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Do you have the digital skills to pay the bills? And are you ready, by chance, for the opportunity to share those skills with middle school students as a multimedia mentor?

Because there is a real need. Yes, scads of middle schoolers have already reached PhD level on Pokemon Go, but research shows that, by and large, they’re not getting the digital and creative literacy know-how they need to really succeed in school, college, career and life. (Check out some of that research, collected right here.)

Sure, the world is getting more digital all the time, but the digital divide is still real in places like Mississippi. Meanwhile, the percentage of jobs requiring technology skills (at 97% five years ago) only continues to grow. Moreover, by the time today’s students join the workforce, they will have to be able to work collaboratively and do a good bit of critical thinking, too.

That’s where you come in, as a tech-savvy volunteer with Spark-O-Matic, coming soon to a library system near you‚Äîthe Jackson/Hinds Library System.

The idea behind Spark-O-Matic is to help build the digital literacy and critical thinking skills of under-served kids. Through engaging, collaborative projects in audio and video production, the digital arts, and online media, young people can hone their abilities to address issues in their community, access and understand technology, find their voice, and play a smart, active role in our increasingly digitized society.

At its core, this endeavor is about students learning how to use these tools for creating, understanding, self expression, and perhaps even social change.

As a volunteer mentor, you’ll help guide students in digital literacy and good digital citizenship while giving them tech access that bridges the digital divide. The program would be a resource for educators as well, who may be looking for guidance in implementing technology into their own curriculum.

Each after-school Spark-O-Matic class will explore digital topics such as:

‚Ä¢ Digital Basics: A first class would cover essentials such as how to use computers, the internet, email, and other digital tools effectively. Mentors would also guide students in how to strike a balance in life between time online and off. Digital tools are useful and fun, but they should be used responsibly and for a person’s betterment as smart digital citizens.

‚Ä¢ Video Creation: Students will check out a project called College Discovered, where freshmen at Mississippi’s 8 universities created their own videos about the different aspects of university life and their dreams and hopes for life after college. Then, through Apple iMovie, students can create videos about their own hopes and dreams.

• Digital Music Making: A peer-to-peer project where a group of high school students who create hip-hop with their laptops share their experience. Mentors would guide students in the music-making possibilities of Apple GarageBand and other software.

The list goes on, from visual design and web creation to digital storytelling, photography, video editing, coding, app development, and more. The focus will be on letting kids see that the online world can be much more than just Snapchatting.

I’m working with Patty Furr, executive director of the Jackson/Hinds library system to launch pilot Spark-O-Matic programs in the fall at library branches where they could be of most benefit. Spark-O-Matic classes will be held in the evenings after work a couple nights a week to start. More details to come as we get closer to launch.

To take part, you don’t have to be a movie-making, visual-art producing, code-crafting, tech guru. (Though, that would be great, of course.) You just need a digital skill or two that would be helpful in reaching students where they are (’cause they’re all over the place, just like all of us).

So, if you’re interested in sparking students’ digital creativity and guiding them in career-building, life changing skills, email me, Marc Leffler, at I would love to talk with you about being a Spark-O-Matic mentor right from the start. Because it’s gonna be some mighty marvelous mayhem.