KONY2012 – Lessons Learned

The last thing I want to do is pile on, but now a short time after the KONY2012/Stop Kony video went viral and took the social media world by storm, I continue to try to make sense of the initial eruption of support and concern and the subsequent backlash. I suppose that me writing this post is a way for me to make that sense.

So how and when did this start for me? Early one morning about two weeks ago, my 15 year-old son came to me wanting to talk about this video he had seen on YouTube. Now, he’s 15 and he initiates a conversation with me so of course I was thrilled. He’s a typical teenage boy – he eats, sleeps, plays soccer, loves being with his friends, and has an electronic device attached to his hand most of the time. He’s not passionate about much – at least outwardly – but was he ever passionate when speaking of the video he saw. “You need to watch it,” he exclaimed. I did. How did I not know about this?

It’s been a short time from KONY2012 trending on Twitter to becoming one of the more hotly debated current issues. The world is now being exposed to angry Ugandan reaction over the lack of focus on both the victims of LRA atrocities as well as the role played by the Ugandan government. Michael Diebert explains further in his post.

Aside from exposing me to new terminology such as ‘slacktivism‘ and ‘clicktivism‘, I support Matt Levinson’s views that KONY2012 is best viewed as a teachable moment.

Let’s Talk

Agree or disagree with the Invisible Children organization and their promotion of the KONY2012 campaign, it has made people ask questions and talk. Earlier I mentioned my teenage son. After he watched the video, I was thrilled that he had questions and wanted to engage me in conversation – every parent and teacher should want that. I was also excited when children at school showed genuine concern over what they had heard and seen in the video. Why did Kony and the LRA do what they did? Where is he now? What are people doing to help? How is money raised going to be used? All good questions. We need to be concerned when our students and children no longer have a reaction to such world events.

Slow Down

What else do we know about adolescents and teenagers? Well, they can at times be emotional and impulsive. When KONY2012 went viral, there were requests right away to do fundraising, show the video at an assembly, and stage a protest. Some students also shared that they had gone online and purchased several “Action Kits“. Instead what we did was model patience. Many times students (and our own children) look to us and wait to see how we will handle situations. We listened to students, we talked, and we waited long enough to allow the situation to become more clear. We now have information we didn’t have even a week ago. Should students want or choose to pursue a fundraising campaign, they would do so with a better idea of what they were supporting and how funds would be used.

Information Literacy

Students have access to what seems like an infinite source of information. For them to be successful, they need to be able to think critically about what they read, hear, and see and filter bad from good information. I am not going to call the information presented in the KONY2012 video good or bad, complete or incomplete, but like all good research, multiple sources and perspectives are always considered. KONY2012 has been a great opportunity for students (and adults for that matter) to develop information literacy.

Our Grade 7 students participate in a 30 hour famine every year and through discussion, are given the opportunity to select the charities they will raise money for. In the past few years, they have chosen to continue to support the Canadian Red Cross efforts to provide aid to earthquake-ravaged Haiti. Invariably, discussion around KONY2012 will continue as our students make decisions about where to direct their support.

There will be opportunity for new learning and understanding…and I look forward to the conversation.

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