Staff Reflections

[staff] And justice for all 

A few years ago I was having a conversation with an Indian friend of mine about post-9/11 racial profiling of South-Asians. He was angry about it of course, but he also had an interesting perspective. “Yeah it’s wrong,” he told me, “but you know they’re just finally doing to us what they been doing to black people all along.” Yep, the oppression and suspicion weren't new, just the targets. Well, to every Sikh who’s been accused of being a terrorist, to every Iranian who’s ever been called Iraqi, I have some good news: there’s a new target in town.

Have you heard the news? Fox and CIA director General Hayden are all atwitter. Fear mongers start salivating: there’s a white Al Qaeda. It’s official folks: Goldstein is everywhere. White boy with the pierced nose, fatigues, and 9/11 Truth shirt, considered yourself warned.

[ijc] The virtual movie-viewing experience and civic engagement 

Today I went to a packed strategy session with forty-some human rights activists and advocates to talk about how to best take advantage of an upcoming documentary on the International Criminal Court. It was awesome re-connecting with old colleagues from my time at the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, as well as to making new connections with people doing really neat human rights and justice work.

Leaving the strategy session, I started thinking about the enormous potential for combining socially relevant films and virtual worlds to complete the circle from public education to civic engagement...

I've long thought that virtual movie-viewing was a "killer app" of virtual worlds. Watching videos in Second Life has a lot of the advantages of going to the movies -- a shared social experience happening in real-time -- while minimizing the disadvantages -- having to travel to a movie theater, distracting chatter during the movie, exorbitant popcorn prices. One of my favorite all time experiences in Second Life was organizing a machinima festival in conjunction with a real world machinima festival in New York in 2006.

[staff] My Testimony For Congress (had I been asked)... 

On April 1st, the 110th Congress Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet held a hearing entitled Online Virtual Worlds: Applications and Avatars in a User-Generated Medium.

Listening to the testimony, it was hard not to imagine what I might have shared were I asked to testify. It might have gone something somewhat like this:

Chairman Markey, Ranking Member Stearns, and Members of the Subcommittee, we at Global Kids are honored to have this opportunity to share our experiences as experts working with youth and virtual worlds.

To provide background, in 2006, following extensive research into the educational potential of virtual worlds, Global Kids became the first nonprofit to develop a dedicated space for conducting educational programming in Teen Second Life (TSL). Specifically, Global Kids is conducting intensive leadership programming for youth, bringing students from its New York-based programs into the space, and streaming the audio and video of major events into the world. This work has received significant funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, among others, and been conducted in partnership with many other organizations, including UNICEF, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the International Criminal Court.

[staff] Color War, @RedTeam and Play in Informal Learning Environments 

Color War!
What does Color War look like on the internet?

For years growing up, I went to summer camp. While being filled with a host of activities, one of the most hyped (and occasionally actually exciting) of those was color war, in which the entire camp was split into two teams each represented by a color. You'd wear your color, and participate in a wide range of sports and arts competitions, and hopefully not break your arm. (I didn't always manage to achieve that last one.)

Now color war has made it to the internet. And yes, it's way cooler than it was in camp. Developed by the always innovative Zefrank, teams have organized via twitter and a variety of social media sites across the web, and have engaged players in time limited, creative games, including a rendition of rock, paper, scissors via flickr.

[staff] A Night to Remember 

On March 20, 2008, I had the pleasure of taking Mathew, Jonathan, Nafiza, Tarana and Yessenia to a very special event hosted by the MacArthur Foundation, at one of the most grandiose location in New York City, the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Now in its second year, the teens are students from the Virtual Video Project after-school program, founded by the MarcArthur Foundation. We were invited to meet the international community, and support Kofi Annan, as the first-ever recipient of the International Justice Award. What an eye-opener it was for all of us to see him in person! A night to remember, indeed!

As a Canadian living in New York, not only was it inspiring to meet world leaders from my home country, but to recognize exceptional individuals from all over, I was beyond belief. To name a few…Allan Rock, former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nation, whom I met once when I was younger. Lloyd Axworthy, former foreign minister of Canada, and Louise Arbour, former member of the Supreme Court of Canada, now in her fourth year as the appointed United Nations High Commissioner for Human Right; whom I had the brief pleasure to speak with in the ladies’ restroom. wink.gif

[staff] But is it ‘real’ ? 

Typically, when I ask a teen about their online experiences - they will adamantly argue that the relationships they develop and the bonds they are making are very real. This is why I was surprised, recently, but he reaction many of the TSL youth have had to the DIDI project.
Dream It. Do It. is a project where we support young people (in Teen Second Life) to come together, identify what is important to them, and what passions and interests they have, and support them to create sustainable social ventures to improve their communities. Youth Venture has been reaching youth out there in the ‘real’ world with this program for quite some time. We’ve been working together since this past fall to reach youth in TSL.
In our workshops, we encourage youth to consider the community that they identify with - it could be home, school, their neighborhood, or even the TSL community. Interestingly, almost all the teens who have gone through our program so far have decided to focus their venture ideas on the TSL community. We think that’s great! However, I wonder, lately, if the youth recognize that they are part of a network of young people throughout the world who are making change in their communities.

[staff] Rezday, Guggenheim and much more 

There were many exciting moments to talk about for the month of March and there will be more to come in the month of April. March marks the month were I participated in my first panel. Speaking at the Guggenheim was a great experience for me because not only was I proudly representing Global Kids, but I was also exposed to other educators who have been questioning the effects of technology in education.

On Tuesday March 18, TSL celebrated its anniversary and it was great to be a part of that celebration. I was happy to see that many of our supporters came out to celebrate with us and that we got the opportunity to bond as a team during the event. It was the ultimate proof that so much can be done simultaneously with technology. I for instance was dancing live, dancing virtually and streaming at the same time.

Next month I am looking forward to going to Minneapolis for the NYLC conference and to Stanford University in Los Angeles for the Common Sense Media Forum. Although these events require alot of energy and time there is always something to learn and experience. Plus, I don't mind working on adrenaline. I'm looking forward to the rush.

The unfinished edifice of Justice 

The unfinished virtual ICC

It's 11PM and I've been scrambling all day to coordinate my team of builders, avatar designers, video stream experts, educators, press people, and cadre of volunteers to get the International Justice Center ready for launch on Thursday.  Clearly it's a labor of love for a lot of people, who have gone above and beyond the call to get every prim ready for the unveiling. 

Maybe I am just overtired and sentimental, but looking at the still unfinished builds, I am struck by the poetry of it.  We're constructing a new edifice for justice and human rights, using the most ephemeral and illusory tools. It sits empty, devoid of content and life, just a prim skeleton, suggesting what's to come.  Aren't "Justice" and "Human Rights" structures that always stand unfinished, needing more planks, foundations and support?

[Staff] February Staff Reflection 

Howdy readers! The On-line Leadership Program “staff reflections” blog entries are digital therapy for the virtual soul, and every month the intelligent bunch of O.L.P. staffers 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 reflects on the changing landscape of both traditional education and civic engagement.
You Tube is their Soapbox

Barry reflects on his recent trip to the International Criminal Court and what he learned about their response to learning about Second Life.
GK in Netherlands to Pursue International Justice Through Second Life

James writes a didactic essay about how the world doesn't need anymore didactic essays.
Words and Actions

[Staff] Breaking down the Digital Divide in my head 

I have no idea why I never received my Bachelors degree in graphic arts. Maybe because I just discovered black history and I wanted to live with the idea of loving blackness as a political and intellectual resistance for four years; maybe I felt the field was exclusively for white men; or maybe I didn’t know women, black women could enjoy technology, should be creators of tech instead of just consumers. Working as an Online Program Assistant with Global Kids, it have sparked my fire again for technology.
To be continued..