One of the sessions at the TSCN workshop discussed Virtual Cafés. MJ Nehasil and Nicole Gugliucci presented various ways that today’s technology can be used to reach out to a wider teen audience. I would like to explore this idea in collaboration with other Members interested in planning, preparing, and implementing what we are calling Virtual Cafés. Granted, the form, style, level of participation, and atmosphere will not be identical for all events, but virtual meet ups or café events may have advantages for some teen audiences. So, please join in the discussion in the TSCN Forum: Virtual Café Implementation.
Virtual cafés are different and separate from the idea of forming a teen-centered social network among teens participating in our programs nationally, but clearly could be enhanced by the presence of a stronger social network among Café teens.
Below is some food for thought to consider about designing virtual café events:
Teen Interest: Without keen interest among a group of teens, virtual cafes won’t work. Teens with easy access to a local café may have no incentive for attending a virtual experience. But, are there missed opportunities to reach more distant or isolated teens in your area or around the country with a virtual cafe? Are there ways to identify missed opportunities and to provide them to a broader scope of teens virtually? Participants at the TSCN Workshop suggested that difficulty with and cost of travel/transportation for teens in rural areas or big cities, increasing the diversity of the topics and speaker pool, and reducing the time investment of the scientist, if they do not have to travel long distances to cafés.
Alternative Café Formats: Virtual Cafés providing a different format may be one drawing point for teens. Debates, a panel of experts (rather than a single presenter), focusing on topics reaching far into the future or topics exploring controversial advances in science and engineering may be more dynamic and less threatening in a virtual setting with chat room capabilities. Can you think of any other fun ideas that would be plausible in a virtual setting, but perhaps not in person?
Collaborative or individual? Several of our existing Member organizations have full capability to capture high quality video and disseminate it on the web. Others are using cameras built into their computer and Zoom or Google Hangouts. Those who have the resources, may be happy proceeding on their own. Those without the tech or the know how, might want to partner. What direction do you envision this going at your site? Is there any reason teens from New Mexico couldn’t be invited to a virtual café put on by the Gateway team in St. Louis?
Challenges: There are many things that might stand in the way of our success, but preventing them could be easy if we put our heads together and are proactive. What are some challenges that we may face along the way and how can we combat them? Technology, participation, facilitation, ownership, and marketing were briefly discussed, but let’s brainstorm a list of challenges that may arise and then break down the list and discuss ways to prevent each one.
Please join in the discussion if you are interested in learn along with us. I am very excited about this process and am willing to put in as much work as it takes to help those who want to move forward. Let’s discuss why and how to make it happen!