Saturday, November 9, 2013

Student Project Is an Example of What Virtual Volunteering Could Look Like

by Ann Abbott

A student who will be in my "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" course next semester shared with me a series of YouTube videos he made about the University of Illinois. After studying abroad in Costa Rica and spending time with his host family, he wanted to come back and show them a big part of his life in the United States: his college campus.

Watch his introductory video below and click here to see the entire video playlist.

This is a wonderful project for so many reasons, but I'd like to highlight the way it models how language programs can use "virtual volunteering" for community service learning.

  • If students produced a similar series of videos about bicycle laws in Champaign-Urbana, they could contribute greatly to a real community need. (Many local Latinos ride bicycles, and when the cities recently changed bicycle lanes and began monitoring bicycle traffic more closely, this created a number of problems for our local Latino community.)
  • What if students produced a series of videos about our local bus system? Seeing what it is like to take a bus--from showing the bus stop signs, to showing how you pay the bus driver, to showing where you press to signal you want to get off--can give a person confidence to take the bus and gain new freedoms. 
  • What if students did a broader community video guide, reaching beyond the campus into other areas of our community? They could film some of the places where our local Latino immigrant community live, work and play. I can imagine that this would be a nice way for their family and friends in their home countries to see what their lives here are like. It doesn't show the whole picture of their lives, of course, but it's a visual picture of the United States that goes beyond the Hollywood portrayal of American life.
  • What if students taught community members how to create their own videos?
I recently spoke in the Community Informatics program's Digital Divide lecture series. I see this student's video guide to the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign as a very good example of how we can help bridge the digital divide I described.

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