s worth it.

To see some of the amazing dialogues that occurred at the conference and which were then shared through social media, I invite you to visit the slideshows on our wiki.

And finally, I leave you with one of the many photos I snapped from the most western tip of Africa, because for me, regardless of the continent, the ocean will always be home.

The Western Most Tip of Africa in Dakar, Senegal.