Believing in my City

Atlanta could be so much more if we fixed the problems that have emerged over the years. We have all the ingredients of a major city yet we lack that certain something. Many people are searching and researching about what is missing and what can be done to restore Atlanta to all it’s former glory. It’s been done before and it can be done again.

Although many architects and city planners share a sentiment close to that of certain foreign city planners that Atlanta is fragmented, splintered and sprawling, the light continues to shine at the end of the tunnel. For Ryan Gravel, brain parent of the Beltline, that light is the shadow of trains long past. Inspired by his senior year abroad in Paris, Gravel wished to make his hometown a city in which people wished to stay. In his mind, the often mocked traffic congestion and limited amount of public transit are two of Atlanta’s main problems. Gravel’s thesis culminated with his solution, a revitalization of old railroad tracks now know as the Beltline. In short, the goal of the Beltline is to kickstart the creation of more public parks and green spaces, which in turn hopes to form cleaner spaces, rejuvenate run down areas by sprucing them up, attracting more people and more businesses in the process. Gravel also hopes that the Beltline will improve public transit and entice people back into downtown Atlanta, the thriving yet often disregarded heart of the city we inhabit.

At TEDxAtlanta this spring, I heard another speaker who wanted to help keep Atlanta from depopulating. Jessica Moore wants to harness the sun and release us from our dependence on oil. According to her, we rely too heavily on acquiring fossil fuels from other cities. Putting the sun to work will also help put more Atlantans to work, opening up a very profitable job market. Tapping into the large amount of sunlight we get daily will not only reduce our energy woes but create more jobs and more revenue.

People like Gravel and Moore with their optimism and passion for their city give everyone a reason to believe. The future is shining bright ahead like a gleaming set of rails under the hot Georgia sun.

The “Orgastic Future”

I think great writing speaks to our inner desire to simultaneously forget and return to the past. These are some of my favorite quotes on pushing through the memories and the benefits of looking not at yesterday but at tomorrow and what the future holds.

The Orgastic Future as told by F.Scott Fitzgerald, Margaret Mitchell and the Bard

“It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . .

Tomorrow is another day.

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time. And all our yesterdays have lighted fools”

Breaking routine and shifting the focus: the story of EVEREMAN

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We’re all in this together. That’s the sense of broad community that furniture maker and street artist, EVEREMAN, believes in. Everemen are a form of non-effasive street art, consisting of a robotish face painted onto a magnetic square of wood. The EVEREMAN’s foray into trace-less street art started with a desire to disrupt the monotony of routine, add color to the shadowy nooks and crannies of the city, and give something to the city that has given him so much. The Evereman believes that at its core, art is for sharing. He initially shared this art with just his wife and son but it has grown to be so much more.

Now, he hosts production parties, where anyone can show up and assist in the building of a multitude of Everemen. The neatest part is that the EVEREMAN doesn’t see the need to distribute every piece himself, and he insists that attendants of his production parties take the Everemen they made and send them off into the city. As of now, he estimates that there are more than 30,000 Everemen out in the world.

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How far can an attitude of sharing, like that of the EVEREMAN, take us? By involving the general public in his artistic process, he has created a large community of people now more in touch with each other and their city. The EVEREMAN believes that the “vibrancy of a city is reflected in the vibrancy of its street art.” With these peaceful bringers of smiles, joy and interconnecting, he attempts to make the city we live in as vibrant as possible.

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After all, the evereman is everywhere, for everyone.

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Technology and the Future of Education

When I imagine the future, I think of automated machines everywhere, robots in practically every store, and of course, flying cars. I see a world where no one knows facts, where you just have to look at something to have tons of content, and resources, and answers to questions you didn’t even know you had, fly at you (most likely thanks to Google). But when I imagine the future of education as a result of the course we’re on now I see a world where students are still pressured into memorizing often pointless facts for no given reason, while outside the classroom, all these facts and more are at your fingertips.

If schools let at least some of the constantly adapting and improving technology into their classrooms, the opportunities would be endless. For example, my school recently switched to a 1:1 laptop program sponsored by Apple. The switch has affected different people in different ways. Personally, I am now able to access my notes for all classes at anytime on any wifi enabled device since they’re all typed up. I can add to a specific section when I learn new things and my notes can span pages without running out of room in a notebook or lead in a pencil. Now, the layout of our school newspaper paper (whose staff I am a part of) can be done remotely, each of us at home, on our own time, communicating via the multitude of “chat” devices (email, gchat, facebook etc) available thanks to the fact that we all have laptops. I can design my own stationary at home, without having to use a school sanctioned desktop that carried the software like before. And that’s just the changes I’ve experienced. All around me I see lives broadened and made more functional by having a laptop in school.

But moving to a 1:1 program isn’t the only way to infuse a school with the power of technology. A back to basics projector or a SmartBoard with a teacher’s computer attached, allow the entirety of the Internet to enter the classroom. Considering that this post is indeed on the Internet, I assume that the wonders of the worldwide web are well know to anyone who is reading this :). The beauty of our technologically savvy world is the immense interconnectivity it brings. No longer is learning limited to the classroom walls, but it has seeped out and spread farther than you may think.

In a school setting, there are all sorts of ways certain websites can be harnessed for an educational purpose and to best take advantage of this global network of learning. For example, lots of professional writers, scientists, artists, teachers, activists etc are more than willing to have a Skype with a class of students eager to learn about what they do. In addition, Twitter can be used as a back channel for a discussion or a conference. As a bonus, these discussions often don’t end when school does, prolonging the learning moment and extending the impact of the knowledge gained. Furthermore, blogging sites like WordPress, Tumblr, and Blogger allow written work to be easily viewed by more than simply the teacher. This increases the amount of feedback and inevitably improves the quality of the work.

I believe schools should embrace technology because the students already have. If technology is not incorporated into schools and schools don’t adapt, students will eventually end up doing the bulk of their true learning elsewhere. I think the future is here. And it’s time all schools catch up, before the status quo moves on.