Ensure that your organization hires the kind of staff and develops program improvement structures that effectively support your organization’s vision of digital learning programs.See capacity resources
In considering how organizations can engage in creative, robust and opportunity-focused programming around digital learning, a central issue is staff and organizational capacity. Capacity is not only the skills that educators have and what kinds of programs they can carry out.
Capacity includes, but goes beyond, what any individual staffer is able to accomplish. It encompasses the whole organization as a collective that learns and improves.
In thinking about capacity, we’re concerned with questions like: What kinds of staff roles are needed to ensure that young people are able to access opportunities that deepen their digital learning pathways both within and across an organizations? What kind of staff are needed to support youth futures with digital media? What forms of professional learning might an organization envision to effectively implement these programs? What kinds of structures are necessary to develop and improve program pedagogy?
Developing robust digital learning programs that connect youth to future opportunities presents an additional set of challenges.
Depending on what kind of staffing model is in place, frontline educators may have more expertise in technology, creative media and the arts and less in youth development, or vice-versa. Additionally, a focus on connecting youth to future opportunities around digital learning pathways both within and beyond a given organization’s program offerings requires rethinking staff roles to include ones that haven’t traditionally been part of informal education organizations.
The resources we share in this toolkit highlight a number of effective practices around building capacity for digital learning, including implementing peer-to-peer professional learning structures, creating data routines to support programs, hiring frontline staff that span multiple professional worlds, and developing new staff roles that explicitly focus on connecting youth to digital learning pathways.
Read our resource on Supporting Peer-to-Peer Professional Learning in Informal Education Organizations.
- Implement peer-to-peer professional learning structures. More traditional ‘one-off’ professional development workshops from external providers are just one element within broader strategies that effective, place-based digital learning organizations employ. Peer-to-peer professional learning approaches leverage existing knowledge within organizations, position staff as experts, help an organization better understand how their colleagues can support them, and support processes of continuous learning and sharing focused on developing and improving programs.
Read a case example on How The Knowledge House uses Data Routines to Improve Informal Digital Learning Programs.
- Create data routines to support evidence-based improvement. Instead of using data solely to report on outcomes after programs end, organizations can build capacity and improve instruction through using ongoing continuous improvement data. Regular data reviews allow staff to come together to see trends within ongoing programs, identify struggling youth and troubleshoot issues on the fly.
Read our resource, Why Teaching Artists?, that explores the affordances of having staff with diverse professional networks.
- Hire frontline staff that span multiple professional worlds. Implementing effective digital learning programs calls for staff that are capable in both creative and technology disciplines as well as educational practice. Additionally, staff with backgrounds that span multiple professional worlds, including those linked to arts, media and technology, can leverage their social capital in order to enrich programs and create opportunity for youth.
- Develop new staff roles explicitly focused on connecting youth to digital learning pathways. A commitment to supporting youth pathways in media, arts and technology can require the development of new staff roles. These can include roles focused on youth case management, talent management and partnership coordination with industry and post-secondary sectors. These roles would explicitly focus on ensuring that youth have opportunities to engage in connected, continuous and long-term trajectories of learning around digital futures that extend beyond a single organization’s program offerings.