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Abstract -- YouthCaN Education Track
D5: Building New Global Learning Communities

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Clements, Millard ( clements@acf6.nyu.edu)


YouthCaN is an initiative of faculty and students of the NYU program in Environmental Conservation Education in cooperation with the H. Frank Carey High School Ecology Council, I*EARN, International Education and Resource Network (Copen Family Fund), and the American Museum of Natural History. YouthCaN activities have been co-sponsored by UNEP, UNESCO, NYNEX, CON-ED, and a number of environmental organizations.

The mission of YouthCaN is to develop a sustainable computer network of youth groups for the coordination and expression of youth concerns regarding environmental issues. The strategy of YouthCaN is to organize opportunities for young people with computer telecommunications skills to teach other young people how to develop such networking abilities and how to connect with like minded young people around the world.

YouthCaN94 focused attention on ocean pollution and its effects on sea life along with a concern for the health of rivers, lakes and seas that connect with the great oceans of the world.

The motivating question of YouthCaN94 was: How is ocean, river and lake pollution affecting our lives and what are we doing to face this challenge?

The YouthCaN94 demonstrated the power of computer networking as a tool for environmental action, research, and cross-cultural communication with educators, UN officials, youth groups, and NGO's. During the conference live interactive links were made with student groups around the world via: computers, video phones, video conferencing. More than 700 students attended the YouthcaN94 conference at the American Museum of Natural history.

YouthCaN95 will address the challenge of environmental restoration. On April 28, at the American Museum of Natural History, students and youth groups will be provided opportunities to describe their restoration projects and to demonstrate their computer networking activities. The focus of this event will be youth and global communications. Elementary and High School students are involved in planning the demonstrations, workshops, and discussions.

This proposed presentation will be an analysis of the accomplishments and the social meaning of this educational initiative with young people. There are today many commercial and noncommercial school based telecommunications projects. Extravagant rhetoric, at times, celebrates the contribution of telecommunications to eduction today. The significance of this new technology is enormous but little understood, it is much discussed, but it is still a mystery to many. This presentation will seek to provide a clarification of what that contribution may be.

In the last ten years or so there has been a profound change in human communications systems at least as important as the development of movable print and the technology to produce books. Computers and computer telecommunications now, today, can connect schools in Japan and schools in Costa Rica. That is, at reasonable cost students in schools in one region of the world can write to or communicate with students in many other parts of the world. Computer telecommunications using telephone lines is now cheap enough for modest school budgets.

There are very rich nations of the world that enjoy an abundance of food, comforts of secure housing, benefits of health care, education and freedom of personal choice in many aspects of life. And, there are poor nations of the world that have people living on the edge of existence, with little food, inadequate shelter, poor health care and inadequate access to education, and few options for personal choice. If the poorer regions of the world develop in the style and fashion of the rich nations of the world, Climate Change will be accelerated and life of our species on our planet will become even more problematic.

Telecommunications involving young people in the various nations of the world may address and clarify some of the deep divisions of of the world today. What is the promise and the reality of telecommunications and education today?