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Service learning for empowering tribal peoples

Read this journal paper by educator Duu Jian Tsai which describes the principles and outcomes of the Living Labs project. You can read the full paper in the See also section below.

This project is establishing a platform for Living Lab experiments using smart technology in tribal areas of Taiwan, with the goal of empowering high mountain indigenous peoples. We are forging a learning environment through partner-ships between universities, tribal peoples and technology companies that incorpo-rate participatory practices into technolo-gy design. The project also employs oral history taking as part of a service learning curriculum to make minorities an integral part of designing new technology applica-tions and possible business models. We aim to foster a new sense of professional-ism that incorporates civic engagement and considers technologies as tools for conscious social change.

Of six student presentations, three were health oriented and the other three were related to cultural affairs. The first group designed a health promotion platform that would connect the individual with the community health center through interfamily networking. The second group designed a smart medication box that not only fit easily into different daily life activities, but hat also collected and pooled information that could be used to track results for collective health maintenance efforts. The third group incorporated the device user’s wish to preserve traditional weaving culture into a proposal for building a tribal smart classroom. The fourth group devised a smart poke walker with features that include a built-in urgent communication device, a falling monitor and the ability to share information about collective walking activities with members of the user‟s support network. The fifth group created an interactive composition platform for preserving songs and dances in tribal areas. The final group constructed a smart plotting IT platform to incorporate raw material from oral histories, photos, home videos, audios and so on into various products, including films for uploading on You Tube. With the participation of the medical device users in the community, the students clearly enriched the user innovation platform and its usefulness for health promotion and cultural preservation. Their contributions were not limited to either the cultural domain or health issues, but created bridges between both arenas. Afterwards, students’ feedback showed they were fully aware of the cultural barriers and information disparity in this tribal area, and were attuned to the consequences in terms of social justice.

This pragmatic participatory project made use of oral life histories, health related narratives, and allowed user’s narratives to contribute to design, and also benefitted the students. The students’ activities served as critical bridges sensitizing device users to the way they perceive technology. As a result, the device users became more capable and willing to take an active part in community building and promoting health. Furthermore, by observing behavioral changes among the tribe members who participated in the project, the leaders of the tribal association became convinced that they are capable of managing a community health building project for the elderly. They initiated a voluntary biweekly meeting for health promotion shortly after our workshop.

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This article is from the free online course:

Medical Humanity: Engaging Patients and Communities in Healthcare

Taipei Medical University