Last week I watched as the good people from Epic Change installed a tech lab in an elementary school in Arusha, Tanzania. My kids, Madeleine (11) and Carter (8) got a first hand look at how social media can be more than a distraction for your homework or a way to kill time with your friends. These children discovered the pure power of the web: the ability to connect human beings all over the globe for the purpose of conversation, collaboration and yes, friendship--for the very first time. The simplicity of Twitter--something both my digital media savvy kids understand without explanation--was the tool of choice and within days kids who previously had no concept of the internet or email were tweeting with social entrepreneurs, moms, teachers and good-hearted souls from all over the world.
While it's not the easiest thing in the world to set up a tech lab halfway around the world (or take your kids to Africa, for that matter), I'm incredibly thankful for my children to get a new take on the web and social media. For all the worrying we do about our kids wasting away online, now I can offer them this constructive alternative--building old fashioned pen pal type relationships with their peers in the global south. And this is just the beginning. What happens when we decide as a global community that access and connectivity is a right and privilege worthy of all the children of the world?
Having this pipeline open changes things not just for kids but for the teachers and educators who guide them. "How can we get them interested in reading?" Mama Lucy, the founder of Shepherds Junior asked. There are a hundred answers, of course, but now she has one of the most powerful solutions at her fingertips. Light them on fire with the fluency that comes with chat. Show them how to explore the myriad of child-appropriate sites dedicated to learning how to build proficiency in language and literacy in a way that wasn't available to them before. Let them navigate a brand new world built on the craving for connection and power of the word.
Mama Lucy with good friend and founder of Epic Change, Stacey Monk
You (and your kids) can tweet with the children of Shepherd's Junior School by following along on Twitter. They're waiting for you.