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Avery Update

It has been a while since I wrote about the Avery Doninger case, but things are continuing to progress. On October 17th, the National School Boards Association sponsored an online forum on the Educational Benefits of Social Networking for Students and Teachers?.

Will Richardson led the discussion. He has a great blog about blogging and education. I had submitted a question to him about Avery’s case and he responded,

Without knowing the specifics of this particular case, it's hard to know exactly what options the administration had. But I would have to ask what this particular reaction teaches the students? The reality is that we simply cannot control what people are going to write or say about us these days, and that there are all sorts of gray areas that go along with these situations. I wonder, however, whether the administrators themselves are modeling the appropriate use of these technologies for their students, and whether or not the use of blogs and other social tools are being taught in the curriculum. I think the biggest reason students make poor decisions at times about the uses of these technologies is that no one is teaching them how to do it well and they have few models for their use.

There are many important points that Will brings up. The first is that we simply cannot control what people are going to write or say about us these days. Actually, we never could. It is just now, what gets said about us is searchable and persistent.

As to whether the administrators themselves are modeling the appropriate use of these technologies for their students, and whether or not the use of blogs and other social tools are being taught in the curriculum, I don’t know. I surely haven’t been able to find Paula or Karissa’s blogs yet.

I cannot help but wonder how things would have turned out differently if, instead of prohibiting Avery from running for re-election, Paula Schwartz had set up her own blog with a post something like,

Recently, a student leader, frustrated about developments concerning Jamfest, posted an entry on her blog referring to staff at the central office as Douche Bags. We appreciate her passion and commitment to the student body, but we don’t think that the way she expressed herself reflected well on her, or helped advance her case. What do you think? Please join Principal Niehoff and me for an open symposium on how to advocate effectively online. It will take place…

That would have shown courage and leadership. It would have been an opportunity to build better bonds with the students, teachers and citizens of Region 10. It would have taken advantage of a teachable moment, and made it available to the community. Unfortunately, even now, Superintendent Schwartz and Principal Niehoff have failed in this area.

The same is not true with Avery. Recently, I had the opportunity to accompany her as she spoke with teachers and students from other schools in Connecticut. She spoke about the importance of choosing words wisely and advocating strongly for what you believe. Students mobbed her, asking for her autograph, giving her notes expressing their admiration for her. Others spoke of their intention to start their own blogs to express their opinions, advocate for their beliefs and improve their own writing.

Teachers thanked her for taking her experiences beyond the realm of her personal blog and what has happened in school and in court and used the experience to help others learn the value of proper online communications.

I have been frustrated to see the potential for such a valuable educational experience squandered by the administration of Region 10. Yet I am pleased to see that at least someone from Region 10 is taking the experience and using it for the educational benefits of the people of Connecticut. It is even more pleasing to see that it is a student that is doing the teaching.

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What will you take with you?

Various friends of mine online live near the fires in San Diego. These fires have brought up one of those great old questions that people use as icebreakers. If your house is on fire, and you can grab one thing before you rush out, what would it be?

For all of you social bloggers who love memes, please, leave a comment on your answer and/or post your response on your blog.

For me, it is an interesting question. We’ve just moved. I had been in the previous house for fifteen years. It was a large house and a lot of junk piled up. We got rid of three large dumpsters of junk. We had a tag sale. We gave away stuff with freecycle. We move most of what was left, although we still have stuff in that needs to be moved or gotten rid of.

Through this, I’ve become much less attached to different objects. What matters to me, beyond my family, is mostly up online, my blog entries, my photographs. So, I don’t have a good answer to the question.

However, I did get an interesting email from a friend in San Diego. She is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. She grew up being constantly told not to get too connected to material goods because hanging on to them could result in death if you couldn’t flee in time. Yet even for her, there are objects of great importance and she wrote about waking up in the middle of the night wanting to contact her daughter to reminder her about the Shabbat/Sabbath candlesticks that her mother had brought with her from Germany when she fled.

There are objects in our lives that tie us down. There are symbols in our lives that lift us up. It is important to know which is which.

SL Risk moves to ACE

On October 10th, Jon Desmoulins wrote an analyst report on the World Stock Exchange (WSE) about SL Risk.

SL Risk describes themselves as Second Life’s “First Fully functional Credit Reporting Acency [sic] (Credit Bureau).” They say, “Need to know if an avatar is a good risk for that loan that they applied for? Just grab a complete report from slrisk & you now have a wealth of additional information to base that decision on!”

Unfortunately, Jon was not impressed and listed SL Risk as a strong sell. His target price was L$ .50. SL Risk had traded at L$ .50 as recently as August 30th. It had climbed up to L$ 1.12 on October 9th and traded in the range of L$ .78 to L$ 1.27, closing at L$ .55 after Jon’s report.

On October 26th, SL Risk Investor Whitfield, CEO of SL Risk issued an announcement informing investors of their decision to delist from the World Stock Exchange and list over on the ACE. In the announcement, Investor Whitfield wrote,

At this time when we are posting decent profits and have a viable business model & great response to the credit reporting service - to have a decrease in share price can only attributed to one factor - that is the "Strong Sell Rating" issued by an analyst. Until analysts have some Guidelines set down by the WSE regarding the way analysis is done, I fear that this type of "opinion written as fact" will continue to plague other companies as well.

IntLibber Brautigan, head of ACE wrote in their announcement,

Investor Whitfield, CEO of SL Risk (RIS) has made the decision to relist RIS on ACE. RIS is a profitable company with excellent prospects, whose stock dropped in price only due to an unqualified "analyst" on WSE issuing a strong sell rating on the company without any quantifiable evidence to support such a decision. ACE is bullish on the future of RIS and is very happy to see RIS relist with us.

This move appears, at least initially, to have benefited SL Risk shareholders. SL Risk has been trading in a range of L$ 1.50 to L$ 5.50, well above its range over on the World Stock Exchange.

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"Set us free to serve You"

The Celebration of New Ministry, originally uploaded by Aldon.

It was the fall of 1980. I had left college and moved to New York with a few of my friends from school. We were all artists, painters, photographers, sculptures, and writers. I had come to New York to write poetry. I would support myself writing computer programs. I searched out a community of believers to become part of and started attending Grace Episcopal Church in Manhattan.

Every Wednesday evening, many of us young professionals would gather for a Eucharist and then break into prayer groups. We would gather together, share stories of our work lives, our concerns and pray for one another. It was a place of stability for many of us in our turbulent years in a turbulent city.

It shaped all of us, and many of my friends went on to become priests and missionaries after following fairly serpentine paths. Today, these paths crossed once again. One of the women I met back in 1980 was Kate Heichler. We traveled in the same circles, prayer groups, trips to Ocean Grove in the summer and weekend retreats at Camp Incarnation in the springs and fall.

I moved to Connecticut, and slowly lost touch with many of my old friends from Grace Church. In 1999, I started dating Kim and in September, her mother ended her battle with cancer and went to be with God. Kim was attending a small church in her home town of Bethany Connecticut. The evening Kim’s mom died, the rector of the church came and sat with us. That whole time is a bit of a blur, but figuratively, if not literally, Peter brought donuts. He sat with us and provided comfort.

Sunday morning, Kim and I went to Christ Church, Bethany, were Peter was the Rector. The news had spread through the congregation about Kim’s mother’s death. Kim’s mother was a well beloved teacher and member of the community, and many people had prayed long and hard for her. Everyone came up to comfort Kim and offer words of condolence.

It was the first Sunday of September, and Peter was introducing a new seminarian that Sunday. Her name was Kate Heichler, the same Kate I had gone to Grace Church with nearly two decades earlier. We looked at each other and both asked, what are you doing here?

Kim and I got married and we settled at my old house in Stamford. Christ Church flourished with Peter as the Rector and Kate as seminarian, and later as an assistant. Then, earlier this year, Kate accepted the calling to become Priest in Charge at Trinity Emmanuel Church in Stamford.

Trinity Emmanuel is a small church in North Stamford. I had attended it briefly when I first moved to Connecticut. Later, when a friend of mine was fighting cancer, Kim and I attended Trinity Emmanuel to be with him the worst part of his struggles.

Now, Kate was the Priest in Charge. Kim and I returned to Trinity Emmanuel during the summer. We prayed for the church and continue to pray for it. As our own lives continued to become more complicated, between Kim’s Lyme disease and our difficult finances, we moved to Woodbridge, the next town over from Bethany and started attending Christ Church, Bethany.

Members of Trinity Emmanuel came to our house to help us move, as well as prayed for us in our struggles.

This morning, I returned to Trinity Emmanuel to celebrate the new ministry of Kate and Trinity Emmanuel. Peter provided the sermon. Friends from Grace Church in Manhattan were there, as were friends from other churches in the Stamford Deanery.

The band for Christ Church, Bethany provided most of the music, and during the service, members of the congregation presented Kate with a bowl of guitar picks say, “Kate, receive these guitar picks, which you so liberally scatter, and be among us as one who teaches us a new song in worship.”

It was a wonderful service. Not only was a great celebration of the new ministry of Kate and Trinity Emmanuel, but it was also first such ceremony that The Right Reverend Doctor Laura Ahrens celebrated as Bishop Suffragan of Connecticut.

For me, the words that summed up the service were the refrain from the Litany of Prayers for Ministry, “Set us free to serve You”.

As I thought about all the things that have happened in my life since those days at Grace Church, as well as all the things that have happened in Kate’s life and the lives of some many of my friends, the idea of being liberated to serve God ties it together very nicely.

So, my prayers are with Kate, with the congregation of Trinity Emmanuel, and with all of us that needs God’s grace to set us free to serve Him.

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Halloween in Second Life

Let’s imagine you run an online community where thousands of people come every day and dress up however they wish. Some dress up as closely as possible to what they look like in real life. Other people dress up as furry creatures, fighters from some video game, or simply as some fantasy of how they would like to be seen.

Let’s imagine that people in this community make a lot money by selling outfits and accessories to help people dress up however they want. What day would be the most important day not to shut down for five hours to add additional hardware?

Anyone that has been out shopping for Halloween costumes in real life that knows anything about Second Life would likely come up with next Wednesday as the worst possible day to shutdown Second Life for five hours.

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