Service-Learning, Technology, Nonprofits, and Institutional Limitations

Service-Learning, Technology, Nonprofits, and Institutional Limitations

Katherine Loving (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA), Randy Stoecker (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA) and Molly Reddy (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-623-7.ch012
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This chapter develops a model of service-learning that focuses on serving the information and communication technology (ICT) needs of community organizations, and contrasts it with the traditional service-learning model used in universities, questioning if it is a more effective way of meeting nonprofits’ ICT needs. The authors evaluate their model’s utility from the perspective of a technology empowerment “stepstool” where nonprofit organizations can move from simply using existing technology better, to shaping the technology, to creating their own technology. The chapter then goes on to discuss attempts to implement versions of this model at the University of Wisconsin, discussing their strengths and weaknesses, and paying particular attention to the limitations of doing this work within an institutional framework. The current service-learning project has found working on social media projects to be more beneficial to the students and the nonprofits than more complex projects, but doing so goes against the community-identified need and request for more mission-critical assistance. To fully serve communities, the higher education context of service learning must change to make community outcomes the main priority, build courses around community projects rather than vice versa, provide students with the necessary professional skills preparation to do high quality service-learning, and design community projects around the community calendar, not the higher education calendar.
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Service-Learning, Nonprofits, And Icts

Here is where higher education community engagement comes in. As ICTs have become a focus of service-learning, new terms have arisen. One term that has recently emerged is service-eLearning. Its promoters put the “e” before the learning rather than before the service because they emphasize the role of ICTs in pedagogy rather than in the actual service projects, though in fact ICTs also show up in the service activities themselves (Dailey-Hebert, Donnelli, & DiPadova-Stocks, 2008). Another term is e-service-learning. While one might expect the placement of this e to signify an emphasis on ICTs in the actual service, this term seems just as likely to emphasize the use of ICTs as pedagogy (Malvey, Hamby, & Fottler, 2006; Strait & Sauer, 2004). Overall, this method includes students engaging in distance service-learning—designing a Web site for a far-away organization (Bjork & Schwartz, 2005) or using ICTs to facilitate a local service-learning project (Stoecker, Hilgendorf, & Tryon, 2008), and sometimes it is a combination of all those things, as we will describe.

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