Intentionally select and integrate tools and practices that support voice, creativity and participation in ways that are meaningful and impactful for youth futures.See technology resources
In making decisions about what, where, when and how to incorporate technology into program design, we found that our partners were considering how the choices they made would bolster larger goals around supporting youth futures. We provide a brief framework for thinking about different affordances of technology in informal learning settings as a starting point to evaluate how an organization can leverage and integrate technology within youth programs to best fit its unique situation. We offer the following questions for consideration:
What might technology help an organization to achieve? How does technology align with an organization’s broader mission and approaches to learning? How do choices around technology speak to the interests of the youth the organization serves, the capacities of its educators, and the needs of its community?
The kinds of technology we’re talking about here are specifically ones that youth can use and interact with as they create, connect and share. These include various forms of media production tools, hardware and software, programming languages, Internet sites such as social networks and cloud-based production tools, 3D printers and laser cutters and even ‘low tech’ tools like crafting and woodworking materials.
Organizations can amplify key goals for youth by incorporating technology into their programming in ways that follow some or all of the best practices laid out in our resources. There’s no one right way; therefore, not one right set of tools that organizations should focus on. The right tools for any single organization are the ones that serve its goals.
Resources in the Technology section include our partners’ insights on achieving youth outcomes that include: development of skills that move youth from consumers to producers, building professional social capital, promotion of cultural and political voice, engagement in place-based innovation, grounding in identity and community, and documentation and reflection on learning.
- Integrate technology in a way that moves youth from consumers to producers. Perhaps most straightforward, technology should be incorporated in a way that provides youth opportunities to create. Organizations might do this through design, coding, film, visual arts, music, digital fabrication and other areas. Direct use of discipline-specific technologies builds the kind of technical skills needed for youth to become proficient producers with technology, as opposed to just consumers.
- Use technology projects as opportunities to develop youth’s professional social capital. Having youth work collaboratively on technology projects with experts, such as teaching artists and industry volunteers, or even doing work on client-facing projects can be the basis for building relationships in the fields they’re interested in.
- Promote cultural and political voice. Engaging in technology production can be an avenue for expression about issues relevant to young people’s culture and important in their civic and social lives. Technology application in this way can both be the site of expression, such as a documentary or visual arts project, and a mechanism for circulating those projects through social media platforms and online communities.
- Engage in place-based innovation. Many of our partner programs use technology production as ways for youth to address problems they see in their community. This might be through creating media that raises awareness of an issue, or through developing technologies that aim to directly solve problems, such as designing apps and building physical tools.
- Center identity and community. Technology and media production can be a site of exploration of identity, supporting the production of stories or tools that examine cultural practices, and can also be the basis for communities to come together around collective narratives and challenges.
- Document and reflect on learning. Online communication platforms such as digital portfolios, personal websites and even social network profiles offer opportunities for youth to reflect on and make visible their processes of learning and creating. These platforms also allow them to highlight their emerging expertise in ways that garner understanding and social support from both adults and peers.