Recap: Charrette Week in Bloomington

Throughout the week of April 22–26, community leaders and concerned citizens in the south central region of Indiana convened at City Hall for charrette week, an intensive planning process to develop a new strategy for preventing and ending homelessness in Bloomington and the surrounding counties. The process was coordinated by the South Central Housing Network (SCHN) in partnership with the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH). Thanks to various outreach efforts, the discussions on Monday and Tuesday included a wide cross-section of Bloomington community members from social service agency leaders and government officials to concerned business-owners and individuals experiencing homelessness. Each day had a slate of topics for discussion with one hour set aside for a panel of experts to offer insights from past experiences and the following hour opened up for input from attendees. Notes from the second hour of each discussion are available on the SCHN website here:

At the end of the week, draft recommendations were presented to the public and the floor was opened again for community feedback on the plan. In the coming months, SCHN will work together with a variety of community entities to implement this new plan for better addressing issues of housing and homelessness in Region 10.

For more information, check out these articles from the Herald Times:

8-hour meeting weighs ideas on homelessness
Residents, community leaders seek solutions to homelessness
Findings from homelessness charrettes summarized, recommendations discussed

Join us: Charrette Week in Bloomington, IN

Monday, April 22nd marks the beginning of Charrette Week in Bloomington! The South Central Housing Network in partnership with the Corporation for Supportive Housing will host two days of intensive discussions centered around developing a strategy to prevent and end homelessness in our region. These discussions will take place from 8 am - 4 pm on April 22nd and 23rd in the Council Chambers at Bloomington City Hall (401 N. Morton St.).

Topics for discussion include:
  • Mental Health and Addictions
  • Right Services in the Right Place: Regional Coordination
  • Homelessness Prevention
  • Employment and Education
  • Crime, Safety, and Prejudice
  • Housing Stability First: Affordable and Supportive Housing
After gathering input from community members, the findings of the charrette will be presented on Friday, April 26th, from 1:00-3:00 pm at Bloomington City Hall.

Please consider attending this important event to make your voice heard and participate in a community planning process. For more information, please contact Nancy Hiestand at:

Accessing Tech: Requiring Virtual High School Courses is a Good Idea, if They're Properly Funded

Photograph of a high school computer lab taken in 2007
On Feb 15, the Indiana House Committee on Education approved an amendment to require Indiana High Schools to offer online courses and for students to take at least one of these courses in order to obtain a Core 40 diploma. The bill, introduced by Senator Jim Banks, is designed to promote technology use among young learners so that they may be better equipped to work in in an economy where skill with technology is highly valued.

The idea behind the bill is sound, particularly inasmuch as it would help low-income students who might not have access to these technologies at home learn how to use devices and software for learning. I have argued repeatedly on this blog that homeless and low-income populations need access to these sorts of technologies. Learning how to use these technologies effectively at a young age could give low-income students the skills they need to avoid poverty as adults, or navigate social services effectively if they need them.

One issue that must be addressed in the bill is, as usual, that of funding. The bill stipulates that schools must pay for these classes themselves. They get no additional funds from the state to implement the programs and they are not allowed to charge their constituents fees to pay for these classes. This alone has the potential to cripple the effectiveness of the bill.

Anyone who has taken an online course (or even a physical course with a heavy online component) probably knows that transferring a physical course's curriculum to an online course just does not work. Instructors of online courses face challenges such as finding ways to make abstract ideas concrete without the aid of checking in with students in real time to see if examples and illustrations make sense, and getting students to engage with each one another and with the course material without the benefit of a physical presence to anchor them to the classes. Learning these methods requires time and training, which, of course, requires money.

And students will need a way to access the courses. Not all school systems have the resources to handle such an increased burden on their computer labs, and it is unrealistic to assume that students have a computer or internet access at home. Solving this problem will again require money for technology acquisition, training, or extra planning to handle such a drastic change in computer use.

Even if these classes end up costing less in overhead in the long run, I suspect that the startup costs will be prohibitive to school systems with small budgets unless they receive help from the state. Without proper funding for schools to develop curricula appropriate to online courses and to upgrade their technology to handle increased use, this bill will only help communities with enough money to develop the programs properly using their own general funds. This has the potential to exclude low-income areas from the program, or, perhaps worse, water down the experience for low-income students by forcing low-income schools to adopt a curriculum for these courses that doesn't mesh well with an online format, defeating the purpose of the entire initiative.

[This is the fifth post in an ongoing series about the intersection of poverty/homelessness and technology. The articles will be collected here.]

[If you would like to leave feedback on this post, please email or leave a comment below (note: the comment system has been simplified so that users can comment through Facebook)]