It's Not About Protesting Anymore
Campus Compact, a consortium of university leaders who want universities to be the training group for democratic citizenship, asked me to write an paper for their October conference on what new technologies means for the way young people in engage in their communities.
Check it, from the latest draft..
Many of the traditional tools citizens use to engage in their communities are becoming obsolete. How can the campus prepare students for global citizenship in a world whose civic infrastructure is so rapidly changing?
Here are the three most prominent ways phenomenon that campus leaders (both students, educators and service learning professionals) can utilize to encourage global learning and citizenship. Most of the tools of this list are in very early stages of development, and it is up to collaboration amongst service learning advocates, educators and students to improve and enhance them.
Increase Campus Engagement in Global Issues- Participatory Media
Since 9/11, students around the world have used technology to further deliberative democracy. Most universities now have videoconference labs and student groups have already begun to utilize them to host conversations. For example, Americans for Informed Democracy can host a forum on America's foreign policy towards Africa with participants in Indiana, California, Mali and Ghana. Also, online forums like Global Voices Online have been created to create a community of ‘bridge bloggers’, those who are talking about their country to a global audience. This helps balance global media coverage, which has long ignored nuanced issues in much of the developing world. Engaging in these conversations, both inside and outside of the classroom, will create a more informed global citizenry.
Increase Collaboration on Practitioner Projects- Open Source Production Model
The open source movement uses internet based tools to provide useful, free knowledge and tools through the collaboration of many people giving their time and expertise. We should recognize in this movement a powerful new form of service learning. The most prominent open source tool is Wikipedia, the biggest and most accessed encyclopedia in the world. Many fields use open source technology to improve practical, public knowledge. There is a wiki for best practices in international development, a free wiki tourism guide, as open source media, commercial and health products. If research institutions should 'develop knowledge for the improvement of communities and society'' educators should make the classroom a place to begin that contribution by encouraging student contribution to open source tools.
Increase Student Preparation for Tackling Global Challenges- Classroom/(Global) Community Collaboration
Students feel a strong desire to contribute to solving international problems. However, neither the Paul Farmeresque life of the Peace Corps nor simply giving $20 to UNICEF appeals to them. Smart, skill oriented students need outlets to collaborate with their counterparts in the developing world to solve these problems. Universities, who can equip students with the practical skills to take on these challenges, are beginning to create programs that allow students to plug into solving global issues.
Programs that address these needs are emerging in vivid variety. Global Youth Partnership for Africa's Student Global Ambassador program brings talented American students with specific interests to Uganda for a two-week program to engage and learn from talented young Ugandan social entrepreneurs. Then, the Americans return home and through technology continue to collaborate on various projects. Also, Northwestern University is developing a hybrid program fusing classroom knowledge, service learning and international volunteering. This program provides practitioner training, community awareness and fundraising skills for one semester and then provides placement in a skill-specific project in the developing world for a second semester.