Tag Archives: education

How I Met Geordi LaForge at SXSWedu!

How I Met Geordi LaForge at SXSWedu!
by Stacy Dyer

I had the privilege to hear LeVar Burton speak at SXSWedu, a conference focusing on innovation in learning.

Stacy Dyer and LeVar Burton at SXSWedu

Stacy Dyer and LeVar Burton at SXSWedu

In his keynote address Burton shared his philosophy: “at the intersection of technology and education, storytelling is the key to learning.

Wise words indeed from a talented artist and life-long learning advocate who has been a part of the legendary Reading Rainbow franchise for 23 years–the third-longest running children’s series in PBS history*. A new Reading Rainbow app will be release in a few weeks.

LeVar Burton keynote at SXSWedu

LeVar Burton keynote at SXSWedu (photo credit: Stacy Dyer)

Technology aside, it is clear that Burton’s philosophy stems from his formative experiences with great storytellers. From Alex Haley’s epic Roots to Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, Burton’s acting roles immersed him in the visions of great storytellers, and strong family connections to the encouraged an almost evangelistic passion for life-long learning.

According to Burton, Haley’s vision of storytelling demonstrates the indomitable strength of the human need for family, while Roddenberry’s vision sees the infinite potential of humans. For Burton, these vision were bridged by Fred Rodgers. It sounds strange, but for Burton it made sense. Especially when I learned that Burton attended seminary himself (Mr. Rodgers was a minister.) Burton explained how he was inspired by Mr. Rodgers impression of the media of television as a pulpit, as an opportunity to reach his flock and share his message. Burton took this lesson to heart.

After the keynote, Burton was able to attend the networking reception where he mingled with attendees. It was a great opportunity to meet and share ideas with one of my long-time inspirations and idols (did I ever tell you I wanted to be a Star Trek engineer why I grow up?)

How to incorporate the latest technology into effective learning programs is what SXSWedu is all about. As a Star Trek and Reading Rainbow veteran, Burton is uniquely positioned to publicly champion the use of technology while keeping the focus on the content–the story that is being told.

Today, educational technology leaders must focus on building a technology infrastructure for learning. What I have learned at SXSWedu this year is that infrastructure is only the first step. Tech won’t teach. As a learner and mother, I am intrigued how the next generation of educators are leveraging technology to create opportunities for extraordinary educational experiences.

* Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reading_Rainbow


My Five Reasons For Being A Girl Scout

Stacy Dyer, Brownie

Stacy Dyer in full Brownie uniform, marching in the downtown Stuart holiday parade

Many years ago, I was shorter, cuter and I could eat a lot more cookies than I can today!

Before the days of Daisies, I joined Girl Scouts as a Brownie.  Yes that’s me to the right, check out my smile.  I loved being a Girl Scout.  Looking back there are many reasons why I enjoyed the experience and why I recommend Girl Scouts today.

Girl Scouts is fun!  I joined Troop #305, in Palm City, Florida initially because my mom’s friends’ daughters were all in the troop and I wanted to hang out with them.  We had a blast camping out, volunteering in local beach clean ups and dressing up in our uniforms to walk in the town’s annual holiday parade (complete with orange flag sock garters!)  Who doesn’t want to be in a parade?

Girl Scouts gets you outside.  A big reason for joining Scouts was the outdoor activities. I enjoyed horseback riding, camping, and wildlife rehabilitation. Scouting encouraged a great love of the natural world and it’s a value that has stayed with me to this day.

Girl Scouts gives you “prizes” and a sense of accomplishment.  Earning badges was one of my favorite parts of being a Girl Scout. Every meeting, our troop leader would organize a fun activity which would get us closer to our target. I have a competitive spirit and I relished the opportunity to have a good time and achieve something purposeful. I had so many badges, I had to get vest instead of a sash. My poor mom couldn’t keep up with sewing them on! I still crave accomplishments and rarely rest on my laurels for long.

Girl Scouts teaches you how to be an entrepreneur.  Call it Cookie Capitalism.  I learned “cold call” selling to strangers outside the grocery store and how to soft sell to my dad’s golfing buddies between the third green and the fourth tee. Back then, the only way to refuse me was to claim you had no cash. Of course, with today’s mobile payment options, and ATMs on every corner, you probably can’t get away with that excuse anymore. Selling cookies is a cornerstone of Girl Scout fundraising that instills an entrepreneurial spirit in young people—another Girl Scout trait I still carry today. I have supported myself as a freelancer and I am currently helping my husband Charles to build his coffee business on the side.  I have many an office colleague hooked on custom roasted coffee.

Girl Scouts empowers you to be the best you can be and to help others in turn. Service to others is a key part of the Girl Scouts experience.  You learn to be your better self by helping others and giving back to your community.  You also learn you are unstoppable and that really all you need in life are your friends, a pocket knife, flashlight and a box of cookies

For over a 100 years Girl Scouts has been developing girls and helping them grow into women.  Not too many organizations in this world have lasted as long.  I am so happy that I am getting to attend the 2011 National Girl Scout Council in Houston, Texas this week.  It is a chance to reconnect with fellow alumni, engage in Girl Scout leadership activities, and check out the captivating speakers.  I’m looking forward to being a part of this unforgettable event.  I will also be live tweeting from the event, follow the festivities on Twitter @stacydyer or the hash tag #GirlScouts100


What do Social Entrepeneurs and Sesame Street have in common?

Blake Mycoskie of TOMS recently had appearances to both SXSW in Austin, TX and the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International Conference in Chicago.  I learned about his inspiration and motivation around his now famous TOMS brand and one-for-one movement.

Combining social good and the power of consumers is nothing new.

I came across a great article by Allen R. Bromberger, A New Type of Hybrid.  In it, he discusses how social entrepreneurs are using a hybrid model to combine the for-profit and nonprofit models.

Museums and performing arts organizations create for-profit retailers to sell merchandise, such as posters, jewerly, and books. And the hybrid model is nothing new to public broadcasting. The Children’s Television Workshop, owners of the Sesame Street characters, use separate nonprofit and for-profit organizations to both achieve business objectives and further a social mission.

Dan Pallotta, in his book, Uncivilized, points out why this arm’s length model is used for supporting social good with commercial activities. Rather than being politically or economically motivated, it was a religious view held by the Puritans who came to America in the 17th century. They believed that any commercial activity was sin. However they also understood it necessity, so to atone you could perform charitable activities and – never the twain shall meet.

In his article, A New Type of Hybrid, Bromberger discusses how modern social entrepreneurs are using separate, but contractual linked entities to accomplish their goals.

For any nonprofit concerned with the legal implications of UBIT (Unrelated Business Income Tax), or for-profit entities concerned that the pursuit which want to pursue a social mission, a single hybrid structure that contractual binds the nonprofit and for-profit entities may be a solution.

But Bromberger points out, it isn’t simple.

In the article, Bromberger describes various types of legal entities typically used in social entrepreneurship including, B corporations and benefit corporations and how they differ as well as the low-profit limited liability company (L3C) option.

He describes legal options to enter into activities together to achieve social good.

  • Parent-subsidiary model – where a nonprofit creates for-profit subsidiary
  • Commercial transactions and collaborations between nonprofit and for-profit companies (arm’s length model)
  • Corporate sponsorships and commercial co-ventures
  • Contractual hybrids

There is also a great discussion of legal ramifications of some of the various options and Bromberger spells out the particular IRS rules to consider.

  • Joint Ventures
  • Private Benefit
  • Unrelated Business Income Tax
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Related Party Transactions
  • Form 990

The lively comments are also a must read.  One commentor notes a new option being considered in California which would allow the formation of a Flexible Purpose Corporation (Flex Corp.) You can read more about it in California to Allow Corporations to Blend Mission and Profit at corpgov.net.

I also loved Milton Friesen’s comment about using the open source model – create a platform upon which individual organizations can built new models – like allowing developers to create apps for an app store.

So what does all this very geeky, public policy mumbo jumbo mean?

Through open collaboration, we can essentially crowdsource innovation in social good and social entrepreneurial models! How cool would that be!

Forever Books

My boss forwarded me this story about how BookSpring in Austin, Texas made an impact on one student and his school librarian. Read on…

I know we’ve talked now and again about my work at BookSpring. This story just was too touching not to share about our Reading is Fundamental program (RIF). Thanks for reading it, and if you have a chance to give a gift to a child this year, buy them a book (or two). It makes a huge difference.


From a librarian at an Austin elementary school:

Our children unfortunately move frequently. Part of the process of changing schools is the return of all library books. Last month a boy came into the library looking very sad. I tried to comfort him and showed him online pictures of his new school and his new librarian. He asked me again whether he had to turn in all his library books, couldn’t he at least keep one or two? He said “I sleep with them no matter where we are.” I shook my head. He opened his backpack and there were nine RIF books (along with his library books.) Joyfully, I explained that RIF books were forever gifts and library books were only borrowed. I hugged him goodbye and he left, smiling and clutching his backpack full of his forever books. Then I cried.