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Bloggin' for Justice

By Sun Run 1


 

1 comment so far.

  1. Sun Run 1 December 14, 2008 at 9:26 AM
    Bloggin’ for Justice
    Community Service Initiatives Using Internet technology


    I never really knew what a blog was. Although I used computers for a variety of things, I had not made the bridge into blogging, podcasts, Facebook, and all the other wonderful thresholds of digital communication that are the new playgrounds for my students. I had heard about the incredible assets of these resources, but it was not until I began collaborating with the Middle College National Consortium (MCNC) that I saw blogging in action in an incredibly dynamic way. MCNC is a collective of high school s that are founded on college, university, and community college campuses, in order to prepare youth for the collegiate environment and provide them with access to college coursework. The organization holds a collective meeting of 250 young people every year, bringing them to one of the school’s city’s for collaborative activities. This year was the first time the MCNC would focus the yearly meeting on a community service initiative, and the second year they would use their blog system as a networking and educational tool for its students and educators. The students would use this blog to inform their meeting in New Orleans in May 2008 to activate a variety of service projects, and to make a collective political push for a fair and just rebuilding of New Orleans.
    Will Richardson has described the incorporation of blogging in schools for “starting to experiment with the technology as a way to communicate with students and parents, archive and publish student work, learn with far-flung collaborators, and `manage the knowledge that members of the school community create” (2004). MCNC was taking these variables and expanding them beyond the school environment to create a continental network of youth activists. Terry Born and Doris Lipscomb are the primary advocates and directors of the blog, and deliberately and conscientiously developed a timeline and framework for how the blog would be used to a) introduce students and teachers to each other, b) create relationships based on interpersonal interests, (c) branch out from mutual interest to conversations about a social justice cause, (d) brainstorm and conceive local community service projects, and (e) develop and manifest the collective community’s service contribution to communities in New Orleans. While keeping tight oversight over the blog and consistently posting new questions for conversations, Born nudged youth and educators towards these purposes through the blogging portal.
    The capacity of such technologies to not only develop critical consciousness and awareness of social issues, but to activate transformative solutions to societal problems, offers new potentialities for such revolutionary collaborations through digital media. David Buckingham briefly addresses media education beyond the classroom and how new media resources can be used for a variety of educational projects. MCNC’s work is demonstrative of these wider applications. The blog is an example of `community media workshops’ as an “educational process…with great potential for young media professionals to be involved in such work, particularly those from disadvantaged groups who might not otherwise gain access to the media” (2003, p.100). Many of the youth in the MCNC are from inner-city communities and use the technology at their schools to participate in the blogs. The blog itself becomes an ongoing community media workshop, stretching over nine months, and expanding ideas the youth and educators generate. MCNC’s blog also is an example of what Buckingham identifies as media use by `independent activist groups’, many of whom “have used educational strategies alongside m ore directly more directly activist ones” (2004, p. 100). MCNC cleverly used this blog to nurture and motivate students as activists for their home communities and for New Orleans when they convene there.
    It is useful to look in detail at what these youth and their advocates are doing through the MCNC blog. Each school has a set of ambassadors who represent their site on the blog. Each school has been responsible for creating a service project in their hometowns, and reporting back on the process, development, activation, and reflection on their local community work. After the onset of sharing these projects, they begin to co-plan the work they will do in New Orleans with the ambassadors from the New Orleans school. They receive regular updates and assignments for research that will prepare them for the service they will do in New Orleans. Terry Born directs `jams’ once a month, where students and educators continually write and network with each other for three days, focusing on an essential question informing their local work and the work they will do in the spring. I have been blessed to lead the community arts component of the New Orleans work, and have been consistently sending questions, motivational stories of other projects, and inquiry into what the youth would like to do collectively in New Orleans. All of these factors lead to a well informed, interdisciplinary and transcommunally planned, and comprehensive preparation for the transformative process the youth will engage in when they convene in person.
    Buckingham does not have the opportunity to explore these multifaceted approaches for digital media as used by community organizations. There are several texts that do explore some of this work in the field of arts activism, and the website communityarts.net is an excellent resource for those interested in this type of work being done worldwide. MCNC’s work is exemplary in that it has united youth from diverse and different communities, exposed them to activist leaders and new perspectives, and assisted and supported the youth and their teachers in developing and sharing their projects through a national forum. I am curious as to how the blog will further develop for MCNC and other groups testing the waters with such network tools. This approach could be expanded to an international scale for community activism and social justice initiatives, widening the scope of educational opportunities available to communities with access to such technology. This is also a beautiful example of moving students beyond the school environment for experientially life-changing educational experiences that have a direct impact on their world.


    SOURCES
    Buckingham, David (2004) Media Education: Literacy, Learning, and Contemporary
    Culture Massachusetts: Polity Press.

    Richardson, Will. “Blogging and RSS-‘The What’s It’ and ‘How To’ of Powerful New
    Web Tools for Educators.” MultiMedia & Internet @ Schools Jan/Feb 2004.
    Online: http://www.infotoday.com/MM=schools/jan04/richardson.shtml

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