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June 2011 Archives

What does it mean to be driven by data?


Dale-Blyth.jpg From evidence-based practice to data-driven decision making, the role of data in driving everything forward is becoming omnipresent. As a recovering quantitative sociologist this excites me. As a person devoted to building the field and making a difference in the lives of youth it raises both opportunities and concerns.

Like driving a car, youth work is a navigational sport filled with hundreds of decisions on a moment-by-moment basis. Whether it is the development of the field of youth work or the development of a young person, we process thousands of bits of data to make decisions.

Top 10 tech tools for our work


Kate-Walker.jpgDo you feel overwhelmed by all the technology options? Do you find it hard to choose from, or even keep up with, the flurry of possibilities?

I'm not an early adopter. I still have a land line telephone, buy CDs from a shop, and don't have cable TV. But professionally, I want to stay up to date on tools for doing my work as a researcher and evaluator. I imagine they could help program staff be more productive and progressive too.

Ideal learning environments: An impossible dream?


Thumbnail image for Jennifer-Skuza.jpgIs it possible to build the ideal learning environments described by the thinkers in our field? Or is it better to strive for a "happy medium" between theory and the realities of practice?

Now and then I like to dust off and reread literature that shaped my thinking. Milbrey McLaughlin's report, Community Counts: How Youth Organizations Matter for Youth Development influenced my thinking on how to build intentional learning environments and put into perspective the value of community.

What's the definition of youth work insanity?


Thumbnail image for Samantha-Grant.jpgHow often in programs do we continue to do something because "It's that time of year again"? A quote from Albert Einstein reads, "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." I don't think Einstein was thinking about evaluation when he coined this phrase, but it nicely articulates our tendency to continue to offer youth programs without "checking under the hood" periodically.

As an educator for program evaluation, I believe strongly in using evaluation to guide and improve youth programs and to prove their worth to others. I know that others will agree with me on this. But I think we often fail to intentionally build evaluation into our program design and as a result our programs suffer. Jane Powers's research on youth participatory evaluation demonstrates that the act of intentionally engaging youth in the evaluation experience helps to not only build stronger programs but also youth development skills in participating youth.

Inspiring the next generation of youth workers


nextgen-main-logo.jpgHow can we spark the interest of young youth workers to become engaged as leaders in our field? What avenues will the next generation of leadership use to create networking opportunities to meet and learn from each other? In the new world of social networking, will technology become a vehicle for hosting forums and addressing the crucial issues in the field through blogs, Facebook, Twitter? What conversations will be relevant and helpful to connect youth work peers?

Service learning belongs at the core of youth programs


Nicole-Pokorney.jpg"Service learning" is a term that is overused, misunderstood and under-implemented. Too often, secondary and higher education compartmentalize service learning into standalone courses, reducing the benefits to the learner and the effectiveness of service learning pedagogy.

The National Service Learning Clearinghouse describes this mode of learning: "Service-Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities."

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