Society at large has an opinion of the institutionally challenged. I believe that the public perception of us is slightly inaccurate. Indeed many inmates provide justification for the negative stigma. I do not think it’s within my power to sway the public opinion into feeling differently. Instead, I would offer you a glimpse into the endeavors of one specific inmate.. myself. I am opposed to the convict mentality. As well, I am actively at war to bring forth the destruction of the convict code. We are not all alike..

This was an actual speech I gave to some of the prison administration.

The importance of open course ware and Panopto lectures in prisons.

Ladies.. Gentlemen. My name is Christopher Havens. Many of you already know me because of my involvement with the Prison Mathematics Project. But for those who don’t know me, I’m an advocate for prison education, both unconventional and otherwise. I’ve chosen learning as a lifestyle. I’m an independent scholar, and I belong to a mathematical research group in Turin, Italy.
I have the honor of sharing the playing fields with three incredible mathematicians. ..and sometimes I ask myself, “how do I fit into this puzzle?”. How do I keep my mind at a place where I can keep up? Where I can maintain as a productive factor of a team who contributes little permanent bits of math to the next generation… I believe the question is analogous for any one inmate pursuing an education. How does one keep their head above water?? …And IF we crest that water, how do we soar above? … Think of that crest as the middle point, where below, recidivism is common, and above recidivism is contrary.
I think the ability to keep ones head above water, and even to soar above comes from having not only the requisite educational material, but also enough material that should inspire the student to go one step further. As Elise and Bella explained, the Panopto lectures and the open course ware are strong tools in conjunction to any course, or even an independent study curriculum. For example, in any correspondence course currently available to us, we receive books as well as a study guide containing our assignments. We move through these with little or no interaction. But what happens when a conceptual question arises? How do we know when we’ve misunderstood some of the key concepts? … This is a purpose of Panopto lectures. We hear and we see the illustrations and explanations of the lecture. ..AND in a setting where we have corresponding peer interaction. This gives us the option for discussions on the topic, and any misinterpretations can be weeded out before they’ve even had a chance to take root.
As well, Bella described open course ware. This is a self contained lesson on a specific topic not far removed from the lecture. When the open course ware is used together with the lectures, we have a powerful tool.. because now I can not only study the same topic from a different point of view, but I can also sit on the material and let it sink in. Now I have the opportunity to reread it. What’s nice about open course ware is that I can learn a subject that may be may be related to my field of study, yet not available in any of our degree programs. ? …What about when it’s time to submit a research paper for a final exam I have? …An extra credit project?

The lectures and the open course ware are important for any who are taking their education seriously while in prison. So again.. How do I keep my head above water? … … How do I soar above, past the line of recidivism? I gain a deeper understanding.. I research course ware, I submerse myself in my education .. and the extremes I go through just to sit in on a lecture would amaze you! But we’re hungry.. And we need this. Ladies and gentlemen… birds don’t learn to fly by flying. … … … They learn to fly by falling. The wind is right. …and we’ve fallen! And we ask you now for these tools.

Thank you.

Christopher Havens