Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Following Stars

by William Stafford, from The Way It Is; New & Selected Poems, Graywolf Press, 1998
If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
Above is a bit from a thought provoking poem that I was introduced to 2 weeks ago at an Investor's Circle Conference in Boston. It was following a grueling three weeks of travel that included an IEEE Computer Society meeting in Cancun and a Masie Center Learning 2007 conference in Orlando. Head to head I was able to participate in incredible technologies and then view and ponder great poverty. All has been rambling about my brain since. How does one bring the powers of technology to bear on our societal disparities? How can emergent technologies be effectively applied to connect cultures and impact change? Likewise should one? Do we follow the Startrek imperative or the Dr. Who imperative? What is the "star"?

What I do know is that we need to share our wisdoms...that sharing means being open to learning from one another. New technologies offer tools to do so. Yesterday John Cohn, a truly magical IBM engineer, was working with the students of the EMC and I wished I had brought my camera. The engagement was as thick as peanut butter and jelly. John had created an intricate mind map of a project they were beginning work on and also had programmed the Wii-remote to work with the PCs. Ideas buzzed about, new concepts building upon each other in a tumble of discovery.

It was similar to other moments captured in these photos of Champlain students this last month—illustrating them actively engaged with the very young and curious, with the development process, and with concepts shared by the inquisitive experienced. Much like yesterday's meeting, joy in learning is palatable. In each, media technology forms the connection point through which unpredictable discoveries are made—breaking down patterns that may exist in the world. It is a pointer to answers. Answers that include building technologies that celebrate learning, deepen our connectivity to each other and enable us to realize the potential of our shared humanity. Students, our digital natives, the millenials, are good guides in this pursuit. I find them a generation that seeks deep connections, desires to impact the world and is fluent at envisioning potential usages of emergent technologies. I am learning from them.

So why follow these stars? The poem concludes:
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give—yes or no, or maybe—
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

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