Monday, July 27, 2009

Changing the World Made Easy

Looking for something easy to do today? How about changing the world?

Changing the world…easy? Enabled by the Web, shopping, chatting and researching, among other things, can now all be accomplished at the click of a button. Changing the world is joining the ranks as a mission made easier via the Internet. Agents for social change have always existed and now the web allows one with even the slightest inclination to help able to do so. Now, more than ever, the world needs a-changing, some positive influence, and young people - students in particular - account for a significant percentage of society mobilizing to do just that…. And that number is largely due to the presence of social media – Twitter, Facebook, MySpace – because, if used properly and effectively, it is now easier than ever to mobilize a community to affect said change – on, and through, the web.

Simply "google" the search string "Technology and Social Change" and one is presented with a myriad of empowering options in changing the world. In this new technologically-savvy century, truly anyone can influence the world they live in from the comfort of their own home, no matter your age, race, financial status or physical challenge: blind, deaf, wheelchair bound, heck - even just shy: the effective computer/Internet combo allows one to revolutionize almost anything if they so desire with much less effort than ever before. Cyberspace renders us all equal agents of change, and we can accomplish this action from practically anywhere in the world you can find an Internet connection.

These days, our own “communities” have expanded to include the entire world; no longer do we have to be “just Jenny from the block”, sparking the call to action in only a mere handful of people. Students from Russia can inspire others from the US, or Lichtenstein, Bolivia or even Africa; whole schools, communities, countries can now be inspired to help with the words of a single, average citizen. The world has gotten smaller as this connective reach has grown and the narrowing of the gap has made large scale change very possible for even one small child in the midst of “absolute nowhere.” Inspiring, isn’t it?

My Social Actions (, a site devoted to inspiring people to act on their ideas, makes it simple. "You make a difference, we make it easy". Even their slogan points to the obvious lubrication the web has offered us little people in changing that big world – oh, what we could do!

It's interesting to note that even small personal blogs have reached out to affect others in ways most likely unimagined by the authors. I have my own home/self/life improvement blog and the feedback I have received from readers of the projects I have inspired in their own lives just by posting my progress is awe-inspiring. If I can do that from my little corner of the web, just by organizing my cabinets - just imagine what a heartfelt cause with the right mix of media and community mobilization could do?

Think back to Ashton Kutcher’s battle with CNN on Twitter in the race for a million followers: what they proved is that given the right motivation and access, people are easily willing to mobilize when technology makes it so darn easy and when the cause is worth the effort. Why not use the infinite connections for something great? The eventual lesson: that even normal people can have the same power to affect as much change as a celebrity when the playing field is so leveled as it is in social media.

In his blog, Social Entrepreneurship, Nathaniel Whittemore commented on Kutcher’s quest and the power of the little guy: "Then the coolest thing happened: Ashton started mobilizing his celebrity community. In the last hour alone, he's got his wife Demi Moore, Oprah, Ryan Seacrest, CNN to donate between 10,000 and 20,000 nets. It looks like P. Diddy might be next. If that's not community freakin' mobilization, I don't know what is.

It's easy to be cynical about this, but what if we thought about it different. Changing the world is damn hard, and the responsibility we owe this planet and the billions of people we share it with should never be taken lightly. But there are lots of incredibly easy ways that even normal folks can save lives, and we should never let the difficult of the big picture stop us from making incremental change along the way."

If joining Twitter, to help end malaria merely by your cyber-presence, is not your cup of tea, there are websites whose sole purpose is to index other social media change sites, categorizing and highlighting those that would help you get the word out about your cause or find one already started that is worthy to you. Easy to find, easy to join!

A site helping children to help the world by naming causes and how they can help:

The Freechild Project

Interviews of people who are making it easy for us and how they have done so:

Netsquared: “Remixing the Web for Social Change”

As in the oceans of our planet, this new conduit of mobilizing community and altering mindsets is like a bevy of swells, carrying the messages and washing them over the world. Inspiring or following, you have the choice of which wave you want to ride, almost as easy as that. While it is not in fact as effortless as clicking a button, technology, specifically social media, has made it infinitely more possible to create a sweeping movement of affecting change in this New World. Create, choose, whatever – just hop on!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

My Digital Story

In keeping with the theme of this blog, I took some time to speak to some children on campus and ask their opinions regarding the use of technology and social change. When asked what they'd like to change about the world, the three had very different answers, and very different means of using tech to raise awareness about their topic and create change. Short video-- my own version of the digital story (which took me something like six hours to complete after putzing around with imovie!)-- hope you enjoy!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Digital Storytelling cont...

This great link was shared with my Evolving Forms of Literacy class today. It certainly speaks to the conversation that we've been having surrounding digital storytelling and its agency in the classroom. For those of you interested in trying this out with your students, definitely a site to explore!

Claudia Mitchell--Granting Voices to Young Victims

What inspired me most to further explore the possibility of digital literacy and youth using that knowledge to change something in their worlds was an article by Claudia Mitchell entitled In my life: youth stories and poems on HIV/AIDS: towards a new literacy in the age of AIDS. In the article, Mitchell asserts that she examines "the ways in which literacy is changing in the age of AIDS in an area of the world which has been ravaged by the AIDS pandemic" (355). The problem surrounding HIV/AIDS prevention and education in South Africa is one Mitchell explores with the help of first-hand accounts from young people either dealing with the disease themselves, or interacting with people who have and are suffering from it.
I've posted a link to the article to the right of the page-- I highly recommend it!
Also, I've been introduced to a fun new program called Wordle. Here, I've created a "word collage" of key words and phrases that resonated with me after reading Mitchell's article. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Digital Storytelling and Photo Story

“Digital Storytelling is the modern expression of the ancient art of storytelling. Digital stories derive their power by weaving images, music, narrative and voice together, thereby giving deep dimension and vivid color to characters, situations, experiences, and insights. Tell your story now digitally.” - Leslie Rule, Center for Digital Storytelling

We're just learning to create these "digital stories" here on the mountain.. Elaine sent me another great link that explores Photo Story-- a program for Windows that students can use to combine text, image, sound and even video to tell whatever story they'd like. It's a fun, interactive tool and I'm enjoying exploring this medium myself!

Be sure to check out the post comments-- as there are some really interesting thoughts, stories, and insights being shared there!

What do you think about digital storytelling???

GNN: Using Technology to Keep Students Informed

Elaine, an English Department Chair at Batavia City Schools, posed this blog's "questions" to her colleagues and came up with this... It's a great example of students at Henry W Grady High School using technology and their media literacy to keep other students informed. The story on "sexting" is also of interest, as it brings into play some of the issues surrounding students and their technology use.

As I'm working on filming and editing a short documentary myself here in Bread Loaf, I can especially appreciate the students' skills on that end! Thanks for sending this along, Elaine!
When I was in school there was an initiative adopted by some of suburban high schools around the Chicagoland area to connect with poorer nations through video chatting. The students could speak with and see 'first hand' the conditions that their peers in other countries were subject to. From what I remember, the students in other countries would travel to some institution of higher learning in their area to gain access to the computers and web cameras since the technology wasn't readily available at their school.

The American students then prepared reports and journals on their own impressions of the experience, listing ways they felt they could help or influence some kind of change. Each of the high schools collectively pooled their students' comments and came up with ideas to help. I know a few schools donated computers, food, etc., while others reached out to local volunteer and missionary groups to travel to the specific countries and schools. Parents, families, teachers and in some cases, local governments stepped in to help. I believe it was quite successful and the fact that video chatting was utilized made for a much more visceral experience from the American students' perspective.

Hope this helps,