Sunukaddu - a voice for youth in Senegal

This summer we were contacted by Laurel Felt, a Doctoral student at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism who was working on a educational project in Senegal. We were happy to share some of our wisdom and help out her project by sharing resources and thoughts on our Digital Expressions Digital Transcript. Below is a guest post by Laurel detailing the results of this.

Project New Media Literacies' Research Assistant Hillary Kolos and Research Director Erin Reilly recommended that I peruse Online Leadership Program (OLP) Director Barry Joseph’s Using Alternative Assessment Models to Empower Youth-directed Learning. This wonderfully useful, insightful piece introduced me to the Digital Expressions Digital Transcript, a tool that looks like a worksheet with Scout-esque merit badge images of NML skills. In each corner of every triangular badge, there is a letter representing a type of skill mastery - R for Recognize it, D for Do it, T for Talk about it. In a conversation with Barry and Joyce Bettencourt, I learned that OLP instructors evaluate participants’ mastery at project’s end and award badges accordingly.

I wanted to use the Digital Expressions Digital Transcript as a means for participants' assessment of their own progress, envisioning the worksheet as the version of our daily post-tests. By circling the badge corners that best described their sense of NML use and mastery, Sunukaddu-ites could reflect on and take ownership of their learning process.

Sunukaddu means “our voice” in Wolof, a commonly spoken language here in Senegal, West Africa. Like Global Kids’ Online Leadership Program, Sunukaddu develops youths’ critical thinking skills and capacity to communicate. Sunukaddu kicked off its work three years ago, facilitating community-level public health dialogues and grass roots advocacy.


The cornerstone of Sunukaddu is a six-week, 12-session training program that teaches participants to critically consume media messages, ethically create their own, and strategically diffuse them. Our method is enriched by theory [e.g., Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and New Media Literacies (NML).]

Global Kids generously agreed to this appropriation and the Compétences NML tool was born.

Then an exciting thing happened. One of the Senegalese instructors of Sunukaddu, Idrissa Mbaye, had a great idea.

Idrissa (who we affectionately refer to as Père Idy, which means Father Idy) suggested that we hang posters of the NML and SEL skills from a clothesline in our classroom. Clotheslines are quite salient in the local environment, and hanging these posters would not only keep the skills front-of-mind, but would also free up valuable wall space for the participants’ posting of their daily work.

I added on to Idrissa's idea, appropriating a concept used by Chicago-based theater group The Neofuturists in their long-running show, “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.” Ensemble members hang pieces of paper, each emblazoned with a scene number, from a clothesline on stage. Based on the audience’s random numeric appeals (“Three!!!” audience members lustily shout, having no idea what scene “three” will bring; “Five!!!”), Neofuturists pull down the associated paper and perform.

I proposed that we take this pulling down idea and, whenever the participants notice that our Sunukaddu work draws upon a NML or SEL skill, pull down that skill card from the clothesline and keep it. At the end of the day, during our Reflection session, each “puller” should explain why s/he pulled down that skill at that particular time, then rehang it on the line.



The speed with which the participants have understood the skills and correctly identified their manifestation has been truly extraordinary. By the end of the first day, nearly all of the skills had been pulled from the line. And ever since this introduction two weeks ago, the participants have always spoken accurately about each skill’s deployment.


The instructors themselves also truly understand the skills like never before. Individually and collectively, we have witnessed our growth from our collaborative curriculum building workshops of early July through today. Day 4 is a great example. The NML Skill of the Day was Appropriation, and the focus was audio.

The audio instructor, a young MC named DJ Amson (aka, Amadou Dia) remixed a song from local star Youssou N'Dour with a hiphop American chart topper from Rihanna. Backed by this appropriated masterpiece, the participants kicked off their day with a game of energy-building, body-freeing Freeze Dance!


Another young instructor, Tidiane Thiang, just spent the last hour explaining how the NML and SEL skills have inspired him to follow his filmmaking dreams and helped him to find his own voice – literally! Everett Rogers’s Diffusion of Innovations theory spoke to Tidiane and following my presentation of the theory in French, he took it upon himself to re-explain the key concepts in Wolof. Whereas we used to never hear a peep out of Tidiane, now we jokingly call him “the kitten who became a lion.” wink.gif

But it is perhaps the language of the NML skills that has impacted Tidiane most profoundly. These NML names and definitions have finally given him a way to recognize, analyze, and hone previously un(der)detected background processes. As the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis suggests, when an object has a name, one has the capacity to truly see it, and so transcend instinctive sensing in order to negotiate deliberate manipulation.

Just yesterday, Tidiane, assessment guru Brock Dumville and I hatched another scheme inspired by the Global Kids’ Online Leadership Program’s Digital Expressions Digital Transcript.

Tidiane suggested that, at the end of the training, we present participants with certificates of Sunukaddu completion. Brock added on to that idea, proposing special recognition of participants’ proficiency in a self-designated NML skill area. I suggested that we allow participants to choose more than one skill, or perhaps one NML skill and one SEL skill. This Friday, Tidiane plans to design mock-ups of look-a-like SEL badges.

We welcome you to be a part of Sunukaddu in any number of ways:

~Your cyber-partners in social change, Laurel and the Sunukaddu team!

Thanks Laurel - glad we could help!