[CC-licensed photo by benchilada ]
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…
In Los Angeles earlier this month, my colleagues Rafi, Barry and I had a series of rich discussions with sixty-some other MacArthur grantees working in the digital media and learning arena. I quickly found myself intellectually overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of the meetings, which included such heavy hitters as Mimi Ito, Henry Jenkins, Eric Zimmerman and James Paul Gee. At the same time, I got introduced to several people who may be very helpful in the development of the RezEd social networking site and podcast.
Also in LA, we had a fascinating meeting with the folks at Numedeon, Inc, the company that runs the virtual world of Whyville. Whyville fills an interesting niche in the "tween" virtual world market, reaching millions of girls and boys in the US and beyond with a low-bandwidth-friendly, web-based interface. Numedeon works with a number of important cultural and educational institutions like the Getty Museum, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and NASA.
Meanwhile, we continue to think about how GK can work within other virtual worlds like There.com, Habbo Hotel and Club Penguin. There are many questions about how to proceed:
- How can we integrate existing content and programs that we currently have prepared for Teen Second Life?
- What are the unique strengths of each virtual world that we should be playing to?
- What are the limits of what we can realistically take on given current staffing and program structure limitations?
In Chicago, I got to spend time with the 17 other winners of the HASTAC / MacArthur open competition for innovative new digital media and learning projects. I found it interesting being the "more experienced" MacArthur grantee among a group of fresh-faced, new grantees trying to understand what is expected of them from the foundation.
As all our respective projects being supported by MacArthur move forward, the question of how we coordinate our respective activities and best leverage each other’s strengths gets more and more complicated. A number of technological solutions are available, mostly in the form of private and public social networking sites to enable sharing of information, matchmaking and frequent check-ins with the Foundation and each other.
Many of us grantees were silently shaking our heads when confronted with the possibility of having to integrate yet another social networking site into our already full bookmark folders. But it behooves us to "eat our own dogfood" and use the strengths of Web2.0 technology to stay connected with each other despite being geographically dispersed. And the tools I’ve seen so far show a lot of promise to address that need.
While in Chicago, I also got spend some valuable time with another likely future partner of Global Kids, the Field Museum of Natural History. There is no lack of interesting content that could be translated to the virtual world, from their frequent research expeditions around the world to their leadership role in the Encyclopedia of Life project. And the Field Museum already has a wealth of resources for teachers and parents to use to spur creative inquiry by young people into natural history topics. After having quickly toured some of the museum’s incredible exhibits, I’m looking very much forward to finding ways to bring all of that great stuff into virtual worlds in the next months.
And finally, next week Barry and I will be in the city of The Hague in the Netherlands to meet with key officials at the International Criminal Court about our plans to launch the Second Life International Justice Center on March 20. This will be Barry’s and my first trip to the ICC, so we are very excited to get a firsthand look at this historic human rights institution.
My goal is to leave the Hague with a strong idea of how to work effectively with the different branches of the ICC to support a richer public understanding of the Court and build support for global human rights.
(My secondary goal is to eat some Belgian fries and Indonesian food in Amsterdam!)