Friday, September 09, 2005

SGEM/ East Meets West: What our teens had to say

Discussion point posed to the teens; they were asked to continue the opening statement: "Why do people..."

Their responses:
"... Betray each other?"
"... Ask questions?"
"... Answer questions?"
"... Have narrow views of beauty?"
"... Idolise idols?"

Some of the answers to the last response:
"It keeps them alive."
"They want a purpose in life."
"I idolise my father. Why? He's a role model for me. He's resourceful. He's good, kind hearted. He helps me. That is why I love my father. That is why I idolise him."

9th Sept. TRL (in the east of Singapore) and JRL (in the west) hosted a total of about 80 students (15 to 16 year olds).

The students were participating in the Speak Good English Movement (SGEM) event which involved a "Dramazing Race" in the morning (i.e. a race that has drama and information-seeking elements), and a "East Meets West" Digital Video-conferencing/ 'live' IM chat in the afternoon.

The discussion topics were based on what we posed for the Sept 11 'live' chat with Sugargrove Public Library (Chicago, Illinois), Jurong Regional and Tampines Regional in Singapore.

SGEM 2005 - 9sept05 002
TRL Auditorium: IM chat session, with the discussion points on Language, Culture, and Lifestyle.

The teens were asked to express their thoughts. Which they did.

Students from one side expressed their views and participants from the other library responded (one segment was via IM chat, and the other part of the session was via Videoconferencing).
SGEM 2005 - 9sept05 003
TRL: Students at TRL at the foreground, with a video-conference shot of students at JRL.

I couldn't mulit-task; keeping up with listening and noting down what the teens were discussing. It didn't help that the technician on standby (I was in the sound control room) was chuckling away from time to time from the humourous remarks that some of the teens made.

What's clear to me was that these teens have lots to say. My estimate was that each student spent up to one minute at least at the microphone, expressing their thoughts or providing a response to a comment from the other side. And it was their intelligent and earnest expressions that mattered.
SGEM 2005 - 9sept05 005
Student at TRL exchanging views with counterpart at JRL via videoconferencing.

Part of the reason for trying out videoconferencing and IM for this event was to add that I.T. element to the discussion for teens. We wanted to experiment with different modes of communication with the teens, just to see what happened. Sure, we could've done a face-to-face discussion but I think it wouldn't have been as exciting (wish I could show you the video, with the teens cheering and luckily no jeering).

I observed that in general, the students were more expressive verbally than over IM. Interesting... perhaps IM was closer to writing, and that required more thought that just speaking their minds.

After the event, my colleagues and I did a quick round up of the day's event and we noted a few major points we had to tighten up regarding the IM session for Sunday.

It was apparent that the moderator's presence had to be established right at the beginning particularly for an IM chat. Otherwise, the teens were just trading comments with no real substance. Sort of like an aimless discussion that led to nowhere (isn't that applicable to lots of things in real life?).

[p.s. Check out this awesome IM event between two libraries, one in Singapore and the other in the US: Sept 11, 2005 IM chat: "Changing the World, One Friend at a Time"]

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