Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Streamlining the teaching process

I apologize for the blogging hiatus. We’ve been nearing the completion of our projects, with Rachel and Liz putting the finishing touches on the alumni party, Elana and Karna conducting more interviews than ever, and Jordan and I finalizing our instructors manual and PowerPoint presentations.

Stemming from an idea between Jordan and Joe, Jordan and I have started working on creating a brief, 2-hour workshop for volunteer instructors. Since many AE volunteers are professionals who don’t necessarily have teaching experience, we believe that creating a workshop would be a helpful way to increase the quality of AE’s courses. From first hand experience as a teaching assistant back in Public Policy 55 back at Duke, I can say that teaching a course is very challenging, if you haven't taught in a classroom setting before.

I’ve spent several days researching some basic teaching strategies, especially for adult learners. Unlike young students, adults take classes for different reasons. In the case of AE, adults take classes to improve their knowledge about running their own micro-enterprises. From our experience attending classes and talking to volunteers and AE staff, we feel like focusing on the connection between the instructor and students would help the micro-entrepreneurs pay better attention and further enjoy their classes. Engaging the micro-entrepreneurs, rather than lecturing to them can go a long way in helping the classes run smoothly and effectively. Helping bring consistency to the way that volunteers are briefly trained should improve the courses across the board.

Unfortunately, we only have two weeks left. In the time we have left, we hope to lay the groundwork for a trial program at Norponiente that future interns can expand, including informational videos with advice from former instructors.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mid-Project Update

It’s hard to believe we’ve reached the half point of our work with Acción Emprendedora. On Friday, we had a meeting with a few of the directors to present our work thus far and plans for the future. Here are some excerpts from our presentation and the one-page handouts that we prepared:

Elana and Karna’s field research project:
-Their project consists of interviewing micro-entrepreneurs and gathering qualitative and quantitative information about the successes and failures of the micro-enterprises. Karna is also working on developing a template for web profiles for ideal candidates.

-As of July 2nd, they had conducted 15 interviews and have many more scheduled. The interview questions focus on descriptions of the micro-entrepreneurs’ businesses, their monthly profits, revenues, number of workers, etc. They also ask questions about hypothetical services that AE could offer in the future. The interviews are filmed using flips cams, while the results are complied in an excel spreadsheet.

-Eventually, Elana and Karna plan to statistically analyze the data once they have a bigger sample size and report their findings to AE.

-The process isn’t always easy. Many times, they don’t have the correct contact info for the micro-entrepreneurs. Other times, micro-entrepreneurs don’t show for their interviews. To combat these problems, the group now phones the micro-entrepreneurs to remind them about their interviews, or they interview people already at the Puente Alto center.

Liz and Rachel’s alumni association project:
-Liz and Rachel are in charge on planning the 2nd annual alumni party, as well as improving current AE alumni relations. They hope to establish a collaborative sense of community, where alums can share ideas and mentor micro-entrepreneurs currently enrolled in AE courses.

-Working with Elana and Karna, they are creating a video to show at the banquet. This video highlights AE’s work and the advice of micro-entrepreneurs. They are also creating an alumni directory, which can aid projects like Elana and Karna’s in the future.

-In addition to contacting micro-entrepreneurs about the reunion and creating the video, Liz and Rachel are hoping to attract some sponsorship and speakers for the event.

-Like the other groups, they have faced difficulties, including editing videos and deciding what content to include in the videos.

Grant and Jordan’s educational consulting:
-The primary aim of Grant and Jordan’s project has been to create an instructor’s manual for the course on production, which includes lesson plans, examples, practice problems, and an accompanying PowerPoint.

-To begin, the two designed a questionnaire to send to former teachers of the production course. Additionally, they attended several classes to meet micro-entrepreneurs and study the style of teaching. Finally, they researched various aspects of production online to gain a better understanding of the material and how it can apply to micro-enterprises.

-Now, they have completed a preliminary, 35-page draft of the instructor’s manual in Spanish. Currently, they are working on the PowerPoint slides.

-Progress has moved along quicker than they anticipated. The former volunteers replied fully and prompted. Unfortunately, there have been problems with accessibility and compatibility. Some computers have trouble dealing with the sheer size of the document, as well as some of the graphics.

Overall, all three groups are progressing quite well in their respective projects. There is quite a bit of overlap between the projects. Elana, Karna, Liz, and Rachel work together in their interviews, even though they are searching for different data. Grant and Jordan collaborate with Elana and Karna to find useful case studies for the production course. The next four weeks will certainly continue to be exciting!

Tertulia #2: Guillermo Núñez y Soledad Bianchi - Torture

Sunday evening we had our second tertulia. The DukeEngage group met with painter Guillermo Nuñez and his wife, Soledad Bianchi, who is a writer. Nuñez was subjected to torture during the Pinochet military regime. While he wasn’t physically tortured, he was blindfolded 23 hours a day, forced to witness others’ torture, and subjected to psychological torture for several months. Eventually, he was exiled to France until the end of the Pinochet regime in 1989.

His art recreates the pain and suffering of torture. This is his manner of coping with Chile’s dark times. Because of the dark themes of his painting, including the distortion of bodies, blood, and violence his art isn’t widely purchased. Instead, his art acts as a reminder of the atrocities committed during Pinochet’s Chile and the costs of modernization. Additionally, Nuñez has painted and collected photographs that show the suffering encountered in the Holocaust and the Vietnam War. A controversial exhibit explicitly depicting the violence of the early Pinochet regime led to his imprisonment and exile.

Bianchi brought up an interesting theme regarding art and writing in Chile. Few Chileans actively collect or purchase art. Art museums here lack collections compared to those found in Buenos Aires or Europe. Writers struggle to make a living as only recently have writers signed contracts before publishing books to earn more money. For Nuñez, his personal paintings are not his livelihood, but a necessity. He works for the various museums and designing souvenirs for Pablo Neruda attractions and books.

Now, we have seen two sides to the Pinochet regime: Manuel Valdés’ pro-modernization vs. Nuñez’s torture that resulted from the economic progress. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Chile did make important progress during the military regime, but there were numerous humanitarian costs, including the murder, torture, and exile of tens of thousands of citizens.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Argentina's election

I'm going to link to another Duke student's blog for a post about the elections in Argentina. Chris has been in Argentina for several weeks this summer researching the elections.