Ben Filla

Distance Education Coordinator, Southern State Community College

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DEDTalks: Brain Power in Appalachia

Our video is fun, but the topic is real: how do we engage folks in rural communities that traditionally under-value higher education? How do you get a company like Google to locate in the inexpensive towns and cities of Appalachia?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNTM14bUdS0&feature=channel_video_title

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    Oct 14 2011: Well done!!!

    I echo everybody else, cool college president, cool community!

    We are a global community. If you plan creatively starting TODAY (and I don't think your crew is missing on that ingredient) you will find many ways to work in a meaningful way, making an impact far beyond your region without having to leave your backyard.
    Just don't think 20th century! Many of the jobs available for the generation attending school today have not been invented/named yet. You will be making your own story line! It may be scary at first (this is no longer a script for a short video clip, this is LIFE! ) but I think it is wonderful, the very essence of freedom.
    have fun designing your future
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      Oct 16 2011: Thank you :) You know, I've thought about this too... The whole idea of many jobs not being known/created yet - so real. Technology - as you know - is inventing them daily - and there may be other areas ready to be blown open too. I get excited at the idea, the possibility, that jobs in coal or timber may be become something so fantastic in the near future that Appalachia becomes the next hot spot. Already we're seeing shifts such as folks that formerly were retiring in Florida are now choosing to retire in our hills, finally getting a chance to live a simpler more self-sufficient lifestyle. People are curious creatures :)

      The design is an adventure!
  • Oct 14 2011: What an awesome college president you have that would participate in this! And great job with the acting and makeup on the part of the zombie students!
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      Oct 16 2011: I know! That was only week three of a theatre class - and day two of stage makeup :)
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      Oct 17 2011: Agreed. Really impressive way to take advantage of a earn-my-attention world for an important subject.
  • Oct 14 2011: After working in a dead end restaurant job for 8 years, I was finally inspired by watching some TED talks to go back to school. Seeing all of these great minds change the world made me want to do the same. I am currently enrolled in a community college here in WV, but I look forward to moving on to a university in two years. Community colleges in our area are making education much more accessible for us. :)
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      Oct 16 2011: That's for certain. Part of Dr. Boys' speech that was edited from this video talked about how education (and our community college in particular) can help combat our region's 18.3% unemployment rate. The more accessible and flexible we can make it, the more we're serving those that need it most.
      • Oct 16 2011: In only 8 years since it opened, our community college has over 6000 people enrolled in classes. So the people want the education, its mostly a matter of making it affordable and making sure that people know there are ways to pay for it with financial aid. I think many people aren't aware they can get financial aid, especially those of us starting late.
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    Oct 27 2011: What active audience participation! And you had no trouble enforcing the 18 minute time limit :) But I really wanted to hear from the zombies.
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      Oct 27 2011: LOL - but they kept his body on the big red spot! :) As to the zombies, it was hard to get them to spill their guts on how they felt.
  • Oct 27 2011: Get tech into these kids hands. Let them see how things are done. Early in school get their hands working on electronics, computer programming, modern building tools, older building tools and teach the math and reading within this stuff. Let the families do the same on certain weekend days and nights of the week. If everyone can get involved and see the benefit. If they can all feel smart THEN they can step outside their class and economic boundaries.
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      Oct 27 2011: Thanks Shan - it's funny you mention this today. I just picked up a book (DRiVE) by Dan Pink - all on intrinsic motivation. Just in reading the cover it makes me think more about what pushes me - rather than just handouts, we need to bolster confidence and get excited about what matters to us as learners.
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    Oct 15 2011: You already have colleges that are doing it right in Appalachia, like Alice Lloyd and Berea. They are free or near free to those in Appalachia who have proven to be self motivated and hard working. Such schools inspire and give hope to kids in the area, that their lives can surely change if they will take heart and try.

    Alice Lloyd in particular is a school specializing in raising up teachers for Appalachia, thus magnifying the college's investment and societal impact outward into the community for several generations. The solution isn't big sweeping programs with goals set by a committee of super-degreed, real-world-clueless, bureaucratic nightmare educators. The solution is a network of small schools with tight degree focus, family-like community, and generous financial aid supplemented by student work-study. There are plenty of people out there who want to give back, who have a wealth of knowledge in a discipline or field that they would love to pass on. Let those who can and will teach a few what they know, and let it grow organically into other Alice Lloyds.
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      Oct 16 2011: A good friend of mine graduated from Berea and is doing inspiring things in education - they are awesome programs!
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    Oct 14 2011: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Ask them why they don't value higher education and ask yourself if higher education is always the way. Integrity of heart( ethical values) can be a lot higher in areas that are rural and that don't buy in to the fast paced life. Sometimes us humans think what works for us has to work for everyone. Some of the poorest regions of the world have the most gratitude for what they do have. Perhaps we could learn from them. Gratitude is at the heart of lasting success. I support going forth to educate the "uneducated" but ask them what they want for so you are not forcing your values on them. Find a way for your desires to fit into their way of life and you will foster cooperation instead of resistance. Just some things to think about.
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      Oct 16 2011: I find myself reworking that mental paradigm on what "quality of life" means and what part education plays. I agree with you - completely - that I, we, aren't to be forcing our values on folks. Obviously education is important for basic functioning within society. Readin', (w)ritin', and (a)rithmetic are required, for the most part, to be a part of society - agree? Beyond this is mostly butter - it allows us to get specific types of jobs, or, in statistically general terms, to make more money - or to allow us to pick our job. Higher ed isn't necessary really - and I know most people don't actually get jobs in their major, many high school grads make more than those with advanced degrees, and a lot of times - especially in rural communities, you're very limited as to the type of employment available unless you're willing to drive or be self-employed.

      In thinking my own question through (and that's always open to revision), to get a company like Google to come to southern/southeast Ohio for example we'd need infrastructure and brain power. I'm not knocking Appalachian culture - I chose to live here :) What a great experiment it would be though to announce to a community like mine that Google decided to set up shop - and then watch and see. Would it be an oasis? Or be met with concern and distrust? I'm running out of characters, but maybe my rambling is showing my thought line - it's really an open question with a big answer - but I'm loving the way you have me thinking Sam.

      When I first came to SSCC we had a speaker talk with campus about rural values. We were shown a clip from a documentary about a woman living in a trailer with no power - she walked (no car) 3 miles each way to her job at a fast food restaurant. In the video she said that as a kid she dreamed of being a teacher. I much rather help her meet her goal than to bring a Google to my area. Like Kevin Boys says - our problem isn't a lack of brains. We need to find more ways to make it accessible.
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        Oct 17 2011: I do very much agree that the basic fundamentals need to be there ie reading, writing, arithmetic. I am unaware of those basic levels in your area so I do not profess to know they "have" what they need. I feel you are on to something when talking about rather helping a woman be a teacher than bringing Google to your area. Bringing Google to your area would have the appearance of accomplishing more but would it cause your area to thrive more than helping individuals reach "their" goals.

        I am reading a book right now called Crucial Conversation by Vital Smarts(multiple co-authors) and it talks all about the difference between forcing or coercing ideas onto others, which is met with resistance and people pacifying with words but not "getting onboard" with total devotion, versus first making sure my heart is right(at peace) with them which invites cooperation and devotion to your cause. There are other things mentioned so I would highly recommend that book and perhaps another one called Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute which is the material I mostly study in my field which is life coaching, which I received no formal education for as of yet though I attend seminars and study and practice theories daily to find what works. The most beneficial daily practice I think I do is to evaluate where my heart is towards others. Many times I have really good plans for helping others but sometimes they are "my" plans for them rather than a plan that they(client, friend or acquaintance) and I(we) come up with together(synergy). When it is my plan I am usually met with resistance or pacifying words but no devotion to actually carry out the plan.

        One of my passions is to help others that have these great ideas that could really change their community but do not fully know how to implement their plan for success. While I don't know details of the plan,I can help by inviting others to be at peace with others and consider their own heart so as to invite cooperation/synergy.
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          Oct 27 2011: Yes! I think in education especially we (I) think we have the solution to poverty, crime, collapse of family... "My" plans aren't necessarily (probably) the cure-all.
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        Oct 17 2011: I think you are on the right course with pondering your thinking paradigm and questioning everything so you can find where, perhaps, improvement can be made. If you are spiritual at all, I invite you to call upon divine assistance from heaven to guide you in your journey to finding the ideal solution to this complex problem. I have done so many times and have been, literally, lead to people, things, places, books where I have discovered further truth and enlightenment to solve the many problems life has thrown at me. Foster peace and love and you will invite total devotion from those around you. I believe in what you are doing and have complete confidence you will find what you are looking for. Keep up the good work Ben.
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    Oct 14 2011: He really was :) What a challenge working around his schedule! We tried to do this in September but got bumped lol.
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    Oct 14 2011: Your college president is the TED speaker :D What a great sport he is!
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      Oct 14 2011: Appreciate it - we had a lot of fun making it!
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    Oct 14 2011: What a creative video, Ben! Great job. I think TEDsters will love it! Are the audience members your classmates? Thank you for contributing some humor and Halloween cheer. We can never get too much of that :)

    Ben, I often work with rural communities, but to be honest, I'm in too giggly a mood after watching this to get serious...I'll be back another day to talk about your questions too. :) It's a subject I'm passionate about.
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      Oct 14 2011: LOL - thank you! The students are (mostly) from a theatre class, but we opened it to anyone interested in being a zombie for a day :) Our college president was a good sport too!