Virtual clubs and activities - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 2 Old 12-22-2012, 10:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm posting this question in this forum since I'm thinking you all might have the most experience with this. DD and I travel most of the year, and have unschooled until this school year when we landed on a rare opportunity for a kinder that was too good to pass up. I started her with Campfire and Daisy scouts this year (mostly to have some background so that when/if we find a place to land she'll have some experience with those kinds of things) in a virtual environment...and it seems as though Girl Scouts has become pretty diverse and the success depends a whole lot on the individual groups. While I see the possible benefits, I also see a lack of challenge involved too. My sister has a troop that has done crafts for 5 years. While that is great, it's more of a crafting group than anything else, and my niece doesn't have any sense for the outdoors or volunteerism (which I find kind of sad)...so I'm prepared to at some point in the future to take on a leadership role if DD likes the GS vibe. We have the reg materials for Campfire but it is $$ so I'm pondering a bit on that one...even though I see it as somewhat more positive than GS.

 

Do any of you participate in virtual scouting, etc.? I'm finding that there is not a whole lot of guidance in the virtual world in terms of guiding kiddos through...but perhaps I'm just a newbie.

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#2 of 2 Old 12-22-2012, 12:49 PM
 
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No experience with virtual scouting, I'm afraid. Just some general perspectives on the virtual world and children. My kids are now 18, 16, 14 and 9. We live in a rural and fairly remote village with few real-life opportunities for learning challenge, and I always thought that the virtual world might be an excellent resource for connecting my kids with others. They enjoy computers, having gravitated to technology and on-line resources early and with astonishing adeptness. It seemed like a perfect fit.

 

However, it really hasn't worked out for us in the way I had hoped. My kids have only rarely connected on a social level with the virtual world. They very readily connect with a personal virtual world, and with the resources the web offers. But the interpersonal relationships rarely developed, my kids didn't develop a collaborative mentality with respect to their on-line acquaintances, the synergistic accountability to each other, and the team-based / club-based attitudes didn't take root. There are two real reasons for this, I think. 

 

One is that children are not wired for the abstract, and that's as true of social relationships as it is of algebraic problem--solving. They will intellectually understand that they are interacting with other, real children, but it doesn't carry much meaning or importance to them if it's not accompanied by real interactions. Their interest isn't easily maintained, and if it is, it's mostly about how the activity is serving them at a private, self-serving level, the "club" and inter-personal accountability aspects being entirely beside the point.

 

The other problem is that the requirement to attend a club or activity in person at a specific time creates a certain level of commitment. We all know that people who pay for something are far more likely to value it and utilize it than if it's given for free. If you pay out for an experience with organizational work, driving time, packing lunches, setting aside part of your day to get there, you'll value the experience much more than if it's virtual and easy to take part in without leaving your living room. While it seems like it would be an advantage to allow families to work on the project and interact on their own time, from their own homes, in their own places, my experience is that everyone's best intentions tend to get swept away in the reality of their day-to-day lives. I say this as a parent who always had the best of intentions in following through on on-line projects and communities: it is far too easy to forget about on-line stuff, to set aside expectations, to forget to check in, to procrastinate, to let life get in the way just this once (and then again, and again), and to just drop off the group's radar, as they drop off yours. And then the children who are keen to participate find a virtual world that is stagnant with low levels of participation, and their motivation drops. As a general rule I've discovered that in virtual networks you are lucky, and I mean very lucky, to get regular participation from even 10% of the people who express enthusiasm and sign up. I've seen this with virtual running communities, community bulletin boards, music practicing teams, podcasting collaboratives, email discussion loops, virtual science fairs, homeschooling support groups, virtual school forums for children and parents, and so on. 

 

The only time my kids and I have managed to sustain involvement in an on-line community activity or challenge is when it is rooted in a real community where periodic in-person interaction takes place. As they became teens, we discovered that one real-life session every 4-6 months was enough to keep things going, provided the social connections started out quite strong. Younger than that and once a month seemed to be the minimum necessary to sustain commitment.

 

We did manage to use on-line programs and challenges successfully a few times without in-person interaction. But in those cases, the kids were keen to be accountable to themselves. They would delightedly pursue individual goals and feel a sense of accomplishment from completing them, gaining motivation from comparing themselves to other children, but those other children were usually just statistical populations, not personalized in any way.

 

So in summary, my kids have occasionally enjoyed taking part in programs that are virtual and structured, but they have been motivated by personal and individualistic factors, and the community element has not worked well. The community/social component has only been helpful in cases where strong social connections were already present, and were maintained through face-to-face meetups.

 

Your experience may be different, but that's mine for what it's worth. 

 

Miranda


Mountain mama to three great kids and one great grown-up

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