This one made the edublog/twitter rounds not too long ago:



and sought to remind the world that this generation, too, suffers from age-old discriminatory practices that older generations apply to youthful ones.  Say what you will about its production value or it’s canned message, but it does strike a chord with me, if only for the fact that I truly believe that we do a disservice to the values displayed by those we teach every day.


Friday at Big Think, Parag and Ayesha Khanna wrote about Citizenship 3.0 in reference to the emerging use of government data to solve social problems. They describe the continuing shift, facilitated by social media, in the political processes that dictate the world of government today.

In the 2008 presidential election, only one-tenth of the 1.8 billion views of online videos referencing Barack Obama or John McCain were actually generated by the Democratic or Republican parties.

That being the case, and established political machines within the United States and other countries not being in charge of their message in totality as they have been in the past, it seems, as the Khanna’s point out, that the United States government does not have the bandwidth to handle the shift.  And judging by the sheer size and bureaucracy of government’s in general, I don’t believe they will ever be able to move and act with the speed that networked individuals can.


So where does that leave us as local residents of communities or citizens of states and countries when it comes to affecting real change? I had the distinct pleasure to hear Andy Carvin speak at last year’s TEDxNYED, and in his talk he spoke of the changing nature of volunteerism/activism:

Now we could donate more than just money, we could donate our skills.  Location did not matter anymore.  This was “The Death of Distance”

He outlined it in narrative form by taking us through a series of natural disasters beginning with the Kobe earthquake in 1995. At that time, one of the educational listserves he belonged to asked the question: What can we do to help?  And in its infancy, the web couldn’t do too much other than spread news of the quake and other basic information.  However, as the years went on, Carvin found incremental changes occurring within each of the responses to the following natural disasters:



Each of these responses leveraged the emerging technologies to truly eliminate the need for volunteers to be on site to make a difference, regardless of their ability to economically contribute. From listserves to Ning networks, the responders kept finding ways to lend their expertise.


When the Haiti quake struck, within days, an app had been developed to help on-the-ground volunteers translate Creole to English through the use of handheld devices. Openstreetmap had been used to provide extremely detailed maps to volunteers who could no longer rely on pre-quake maps. All of these things were being done by people half a world away, on their own time through the use of social media.


Nowhere did they ask for credit. Nowhere did anyone actively seek them out. They had a desire to help, a skill that was valuable, and a means by which to use that skill through social media.


Deeper in the article, they make reference to the educational system as having failed to keep pace with the rapid changes to citizenship. In the context of the article, they equate our system of education in the United States to the same substandard preparation for a world in which our civic participation will go far beyond the letter to the editor or a simple complaint, but rather to actions initiated by simple, automatic processes.


Things like SeeClickFix, which the Khanna’s mention, whereby citizens find the pothole, photograph and geotag it, and report it to the local government agency in charge of fixing it, show us the role that crowdsourced citizenship can play in a community.


So now the challenge: how are we using what we have available to solve routine problems more efficiently by using our school community? How are we using the power of our internal, and external networks to, paraphrasing Prensky, solve new problems in new ways? What do you encounter on a daily basis that eats up your time, but could be done in a more efficient manner, perhaps by crowdsourcing? Our attempt at solving simple internal problems may be the first step in helping our future citizenry see new ways to leverage social technologies to affect change.

Patrick Higgins

Patrick Higgins

Director of Curriculum and Staff Development at Sussex-Wantage Regional School District