From March 24-27, Global Kids teen leader Mayank and I got to travel to San Jose, California to participate in the National Service Learning Conference along with 2,000+ other young people and educators from around the country.
Sponsored by the National Youth Leadership Council, the NSLC is a very impressively run annual gathering focused on supporting service learning in communities all over the United States. It was a great opportunity for us to talk about Global Kids to an interested audience of folks, and to learn from other groups doing similar work.
Mayank and my trip to San Jose did not start on the best foot. Our intended route was to fly to Denver from New York, and then change to another plane to fly to San Jose. Well, unfortunately on the day of our departure, Denver got totally snowed in, so we got diverted to Minneapolis. We faced impossibly long lines, confusing information and rumors, and tired and cranky staff, in our attempt to get on some kind of flight that would eventually end in San Jose.
After many frustrating delays, we eventually got to California, a day later than we planned, but still in time to do our many activities at the conference.
My first task was to setup a text message backchannel during the morning plenary session of the conference, using the service called TextTheMob.com. The goal was to provide a service for the conference participants where they could send in comments and questions for the plenary speakers by sending in text messages from their cell phones to a special number. We moderated the incoming messages to make sure they were appropriate, and then displayed them on one of the huge LCD screens in the plenary hall. It’s a fun way to get people to engage with the content of the sessions in a new way.
Mayank and I then prepped for our first workshop: “Social Media and Social Change,” which was primarily targeted for young people. We actually had a packed and diverse audience of about 50 people of all ages, from a young child to several older adults. Mayank was a bit nervous, but he did a great job facilitating most of the beginning of the workshop, introducing Global Kids and explaining the three GK guidelines.
Then I took over for the introduction to Social Media. Several folks already had interesting social media projects that they were working on, and everyone was quite gung ho about the technology. So it we had a spirited and interesting conversation about social media and social change.
It was a long but rewarding first day at the National Service Learning Conference.
On the morning of the second day, Mayank and I worked with a young videographer Jazmin to help produce an inspiring presentation by three of the Lost Boys of Sudan, Benson, Benjamin and Alphesione. Our task was to produce a video simulcast of the session that would be streamed both to the website Sudanpeace.ning.com and into the virtual world of SmallWorlds.com. It was a big success, with about 80 views of the online video and several questions submitted by young people in SmallWorlds which were answered by the Lost Boys.
The Lost Boys were riveting speakers, talking about their long journey that led them from their villages, through Africa and eventually to the United States. Now they are focused on several projects to support their fellow Sudanese, including an interesting project on access to clean water. They were quite appreciative that there was an audience of young people on the internet who were interested in their story and supporting Sudan.
At the end of their talk, Benson played this cool handmade instrument and sang a song for us.
That afternoon, Mayank and I facilitated our second and final workshop on “Social Media and Service Learning,” which was primarily geared toward educators. It was a slightly smaller group of nearly 30 people. They seemed to have a lot more concerns about using social media with their young people, but still enjoyed participating in our various interactive activities, including the Human Barometer and what I called the “Wondertwin Powers Challenge” where they had to combine a technology and an issue to create a powerful service learning project. Here's us talking about what Social Media is at the beginning of the workshop:
All-in-all, the National Service Learning Conference was a good experience for Mayank and I and a good opportunity for Global Kids to connect with others around the country who are doing community service on important issues. I think it would be awesome if we could participate in the conference next year in Atlanta, helping share our expertise on digital media, youth leadership, and global issues with this community.