About the Toolkit

Developed through a collaborative process between researchers and practitioners, this toolkit is a curated cross-section of resources that relay knowledge and best practices in achieving real success in youth-centered digital learning.

Narratives about digital technology and why it matters for youth, their education, professional trajectories, and envisioned futures are everywhere. Most often these narratives position youth as subjects of the world of digital technology rather than the drivers of their own pathways and those of their communities.

The reality is that kids today make their own choices about when and how they use technology. They are protagonists, exercising agency and autonomy. And they are civic actors, using technology as a means to contribute to and transform their communities. Theirs is a new story; a new way of growing up and learning about the world, based on a very different kind of experience. Any effort to prepare today’s youth for their futures needs to be driven by youth agency, by a notion of them reclaiming digital futures.

Youth, with help from thoughtful educators, are already doing the work of bringing their visions into reality. Reclaiming Digital Futures hopes to offer a toolkit to support others’ efforts to achieve the same. The contents of the toolkit have been gleaned from deep learning and discussion with some of our nation’s leading out-of-school time (OST) organizations focused on equipping youth to navigate a world both analogue and digital.

This toolkit is a curated cross-section of resources that relay knowledge and best practices in achieving real success in youth-centered digital learning. It includes practical guidance for educators, practitioners, administrators, funders, researchers and all those filling roles in between who want to understand how to best aid youth in leveraging digital technology as they learn, grow, engage and contribute.

The materials included were sourced through collaborative research partnership with eight exemplar youth-serving organizations that create space and resources for youth to determine their future pathways with digital media and to shape their own goals that technology might support. Our partner organizations represent a diverse array of programming, from those in the arts, journalism and media literacy to others in engineering and computer science. Our hope is that these tools provide insight and strategy that will be adopted and adapted by youth-serving programs working to build practices that support youth as engaged 21st century citizens and future professionals.

What you’ll learn

The range of approaches and resource material shared here is offered as guidance, not as a set of recipes to be followed to the letter.

Rather than a single silver bullet, this toolkit offers a range of considerations, approaches and stories surrounding five strategic areas where organizations will need to make decisions and tailor their actions in order to achieve the successes experienced by our partner organizations. These areas include: pedagogy, skills, technology, community and capacity.

In each strategic area, the toolkit offers an overview to assist in framing ideas and touch points as well as a collection of individual resources providing practical information around best practices and how they can be implemented.

The resources also include perspectives on different issues, practical how-to’s, and case examples that shed light on how some of these programs work and feel on the ground. Some of the resources have been authored by leaders of our partner organizations, and others have been produced by our research team. Together, these resources provide a knowledge base for designing youth-centered learning around digital technology, and hopefully help to shift the broader thinking about how and why educators engage young people in building digital skills and fluencies.