Wednesday, June 10, 2009

An Example of Virtual Volunteering and Ideas for Spanish Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

Facebook has been a wonderful way for me to reconnect with old friends. It has also been a great source of inspiration as I think about how to use social media and virtual volunteering for Spanish community service learning (CSL).

Those two great things about Facebook combined when a friend that I grew up with, Lynn Wilder, posted that she was taking pictures for volunteer-based genealogy website. She has combined two of her hobbies--photography and genealogy--to add to a data base that helps others do their genealogy research better.

Here is Lynn's description of her work:

"I started volunteering for the website of about two months ago. There were many reasons why I chose to do it. Volunteering with the website gave me the opportunity to help others in their search for their ancestors. It also allowed me to share my talents of photography (yes, I think you can take a BAD photo of a gravemarker!) and it also gave me the chance to see all different kinds of cemeteries and cemetery headstones. I love hearing from those persons that I've taken gravemarker photos for. Oftentimes, those few photos that I've taken helps answer a lot of ancestry questions that they've had. Obviously there is no monetary reward for volunteering, but those few notes of "Thank You" that I receive make it all worthwhile!"

I love this example! It's a great way to use crowdsourcing to complete a task--in this case, taking photographs of gravestones to an ever-increasing data base.

What ideas can it give us for using social media to do Spanish CSL?

  • I don't mean to be morbid, but something exactly like this could be useful in and of itself. Immigration separates people from their families and they miss important family events--births, christenings, birthdays, religious holidays, weddings, and, yes, even deaths. Just the other day a friend of mine talked to a woman from Mexico who is living here and could not go home when her mother died. She cried as she told my friend about it. And what about immigrants who die while in the US? Not everyone can afford to be repatriated. Sorry to talk about such a sad subject, but I can see how the website Lynn contributes to helps people. Perhaps it could bring comfort to people separated by borders as well.
  • Story Corps accepts stories in English and Spanish. Could our students help immigrants record their stories and add to the rich database of stories that are already on the site?
  • Perhaps our students could read about President Obama's ideas on immigration reform and then send a statement about their own ideas (hopes, beliefs, experiences, etc.) for immigration reform. It could be a coordinated effort for students to report their findings and feelings about their Spanish CSL work with immigrants. Or it could be simply individual reports of students' unique takes on the topic.

Any more ideas? I know our students love the face-to-face contact with local Latinos. It boosts their confidence and gives them an immediate sense of accomplishment and feedback. Still, web-based virtual volunteering has so many possibilities for our students before and after they finish a Spanish CSL course. It can also be a way to involve students with lower-level Spanish fluency but who can still learn language, culture and socio-political content.

Write a comment and add to this list if you have any ideas! (Our own example of crowdsourcing.)

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