My Mom, My Influencer-in-Chief



My mother, Mrs. Lillian Williams, a retired public school teacher, enjoying the day with me on State Street in Chicago in June, 2016.

By Lillian Williams

Today, June 21, happens to be National Selfie Day.

OK, so I know the photo above is definitely NOT a selfie.

But My Mom, a retired school teacher, is spending the summer with me in Chicago.  I’m trying to capture, and share, as many moments with her as I can.

Here’s the deal: My mother is my INFLUENCER-IN-CHIEF, the person who set the pace for me; the person who encouraged me to earn my  doctoral degree; the person who continues to inspire me.

She’s in her mid-90s.  These days with her are precious.

The photo above was taken during a recent excursion to the Barnes & Noble bookstore in downtown Chicago, where we had Saturday morning coffee. We looked at a few magazines. We chatted about her career as a public school teacher, and my tenure as a college professor, among other subjects. It was a memorable start to the day.

She’s retired from teaching in the public school system of East St. Louis, Illinois. She taught first grade for many years, and later science classes. She won a coveted Golden Apple award.

In our hometown of East St. Louis, she volunteered to raise money  for the police and fire departments. She served as president of both the East St. Louis Community Camp Board and the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House. She was a founding member of the East St. Louis Women’s Club. She’s still a member of the neighborhood church, Greater New Hope Baptist.

She and my dad, Atty. James E. Williams Sr., now deceased, sacrificed so much for their five children to get a good education. They did without fancy cars, clothes and vacations.

This summer we will have lots of long talks–and laughs. We will reminisce about the days of old, as they say. We will have lunch with longtime friends from Southern Illinois. We will take leisurely strolls along a beautiful pathway adjacent to the Chicago river near Lake Michigan. We will visit fabulous houses of worship. We will dine in, dine out, cook in, cook out, etc. The agenda stretches on and on.

My refrigerator is stocked with ice cream, her favorite dessert. And did I mention that she loves candy?

These days are precious.


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How to reason like Golden State Warriors’ “Steph” Curry!


Stephen Curry

Warriors at Wizards 2/3/16        Photo credit: Keith Allison, Hanover, MD


By Lillian Williams

Can we create our own success?

We certainly can contribute to it, so says Warriors’ point guard, Stephen “Steph” Curry.

Though his case is far from complete, there are lessons to be learned already.

Recently I came across Curry’s 2015, NBA MVP acceptance speech.

Here’s the sage, 5-point advice that he offered:

  • Don’t mimic other people: “Be the best version of yourself in anything that you do. You don’t have to live anybody else’s story.”
  • Don’t sweat your deficits: “Sometimes people make it seem you have to have certain pre-requisites or a crazy life story to be successful in this world, but the truth is you really don’t.”
  • Desire counts: Curry describes this characteristic as “an undying passion for what you do,” and “a relentless drive.” Hard work is a necessity!
  • Dodge nothing!: Live in the moment: “And, I hope I inspire people all around the world to just be themselves. Be humble, and be grateful. Be grateful for all the blessings in your life.”
  • Doggedness pays off: “Work your butt off every single day!”

Get the point?

My Columbia College students put it in their campus vernacular: “Stay woke!”

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Quiet Influencers

By Lillian Williams

Game changers are people who transform things. They improve a business or a community. They lay the foundation for others.

In today’s social media parlance, they’re called influencers.

In that spirit, I’d like to recognize three special women who influenced my life: Mrs. Dorothy K. Jones, Mrs. Mamie L. Page, and Mrs. Inez E. Hale. I am grateful that our paths crossed.

All three women lived in or near East St. Louis, a Mississippi river town in southern Illinois, where I grew up. They lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and the 20th century civil rights movement. Their stories, their struggles, their stamina, make them game changers.

The three were born between 1916 and 1925. Dorothy Jones was a public school teacher in East St. Louis for 35 years until her retirement in 1985. Inez Hale was a devoted member of Parks Chapel A.M.E., and Mamie Page worked at the LaBelle dress shop in East St. Louis for many years.

All three outlived their husbands, and all three died within a year of each other.

You won’t find their names in history books, or engraved in fancy marble memorials. But you will find their spirits etched in the hearts of younger generations who grew up in southern Illinois.

Like so many uncelebrated Americans, these women supported their communities in myriad ways. They quietly provided the platform for others to succeed.

What character traits marked these women? Let me share a few of their special qualities:


Mrs. Mamie L. Page

Hard Work/Volunteerism. Mrs. Mamie Page was born in 1924 in Scooba, Miss., during the era of legally-sanctioned racial segregation. Like so many other African-Americans during that time, she migrated North in search of greater opportunity. In East St. Louis, she and her husband, Frank “Jessie” Page, found work, made friends, and raised a son. But when I attended her funeral, I was struck by something else—her long record of volunteer work. Not only did Mrs. Page work to support her own family, but she found time to volunteer at St. Mary’s hospital, for more than 35 years. As noted in her obituary, the hospital gift shop was renamed Mamie’s Café in her honor. But her volunteer work didn’t stop at the hospital. Every July 4th she and other women (including my mother) would sell beverages on the Mississippi riverfront to raise money for the local police and fire departments.


Mrs.Dorothy Jones

Generosity. Mrs. Dorothy Jones was born in 1925 in East St. Louis. She attended public schools there; received a bachelor’s degree from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., and a master’s degree from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though busy as a local public school teacher, she found time to give in additional ways. One day she shared with me a printed program of a church-sponsored concert that raised money for student scholarships. For 25 years she had served as president of the committee that raised the scholarship money. The program noted that at least 250 students had received scholarships over the years. But she was active in other organizations noted for service too-the local chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the East St. Louis Women’s Club.


Mrs. Inez E. Hale

Humility. Mrs. Inez Hale was born in rural Ward, Alabama, in 1916. She married my grandmother’s cousin. After moving to East St. Louis, she became an active member of the Parks Chapel A.M.E. church in Centreville, Ill. Though she lacked formal degrees, she was educated in so many other ways. When I would drop by her home, she would give me a hug and a bright smile. But what I remember the most about Mrs. Hale was her calm, reassuring spirit. In my mind, she had a stillness about her that bordered on majesty. I observed another of her crown jewels: She was quick to honor other people. She would recall their good deeds. She recognized the best in others. After she died , a friend wrote a touching message in an online guestbook: “We were truly blessed to have been taught by the best.”

These women trend high on my list of social influencers.

It’s your turn. What values characterize your own life? What values do you admire in others? What organizations, or persons, make a difference in your community, your way of life?


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Do I really need to know about the social media “Blab” app?


key influencers

Snapshot of Blab livestream at BEA 2016 in Las Vegas

By Lillian Williams

At a recent BEA discussion on social media, I saw a demonstration of the Blab app.

Blab is a livestreaming, social media platform that permits up to four people to converse, in front of an audience.

It’s been described by Mashable as Periscope for a group of friends. Picture perhaps four friends (or business partners or educators or teenagers or whoever) in the same virtual room, with an eager audience.  Blab even allows the audience to write comments, as the four guests talk.  And, the whole action can be recorded.

No doubt, endless possibilities exist for this app!

On the day I saw the demonstration, ordinary citizens/activists were the Blab talkers. They described how this app and others allowed them to brand themselves, and their messages. The discussion  was led by media educator and artist Chetachi A. Egwu.

Separately, though, because the  technology landscape changes by the moment, Journalist’s Resource shares a reading list about media and tech issues, including the following sites and others:

“MediaShift: This newer site looks at the changing media landscape across many dimensions and tracks content from other outlets about new trends.”

“TechCrunch: Focused on the technology industry generally, this site often has the latest from Silicon Valley and beyond.”

“Re/code: Founded by well-respected tech journalists, this site does a lot of analysis of the latest digital trends.”
If you have favorite sites for technology and new media issues, please let us know. We’d like to hear from you!










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Poynter/NABJ Forge Leadership Program


Digital 800px-Digital_Logo
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

A new program will address issues that journalists of color face in digital journalism, particularly in leadership roles.

That’s the aim of a partnership recently announced between Poynter Institute and the National Association of Black Journalists.

According to a joint press statement, the tuition-free program will be held in November at Poynter’s campus in St. Petersurg, Florida.

Applications will be accepted beginning this summer. Contact Elisa Jackson, executive director of the Poynter Foundation, at or NABJ executive consultant Drew Berry at

The program will include the following:

  • Guidance on navigating newsroom culture
  • Leadership styles
  • Business of journalism and entrepreneurship
  • Networking
  • One-on-one coaching

The program is patterned after the ONA-Poynter Leadership Academy for Women which has offered training in digital media to women for the past two years.


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Arizona State University MOOC program for freshmen

By Lillian Williams

When I began writing about MOOCs a while back, little did I foresee this action:  Arizona State and edX this summer will roll out the first completely online freshman-year program, for academic credit.


Tempe campus of Arizona State University. Wikipedia Commons photo usage rights.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are utilized in many ways—particularly for adults who want to add to their educational portfolios. Though some offer certificates, typically MOOCs do not carry academic credit. Most MOOCs are free.

But this latest move beckons college freshmen–and offers academic credit, for a fee.

Arizona State University will team with MOOC provider, edX, for a bold project entitled, Global Freshman Academy.  These new MOOCs offer online, freshmen-level courses with no campus visits required.  Even high school students can take these courses.

The MOOC provider in the partnership, edX, was founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012.

But as reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education this week, there is a catch: Students in the program will not be eligible for federal financial aid.  The cost is about $600 per course, according to the Chronicle.

The project is described here in a video.

“At ASU, we’re committed to academic inclusion and student success, regardless of a student’s family circumstances,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow in a statement released by the university.  “We will not be successful unless we reach talent from all backgrounds around the world, and the worldwide reach of the revolutionary edX platform allows us to open this program to anyone with the drive to obtain their degree.”

Declaring this a new educational avenue, Crow said, “The Global Freshman Academy will empower students to prepare for college and achieve what they may not have thought they could. There are many pathways to success, both academically and in life. This is now one of them.”

What will this first-year curriculum offer?  The following are key takeaways from Arizona’s statement about the project:

  • “The Global Freshman Academy will offer a collection of first-year courses designed to fulfill a specific set of general education requirements.”
  • “Upon completion of each Global Freshman Academy course, students who pass the final exam will have an option to pay a small fee of no more than $200 per credit hour to get college credit for the course.”
  • “Completion of eight courses in the series, including several required courses and some elective, equals the requirements for a full freshman year at ASU – at about half the cost of the national average for a year of in-state tuition at public universities.”
  • “The general studies focus areas will include mathematical studies, humanities, arts and design, social-behavioral sciences and natural sciences.”

Enrollment has opened. The first course, Introduction to Solar Systems, begins in August.  Two other courses will start in Fall 2015—Human Origins and Western Civilizations: Ancient and Medieval Europe.

Read more information about this project here:

What is your take on whether this experiment will work for freshmen students?  Let us hear your voice in the comments section below.

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Nautilus, a Valuable Site for Science Teachers

By Lillian Williams

Mrs. Lillian Williams is an award-winning, retired public school teacher of southern Illinois. She won a coveted Golden Apple Award for excellence in teaching. She is my mother.

Dr. Lillian Williams (author of this blog), with her mother, Mrs. Lillian Williams, a retired public school teacher.

Dr. Lillian Williams (author of this blog), with her mother, Mrs. Lillian Williams, a retired public school teacher.

For many years Mrs. Williams taught science at Dunbar Elementary School in East St. Louis, Illinois, where students won awards for science projects. Like many public school teachers, she would often purchase school supplies with her own money. She was determined to offer students a solid foundation in science.

Significantly for this blog, Mrs. Williams retired from teaching before the burgeoning digital media era. No doubt she would have incorporated online sites into her teaching/learning strategies, if they had been available. I believe that one such site would have been Nautilus.

Nautilus is a literary science magazine. Though the magazine charges a fee for its print edition, the online version is free. That means teachers can take full advantage of material offered through the website. Supported by the John Templeton Foundation, this publication exemplifies how the digital media era has widened the gates to news and information about science. Nautilus image

If you’re a science teacher, you might consider the wealth of teaching/learning possibilities for classroom discussions and research projects.

Take a look at recent topics:

  • Biology: Super-Intelligent Humans Are Coming. Genetic engineering will one day create the smartest humans who have ever lived.
  • Astronomy: Don’t write off ET quite yet. It’s true that we haven’t seen alien life, but neither have we seen much of the universe.
  • Ecology: Art is Long, Science is Longer
  • Extraterrestrial Life: Can you ever really know an extraterrestrial?
  • Medicine: At death’s door, he was put on ice. How a new technology is resurrecting patients from what was once certain death.

Here’s how writer Curtis Brainard described Nautilus in the Columbia Journalism Review:

“It’s a well-balanced mix of interesting articles, essays, and multimedia reports by journalists and experts of various stripes. The single-topic structure is effective and the production value top-notch. “The online magazine is free,” [Dennis] Overbye noted in his review, “but even if it weren’t, it would be worth the price of admission….” A subscription to the print edition will cost $49 a year.”

Mrs. Williams, like many other retired teachers, would have jumped at the teaching and learning opportunities available through sites like Nautilus in this digital era.

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Yet Another Advantage of Social Media Networking

By Lillian Williams

What are best practices for utilizing social networking sites in your teaching?

Dr. Lillian Williams, associate professor at Columbia College Chicago, and author of the blog, E-Learning (A Digital Education Forum)

Dr. Lillian Williams, associate professor at Columbia College Chicago, and author of the blog, E-Learning (A Digital Education Forum)

Among suggestions found in this  Facebook Guide for Teachers are the following:

  • First, determine whether your school has a social networking policy for teaching/learning purposes. If so, review those guidelines.
  • Consider the creation of a special networking page for your classroom. (Avoid using your personal networking site for classroom activities.)  That classroom-only page could be used to post information and links, as well as to invite conversation.
  • Develop a set of classroom guidelines about acceptable social behaviors on the site. In other words, set rules for the site.

Besides course activities, I’ve found another valuable usage for social networking sites: connection to school alumni.

Each morning when I open my Facebook page, I get updates from former students who send pictures and information about their professional and social lives.

Take a look at this picture sent through Facebook (and also posted on Instagram) by Lourdes Vazquez, a former student who shared a front-page news article that she wrote.  A graduate of Columbia College Chicago where I teach, she works as a reporter in the Dallas, Texas, media market.

#DallasISD ending adult education program #GED #ESL #Citizenship in today's @dallasnews

A post shared by Lourdes Vazquez (@luluchinews) on

I’ve seen wedding photos; baby announcements; law school graduation notices; job change alerts, and myriad other status updates from former students.  It’s a pleasure to read these posts. But the posts also provide valuable tips for my current teaching/learning approaches.

These social updates reflect trends in the professional industry.  They reflect the latest values and competencies necessary to perform in the professional sphere.  They share real-time employment opportunities (or lack of them) in various industries. To a limited extent, they act as a “satisfaction” measure for various jobs.

In short, these social networking conversations offer valuable insight to teachers, in ways far beyond classroom-related activities.

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Congolese Editor and Mother of Six Honored for Valor

By Lillian Williams

Solange Lusiku Nsimire demonstrates the mettle it takes to operate as a journalist in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Solange Lusiku Nsimire 2

As reported by Eleanor Klibanoff for NPR, this mother of six has endured endures threats and other acts of intimidation in an effort to publish news in her country.  She fearlessly writes about unjust governmental policies, discrimination against women and other acts of repression in her country.

Recently she won the Courage in Journalism award from the International Women’s Media Foundation.

In a question-answer session with Klibanoff for NPR,  Lusiku Nsimire describes the  24-hour life expectancy of journalists:

Q: You once gave a speech in Belgium where you said that in the DRC, a journalist’s “life expectancy is 24 hours, renewable.” How do you live with that understanding, and how does it affect the work you do?
A: The 24-hour life expectancy is not just for journalists of the Congo, it’s for any Congolese person, particularly in Eastern Congo. At any time, armed people can come to your house and just kill you. Since most of these murders and killings happen at night, every morning that we wake up, we thank God that we are still alive that day. If in other countries, life expectancy is 90 years, but we have 24 hours, we must work hard so that we can accomplish in those 24 hours what other people have 90 years to accomplish.

Read Klibanoff’s entire interview with Lusiku Nsimire here.

It’s your turn. What is your mission in life?  What are the circumstances and expectations of that mission?  Share your thoughts.

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9 buzzwords Teacher Must Know before Designing eLearning Courses

Just a quick hit-list of some trends in e-learning! See the link to the original post for the complete list.

unius learning


As you have decided to step on the eLearning way, you may want to learn some terms that you will hear in the World of Learning. Try to read, understand and remember nine things which are trends of modern eLearning.

  1. Social Learning

Social learning is learning that takes place through social interaction between peers. It occurs through social media and social networks. We have our own social network inside Unius Learning, that’s why you can use it successfully for your eLearning courses.

  1. Gamification

Karl Kapp, author of The Gamification, says it’s much more than just adding ‘rewards, points, and badges’ to processes to motivate people. It’s the instructional method. You can ask what “pieces” in games makes your students engaging such as interactivity, content, story.

  1. mLearning

Mobile learning decreases limitation of learning location with the mobility of general portable devices. But mobile learning is more than just using mobile devices…

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