The Call to Action Starts Here!

I recently had the honor of visiting with Mrs. Tambuscio's students in our Contemporary Genocide: A Call to Action course, here at New Milford High School.  As a culminating requirement for the course, students had to create social action projects.  The projects were to be designed to enable students to teach the public about possible actions that can be taken in the face of massive human rights violations.  In their projects, students answer the following essential question in their projects:

  • How would you draw attention to the greater community about a current human rights or genocide violation?
  • Why does your chosen human rights or genocide violation need an immediate call to action?

During my time with the class, I introduced students to the concept of Transmedia Storytelling for Good and how they could use these concepts and techniques to generate awareness and increase active participation.  We spoke about integrating social media platforms into their projects to increase digital engagement (Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, etc.) and besides just using them, how to connect them by a story or a narrative.  I pointed students to a powerful piece written by Jeff Gomez called Reawakening the Grand Narrative and how in it he says that 'Story is more powerful than any weapon'.  We went on to discuss how narrative shapes our behaviors, thoughts and actions and how they can use this as a tool to create change through their projects.  

We also spoke about creating social games, games for good, and fun games with real world outcomes.  We went through some examples of games created with the hope of teaching or generating awareness of societal issues and problems and how they can create change in thinking, actions, or attitudes.  I led the students through Tim Kring's Conspiracy for Good and showed how he combined transmedia storytelling techniques and gaming for good, to bring participants INTO a fictional story to do good in the real world.  

I then pointed students toward a Narrative Design for Social Impact Project Model Canvas on Lina Srivastava's blog.  With this organizer, students were able to plan and organize their social change campaigns and action plan.  This included:

  • Audience Segmentation- who are you engaging?
  • Resources- what do you need?
  • Story Universe Strategy- how do you define the story?
  • Content Strategy- how will you craft and distribute content?
  • Partners and Stakeholders- who will participate?
  • Engagement- how do you engage toward change?

The outcomes to their projects are still in progress, but so far include the following:

    1.    One group of students made a presentation to our middle school 8th grade Social Studies classes which elaborated on their study of the Holocaust and genocide this school year. The Contemporary Genocide students did a presentation on the history of the Holocaust and highlighted modern day genocides.  The presentation was influenced heavily by the work of Unicef and focused on their more recent causes:  Voices of Children, Syria, Proteja Brazil, World Cup 2014, and Bring Back Our Girls. The 8th grade students were then asked to respond to the lesson using a specific Twitter and Instagram hashtag. The student responses were in the form of an image that reflected their learning with a caption.  Here is the presentation with the social media links.  The students are trying to enlist the help of teens around the world to take social action by having them first view their presentation, then take a picture of themselves promoting one of the featured hashtags, and finally upload their photo to Instagram and tagging their campaign, which can be found here.

    2.    Another group of students is creating a high school survey on Holocaust and genocide knowledge that will be translated into a YouTube video and broadcast through social media with a particular message about taking action.  

    3.    Another group of students are utilizing to call attention to the current crisis in Syria and denoted this crisis as genocidal intent.  These students have also coordinated their efforts with a group of German Holocaust survivors who are calling on the German government to provide refuge for Syrian refugees.

Through this introduction to Transmedia Storytelling for Good, students began to see how the world is their platform and how they could best leverage multiple platforms to generate awareness globally of issues to create social change. Students also realized that in addition to spreading a message, they could provide real opportunities for people around the world to contribute, participate, and think more critically about these complex issues.