[staff] Cultural Competencies & Recognizing the Space of our Young People 

Something powerful happens when we as educators approach a young person's space, like their afternoon dance club, or hip hop group, or virtual world, and acknowledge it as being worth something. When we consider their cultural competencies, and what is important to them. When we harness their unique competencies for something that uniquely counters all of the negativity, pressure, or influences that are concurrently constructing their world.

In the work of the Online Leadership Program, we are recognizing that the enormous creativity, energy and spirit of our young people means something. And that it means something in all of the different forms it takes. It means something for the young person that only is engaged when she has a camera in her hand. Or for the young person that is struggling in school but confident in an after school fireside workshop. It matters tor the young person that isn’t sure of herself or who she wants to be, but knows that others are just like her, across the world, and she gets to seem them in the virtual world she logs in to every night. For a person that hates English class, but feels whole in a hip hop project… That matters.

[staff] Virtual workshops.. in person? 

For the last two months or so I’ve been working with 4 students from Ramapo Technology Club. These students are participating in an after school club at Suffern Middle School in NY, and have volunteered to be part of GK’s D.I.D.I. Initiative. We meet every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, virtually, in TSL. Over the past weeks I’ve gotten to know each teen, and the dynamic of the group. I’ve learned who the quiet thinker is, which one is the natural leader, and which one is the ‘class clown.’

It’s been interesting working so consistently with a group - in a virtual setting. There are some things I was beginning to question, though. Despite reiteration of our GK guideline of ‘safe space’, I noticed a continued banter among the group, different from what I would accept in a classroom. Sometimes I would step in and remind them. Other times, they’d remind each other. I also noticed occasional long lags in response time during conversations and tasks. “Are they there?” I’d wonder. “Are they bored?” Sometimes they tell us they are bored. That’s helpful.

Despite my concerns, the Ramapo group has been most impressive with their dedication to the DIDI Venture. Attendance is great, and once we get going, participation is never an issue. This group has begun to think deeply about their community, and how they can make a difference.

[SiSL] The First Day of Science in Second Life 

Today was an exciting day for Global Kids' Online Leadership Program. We identify as an after school program. But today we launched our first classroom-based program, a semester long, 100+ session Global Science course at the High School for Global Citizenship (funded by the Motorola Foundation). Why is the OLP involved? The course will use the virtual world of Second Life to teach the curriculum.

All considered, things went very well. Below are my random notes from the day.

The 20 new Macbooks are beautiful and well secured by four locks.

However, as prepared as we were, I forgot that new Macs arrive sans dongle for connecting them to the projector. Oops! Instead we used a PC to project on the screen.

When students entered we already had Joyce up on Skype, speaking from her home in Mass. It was fascinating to see the teens avoid her. A few mentioned, half joking, that they were scared of her, this disembodied talking head on a desk.

[staff] Coming full circle at Global Kids 

MacArthur DML Volumes

On January 9th, I hit my two year mark here at Global Kids. To some, I know this sounds like a short amount of time, but to me, it's an age. To begin with, working in GK's Online Leadership Program means that we're in a field that's moving at breakneck speed. The contours of the new media landscape are shifting beneath our feet. Every month feels like six. We've been both nimble and (definitely) fortunate enough to ride this proverbial wave, and so our team has grown and projects shifted an enormous amount as well in the short time that I've been with GK.

[staff reflections] On Beyond Second Life 

Two years ago, in January of 2006, Global Kids opened our first Island in Second Life, on the main grid. We had a party then sent it the next day to the teen grid. The party was a blast, as captured below in our first machinima (before we even learned the word!).

At the time, we could not have imagined that within two years Second Life’s accounts would grow from around 20,000 to over ten million, that Global Kids online staff would grow from three to twelve (not counting interns and independent contractors), nor that this new medium would explode in 2008 and be predicted to reach more than 50% of teens by 2011.

Reflecting back on the past two years, rather than reflect on the broad range of our past SL-based educational programs, the remarkable partners (from UNICEF to the MacArthur Foundation to the dozen amazing organizations I am leaving out), and the impact we have had on youth both in NYC and around the world, I’d rather look at the next few years.

[Conf] Announcing release of two papers in GK Series on Virtual Worlds 

This week brings the exciting release of two papers that were written based on findings during the 2007 Second Life Community Convention in both the education and non-profit focused panels. They were authored by two prominent SL community members in both fields and feature numerous references, quotes and work being done by various educators, virtual world professionals and non-profits within Second Life and other related spheres.

We are proud of the papers and welcome you to download them, share with your colleagues and leave comments.

Support for these reports was provided by the Digital Media and Learning Initiative of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. We thank them and all who helped contribute in some way to the publishing of these documents.

Reports from the Field: Second Life Community Convention 2007 Education Track Summary

Best Practices from the Second Life Community Convention Education Track 2007

prepared by Cathy Arreguin, MA Educational Technology

The first paper in the Global Kids Series on Virtual Worlds discusses common themes, methodology and best practices in education in virtual worlds and concludes with recommendations.


Contacts: Jonah Kokodyniak, Global Kids, 212-226-2116, Jonah[AT]globalkids.org
Tom Mariam, Mariam Communications, 914-939-4294, Tom[AT]mariam.biz

For Immediate Release:

Media Offered Unique Opportunity by Global Kids to Experience Teen-Only Space of Second Life

Journalists Can Observe Projects on Education, Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy

New York, NY, January 15, 2008 – Journalists from around the world will have a rare chance to get a first-hand look at the teen-only space of the popular virtual world, Second Life (TSL), through Global Kids Inc. (GK), a leader in the use of new media to empower youth.

Global Kids, now in its third year of conducting educational programming in TSL, is conducting the first invitation-only press tour of the teen-only space of Second Life on Wednesday, January 30 from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. EST.

Journalists can participate either by coming to the Global Kids office in New York City or remotely. Interested reporters should contact Jonah Kokodyniak (212-226-2116 or jonah[AT]globalkids.org) to reserve a spot.

The special press tour will highlight three of Global Kids’ most exciting new projects:

[p4k] Evaluation on both Playing 4 Keeps and Ayiti released! 

After two and a half years, Global Kids is delighted to release the results of the independent evaluation by the Center for Children and Technology of both Playing 4 Keeps, our after school gaming program, and Ayiti, the game produced with Gamelab during the first year of the program.

For the evaluation CCT observed the program and interviewed the students. To evaluate the game they looked at the results of nearly 16,000 game plays.

Download the full report here.

In short, when we made Ayiti we wanted to learn if players would learn if the factors affecting access to education within an impoverished condition are both interdependent and exist within a dynamic system. CCT's research found that "the central idea embedded in the game play, that no single factor accounts for success, appears to have been successfully communicated to the majority of players." Bingo!

In addition, they describe how youth report that through their participation in the after school program their experiences involved:

[Staff] December Staff Reflections 

Howdy readers! We at the O.L.P. hope everyone had a great holiday season and an excellent New Year. The On-line Leadership Program “staff reflections” blog entries is digital therapy for the virtual soul, and every month the intelligent bunch of O.L.P. staffers will collectively process their thoughts, perspectives and ambitions about their various O.L.P. projects on this luminous blog. The “staff reflections” section provides committed bloggers, Internet wonderers, youths and digital media folks a pipeline into the beautiful minds of each staff member.

Enjoy reading our blog.

Amira writes about the challenges and opportunities education in virtual worlds offers.
Reflections on the Challenges & Opportunities of Virtual Education

Barry explores Global Kids short-term successes and long-term struggles with the DOE to change their mindset on how students use school computers.
Gaming the DOE

Jay reflected on the why the world is full of bad design and why studying catastrophes is the only way to stop them.
Designed Failure/Successful Design

[staff reflections] Technology works for us, not the other way around. Right? 

“Miss! Second Life is not working!”
“Miss! My avatar is flying, and it won’t stop, how can I make it stop…”
“I don’t know why it’s doing this! I have no idea why?”
“This is a waste of time. Can I do something else like go on MySpace? Please?”

Each week I am faced with these questions, and every week, I’ve had to provide less than satisfactory answers to the puzzled and frustrated faces, with poor efforts hiding my own anxiety and nervousness.

“Just wait, give it some time, this is called lag and it’s normal”.

When technology fails, I am defeated. As much as the students in the program look forward to the workshops, I have higher hopes, and higher expectations each time we meet. I can’t help but wonder about the “wonders” of technology, all that it has to offer, all the lessons available for my students out there, and on the contrary side, all that it fails to provide when the expectations are not met. When we are let down because of something that we cannot fix or change, what is the lesson there? If it is patience that our kids needs to have in each workshop, what else is it that they are learning about technology?