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November 20, 2017

Guest blogger: David Mazza, Y4Y Educational Technology Specialist

Business, government and education professionals often use videoconferences for training and collaboration. If you’ve attended an online Y4Y Showcase, virtual training or webinar, you’ve participated in a videoconference. It’s a great way to connect people to peers and subject matter experts.

But have you ever used videoconferencing with students?

I recently raised this question with staff from various 21st CCLC programs around the country. Only a few said yes. Others cited possible drawbacks such as the time it takes to organize a videoconference, not having the equipment or skills to organize one, and not knowing how to use videoconferencing to support program activities or student interests.   

These concerns are understandable. However, in my 20 years as a technology facilitator for various education projects, I’ve often used teleconferencing to connect students to professionals and to students in other locations. I’ve seen the benefits, and I think the pros outweigh the cons.

Intrigued by the possibilities? Here are some ideas for overcoming common concerns:

Concern #1: Technology is mysterious.

If you don’t have confidence in your technology skills, or if you’ve never set up a videoconference, you might be hesitant or not know where to start. Fear not. Students know a lot more about technology than most of us, and they usually enjoy being the “tech person.” Plus it gives them a chance to develop real-world skills! Friends and colleagues who enjoy technology are another good resource. If your school or program has a technology specialist, make sure to give that person a call!

There are many types of software you can use for videoconferencing, and some are free. For example, Google Hangouts, Skype, and Zoom all have free versions that you can download and use for two-way audio and video. They are simple to use. You’ll need a laptop with a built-in camera and microphone. You’ll also need an internet connection. Wireless networks can be used, but for the best results, have that laptop hardwired to the network. Get in touch with the internet provider for your school or program site, and let the provider know what you want to do. The provider might have tips or suggestions that will make your life easier.  

Concern #2: Organizing a teleconference seems time consuming.

No one says you have to organize a teleconference overnight. Start small, plan ahead and take it one step at a time. Your to-do list for getting your feet wet might look like this:

  • Check your hardware and internet connection to make sure you have what you need.
  • Look online for short videos that demonstrate free videoconferencing software like Google Hangouts, Skype and Zoom.
  • Ask colleagues and students for suggestions about software programs to use, and possible ways to make videoconferencing part of an upcoming project or activity. They might have suggestions, or offer to help.
  • Download a software program you like; play around with it; and practice with a tech-savvy colleague, friend or student.
  • Plan a simple videoconference activity (like using Zoom to connect to a staff member or volunteer at home or down the hall for a virtual game of Simon Says).

Concern #3: It’s hard to think of ways videoconferencing could be truly useful.

Don’t worry. Once you get comfortable with videoconferencing, you’ll come up with more ideas than you need! For starters, try a virtual career exploration project. Videoconferencing can connect students virtually with people who do different jobs in the public and private sectors. Your virtual guests can tell how their school and community experiences prepared them for their careers. (This is a good way to involve students’ parents and other family members, as well as local companies and community partners.) Local companies could do a virtual tour of their businesses. The mayor might Skype in to tell how she prepared for the job and what her workday is like. Parks and museums are also great sources for content that could fit your needs. 

Set Yourself Up for Success

Remember, if videoconferencing is new to you and your site, it will also be new for the students. If you’re using a videoconference to bring a guest speaker to your program, share a short bio about the speaker, make sure students know why the speaker was invited and what topic will be covered, and tell them about “videoconferencing etiquette” (such as paying attention, not interrupting and holding questions until the end, unless instructed otherwise). Be prepared to introduce the speaker, and prepare a few questions in advance for students to ask. Having these questions makes for a smooth start and will reduce the reluctance of the students to ask the first questions.

Look for Ways to Collaborate

Projects in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are a natural place to start using videoconferencing. Students in different sites can exchange ideas, work on a project together, and demonstrate their learning. If you have a large group of students, connect your laptop to a larger monitor, if possible, so that everyone can see more easily. Also, connecting external speakers to your laptop will make it easier to hear presenters.  

Don’t Be Surprised if Students Ask for More!

Teleconferencing can be a terrific tool for engaging students and holding their interest. As you get better at using it in your program, don’t be surprised to hear students ask, “When can we do this again?”

Share What You Know

Y4Y is always here to offer help and guidance, and we’d be happy to answer your questions as you begin. We’d also like to hear about your experiences in using videoconferencing with students. What did you do? How did it go? How did your students respond? Please share your ideas and experiences in our online discussion space.

Happy videoconferencing!

Y4Y Resources

Here are a few project ideas from Y4Y to jump-start your thinking about videoconferencing as a gateway to a world of learning:

NASA STEM Challenges. Videoconferencing could connect students to scientists in your community — and to students in other locations who are involved in the NASA STEM Challenges.

Gathering and Sharing Information. This little package of ideas, templates, and a sample activity plan shows how you can connect videoconferencing and other online activities with what students are learning in school.   

Learning in Virtual Spaces. Virtual field trips can enhance learning in social studies, history, science, the arts and more!


October 24, 2017

Whether your 21st CCLC program is new or well-established, new students, families and teachers arrive every year. Refresh your messaging often to catch attention. Every spring, summer and fall, reach out with a message that pops and bring in new students, families, volunteers and partners. 

Tip 1. Target messages to each audience. Each group has a different perspective, and wants you to address its concerns. Once you have identified the students who meet your admission criteria, create invitations and messages that will appeal to them and other stakeholders

- Students want to have fun while they learn outside of school. They want activities that respond to their interests and look different from the school day.

- Families want their children to continue learning, do their homework and enjoy social interactions.

- Teachers want their students to get targeted support and make connections between academics and everyday life.

- Community members want young people to engage with local activities and issues in productive ways. And, they want to know how they can support better educational outcomes.

Tip 2. Deliver your messages through multiple and appropriate channels. Do quick surveys of stakeholder groups to find out which method each prefers.

- Print media, such as newspaper stories and flyers, can help you reach families and the community. Use languages other than English, so you touch everyone.

- Broadcast media, such as television and radio, also reach community and family members. Be sure to invite foreign language outlets to learn about your program.

- Be active online. Keep your website up to date, and be smart about using Facebook, Twitter and other social media to promote program enrollment deadlines and special events. Remember to protect student privacy, and check with the school or district about getting release forms before posting photos or videos that show students.

- Get into the community. Set up information tables or displays at street fairs, and outside grocery stores or at farmers markets. Visit families in their homes or at gathering places such as churches and cultural festivals.

Tip 3. Live the messages every day. The positive environment you create will keep students coming and encourage family engagement!

- Offer professional learning events for staff and partners to help them support positive youth development adult-child relationship building, student voice and choice, and 21st century skill development.

- Welcome family and community members to your advisory board and program planning team, and hold special events that bring everyone to the program to celebrate student learning and accomplishments.

- Hold special celebrations that bring everyone to the program to witness student learning and accomplishments.

Resources

Remember, although everything here comes from the Summer Learning course, it also applies to school-year programs.

Creating Positive Environments for Summer Learning
Get research-based tips for supporting student engagement and positive youth development.

Youth Recruitment Planner
You and your colleagues can get into the nitty-gritty of intentional recruitment with this tool.

Facilitating Positive Youth Development Training to Go
This ready-to-use presentation can be customized to your needs for professional learning with staff and partners.

Developing 21st Century Skills Training Starter
Everyone can benefit from better skills in communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. This training starter can help staff and partners learn to support skill development for students.



July 10, 2017

You probably know about the Coaching My Staff section of every Y4Y course. It contains training materials that address key topics within the course. The materials are ready to use as is or customizable to your needs. Here’s a quick introduction to what’s available if you haven’t tried them yet.

Training Starters

Each Training Starter is a two or three-page Word file (also available in PDF) that provides prepared content you can customize, and helps you organize and manage the event. The template includes a set of objectives and important information to include during the training — this is structured to use as a script or as a jumping-off point for the content you want to deliver. You can determine how to open the training and introduce the topic, then wrap up and close the session. 

Trainings to Go

Trainings to Go are hour-long training plans that include a PowerPoint, handouts and training guides. These materials can be downloaded and used as is; they provide all the information for a fully developed learning session on a specific topic area. You can invite participants, print handouts and set up a meeting space, then follow the prepared presentation. If you want to expand or customize the content, you can revise the PowerPoint version to fit your needs. A PDF version of each training is also available.

Find the Training Materials

You can get to topic-specific materials by three routes:

1. On the Y4Y home page, in the navigation area select Train Your Staff from the Learn tab. From this landing page, select a course topic to go to a page that has links to topic-specific Trainings to Go, Training Starters and Tools. 
2. On the Y4Y home page, in the navigation area select Courses from the Learn tab. From the Courses landing page, click on the topic you want to address. When you reach the Course landing page, scroll down to find and click on Coaching My Staff. This landing page presents a short overview that suggests steps for designing your training events. The Training Starters and Trainings to Go materials are located and described within this part of each course. You can also access the materials from the Resources tab within the lesson screen.
3. On the Y4Y home page, in the navigation area select Course Tools from the Resources tab. On this landing page, click on the topic you want to address. When the list of tools for that topic opens, you can find the Training Starters and Trainings to Go under the Train heading
 



July 10, 2017

Summer has started and before you know it, the staff will be preparing for the next school year. No doubt you have plans in place for fall activities, and have done some intentional design to target student needs. Now it’s time to identify and target staff needs.

You may have collected some data in the spring to determine what types of professional learning would be most valuable. A staff survey, ongoing program observations and requests from individual staff members can all inform your training plan. You’ll also want to look at the delivery strategies, activity types and general knowledge areas your staff needs to master. This list suggests some possibilities:

Delivery Strategies

• Project-based learning
• Blended learning
• Service learning
• Themed learning

Activity Types

• Academic learning
• Academic enrichment
• Family engagement
• Recreation
• Health/nutrition

Knowledge and Skill Areas

• College and career readiness
• 21st century skills
• Positive youth development

Don’t let this list overwhelm you — you don’t need to do them all! Your returning staff members may already have expertise in some areas, and introductions to topics for new staff can be refreshers for continuing staff. To further support new staff, you might identify experienced staff to act as mentors or leaders in specific areas. However, if you want to use a strategy such as blended learning or project-based learning for the first time, or at a deeper level than before, you might make it a focus of your fall training. 

Be sure to include the “evergreen” topics. For example, academic enrichment — the practice of purposefully incorporating academic skills and knowledge into many types of activities — deserves ongoing emphasis. If your students need to learn and practice math skills in fun, relevant ways, embedding those skills in citizen science, art, music, recreation and other activities can be powerful. You want your staff to understand how to make this happen.

Whether you plan to dive deep into a topic, or brush up on existing knowledge and skills, here are some tips for how to prepare for effective learning events. Y4Y and other resources that can help are listed at the end of this article.

Tip 1: Know Your Needs. Review your observation notes for areas where you need to build capacity. Then, survey your staff to find out which areas they want to know more about. Shape your learning event around the results and provide time for introducing and practicing the high-priority skills. 
Tip 2: Use Your Experts. You and your staff have built knowledge and skills you can introduce to new staff members. Share leadership of training with your in-house experts. 
Tip 3: Include Your Partners. Your school and district partners have knowledge about delivery strategies and activity types. Your community-based partners can help you think about ways to integrate academic enrichment into the arts, recreation and other activities they lead.

Resources

The Magical Mathematics of Music. See illustrations that show the mathematics behind the sounds we hear.
https://plus.maths.org/content/magical-mathematics-music 

Music and Math. Go here for lesson ideas to help students use music to understand mathematical concepts.
http://www.nea.org/tools/lessons/music-and-math.html 

Maths and Sport: Millennium Mathematics Project. Get activities, video challenges and more to help students explore connections between sports and math.
http://sport.maths.org/content 

Intentional Activity Design Diagram. Customize this tool to look at staff wants and staff needs to design powerful professional learning experiences.

Y4Y Courses. Get ideas and video examples to use during your training from any or all these courses: Citizen Science, Project-Based Learning, College and Career Readiness, and STEM.
 



April 18, 2017

We've all experienced it, whether personally or on the job: that sinking feeling that there will never be enough money to do everything you want, no matter how you juggle the numbers. Fortunately, Y4Y can help take the pain out of financial planning for afterschool programs. Start here:

•    Getting a Jump Start on Summer: Budgeting. This two-part blog from a former director of the Providence After School Alliance offers practical planning advice for summer and school year programming. Read part 1 for budgeting tips, and part 2 for program planning advice.

As you tally funding and expenses for the coming summer or school year program, consider doing more to recruit and retain volunteers. Volunteers can help stretch your budget so you can offer more and better services. Try these Y4Y tools to recruit the help you need and to make volunteering a rewarding experience for everyone:

•    Recruiting Volunteers. Consider which program areas could benefit most from extra help, and match volunteers to needs with Y4Y’s Sample Volunteer Skills Grid. Then work with school and program staff to select a variety of targeted in-person and online recruitment strategies. Get the campaign started with our Volunteer Job Description template, which will help you craft a posting that appeals to potential volunteers. 

•    Retaining Volunteers. Because volunteers often don’t have experience in education, expect them to learn as they go, and help them along the way. Consider Y4Y’s Volunteer Coaching Scenarios, and think about how you would react in each situation. To get staff onboard with supporting volunteers, use our Working With Partner Volunteers Training to Go.