Bridging the Digital Media Divide Across Continents

If you haven’t read my story about CNN Hero Ponheary Ly, perhaps I should suggest that you start there. This amazing woman survived the brutal Khmer Rouge genocide in her home country of Cambodia – which killed her father – and went on to form a foundation that enables thousands of Cambodian children to go to school.

Ponheary Ly and school children

Ponheary’s father was a teacher, and she knew that education was the answer for the poorest kids in the country, who unfortunately could often not afford the books or tuition to go to school. After Keith and I met Ponheary (and Lori Carlson, President the Ponheary Ly Foundation), on a trip to Cambodia in Fall 2010, neither of us could forget her story, the work her foundation was doing, or the kids we met there.

Fast forward about six months, and Keith was helping start up a new nonprofit endeavor back in Austin, aimed at bridging the digital divide across the world. The Windows of Wonder Institute (WOWi) uniquely combines ART + WEB + LEARNING to build and connect communities locally, regionally, and globally. WOWi project teams and the WOWi community create new types of interactive digital media environments that are designed to evoke wonder, insight, and a sense of connection for improving the lives of targeted WOWi audiences.

Photo by Lori Carlson

And when picking the location for its first international project, there seemed no better fit or more worthy partner than the Ponheary Ly Foundation. Already dedicated to the education of its youth, and with a classroom full of students at the Tchey School eager to learn, Keith and his partners Kim Smith, Don Stevens and Duane Conder began working to make the Angkor Wat Digital School Project a reality.

For the past two weeks, Keith and Kim and other volunteers have been in Siem Reap, Cambodia, working with a group of Tchey School students to teach them digital media skills that are allowing them to create their own short films. In the meantime, they are making connections with students in the U.S. Here are some of what they have been doing:

Tuesday, February 14

The teams of students at Tchey school filmed quite a bit for their projects over the weekend. Upon returning to class on Monday the WOWi team helped them go through what they had filmed so far to see if there needed to be any improvements on shooting techniques and to see if any of the shots needed to be done again. We also helped them plan out what additional shots they still needed, and we likewise helped them reformulating their story lines when needed. Tuesday we pretty much did the same kinds of things, but we went deeper with the conversations. The kids have been great in picking up and accepting the creative process for what it is. At times major changes were made to story lines, and it’s always been for the better.

Friday, February 17

Kim helps the students with their Photoshop skills

By Wednesday the filming was pretty much done, and we started working on helping the students pull from their pool of content to put together their respective stories. We likewise started helping them formulate and produce their voiceovers, create subtitles where needed and pick out music over the last few days. By the end of class Friday we were very close to being done. Just a few more little touch up things to finish up on tomorrow, and we’ll be done with all 5 teams’ projects. We’ll have a bit of celebrating our work together tomorrow, and we will likewise be taking them to see one of the movies at the Angkor Wat International Film Festival on Sunday as a last hoorah for this two week stay. Going to be a fun-packed weekend!

The WOWi team will be leading future volunteer trips to Cambodia and other global projects. To find out more about the organization and how you can get involved, go to the WOWi website.

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