By Matt Levinson
Over the past weeks, schools across the country have had the chance to witness the lightning speed with which viral videos can travel around the globe, particularly when young people are involved. The trigger in this instance: Invisible Children, a 30-minute video highlighting the horrors of child abduction and other atrocities perpetrated by the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony that has drawn more than 100 million hits.
How should schools handle the tidal wave of emotion, euphoria and what some criticize as “clicktivism” that has consumed the interest and attention of students?
I first learned about the video from an eighth-grade student, who described it in vivid detail. I was approached by our Dean of Students, who said a group of sixth-grade girls had stormed his office wanting to know if they could show the video at an assembly and raise money for the group Invisible Children.
Soon after, a sixth grade science teacher wrote me asking for advice about an issue that had arisen in his class: the Kony video. As part of the study on clean, available drinking water, the science teacher showed a short video called Ryan’s Well about a seven-year-old boy from Canada who raised enough money to drill a well for a school in Uganda, an act that then spiraled into the creation of Ryan’s Well Foundation.
During the discussion around Ryan’s Well, a few students in every one of the science teacher’s class eventually led to the Kony 2012 YouTube video. “Needless to say, this was an amazing learning moment for me and the students,” he said.
The science teacher took the opportunity to ask questions and looked into the Invisible Children video. He learned about how videos go viral and he examined the authenticity of the Invisible Children foundation, learning that their practices are not as clean and clear as the students had led him to believe, and the problem with oversimplifying a murky and complicated political conflict.
Most importantly, he contacted his students’ parents to let them know about the buzz around the Continue reading