One Degree’s Reading List – January 2016

I’m planning to bring this blog back in some form, and I’m going to try something new. At One Degree, we share interesting news articles on our Slack channel, and I thought it’d be interesting to post the articles that we’ve been sharing.

Here’s what we’ve been sharing and reading at in January:

On being homeless in Santa Clara county, Silicon Valley:

A good listen about tackling poverty and education, and an inspiring way to start the new year:

We got a mention in this Forbes piece from my buddy, Adam Geller:

From article:

“A new view. Today’s technology can be so much more than a system to speed parents’ ability to react to a situation. Instead, districts can choose to promote technologies that more actively involve the parents. Software like ClassDojo provides a way for parents to receive information and communicate with the teacher. And marketplaces like One Degree connect families with needed local resources like after school programs.”

This happened in February, but we also got a mention in this article as well:

This was shared in December, but it’s still pretty interesting:

Lastly, here’s a picture of me “reading” in the Dead Sea because… why not:

Reading Dead Sea

A Decade of Conversations

This post was originally published on my new website,, which I created as part of a my Digital Media, Politics and Power class at Harvard.

Photo Credit: Marc Loresto

On this day of personal reflection and national introspection, it’s not hard to think about the dramatic changes that have occurred over the last decade. Since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, our lives have changed to include more ubiquity of digital tools and technologies, like cell phones, social media, and broadband internet. I can’t help but imagine how our reactions, lives and society might have been different if we had today’s technologies back then.

A decade ago I was a resident advisor at the North Residential College at the University of Southern California. At around seven in the morning several of my residents hurriedly woke me up to show me the frightening news, and I felt like I was having a nightmare. At that time, I just got a cell phone, I was still a year away from signing up for Friendster, and email was reserved for the nerds (i.e. me). As an RA, it was my responsibility to disseminate information to my residents about cancelled classes and events — so I walked up and down the halls and talked to my boys one-by-one. Later that day I posted up a flyer in front of a classroom to alert club members that our evening meeting was cancelled. Today, I would have broadcasted the same information via email, text and tweets in a matter of minutes.

During today’s anniversary ceremony at Harvard, David Gergen, professor at HKS and director of the Center for Public Leadership, said that right after 9/11 our initial instinct was to embrace our family, and by that he meant to nurture and care for our close loved ones — and over the last decade we’ve used emerging tools to embrace our families. Facebook groups to stay connected with loved ones. Flickr, Instagram, and Youtube to “see” them. Skype and FaceTime to keep the communication lines open. Gergen, however, urged us to embrace our larger extended families, and by that he meant communities of people outside of our own networks who are suffering and marginalized — those who live in the shadows of the recession while we live in the light.

In Clay Shirky‘s book, Here Comes Everybody, he suggests that technology and social tools are ubiquitous, but the underlying assumption is that everyone has access to these tools and technologies. While working with low-income students and families in the Bay Area, I tried to use cutting edge forms of communications tools, like blogging, wikis and email, and I realized that wasn’t working. The young people and their families weren’t using the same technologies, partially because they didn’t have access to computers and/or high-speed internet access. I had to shift my strategy from forcing technologies onto my students to understanding what technologies they use and how they use them. Because of this mind shift, I noticed that although computers and internet access were prohibitively expensive for my low-income families, most of them had cell phones and more recently smart phones. Rather than using the more conventional tools like emails and blogging to organize my students and their families, I used texting and Facebook tagging to foster community and mobilize the group to act. And then something happened that I wasn’t expecting — my students started to self-organize. The more vocal ones began to forward my text messages to others, and they created subgroups within our group to tackle issues. It was kind of like Wikipedia’s spontaneous division of labor, except in a tangible way within a community of about 300 students.

I didn’t introduce this mode of communication to my students — I merely discovered that they were already texting each other and forming informal groups online. And I guess the common point is that people throughout all generations are having and will continue to have conversations on and offline. People will continue to form groups on and offline. If we have to communicate one-by-one by knocking on people’s doors or if we text hundreds people at the same time, it doesn’t take out the base fact that we are communicating and connecting with people. After all, “Conversation is king.”

Where do you find the time?

I thought I’d share this video I found on Lifehacker about how our society is currently at the next big shift from a very passive TV-obsessed half-century, to a more active and engaged future. It’s extremely fascinating.

So where do you fall on the paradigm? Are you still on the couch watching Gilligan’s Island?

Where do people find the time to do things like edit the Wikipedia? They watch less television, says author Clay Shirky in a fantastic, brief talk at the recent Web 2.0 conference. Shirky makes a compelling case that people are just learning how to deal with the “cognitive surplus” of free time modern life affords us. We’re waking up from the “collective bender” of mindlessly watching sitcoms and instead, we’re choosing instead to spend our free time volunteering, interacting, and Web 2.0’ing online. Hit the play button to watch Shirky make his case for the full effect, or hit the link below to read the text transcript of his talk. Next time your TV-watching friends make fun of you for opting to blog instead, point ’em to this talk.

Gin, Television, and Social Surplus [Here Comes Everybody]

New layout

The problem with blogs these days is that the text is so small that you have to hit CTRL-plus 5 times to be able to read the text. Well I found this cool new layout, and after changing mine twice already this year, I’m sticking to this one. It’s clean, easy to read, simple, and as my brother said, “is very Web 1.0.”

A neat new feature that I am rolling out is subscribing via email. You always had the option of getting the RSS feed, but now you can get email updates for every post I write. Hooray! Check it out below:

Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner

Yes, these are all clever ways for me to distract myself from all of this residual accident crap I have to deal with.

Are we preparing our students to be successful in 21st century society?

This is an old video, but my dad sent it to me, and it’s definitely worth the 8 minute viewing.

It really poses a lot of questions for the future of education because our future is zooming into some vast unknown. If mainstream education is changing, what does that mean for our students and our systems that are currently failing our students? What needs to happen to catch them up?

Happy New Year – Happy New World

Happy New Year everyone! Why don’t we all set a collective New Year’s goal to make the world a better place in 2008.

Have you recovered from the Holiday shopping aftermath? I think as I grow older and older, I grow more and more weary of how Christmastime is becoming Shopping-time. It’s one thing to really live the holiday spirit by giving gifts to your loved ones, but I think our society has reached a point where our obsession with consumerism and shopping has gone too far.

I succumbed to it as well, by buying books and educational board games for my tween and teen cousins for Christmas, and I am sure many of you gifted as well. But after watching this 20 minute video on the “Story of Stuff,” I thought that there has to be a better way that we can celebrate Christmas than just buying each other presents that we’ll probably throw away in six months. Besides the season is about rejoicing the birth of Christ, and not about busting our wallets to impress each other with iPods.

Anyway, check out the video at or you can watch the first chapter below from youtube. The direct website has better resolution.

After watching it, I am rethinking my desire to buy that iPhone to replace my functional (but old) Treo. Sure iPhones are super sweet, but if my phone’s not broken…why fix it?

My brother recently joked around with me for being a wannabe “early adopter,” but I take pride in my “2nd generation adopter” status. Not only are most of my electronic purchases used, but I keep them for a long, long time.

The end of Stu-pod

I was driving home from Folsom Street Fair today, and in my tired stoop, all I wanted to do was listen to Kanye’s new jam, Stronger. I pulled my ipod, Stu-pod, out from my bag, plugged it in, and listened to said song.

A moment later when the next song was supposed to play, no audible noises came out. After resetting itself a couple of times, the file folder icon and exclamation point icon above popped up…


It’s an end of an era.

I bought Stu when I got my car, and after resuscitating Stu once (I saved him from a dead battery), I think Stu is done for good. I can’t imagine my world without music, and to think that only 4 years ago I was scoffing at ipods. Now it’s so unthinkable to be without it. Luckily I still have my 2gig nano, but let’s be real. It’s only 2 gigs!

Perhaps it’s time to buy an iPhone.

Ultimate Nerdfest: Maker Faire!

Francis, King and Chickens
[Photo taken at the Flickr / Yahoo exhibit]

I don’t remember how I found about the Maker Faire, but for some reason it had been on my calendar for weeks, maybe even months, to go to the twice yearly fair–they hold one in San Mateo and another in Texas.

Coincidentally, my brother was in town visiting our relatives in Tracy, so I asked him to come with me because it definitely is something that would be right up his alley.

Essentially the Maker Faire is a convention or gathering of sorts for readers of Make Magazine, which is basically a do-it-yourself tech magazine for uber-geeks, nerds and dorks.

Just how dorky these readers and enthusiasts are, I did not know until I really saw them in the flesh. I mean I consider myself to be a pretty nerdy guy–I love technology, read tech magazines and blogs, and adore gadgets to the point of personifying them and giving them names (i.e. Shaquanda my, now, 2-year old Treo 650… don’t even ask me what her full name it). But if you think I’m nerdy, you haven’t KNOWN nerds, until you watch a crowd of people go gaga over a manmade lightning exhibit (the Tesla coils were so cool!) or watch a similar crowd cheer and jeer at battling wedge robots (wow… I cannot even describe to you the nerd-itude that was).

Anyway, all-in-all it was a great day spent with my brother. We walked around to a lot of different exhibits and saw a lot of new and old and remixed technology.

Francis at Maker Faire

Rey next to a homemade whale
That’s a homemade whale!

Rey inside the homemade whale
That’s me INSIDE the homemade whale!

Francis at the Crucible fire exhibit
See the fire on the top right corner?

Battling robots... so nerdy!
The final nerdy straw…

I’d like to take this moment to thank the good Lord for the creation of the Internet

I finally fixed our internet at home (after about 2 months). I spent most of memorial day on the phone with Comcast and my brother to try to fix the problem, but in the end all I had to do was reset and re-install everything.

Internet bliss. Ahhh…