Kony 2012 and Student Engagement

Last Wednesday night (3-7-12) four students emailed me in the evening--this is typical email traffic in our 1:1 school.  However, these were not typical emails.  These emails were from kids who had seen the Kony 2012 documentary and who trying to convince me to watch it--they had been moved by what they had seen and they wanted to share it with the whole class.  After I watched the video, I was both sad and excited.  It is heart wrenching to see human brutality, especially when it is aimed at children, but it was exciting to see a grassroots movement that would inspire people.  And inspire it did.

When I watched Kony 2012 there were 9 million views.  Twenty-four hours later there were 40 million.  Kony 2012 worked well to meet my state standards (current events, current conflicts, international organizations), so I decided to show it in class the next day.  I have never seen 100 kids so glued to a video in school. As soon as the movie ended they were making plans about what we were going to do.  I told them we would continue the conversation, but regular class had to go on.  The next day they had started a conversation on my Edmodo page (now 32 comments long), built a website, a few PowerPoints, several posters, T-shirts, a Wabash-based Kony bracelet prototype, designed fundraiser ideas, and made plans for April 20th to "Cover the Night" in a way consistent with curfew laws. Many of my students then went to art class.  On Friday, I received the following email from our art teacher:
"Hey, Mr. Vail,
I just wanted to share some wonderful learning that went on in my class Friday..........The 7th graders have been working on their 3-D models and ..........they were on display in the art room on Fri.  The kids came in fired up after hearing about Kony...........and printed out posters to decorate the walls of their models.............When other classes came in...........they asked why so many posters in the room talked about Kony.........Not only did you get the message out.........and encourage the kids to think and feel and take action........but when it was combined with an art project......I could talk with the kids.......that art is about expressing your beliefs........not just creating a pretty picture!!!!!!!  Yahoo!!!!!!!" 
Of course with any movement, there is criticism.  One could argue that our fight is too little too late against Joseph Kony, Invisible Children doesn't report all their financials, US intervention is not the answer, Kony has moved on, Uganda is corrupt, etc. etc. etc.  None of this matters.  Today there are 73 million views--people are aware, people have a way to organize, people are taking action, people are empowered to do the right thing.  Young people are focused on using technology to improve the human experience without concern for national borders.  This is what matters.  This is why I teach social studies.  This reminds me of a great quote I tweeted by Joe Bower--"Homework should be inspired, not assigned". 

1 comment:

  1. Hi!
    I absolutely agree that we should be using this engagement (instead of the usual apathy that we face!!) to discuss ideas such as media literacy, persuasive language techniques, what it means to be a global citizen and our role in creating change.
    I'm glad I am not the only educator to see the potential in this campaign :)
    I also wrote a blog post about it over at http://www.reflectiveteacher.com.au/kony2012
    Feel free to have a look and let me know what you think.


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