Staff Reflections

[HSGC] My superpower 

If I could have one super power I will choose the power to control the elements. I would choose this super power because it will be easier to do certain tasks like building houses and providing water to thirsty and hungry africans. This power would basically be a new way to take care of everyone going through poverty. One global problem i will defeat with this power is hunger and lack of crops for I would just use this power to grow clean and tasteful crops in a short period of time.laughing.gif

[staff] My First Week Reflections 

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on my personal blog on January 12, 2008]

Having concluded my first full-week as a Global Kid employee, I thought it would be helpful to put down some of my initial impressions and thoughts. Overall, it has been really great week. I am starting to get a clearer picture of how the GK team operates and works with teens as well as the various institutions it partners with, and my own role in the organization.

The work environment has a nice informal, start-up / non-profit feel to it, nearly always a hubbub of activities and multiple conversations. Everyone, from the cleaning lady to the executive director, are all on one open floor. I think the only place you can go and shut out your co-workers is the restroom. The downside is that sometimes you need to put on your headphones if you need to concentrate. But I personally prefer this work environment to closed off, seperate office spaces or Cubicle-ville.

[Staff] Making Connections 

It has now been close to four weeks since I joined the OLP team at Global Kids. These weeks have been filled with endless questions, learning and amazement. All of which culminates when I try to explain to friends or family what exactly it is that I do at Global Kids. I am constantly creating new explanations in search of a simple way to describe how social networks and virtual worlds are tools to educate, not just here in New York but across the globe. From Facebook analogies to episodes of the Office, in which Dwight introduces his co-workers to Second Life, I am slowly making progress. However, 9 times out of 10, my explanation is met with "…but what does this have to do with education". Then, just yesterday, I found myself sitting at the Council on Foreign Relations, listening to experts in the field speak about digital openness in closed societies and I was offered some insight into my explanation.

[staff] Through the looking glass (screen) 

This past week has been a whirlwind of events here at Global Kids. Monday we were part of the second MacArthur sponsored Philanthropy in Virtual Worlds, which spotlighted civil liberties in online virtual spaces and how they compare or need to be akin to real world laws and liberties. The event went great, we had crowds in both the main grid and teen grid who took part in active conversation over the topic.

This was followed by Wednesday's press junket event we scheduled in Teen Second Life. It was truly a momentous moment because up until that point, access and information about the teen grid itself and some of the great programs Global Kids and others have been running within the space has been very limited. With the blessing and help of Linden Lab and Blue & Claudia Linden, we were able to invite press into the teen grid space to hear and see what Global Kids has been doing in TSL. There were amazing talks from some of the various Online Leadership Program leaders and teens that were part of the programs and then we all convened to dance in our newly launched sim for our pilot program focusing on Global Kids developing science focused curriculum and teaching Science in Second Life.

[staff] Zip zap zoom to India and back 

Two weeks is probably the shortest trip I have made to India. The trip was fabulous, with all good things packed into a short amount of time. One of my closest friends got married and it was a lot of fun being part of all the celebrations. The rest of my time was spent with family, reconnecting with my friends and eating lots of good yummy food.

Everyone I met was really excited to hear about the work I have been doing. Game design is still a very new field in India and even newer is its application in the areas of learning. They were very excited to hear about what Global Kids does and how such programs would be so applicable in the Indian context as well. There is a dire need for young people in India to become more aware and involved in the world around and take action. Helping schools in India setup GK leadership programs would be a very exciting project that I would love to be part of some day.

Giving the elevator pitch 

As the new kid on the block at Global Kids, I’ve had several opportunities to practice the “Elevator Pitch” describing our work:

"I work for a youth-oriented non-profit that helps teens in New York and beyond use technology to be better students and global leaders."

"I use virtual worlds to educate young people about important global issues and empower them to be better global citizens."

"I work for a non-profit called Global Kids. We connect teenagers with the technical tools and the knowledge to be better informed citizens and more successful students."

Yeah, I know, these suck.

Watching old hands like Barry and Rafi tell the GK story to various audiences large and small, I’m inspired to develop my own soundbites that communicate about our mission and work succinctly and convincingly.

Throughout my entire career as a non-profit organizer, I’ve had difficulty condensing what I do into something that is easily told at, say, a dinner party or in a bar. Too often I have found myself responding to the question of “So what do you do?” with a mumbled reply about “do-gooder activist stuff.” Usually by the time I finish explaining it, the person has moved on to the cheese platter.

[staff] A New Way Forward 

This month, I have spent much time thinking about design and responsibility. I’m thinking about how we make things, why we make things, and why we make things how we make things. I’m thinking about how we distribute and consume the world’s resources.

Our society has a grossly distorted perception of cost. We dye upholstery with toxic chemicals because doing so is “cost effective.” We buy toys from Chinese factories because it costs less to make them there. We shop at Wal Mart because it offers “good value.” Before Hurricane Katrina, some of FEMA's most vital services were outsourced to private contractors who then outsourced to others who outsourced even more. Forty years after construction on the levee system began it was still incomplete and under-built because it wasn't a spending priority. All these cost/benefit analyses are extremely myopic.

[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.

[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.