There is so much good online and so many positive things happening. I know that, and by the end of this post I hope you have a better understanding of that, but do our students know that? Are they seeing the internet simply as a place to play games, watch funny videos, and Google something they don’t know? Have they been given the chance to see the potential for more online?
At the start of this year I asked the Grade 2, 3, and 4 students at my school a simple question: What do we use the internet for? Their answers included things you would expect from kids that age like playing games (an extensive list of which games we are playing), homework, research, talking to people and making things (yay- they are starting to get it!). It wasn’t until this week that I started thinking about the answers that were not included on this extensive list. Not a single one of the 160+ students that I spoke with said anything about making a change, raising money, spreading a message or helping others. That struck a nerve with me. What kinds of opportunities are my students missing out on if they don’t realize how much positive power the internet can have? What amazing things could my students be starting and participating in right now online? The amount of change we can make in our immediate community is huge, but multiply that by the power of the web and imagine the possibilities!
As soon as I saw the guiding question for this unit, What makes the web so powerful?, I immediately thought of a visitor we had at our school a few weeks ago who had an amazing story to share with the students. His name is Mac Millar and he is the boy behind Football: Play it Forward.
Mac, who started this project at the age of 9, has been hugely successful in his journey towards spreading the joy of his favorite thing in the world to children who need a little more joy in their life. While this project would have been amazing no matter how far it reached geographically, it has gone beyond that to reach the point of spectacular because he is reaching out and connecting people from all over the world to help kids in all parts of the world.
Mac’s project has been so successful because
- Its something he is truly passionate about. He thought of this idea on his own and wanted to make a difference.
- He clearly has some amazing support from the adults in his life that understand the power of the web and are helping him to use it safely and appropriately while harness its power to do good. I love the quote on his website
Oh, and ask your mum or dad to like us on Facebook. Go to www.facebook.com/footballplayitforward. My Mum looks after this for me. I’m not allowed to write on it. Mum said I have to be 13.
- He is using the power of the media and the internet to spread his message, collect donations, and share his passion to anyone that will listen.
I then thought of the First World Problems campaign from the Water is Life organization. This campaign was a huge success because it realized the power of social media and harnessed it in an attention-grabbing way. This campaign took over the #firstworldproblems hashtag and used it to raise awareness and funds for their organization.
Now these are just 2 examples. But the list of potential inspirations could go on and on. You never know what will strike the right chord with a student and prompt them towards acting. The way these kind of projects connect people from all over the world to help those who they don’t even know and have never met is amazing. This is the power of the internet. This is what makes the internet such a transformative tool. This is why kids today have the potential to help others on a scale like we have never seen before. But the question is, how can we help guide our students toward realizing how much power they have at their fingertips? How can we get them started? I think this answer comes in 2 parts:
1- Exposure– Share with them examples of people using the internet for good. Share the stories of people like Martha Payne, Mac Millar, Jessica Markowitz, Kevin Curwick and other amazing kids that are making a difference for their community and, using the power of the internet, in the world as well. Allow the students to get familiar with what these students are doing, see how they are achieving their goals, and how they got started.
2- Resources– connect them with the resources, the time, the motivation they need to get started. They may be a part of an international movement for good or may be inspired to start their own movement! Below are a few resources that I found while researching. These are great organizations that are striving to connect kids and young adults to like-minded people all over the world.
Dosomething.org: an amazing site that “makes the world suck less.” Ok they caught my attention- and they are aiming to catch the attention of young people everywhere! They describe themselves as:
One of the largest orgs for young people and social change, our 3.1 million members tackle campaigns that impact every cause, from poverty to violence to the environment to literally everything else. Any cause, anytime, anywhere.*mic drop
The set up on a site like this makes it SO easy for child’s passion and ideas to spread to people everywhere. It would be so easy for a class to pick a campaign and get it started at your school, in you city and in your community. Campaigns like:
Patient Playbooks: Create activity books for children in hospitals
ROGUE Magazine: Make mock magazine covers to promote positive body image.
Unban Underpants: Read from “captain Underpants” in class to protest censorship.
volunteermatch.org is US based site that matches people who want to help with organizations that need it. If you are in the US you can search for places that you can help in person. But they also have listings for virtual connects and ways to help even from a distance.
UNICEF has many ways for kids to help kids with projects like Trick or Treat for UNICEF. Even if events like Trick-or-Treating are not common in your community, this could be a model to start an activity in your community.
Kids Helping Kids: This is a non-profit organization aimed at helping teens help other teens that have been faced with life-altering illnesses or injuries. They have branches all over the world. This could be a great starter for students wanting to make a change in your comunity.
I think students today have an obligation utilize the the potential the internet holds for good as much as they use it for play, work, and communication. I truly see this as one of the defining aspects of their generation, if only they know enough to start using these tools for the best purposes. That means we have an obligation to share with them, prepare them, and guide them in the right direction. Which means we have to start by educating ourselves so we are ready to share with them. So lets get to work, because every click has the potential to be a powerful one!
Featured image from Post Memes on Flickr