Some of my colleagues are putting together an application for the Learn and Serve America Higher Education College Student Social Media Initiative. Basically the idea as I understand it is to use social media to facilitate and increase student participation in service. It’s a challenging proposal on several levels. I also wonder if social media challenge our conventional notions of service.
Thinking conventionally first, for me the first question is NOT what brings students to volunteer but rather what dissuades them from volunteering. That is, whatever we do, the messages we send, only attract a certain % of students. If the idea is to get more involved then more of the same message won’t work. I imagine my service learning colleagues might have some ideas about that. Maybe it’s just a matter of getting the message out in more compelling ways.
Part of the grant is partnering with a non-profit organization, so a lot of the direction we might go depends on that partnership. I would think that working with a group whose activities are focused on communication might make sense, but who knows.
Though I doubt we’ll go in this direction, one thing I’m thinking is that social media can change the way we do work. As such they can change the way we do service. For example, if we crowdsourced service projects then students could pick and choose, doing just a little part. It might be an attractive experience to be smart-mobbed into some collective action.
So there are some very general ideas there, but something to think about.