We Day: A December Charity Challenge

Technology can be used to enhance the teaching of the following five important 21st century skills:

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
  • Citizenship

True, digital citizenship, is a challenging concept but it is one that can empower and help students share globally. Its positive impact on students, and those with whom they interact, will last long after they have forgotten the name of the most southern country in South America or how to find the roots of a quadratic equation.

Although I initiated this project a year ago, in my blog post “How to Make a Difference in December”, it should resonate with students who embrace the concepts shared at the upcoming, youth empowerment event known as “We Day”.  On Wednesday, November 23rd, select students will participate in the “We Day” celebration at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg. Those who are unable to attend, in person, may still be able to watch a portion of the live webcast which begins at 9:45 a.m. CST. We Day participants will learn:

  • About some of the most pressing social issues of today
  • They are not alone in their journey to make a difference
  • It is cool to care
  • They can find their place within the movement to create global change

Furthermore, Manitoba students were recently invited to join the “Digital We” community. Their slogan, “Digital We, it starts with me!”, encourages students to share stories on how they use digital media to make a positive difference in their school, community or world. Although submissions made before the March 14, 2012 deadline will qualify for prizes, the more important, and longer lasting, educational outcome is to learn that sharing inspires others. Teachers who can harness their students’ energy to take action both locally and globally will welcome the engagement that their students exhibit when students decide on a course of action.

I wish to share with you an innovative way to get student engaged, learn and help other individuals around the world, and utilize technology. This activity/project is one that was first introduced to Manitoba students about a year ago and has been adapted, refined and improved by Chris Harbeck, a dedicated Grade 8 Mathematics teacher at Sargent Park School in Winnipeg.

This activity has the following two basic steps:

  1. Collect donations from students
  2. Distribute donations world-wide while learning about people in other countries

The catalyst for this digital citizenship activity begins with a “charity challenge”. Whether your students decide to donate “a dime a day” or “a dollar a day” in December as part of a Christmas initiative or decide as a New Year’s resolution to donate for each day of January, is immaterial. What I must stress is that the digital citizenship experience will be so more meaningful for students if they contribute their own money, rather than convince Mom or Dad to help finance this learning opportunity.

This activity originally began when I first read Laura Stockman’s blog “25 Days to Make A Difference”. Ten year old Laura, decided to save her December allowance, of $1.00 per day to donate to a worthy charity on Christmas Day in honour of her recently deceased grandfather. Last year, Chris Harbeck’s middle years students collected a quarter a day while Shelley Wright’s students in Moose Jaw plan to donate a dollar a day.

Once you have collected at least $25 in funds, I urge you to investigate the non-profit organization Kiva.org to learn how you and your students can use the power of micro-finance to help those in third-world countries improve their lifestyle. Kiva’s 635,591 lenders have loaned $254 million to those in need in 61 different countries since Kiva was founded in 2005. Kiva credit is also a great gift for the person who has everything!

Teachers, who are studying about other countries in the world, will immediately see how Kiva can be used to broaden global understanding and engage students. When one visits the Kiva web site and clicks on the “Lend” button, one can peruse a world map showing where borrowers are located. One can filter borrowers by gender, sector (retail, agriculture, clothing, etc), or by groups or individuals.

For example Vestine, in Rwanda, needs a $525 investment to purchase more clothes for her shop. Students are informed that in Rwanda the average annual income is $1000 and that 592 RWF = $1 US. Through communication and collaboration, your students may decide to invest $25 to help Vestine. Usually, loan totals are filled very quickly. For example, if students decide to contribute to an individual in a morning class, the teacher best logon as soon as possible and donate, as the loan may be filled that night. When the loan total is met, students can monitor the repayment process before reinvesting the $25 with a new entrepreneur.

In addition to creating a Kiva account, each teacher may wish to create one with PayPal to act as an intermediary. I would rather provide PayPal with my credit card number once, than have to provide it repeatedly for any online business that I might conduct.

To help both you and your students better understand why Kiva was created and how micro-financing works, I encourage you to view these two excellent video resources:

To better understand the importance of digital citizenship, I encourage all readers to view the following two videos:

  • Chris Harbeck’s “Why Digital Citizenship Matters
    How Winnipeg Grade 8 students at Sargent Park “changed the world … a quarter at a time”.
  • Shelley Wright’s “Why Social Justice Matters
    How Moose Jaw Grade 10 students raised $20,000 in 45 days through “Schools for Schools”.

I encourage educators to download and read the one page documents of these inspiring educators found in the powerful, free educational book called “Why  ‘blank’  Matters!” Although this PDF download may be rather slow, I can assure you that, based on the inspiring educational messages contained within this document, the wait is well worth it. Shelley’s “Social Justice” document is on page 8 and Chris’ “Digital Citizenship” is on page 10 in the Chapter 1 segment entitled “The Change We Need”.

Lastly, if you and your students decide to take on this “charity challenge”, please advise me through the “Comments” section at the end of this post or email me. I would like to publicize your actions in order that we can encourage and challenge other students to become engaged in such a project and demonstrate that “WE CARE!”.

Take care & keep smiling 🙂

[Details and the evolution of this project can be found in my September 21, 2011 blog article entitled “UnPlug’d: Why Sharing Matters! *“.]

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