Staff Reflections

[Staff] My first experience speaking on a panel and some general observations 

Last week OLP was invited to speak on a panel at the Arts in Education Roundtable held at the Guggenheim Museum. I was nervous since it was my first time talking on a panel but to my surprise it ended up being a really fun experience. It was great to be able to share and talk about all the fabulous work the students in the p4k program have been doing past 3 years and most impressive to hear the students speak so confidently about their experiences. I enjoyed hearing more about DiDi Initiative from Amira, the Machinima program from Kathy and seeing the GK video yet again made me proud of being a part of this organization. The audience was really great too, they seemed engaged and quite excited with the idea of integrating virtual worlds into their classrooms.

[Staff] Avatar Sociology 

As an educator, you spend a great deal of time trying to figure out who your students really are. Through their work, behavior, even their environment you are constantly taking mental notes to put together as much of a completed picture as possible in your mind. With this picture of understanding, you aim to share information with these students that is not only relevant but that also speaks to them and their life experiences.

Just when I thought I was getting a grasp on this trick, I led my first workshop in a virtual world. I found myself immediately identifying the participants as I would if they were in any classroom or after school setting. There was the one who cracks the jokes, the one who follows all the rules, the one who sits there quietly, I felt like I was in any ‘real-world’ setting and took a sigh of relief as my instincts came into action. Of course, my instinct was to dig into that bag of tricks to reach out and engage all the different types of participation involved in the activity. But then as we sat around the virtual camp fire on a virtual island in a virtual world upon my computer screen, I realized while I may be right on, I may be completely off.

[staff] Educator as designer? 

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at the Nonprofit Commons in Second Life, where I sat on a panel alongside a number people that had a good amount of experience utilizing Second Life to support not for profit missions. I had about 5 minutes to say what I had to say, and was asked to specifically speak to common pitfalls that educators entering SL might make. During my preparatory brainstorm, I came up with two core points: Don't replicate broken pedagogies in a virtual space, and start thinking like a designer.

[staff] Words and Actions 

How you say something means more than what you say. There is a misperception among many people, specifically progressives, that in order to make the world a better place, we simply need to use rational arguments to teach people of the present problems and explain reasonable solutions. “Speak truth to power!” the activists cheer. The gentle drone of Ralph Nader will topple the walls of Jericho. Orderly marches into police-constructed Free Speech Zones and speeches by left of center politicians will send the pilots of the War Machine fleeing for the hills. It’s not true though, of course. Let’s be clear here: despite sporadic victories and brief flashes of human goodness and communal justice, the world has been dominated by power-mad oligarchs since at least Sumer. The bullies hold guns and use double-speak propaganda to cow the public. The Republic stands head down, stupefied by the flickering idiot box and fish-gene tomatoes.

[staff] Getting to really know my students... 

February was a very interesting month for me. I was able to publish something official for the first time. Albeit it was a long process, it was certainly rewarding so hopefully it won’t be the last. Sometimes we concentrate so hard on challenging the teens we work with that we forget to challenge ourselves.

Second, I had to let two students go in the program, while another had to leave because of personal reasons. Losing students in the program is not something I take lightly, I probably get too attached to the teens sometimes that I often have to make a conscious effort to draw the line, so this time I am learning to let go and accept the fact that I can't always be the one to help them mature, be all that they can be, achieve nothing short of what they can do, etc.
So for the 2 students who had to leave the program, I wish them best of luck, and perhaps they will return next year, you never know. wink.gif

[staff] YouTube is their Soapbox. 

Today as educators we are challenged to think ahead of education.

Today we witness our youth becoming a part of the democratic process through YouTube and not the picket line.
They are empowered to have their voices heard sooner and to more people than ever before.

They gain knowledge, the way they should, in repositories that are no longer vacuums but constantly evolving, in places like Wikipedia and comment threads.

They learn early that they are a part of change, contributors as much as seekers of knowledge, of processes.

They learn that they are experiencing something unique in their country’s (and their world’s) historical trajectory. They learn that the system that they are a part of depends on them as much, if not more than the system they have been taught to depend on.

And so they network. They speak publicly. They think critically. They advocate.

And all of this is done beyond, above, even against the confines of the classroom teaching that dominates their education.

[staff] Media That Matters and OLP 

I would really like to share my experience as a jury at the Media that Matters film festival jury screening in February. I really enjoyed watching the movies but also talking about the different genres and the impact that they would have on different audiences. It triggered different thoughts on how OLP's work impacts so many audiences including educators, scholars, students and much more. OLP not only creates digital media with a message but it also exposes urban youth to different types of media. OLP helps to empower youth by providing them with a digital venue (second life) where they can create worlds and express their concerns. OLP, along with Global Kids really encourages kids to be concerned global citizens and it feels good at the end of the day to be a part of that. I am interested in seeing Global Kids create a short film festival by the youth that we serve. We could stream it into TSL or on our blog but what's most important is giving youth an opportunity to feel proud about creating meaningful media messages.

[staff] GK in Netherlands to Pursue International Justice Through Second Life 

Last month Rik and I made a trip to the Hague in the Netherlands to pursue their involvement in our creation of the International Justice Center in Second Life. The responses we encountered to the concept of using a virtual world like Second Life for the public good was unexpected and surprising.

Rik, Nicola (our amazing point of contact at the court), and myself:

However, before I can get to that, I wanted to post about today's headlines, read in the national free newspaper within the cafeteria of the International Court a half hour before our meeting, making fun of recent U.S. efforts to track terrorists... in Second Life!

Watch the video to hear the translation. It would be funny if, as an American, it wasn't so embarrassing, as well as indirectly implying that nothing "real world" or "serious" could be occurring in this "game":

[Staff] If it's Thursday, this must be Chicago 

The last few weeks have been filled with a somewhat ridiculous amount of travel for Global Kids, including two trips to Chicago, a hop over to Los Angeles, and culminating in a transatlantic flight to the Netherlands at the end of this month. The purpose of all these trips has generally been to solidify relationships with key partners of Global Kids and firm up respective responsibilities and next steps. As one of the new kids on the staff, these trips have been invaluable ways for me to get up to speed quickly on the larger nexus of institutions and individuals that Global Kids is a part of.

It's somewhat ironic that Global Kids Online Leadership Program works in the virtual world, but accomplishes much of its relationship building and partnerships up close with people not avatars. The reality is that nothing beats the "high speed socio-emotional bandwidth" that comes with face-to-face encounters.

Here are some random musings rolling around my brain from all of these meetings...

[HSGC] Communication, Exploration & Second Life 

Today was my second day as an intern at Science in Second Life class, and students, again, surprised me with their curiosity and exploration skills.

Today's topic was to learn how to communicate in Second Life. However, it turned out students already figured out how to IM and chat with others in Second Life. smile.gif

Students are familiar with technology in different levels and what technology provide them with. They were excited learning to do new things with their avatar, and with their laptops. In the beginning of the class, one student discovered that they can take their own pictures and showed it to her friend, then all students wanted to try to take pictures. Students love explorations. That's why I think that Second Life will be a great environment for them to learn science and satisfy their curiosity in the borders of classroom environment.