Will TomoClases.com steer Chile’s Universities to a Tech Savy Future?

   “Serving others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” — Mohammed Ali

Courtesy of S3.AmazonAws.com

Trick Question (it’s Halloween season folks) — Name two people receiving more Chilean press than a Miner Survivor preparing to enter the Presidential Race?
Answer: Meet the dynamic entrepreneurial duo, Guimar ‘Vaca’ Sittic and his CTO sidekick Eric Denovitzer, the latest Chilean startup all stars hoping to lead their country’s – and in time all of Latin America’s – entire education industry to embracing the 21st century.

So when/where and how exactly did these head honchos brainstorm such a progressive concept (seemingly overnight) that in the last six months they’ve recently joined Argentina’s top idea incubator NXTPLabs.com and began site expansion to the Argentina, Brazil, and Colombian markets?  For starters, they’re both alumni to notable US Universities – the University of Chicago and Princeton respectively.  Then combine this top-tier higher education experience with a multi-lingual/international business sense and it results in producing two civic-minded leaders perfectly ready to embrace the challenging landscape, when it comes to designing an online learning community that will change all future generations.  Vaca Sittic’s previous stint, helping cofound/sell restaurant booking website CenaPlus which raised $3.2 million in funding by February 2011, also gives the team an advantageous, competitive edge.

To quote an old Texas adage, this is not the boys’ first rodeo.

Courtesy of TheNextWeb.com/LA

In describing the company’s site premise and overall purpose, TheNextWeb.com’s reporter Anna Heim highlights how TomoClases.com takes the “offline classes and workshops marketplace model,” that’s comparable to the already popular domains like Khan Academy or SkillShare – but will concentrate their ambition more to specifically improving Latin America education.  Understanding certain, culturally relevant elements also matters a great deal when analyzing how the site will provide sustainable content long term.

During his interview with Heim, Vaca Sittic points out how, “Countries such as Argentina and Brazil have a strong culture in terms of hiring tutors for children. Moreover, people are constantly learning something new ranging from a new sport or an eccentric hobby. Hence, Tomo Clases will have a big impact in this countries in 2012 – we shorten the gap between professors and students from any field, and also encourage everybody to become a professor by teaching what they know.”  

Completing such thorough, primary, in-depth due diligence understandably generates ample, invaluable rewards.  It’s exciting to watch where TomoClases.com will go next, especially considering that even since last April’s beta launch when they first introduced the site to only the Chile/Mexico markets, the community now shares 600+ online classes to a 1,250+ user database.

Courtesy of Blog.TomoClases.com

So just how far will this online mercado, that openly shares an interactive knowledge source to one of the world’s fast-growing regions go? Well if the developing team keeps up their current work, it’s likely that TomoClases.com will evolve far beyond the founders’ initial vision and aspirations. It’s interesting, that where so many online platforms fail to maintain a strong, online brand community presence, TomoClases.com’s Blog, Twitter, and Facebook channels all display enriching, supplemental content. It’s a smart strategy that will only help the founders as they plan to court students, professors, and select education leaders’ participation more aggressively.

Anyone who still stands with both their initial entrepreneurial project and body intact despite enduring numerous, relentlessly searing VC investor screenings certainly posses a natural ability to demonstrate creative, charismatic leadership. But it’s also arguable that certain things succeed because on only the most select occasion, Lady Luck will opt to shine favor toward endeavors she deems worthy.  TomoClases.com’s serendipitous, timely beginning hit the web not long after several reports announced that Latin America’s current informal education market, a sector where 18 million users already spend $5+ Billion USD annually- was growing by 16% every year. Indeed, this proves point to international journalist Henry Golden’s now legendary business philosophy, “The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work.”  As TomoClases.com continues to circulate their initiative worldwide, hopefully this winning streak will keep pace.

Courtesy of Facebook.com/TomoClases

It’s almost hard to believe that in just a few short week, students everywhere will rejoice to celebrate another semester’s end, yet the duo will not spend the remainder of 2012 enjoying a leisurely holiday season.  Far from it in fact, as they’ve expressed that their next major milestone will mean securing 10,000 classes and expanding the user-audience by at least ten-fold.  However while the weary TomoClases.com team soldiers on, a hard working holiday now will hopefully mean magnitudes of vacation time to themselves later, after they’ve managed to successfully create one of Latin America’s most lucrative, extraordinary businesses.

As Chile’s national motto so wisely expresses ‘By Right or By Might’ – it’s a tough, tedious road to creating a movement that will forever impact a region’s education industry.  Yet every new accomplishment brings TomoClases.com just a little bit closer to that truly admirable goal. Keep the course dear friends – the world’s already anticipating your next exciting announcement 🙂

Amanda // @acmontgomery
E acrawfordmontgomery@gmail.com
LinkedIn.com/in/AmandaMontgomery

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TR35 & L.America Universities promote innovative competition to future leaders

“Always act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”  — William James

Courtesy of Comunidad.cic.ipn.mx

The ‘Natural Selection’ process possess a certain, exquisite talent that somehow manages to merge at least two seemingly, unrelated ideas together and magically ends up creating something wonderful.  Peanut Butter + Chocolate, Simon + Garfunkel, ‘LOL’ + Cats; they’re all unique, unpredictable combinations that enrich our otherwise mundane livelihood.  In a similar capacity, MIT’s prestigious TR35 award -a 13 year old program which every year rewards 35 tech-savvy innovators who are all under 35- also possess a natural ability to select only the most promising, forward thinking endeavors that once given a green light, will optimistically make the world better.

This year, in an effort to bring even more awareness about this program internationally, organizers will partner with specific Latin American markets in Spain, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay to stir interest and participation amongst each country’s exceptionally talented young professionals.  Given the award’s nature, it’s only logical that TR35 leaders will seek support from select universities in these areas.  In the same turn, the academic communities readily supports this type of opportunity which gives students the ability to experience real fieldwork before, during and after finishing their degree tracks.  It’s a text book example showing how natural selection builds symbiotic relationships that’d even make Darwin smile.

Courtesy of Technologyreview.es

Entering this innovative competition begins throughout Latin America in the following six countries but the main stage event takes place later this October, when the 2012 Global TR35 inductees will travel to this year’s EmTech conference in Boston, and present their work to top industry leaders.  As these ambassadors continue to promote their creative projects and pick up support, it’s equally important to praise the higher education institutions that support TR35’s efforts and bring awareness about the program to their campus community:

TR35 Spain & Instituto de Empresa (IE Business School)
Inaugural Winners announced October 2011

TR35 Mexico & Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey
Inaugural Winners announced May 2012

TR35 Argentina & Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires
Inaugural Winners will be announced in August 2012

TR35 Brazil & Universidade de São Paulo
Inaugural Winners will be announced in November 2012

TR35 Colombia & Pontificia Universidad Javeriana y Universidad Nacional de Colombia
Inaugural Winners announced June 2012

TR35 Uruguay & Universidad ORT Uruguay y Universidad Católica del Uruguay
Inaugural Winners will be announced in August 2012

Courtesy of TechnologyReview.com/emtech

While this year’s EmTech conference promises an excellent speaker line up and a myriad of learning opportunities, your Fall schedule fills up fast when trying to coordinate all these conferences.  If you’re unable to make the Boston trip, not to worry because there’s plenty of ways to connect and support these amazing finalists online through social media.  Feel free to connect with the EmTech community and this year’s TR35 inductees on their LinkedIn group, video channel or at:
Facebook.com/emtechMIT ; Facebook.com/techreview.es
Twitter.com/TechReview ; Twitter.com/Premiostr35 ;
the conference will also produce a live stream here.

A heartfelt congratulations and best of luck (¡Felicidades y Buena Suerte!) to the entire 2012 TR35 Global roster!

#YoSoy132 – Mexico’s Students & Media Use

“The educated youth of a nation are the trustees of it’s posterity.” – Benjamin Disraeli

Courtesy of DallasNews.com

If we measure news traveling down a grapevine exchange between Dallas, Texas and Mexico City- each headline journeys 1,135 miles every time these neighbors trade updates. But several weeks ago, the Dallas Morning News wire (one of today’s numerous digital grapevines…) released Alfredo Corchado’s fascinating story describing a student-driven movement that uses the name ‘#YoSoy132 as a way to identify/raise awareness about their cause which they hope will bring permanent change to a corrupt education system plaguing the current and future Mexican student community. It’s a genuinely inspiring article that lends a unique perspective to research investigating how Latin American university environments employing emerging media platforms deal with the consequent implications- both positive and negative.

Corchado’s reporting and other field accounts from major news networks like CNN and the BBC World News, all documenting the passionate activity surrounding #YoSoy132’s student protest movement coincidentally began to receive coverage just as this research project began; therefore it’s critical to read, analyze and monitor this story’s ongoing online development and how Mexico’s university campuses will or will not advocate relevant discussions.

At the end of 2012, Mexico will induct the newly elected President at the conclusion of current President, Felipe Calderón’s term. That said, ever since the election’s beginning numerous reports continue to debate the country’s transition and also question several broadcast media platforms who’ve allegedly given selective endorsements supporting the Institutional Revolutionary Party that presumptive president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto represents.

Courtesy of CNN.com

As a result, when Peña Nieto made an appearance on the Ibero-American University / Mexico City campus earlier this summer, students formed a heckling protest voicing their opposition toward the government’s passive reforms, Peña Nieto, and other responsible leaders (i.e. Elba Esther Gordillo, leader of the national teachers’ union).  According to Corchado’s observations, “The candidate’s team tried to play down the incident, saying that the crowd had been infiltrated by supporters of rival Andrés Manuel López Obrador who were posing as students.

Courtesy of YouTube.com

The protest retaliation took a viral turn three days later when a YouTube video featuring 131 students introducing themselves while presenting their school identification card as proof, received 1 million+ views in a 10 day period.  #YoSoy132 also circulated on Twitter as a hashtag discussion and news about the movement spread worldwide.  #YoSoy132 and the  students, parents, and other individuals wanting to help spread awareness about education conditions failing to help Mexico’s student community use an expansive arsenal of emerging media platforms to generate dialogue, organize committee meeting strategies and designate spokespeople.  Beyond Twitter and Youtube, wikipages and of course other university Facebook accounts all offer information about how to help those supporting the movement.

In the coming weeks, students everywhere will begin a new Fall semester at their respective universities but it’s undeniable that 100s of universities throughout Mexico will continue to discuss events surrounding #YoSoy132.  More importantly, educators, administrators, and students will also converse about what significant changes will impact their country’s future students socially, economically, politically and culturally.  But not surprisingly, a select percentage feel concern that creating a lasting impact to ensure permanent, enduring changes will require more than a strategic albeit dynamic social media effort which supports #YoSoy132.

Courtesy of CNN.com

Raul Trejo Delarbre, a professor who studies social media at the National Autonomous University of Mexico observes that indeed, “Social media savvy isn’t enough to maintain a movement… the leaderless group — accused by critics of lacking direction — must better define its main demands.”  And to his point, Reforma newspaper columnist Carmen Aristegui F.  asks “Are we or are we not before an authentic Mexican Spring?  Depends, of course, on students believing it themselves and on many other sectors of society … finding in them the creation of a space where their own hopes and concerns are reflected.

Yet even considering these daunting aspirations, there is a confident optimism delicately circulating amongst the student masses and those who support them.  As Angel Rodriguez, 19, a student at a music school run by Mexico’s City’s cultural ministry shares, “There is a spark, but if we leave it apathetically, it will dissolve.”  What an incredibly earnest observation but imagine the detrimental consequences if this discussion never even caught fire?

Connect with Amanda Montgomery || @acmontgomery

In Fall 2012 a Thesis is coming…

Above all things, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest stories are always hidden in the most unlikely places.” – Roald Dahl

Courtesy of Vogue.com

Let’s consider the above photograph for a moment; go ahead… give it a lingering, philosophical, studious gaze.  Although fully ready to set out on a voyage that requires at least one suitcase, one book and one traveling suit, it’s clearly evident that this young, bright-eyed bon vivant wants desperately to ask several questions about what’s to come her way  traveling.  Fair enough.

Coincidentally, certain similar feelings start to emerge when one begins planning their Master’s thesis.  Where how or what’s the most appropriate place to commence writing one’s graduate school magnum opus incessantly expends the mind.  However, the general conclusion that universally applies to all those enduring the process regardless of institution, instructor, or interest area- is that there simply isn’t  one, single right way to introduce a semester long academic endeavor.  That said, it’s probably best to go ahead and initiate the process.

Of course, it’s impossible to know where in the world the focus of our photo intends to visit; but on the other hand, I’m considerably thankful that my thesis will follow a clear, discernible journey.  This research project will analytically study university campuses, located in both Latin America and European countries, that employ emerging media platforms to not only develop their branding initiatives but more importantly use these technologies to strengthen relationships between students, faculty/staff, & the surrounding community.

Other questions that one must consider when broaching deeper into this subject include:
– Are these efforts increasing viral participation with the University brand online?
– Is the campus seeing a gradual increase concerning grants or funding/enrollment/teacher retention?
– When a University campus employs select emerging media platforms to increase brand identity and community participation, what advantages/disadvantages affect different areas in the educational environment?

This platform (www.LivinLaVidaNewMedia.Wordpress.com) will serve as a collective space that publishes all in-depth research findings (both quantitative and qualitative), in order to answer the above questions relating to how University systems, located in Latin America and European use emerging media platforms successfully or dysfunctionally and why.

Specific research methodologies that will assist this project include:
– Scholarly Article Evaluations
– Platform/Technology Investigation and Reviews
– Critical Response and Analysis
– Interviews and interactive discussion with various Campus Representatives
– Case Study Profiles

At any point should you have any questions regarding this project’s research please feel free to reach me at the following contact information: Amanda Montgomery,
MA Candidate / Dept of Emerging Media & Communications ;
University of Texas – Dallas
Email – acrawfordmontgomery@gmail.com
Twitter – @acmontgomery
LinkedIn.com/in/AmandaMontgomery

The anticipating young lady in the photograph poses a calm yet alluring demeanour; it’s my greatest hope that the collective research gathered for this project during Fall 2012 will capture a similar essence and more importantly raise awareness towards the symbiotic potential that exists between global higher education and digital media.