Orkut was the first major social networking service to arrive in Brazil and it has just passed the seven-year mark. Although several other social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are growing in popularity, Orkut maintains a strong leadership position and it is still growing. It’s intriguing to explore how and why Orkut established such a strong foothold on the Internet in a country that didn’t have high Internet adoption rates when Orkut first arrived in January 2004.
Rheingold U, my current experiment in cultivating wholly online, multimedia, unaccredited, for-not-much-pay learning communities, grew out of a desire to follow the fun and act on impulse. When I impulsively tweeted a couple of weeks ago, "Anyone willing to pay $100 for five-week Intro to Mind Amplifiers course?" I was long-practiced in the art of riding the waves of personal impulse. In fact, the most productive learning trails I've followed or blazed in life started with singular impulses that fulfill life-long interests but were triggered by superficial, even accidental proximate causes.
A recent report on educational achievement among young black males describes a “national catastrophe” in primary, secondary, and higher education that is reinforced by policy failures and funding shortfalls. “A Call for Change: The Social and Educational Factors Contributing to the Outcomes of Black Males in Urban Schools” uses data largely from the U.S. Department of Education to paint a grim picture of an achievement gap between black and white students, reinforcing the message of recent books like Pedro Noguera’s The Trouble with Black Boys: Race, Equity, and the Future of Public Education. While the Obama White House has become known for promoting video games as a way to teach science, technology, engineering, math, and as a method to promote healthier eating and exercise among kids with sedentary lifestyles and pop culture habits, often the Presidential message targeted to African-American urban youth emphasizes traditional print culture literacies in reading and writing. Researcher Betsy James DiSalvo from the Georgia Institute of Technology is taking a different approach to the achievement gap. Her work is focused on understanding the role that video games play in urban African-American youth culture.