Announcements in our Student Portal

When MyPCC was first introduced at Portland Community College, I would grab emails that came out to staff to post in our new student portal. The typical practice back then was for staff to send emails out to all other staff about something pertinent to students. Of course these messages were never seen by their true target. Hopefully some staff shared these with students in some way — perhaps posting on a wall or announcing something in class.

The days of me searching for news to post faded quickly. The college soon learned that students do indeed pay attention to announcements posted in the student portal (MyPCC). How did we know this? At the time we didn’t have any real statistics but we did have stories.

A faculty member thanked me for posting a poetry reading. He was very thankful because the reading had more than 70 students attend. This was a very impressive turn out.

We would also regularly get staff members posting an opportunity for students. For example, a job posting. Soon after we’d receive a request to remove the announcement due to the large response.

With success came the flood. I no longer had to search for announcements, everyone wanted one. Now we had to structure the communication. We did (that is a separate story), and while not perfect, our practices and governance are still in place.

We also now have better statistics on views of our announcements. Here are total views for a recent set of announcements:

  • 7,500 views: Grades Available Tues. 3/26
  • 12,000 views: Update on police investigation in the news
  • 6,500 views: Course evaluations online until 3/17
  • 2,500 views: Message from the President: Budget forums set
  • 5,900 views: Desire2Learn Outage and Storage Issues – 1/29/13 (only up for 2 full days)
  • 1,500 views: Weather Alert: All classes and events cancelled until noon today (only up 1 day and available prominently elsewhere on the PCC website)

Here is what a typical month looks like showing pageviews which equate to a view of an announcement:

Graphic showing views of announcement in MyPCC, the Portland Community College student portal, with daily totals ranging from 1,000 to 7,000

Our audience is aware and paying attention to what we say. While MyPCC isn’t the only way we reach our students it is a primary channel.

Evening Shadow Graffiti in Oaxaca

Shadow graffiti comes to life at night thanks to a streetlampGraffiti on this wall in Oaxaca, Mexico doesn’t really come to life until the evening when a street lamp casts a shadow on the wall. The lamp shines on a bust of Álvaro Carrillo Alarcón. Cute and clever use of shadow.

I also like this because I like random connections. In this case I have to admit no previous knowledge of Álvaro Carrillo Alarcón. Of course a quick search provides some awareness in which I learn that Álvaro Carrillo is a famous composer from the state of Oaxaca. The connection comes in the realization that I know of his music — well, at least some of it. My favorite is Sabor a Mi, I’ve always liked the Los Lobos version.

Although an instrumental version is also very nice.

Here is a shot with the Álvaro Carrillo Alarcón bust.

Shot of shadow graffiti with bust of Álvaro Carrillo Alarcón creating the defining shadow

The small park containing this bust is on Calle de Macedonio Alcalá. Apparently this is quite a musical street. Being the primary pedestrian street in the tourist area, music can be heard constantly — street musicians, marching bands, dance performances, concerts and, of course, a park honoring Álvaro Carrillo Alarcón. The street, I learned, honors a Mexican musician and composer born in Oaxaca. I assume the text on the wall is referring to Macedonio Alcalá because “Dios nunca muere” is the title of his famous waltz. Here is a YouTube video playing Dios Nunca Muere, unofficial hymn of the state of Oaxaca, and views of Oaxaca.

Oaxaca Team Building Fun

Takeoff, a group launch of balloonsThe college sent me to Oaxaca to learn about the culture and bring this back to Portland. Rather than buy small gifts for my work team, I shared a bit of Oaxaca in the form of drink, food and fun. This afternoon we enjoyed watermelon flavored water, conchas (a Mexican sweet bread), and fun with globos.

Globos is Spanish for balloons. At the Zócalo in Oaxaca there are globos vendors selling all kinds of balloons but for our activity the long tubular balloons were the stars. I’ve been told two different Spanish names for these toys: globos salchicha and globos cohete. While they may look sausage-like, for our purposes — and the way the kids used them in the Zócalo — globos cohete (or rocket balloons) seems more fitting.

I’ll be sharing more stories with the group but this bit of culture made for a fun team building break this afternoon.

On the Path

Today we visited Teotitlán del Valle and learned about candle making and weaving. I also was honored to try my hand at these arts in the tutelage of master artisans.

I made a bird form in wax to be used in candle decorations. Kneeling next to our host as she did with her grandmother learning her skills was inspiring. While this was a thrill for me, for her it is her family’s livelihood. At the young age of nine her grandmother passed away and she fulfilled family obligations for candle orders. Since then she has continued to practice the art she loves.

As she shared her art and life, we sat transfixed in a three-sided brick shed adorned with a beautiful rough-hewn ceiling. She spoke to us and worked from her knees in the center of the shed before a large ceramic bowl filled with melted beeswax. A second tub contained cold water. The ancient charm of the setting and her grace made for a timeless environment. Bees, attracted by the wax, danced around her. Completed candles hung from the ceiling and the waft of beeswax entranced us all.

From one set of weavers our group learned of the process involved in their art. The natural dyes that create a multitude of permanent colors derived from sources such as aster flowers for yellow, indigo, cochineal insects for red (with lime to attain an orange). How each dye is used with different wools to achieve more colors. For example a brown natural wool dyed with indigo to achieve black. The work involved is impressive,  the colors attained are breathtaking as are the resulting tapetes.

The second set of weavers we visited included an opportunity to work the loom myself. I definitely slowed the process down but someone out there will own a rug that some of my soul is now a part of — hopefully I didn’t bring the value down too much.

Our visits on this day which also included a chocolate maker were part of a tour featuring women that are part of a micro-finance program. Fundación En Vía provides interest free loans and business training to groups of women looking to start or grow a business. The foundation empowers these women and their pueblos to be more self-sustaining. The strength of these women and the pride they exhibit was inspiring. Their families showed great pride in their accomplishments and it was simply an honor to visit with them.