May 20, 2010

Recommended reads, links from Global Kids

Category: Digital Citizenship
group of global kids posing in front of country flags

Editor’s note: Global Kids regularly points us to their current favorite resources. Please tell us what you’re reading or watching and why others should as well!

At the top of our list is the best-selling book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It’s described as: “Race, poverty and science intertwine in the story of the woman whose cancer cells were cultured without her permission in 1951 and have supported a mountain of research undertaken since then.” It’s a great example of how to use a personal narrative to introduce an audience to broader issues about racism, classism, and medical ethics. The topic is close to our hearts, as our youth created a game, CONSENT!, about a similar topic (medical racism against African American prisoners). Our game is based on a chapter from the book: Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present.

Museums, Libraries and 21st Century Skills (guide)
This report, produced by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), is designed to empower the 17,500 museums and 123,000 libraries in America to understand the relevance of the 21st Century Skills Framework to the future of their institutions. It offers skill definitions, case studies, and a self-assessment tool that could benefit any learner-centered organization, not just museums and libraries.

Boy Scouts Launch New Video Game Pin (website)
We were intrigued to hear that the Boy Scouts of America had created “belt loop” and “academic pin” achievement awards or merit badges for video games. You can read about the program on their site. We were disappointed, however, to find that the achievements concentrate on the purchasing of games, learning about the industry’s self-imposed rating system, and playing “edutainment” games. More encouraging was the Girl Scouts creation of a “Games for Life” badge that seems aligned towards games-based learning, modding games, and other learning outcomes we encourage at Global Kids.

“Tell-All Generation Learns to Keep Things Offline” (article)
This recent New York Times article offers an important overview of an upcoming report from the Pew Internet Project that has found that “people in their 20s exert more control over their digital reputations than older adults, more vigorously deleting unwanted posts and limiting information about themselves.” The article reviews similar recent findings and discusses public policy implications. This topic is critical in our work with young people as we struggle with the ethics of bringing youth lives into the public sphere while we prepare them to be responsible digital citizens.

“Avatars Go to School, Letting Students Get a Feel for the Work World” (article)
In another recent New York Times article, they report on the use of virtual worlds for education: “While not quite the eye-popping technology of the movie ‘Avatar,’ schools are increasingly offering lessons in the virtual world as an alternative to textbooks and PowerPoint presentations…In Suffern, N.Y., 2,500 middle and high school students have logged into a virtual world known as Teen Second Life for lessons in subjects including math and foreign languages.” No, Teen Second Life is not exactly the technology of a 3D immersive movie. (The technology gap probably explains why the Times is writing this trend story more than four years after virtual world education in Second Life started). Today, there are already more than 3,500 educators on, a site run by Global Kids for those using virtual worlds for education. The subtext of this article is that, after years of withstanding media attacks for being bad for business or all about deviant sex, Second Life has endured as, amongst other things, the primary virtual world used for education. The real news, however, is that after a period of stagnant growth at Second Life, interest in the wake of the Avatar film has sent the growth curve for traffic back up into the stratosphere, approaching one million regular users.

The Future of the Internet – And How to Stop It (book)
This important book by Berkman Center Fellow Jonathan Zittrain gives both a history and prognostication about the generativity of the Internet, putting forth the idea that the very openness that allowed the Web as we know it to develop might hamper its future growth as people come to view locked-down, third party solutions as easier or safer in an online world of increasing security risks. There are plenty of themes in this book relevant to those interested in the digital media and learning field: educational designers need to consider issues of generativity and openness in their products; educators should think about the trade-offs of using proprietary Web 2.0 tools with their youth; and school superintendents should weigh whether the innovation possible with a tethered device like the iPad is worth the risks associated with making district purchases of such a closed and consumption-oriented device. The book can be downloaded (with the author’s blessing) here (pdf); the physical form can be found here.

Global Kids’ NYC-based programs address the need for young people to possess leadership skills and an understanding of complex global issues to succeed in the 21st century workplace and participate in the democratic process. GK’s Online Leadership Program integrates youth development, public policy issues, and media into programs that build and promote digital literacy, meaningful online dialogues, resources for educators, and civic participation.

Image Credit: Global Kids