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learning.now: at the crossroads of Internet culture & education with host Andy Carvin

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November072007

Social Media vs. Social Diseases

A group of nonprofit reproductive health organizations has launched a video blogging contest that challenges young people to talk about their experiences with sex education in the classroom, or their lack of it. The results are a collection of frank discussions on teens, sex and health literacy. And I’m just waiting to see how much time passes before schools start blocking access to it.

The Fresh Focus Video Contest, organized in conjunction with an upcoming conference on youth, the Internet and HIV prevention provocatively titled the sex::tech conference, asks young people to submit short videos answering a question: “Why is sex so interesting and sex ed so boring?”

In particular, they’re requesting students to present their video submissions from one of two perspectives. First, students can talk about their personal experience in reproductive health classes, sharing what was useful and what wasn’t. Second, they challenge students to redesign the sex ed curriculum; in other words, if it were up to them, how would they like to see the subject taught? The producer of the winning video will receive a $3,500 college scholarship.

So far, there aren’t too many videos posted on their website, but they’re definitely provocative. In one video, a student does a simple animation of a blackboard capturing a bombardment of mixed messages directed at them by teachers and peers. A second video, My Dad’s Sex Education, lampoons the whole sex ed curriculum by presenting a slide show of reproductive health information provided from an old Boy Scout manual. A third video, which you can find for yourself since I don’t want anyone giving me grief for linking to it directly, critiques how they were taught to use a condom by demonstrating the technique on a variety of inanimate objects.

The videos vary in production quality, but many of them are funny, outspoken, honest and bold. And they might also be perceived as grounds for suspension in some school districts. That’s why I’m so intrigued by this project, because it’s basically accepting the premise that students will likely participate on their own time, far away from the classroom, since that’s the only way for them to be frank and open about the issues. They want students to talk about a particular curriculum, but do an end-run around the entire educational system, using the Internet to engage students without interference by teachers or administrators.

I fully expect many educators to be horrified by some of these videos, while others will applaud it. I also wonder about the campaign’s broader impact. Will educators see it as yet another reason to be afraid of student-generated video and in-class access to video-sharing sites? Or is it a creative demonstration of using social media to engage with students in a more authentic fashion? What do you think?

Filed under : Video, Youth Media

Responses

Wow, Andy. I hadn’t really thought about educators being afraid of student-generated video. I’m so on-the-bandwagon that it’s hard for me to understand, in particular, high school teachers who aren’t paying attention to new media and how it’s affecting the way youth communicate and learn.
That said, I teach a college course where I’m appalled at the “laziness” students have about research. An article I read recently talked about how a professor changed an assignment from a research paper for the professor’s eyes only, to a Wikipedia article for the public to read…. and, consequently, how the quality of the work the students did improved.
The times they are a-changing.

Thanks Andy for giving me the heads up so I can go block this site ;)

Actually, it sounds like a great idea. This type of project could be used for a whole list of topics come to mind (cyberbullying, online predators, drug and alcohol abuse). Even if it makes us adults uncomfortable.

This looks like some real-time virtual reality show. There is an underlining question, why a sudden outburst and need for communication. There is a vacuum somewhere, and this gap is leading to these kinds of acts. The social media brings in the educator and the students together and paves path for fulfilling discussions. Also the scope is enormous and hence one can get views from the nook and corners of the world. Through views and opinion the educators can develop some kind of framework, if certain topics are being discussed universally.

This looks like some real-time virtual reality show. There is an underlining question, why a sudden outburst and need for communication. There is a vacuum somewhere, and this gap is leading to these kinds of acts. The social media brings in the educator and the students together and paves path for fulfilling discussions. Also the scope is enormous and hence one can get views from all the nook and corners of the world. Through views and opinion the educators can develop some kind of framework if certain topics are being discussed universally.

Interesting point you make about kids having to make video submission on their own time. I guess it really depends where you live. If you go on Youtube there are scores of sex ed videos that seem to have been made by teens as a class assignment.

Definitely depends where you are, since lots of school districts ban all access to YouTube.

Andy, this awesome. I don’t know what else to say. My mom commented a few weeks back about something sex related and my sister and I basically told her we had to learn it all ourselves, from friends or from TV, not her or dad. Her response was, “don’t they teach you that stuff in school?” The only thing that was beneficial for me from my sex ed experience was learning how to put a condom on….a banana.

I am an educator myself and kids today don’t care about the technical stuff, they want the real deal, the truth of the matter. Horror stories, happy stories…something real to relate to. I’m not sure if Jack Canfield and Marc Victor Hansen have a Chicken Soup with sex related stories in it in any of their Teen Series, but that is the stuff that kids thrive on today. Why do you think there is so much reality TV? It’s not geared towards middle aged and elderly…

I just don’t understand why our students are seen as ‘too young’ to learn about these things. They are certainly old enough to experiment with it, so let’s be honest about it and give them to tools to use (mentally and physically) if they so choose to go that route. Maybe if we were more open about it, it wouldn’t be such a mystery for curious teens to investigate.

To all people who are ready to make a difference for our youth…(including myself) know we already are making a change. When we all work together great things happen!

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