Introducing Culturally Relevant Technology in Developing Countries:
Digital Storytelling for Youth Voice and Community Empowerment
I am honored to be involved in two ongoing international rural projects in India and Guatemala that utilize digital storytelling among youth designed to introduce tech-novice children to computer technology while supporting culturally-relevant education and personal creative expression and empowerment. The simple digital storytelling animation platform is powerful in that it allows students to incorporate and manipulate 'cartoonized' images of their own communities in their animations..
India - SARVAM
Launched in 2011, the digital storytelling project augments the ongoing, long-term village development work by the Sri Aurobindo Rural Village Action and Movement (SARVAM), an indigenous NGO. Initially involving 150 students during an annual educational summer camp, the project to date has served over 1,500 children.
The program allows youth, ages 10 - 16, to incorporated images from their surroundings as they learn to use computers. Through their animations, they create and share personal stories or explore themes important to their community. Motivated students have the opportunity to learn elementary coding skills by developing animated games, science simulations, music videos and stories using the intuitive Scratch programming platform.
Guatemala - MayaTech
“Maya-Tech" is a new educational program under development in San Pedro, Guatemala. The goal of Maya-Tech is to develop and implement a school curriculum to promote Mayan history and culture while simultaneously introducing children to computer technology through animated digital storytelling.
Through engaging Mayan educators, artists and cultural organizations, Maya-Tech aims to develop image sets that address three themes: ancient Mayan civilization; the colonial conquest; and contemporary Mayan life. The historical images are being developed by local artists in a cartoon style. The contemporary images, however, will consist of ‘cartoonized’ photos of the local Mayan villages and surroundings, allowing students to incorporate images of their own community as they tell stories about their lives and explore connection with the past.
MovieSoup - Digital Animation Made Simple!
MovieSoup is a simple drag, record and playback animation program created by FluxTime Studios in Great Britain. Objects are placed on a background scene and manipulated with simple icon-based commands and the mouse. Like many animation applications, MovieSoup originally had built-in sets of backgrounds and characters that were oriented towards European or U.S. children. However through a collaboration with the developer, we were able to modify the program to allow the inclusion of customized images and backgrounds. This allows us to use custom images in the production of the digital stories that not only reflect the community's own history and culture in general but also capture the students’ real-life community environment. You can view, download and install the sample libraries containing images from the SARVAM project.