As far as technology goes, Latinos have been making strides. Not only are we one of the most active demographic on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms, we are massively populating the web with blogs expresing our points of view and have the highest adoption rates in mobile. (Hispanic Broadband Access: Making the Most of the Mobile, Connected Future, The Hispanic Institute)
That is awesome news, and though there’s still a long road to go in terms of truly bridging the digital divide, it feels like we’re making lots of progress. That’s where all seems to point, according to a new report from Nielsen: Latinos outpace all over ethnic groups in mobile downloads of music and photos, and are more likely to watch video online and on the their mobile phones than others. Looking closely, though, does that mean that we, as access has increased, are using technology to play inane games, share cute cat pictures or learn the intricate choreography to Gangnam Style? Are we really using online technology to our best advantage?
Either way, I’d say, it’s time for some tough love. Change in any community can only start with the individual: ourselves. As someone who practically spends her existence online, I don’t mind having a chuckle here and there [or tweeting up a storm, for that matter].
But I also know a more productive use of my online hours would be to improve my skills and to help create change. So I have put together five key things I think can truly help everyone to fully take advantage of the online experience and become empowered. If you’re already doing these things, kudos, I hope you share some of your favorite tools in the comments! If not, read on, there’s still hope [even for Tweetaholics like me!]
1. Learn for the sake of learning
Learning, as it were, is an activity fired by the desire to know: for it to flourish, one must develop a deep affection for the activity itself. Once that love has developed, you may even come to realize those cats were not really that cute anyway! There are thousands of apps and online learning hubs out there; here are some of my favorites [and they’re free!]:
Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Open Courseware
Harvard Open Courses: Open Learning Initiative
EdX.org [partner of Harvard and MIT]
Khan Academy http://www.khanacademy.org/
Coursera [partner of University of Michigan, Princeton, Columbia, Stanford and more] http://www.coursera.org/
ItunesU Podcasts http://www.apple.com/education/itunes-u/
UC Berkeley Webcast/Courses http://webcast.berkeley.edu/
2. Become a creator versus a consumer: Learn to code
This is kind of a Duh: With the Latino growth rates, our population’s age average at 10+ years younger than any other demographic, and our higher birth rates, it is a wonder why the education system hasn’t figured out how to bridge the gap between our smart, young yet undereducated population and the nation’s –and international – demand for STEM-professionals. But we can curve that. If you’ve ever dreamed of studying computer science or programming –or even if you just want to learn how to better lay out your blog – here are some good sources to get started:
Mozilla’s School of Webcraft http://p2pu.org/webcraft/
Google Code University http://code.google.com/edu/
Code Academy http://www.codecademy.com/
Programr: Learn to Code by Actually Building Apps http://www.programr.com/
3. Give a damn about politics – Get involved
In the crazy political landscape we’re in these days, there’s no room for apathy. There are just too many issues affecting our community – and the country – for us to not educate ourselves on what is going on with each candidate, support the organizations that are mobilizing our community and more importantly, get involved. I’ve written about this before, but here are some additional good places where you can get started:
Cómo funciona el gobierno
Latino Organizations around the country
4. Learn your rights – “If you don’t know your Rights, you don’t have any”.
That phrase encapsulates one of our main jobs as citizens of this country, regardless of our immigration status: we must learn our constitutional rights and liberties so that we can exercise them. Under the US Constitution, everyone has rights, yet as they say in Spanish “El que no sabe es como el que no ve” [One who doesn’t know is just like one who is blind.] Please make sure you become familiar with your rights and that you share these resources in your communities:
Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities
The ACLU’s Know Your Rights booklet for citizens and non-citizens [PDF]
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Guide to Immigrant Rights
Immigrant Legal Resource Center’s “Red Cards” on how to exercise your constitutional rights [PDFs]
5. Learn about Latino history – Hispanic Heritage is not a month, it’s everyday.
According to a new study by the National Hispanic Media Coalition, non-Latinos have lots of negative preconceptions about Latinos in this country. Add to that the fact that there are already areas of the country where efforts to prevent that history from making it into the mainstream education are underway, and you have the ingredients for an entire population that gets no play in the history books. One great way to avoid this? How about learning about and sharing all the positive contributions we continue to make to this country? Here are some great places to learn about our history so we can pass down our orgullo to the new generations:
Arizona Banned Books http://azethnicstudies.com/banned-books
American Latino Heritage Fund
Online Schools – Learn about Hispanic Culture
Got any other recommendations for Latinos to make the most of the online experience? Please share them in the comments!
Elianne Ramos is Principal/CEO of Speak Hispanic Marketing and Vice-Chair, Marketing and PR for Latinos in Social Media (LATISM). Under LATISM, she is also Chief Editor of the LATISM blog, and hostess to weekly Twitter chats reaching over 18.8 million impressions. Follow her on Twitter @ergeekgoddess.