It's clear that technology is firmly entrenched in education. More and more out-of-school-time (OST) programs across the country are including some aspect of technology in what they do. Moving forward, how can we support youth workers as they seek to develop and implement technology as a tool to engage youth as scholars and leaders building 21st century skills, while providing engaging academic opportunities? As the 2011 K-12 edition of the NMC Horizon Report points out, "simply capitalizing on new technology ... is not enough; the new models must use these tools and services to engage students on a deeper level."
In many ways, emerging educational models demand more from all of us in the OST field -- both leaders and youth workers. These models reshape traditional views of teaching and learning. Increasingly, the primary role of the educator has shifted from director to guide and co-learner. New technologies encourage reciprocity in teaching: youth workers teach young people, young people teach youth workers. I believe that this is one of the reasons these models are a good fit for youth workers; they can share leadership with the young people they serve, empowering them to take responsibility for their own personal and academic growth.
The MetLife Foundation Afterschool Innovator Awards acknowledges cutting edge programs in youth work. One recent 2011 award winner, Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools, utilizes media and technology as vehicles for reforming New Orleans schools post-Katrina. Youth members of the Rethink create YouTube videos, circulate digital petitions, and host press conferences to send powerful messages to policymakers, school leaders, and others about needed improvements in New Orleans schools. Learning experiences such as these reflect the growing importance of innovation and creativity as professional skills.
Of course, many resources exist for those in the OST field wishing to support youth workers in their efforts to engage youth through technology. Each year the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) lists the top 25 websites for teaching and learning, all of them free and user friendly. Another resource I turn to is The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). ISTE's member magazine, Learning & Leading with Technology, features practical ideas for using today's digital tools to improve learning and teaching and for appropriately integrating technology into classrooms, curricula, and administration.
What do you think? How can we support the use of new technologies among youth workers? Should professional development for youth workers include competency-building in these emerging educational models? What other great resources should we be sharing with our youth work colleagues? Let's hear your ideas.