Instead of only seeing each other in magazines, Global Playground’s Virtual Playground allows kids around the world to share their lives with each other directly. To support the ongoing development of its Virtual Playground and cross-cultural initiatives, Global Playground this month submitted an application to the Ashoka Changemakers / Google joint Citizen Media competition in global innovation. Global Playground believes this is an excellent opportunity to share its greater vision and plan for development of the Virtual Playground. Having already reached many milestones in the pursuit of this important goal, including the recently launched Moment of the Week and the Teaching Fellows blogs, the Ashoka Changemakers competition provides an opportunity to take the Virtual Playground to the next level.
The Virtual Playground holds to a single vision: to give children around the world a place to learn, play, and work together through online games, lessons, and activities, cultivating relationships that will help forge a more united planet. The Virtual Playground will serve children from 6-18 years old who live in different countries, speak many languages, and emerge from vastly different cultures. Some students have grown up with access to technology, others have not. Some have extensive experience in a school, others are attending a school for the first time. For children in resource-poor countries, the opportunity to acquire computer skills, to become familiar with information technology and social media, and to interact, teach, and learn from other children with similar concerns and solutions is critical to granting them access to a world of ideas, people, and education. For youth who already have greater access to technology, the Virtual Playground provides an opportunity to gain cultural awareness, broaden global perspectives, and demonstrate the similarities in children across the planet, thereby engendering a vital and rarely afforded paradigm shift in their world view, one that can help foster cooperation, learning, and support across borders, languages, and societies.
The model offered by the Virtual Playground replaces passive absorption of sometimes irrelevant information and creates a rich, immediate, and direct cultural exchange among youth globally. Current efforts to increase cultural awareness and connect children with the world around them are limited to the distribution of magazines, the discussion of books and pictures, and the viewing of random websites. The Virtual Playground places interaction, learning, play, and connection directly into the hands of children around the world. Instead of passively looking at pictures, students capture images in their home neighborhoods and share them with each other. Instead of reading about foods, behaviors, and customs, children in these countries can cook together, describe their day’s activities to each other, and even play a virtual game of soccer. Children in Honduras will solve algebra problems with children in Cambodia. Children in Uganda will make art and write stories with children in the United States. Through the Virtual Playground, children will transcend the current paradigm of passive recipients of facts and images in favor of actively using information technology and social and digital media to interact with each other, learn together, and co-create.
With sufficient funding, Global Playground anticipates full connectivity to the Virtual Playground at all Global Playground schools by year-end 2013 and active participation at all Global Playground schools, including those in our expanding network, within five years.
You can view Global Playground’s Ashoka Changemakers / Google Citizen Media competition entry here.