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May 13, 2022

Young African American girl at home sitting on the table, using laptop, studying and looking at cameraRemember when playing on the computer was a fun thing to do? Afraid your students have lost out on that opportunity in the past couple of years? With tips from Y4Y’s course, The Virtual Edge, and Click & Go, Digital Literacy, you can make technology fun again when you use screen time wisely.

Make Safety Fun!

Sometimes students have a better grasp of what’s legitimate online than their adult counterparts. But often they don’t! Emphasizing how many bad people are out there wanting to do young people harm is no way to make students feel safe. So, make internet safety a game in your program! For example, you might stage a quiz show to help younger students understand the concepts of digital stranger danger. Ask questions like these:

  1. Is it OK to share your birthday online?
  2. Is it OK to share your favorite color online?
  3. Is it OK to share your street address online?
  4. Is it OK to share your pet’s name online?
  5. Is it OK to share your Grandma’s name online?
  6. Is it OK to share your shoe size online?
  7. Is it OK to share your email address online?
  8. Is it OK to share your favorite flavor of ice cream online?
  9. Is it OK to share where Mom hides the key to the front door online?
  10. Is it OK to share your name online? First, last?

Each of these questions can be conversation starters. Students have such vivid imaginations that a round of “What happens if…” for each of these will get those critical thinking wheels turning.

The same can be done for helping younger students judge how valid sources online are. Again, let each quiz show question be a conversation starter.

  1. Is it OK to trust information on a site that ends in “.gov”?
  2. Is it OK to trust information on a site that asks you for a donation?
  3. Is it OK to trust information on a site that requires you to sign in?
  4. Is it OK to trust information on a site that ends in “.com”?
  5. Is it OK to trust information on a site that asks you to enter your birthday?
  6. Is it OK to trust information on a site that ends in “.org”?
  7. Is it OK to trust information on a site that makes you feel upset or angry?
  8. Is it OK to trust information on a site that ends in “.edu”?
  9. Is it OK to trust information on a site that your friend or family member sent you?
  10. What can you do to verify if information on a site is true?

For your older students, download and customize the Y4Y Digital Privacy Self-Assessment tool (although they can benefit from a fun quiz show too!). And if you think your staff doesn’t know the best answers to the quiz show questions, direct them to a quick Y4Y training on internet safety with the Digital Literacy Click & Go, especially podcasts on Searching Safely and Evaluating Information and Digital Content.

Make Searching Fun!

Now that you’re confident that your students have gained some important safety rules, how can you make sure that during program time, digital learning — whatever form it takes — is fun? Y4Y’s new course on virtual learning addresses many of the needs of virtual programming, but there are some great takeaways that can help you reestablish a positive relationship between your students and their computers in your in-person environment. The Y4Y Virtual Powers Explainer is a great staff training tool for breaking down these concepts:

  • Technology power is the ability to select and use virtual tools strategically to achieve a specific goal
  • Relationship power is the ability to connect people and strengthen relationships
  • Equity power is the ability to increase access and opportunity for all
  • Personalization power is the ability to create learning that matches individuals’ strengths, needs, skills, and interests

Using these principles to guide your in-program digital learning is a great place to start to ensure student engagement. Next, check out Y4Y’s Technology Decision Checklist for Learning and Engagement, Intentional Activity Design Planner, and Virtual Edge Activity Planning Examples. Each will remind you that at the heart of any successful activity is student voice. Students feel empowered when they have a say in their learning, and digital learning is no exception!

What if Students Don’t Feel Empowered by Digital Learning?

There are a number of reasons students may still reject digital learning and even push back against it. Consider some of these possible explanations with tips on navigating this challenge.

  • Natural extroverts prefer interactions. Every program has its social butterflies, and they’re more likely to want to interact with one another than with a screen. Make digital learning a group activity! Be sure that there are steps that demand conversation and compromise. This way, everyone in your program is building those 21st century skills!
  • Computers are associated with isolation. You may have students in your program recovering from varying levels of trauma over feeling “stranded” with a screen during the pandemic. As staffing allows, do more adult pairing or check-ins with those students who might be unexpectedly pushing back on digital activities. If there’s still cause for concern, consult Y4Y’s Click & Go on Trauma-Informed Care for more advice on how to make a student who has experienced trauma feel safe.
  • Written English is even more challenging than spoken. If you have English learners in your program, be sure to seek out multi-modal and bilingual websites so these students can fully participate in digital activities. Don’t forget, Y4Y’s tools for supporting English learners (like Instructional Strategies for English Learners) are useful in all types of programming!
  • A disability makes the computer a frustrating tool. The Secretary of Education recently called out the added challenges faced through the pandemic by students with disabilities, and the importance of providing them with the supports they’re entitled to by law. In your 21st CCLC, you have some flexibility in program delivery that the classroom doesn’t have. Check out Y4Y’s Including Students With Disabilities course, and specifically the Expanding Activities tool, for general principles to follow so you can minimize student frustration with digital activities. Just like your natural extroverts or your students of trauma, it may come down to simple human connections to smooth the way.

Screen Alternatives

Two years in an online or hybrid environment definitely got those creative juices flowing on ways of giving students a break from screens. Some students are ready for those breaks, while others have had their screen dependence deeply reinforced through virtual learning. To further ensure that digital learning in your program is fun for students, share Y4Y’s Screen Time Alternatives tool with families to maintain that momentum of keeping kids occupied offline when they’re at home.

Computers Are Here to Stay

This far into the technological revolution, most of your staff members probably don’t remember a time when personal computers had no role in daily life. Despite this, access and ease with technology creates equity gaps. Giving your students skills and comfort with technology will be absolutely essential to their successful futures. That all starts by just having fun on the internet!



March 10, 2022

Do your students give up too easily on projects demanding online research because there’s just “too much out there” to know where to begin? Simple tips and tricks from Y4Y’s new Click & Go on digital literacy can help them recognize that, with some basic principles and skills, the information avalanche contains a wealth of real treasure — once you learn how to find it.

We all remember with dread the assignment of a big research paper.

  • How will I choose a topic?
  • What information will my teacher want me to include?
  • How will I organize my information?
  • How will I get this giant paper written?!

Education has come a long way in guiding students through each of these steps, and your program can be a great resource to them during homework and tutoring time. To help with organization, check out Y4Y’s Goal Setting Activities, Games and Templates, and Research-Based Techniques and Practices for ideas. More writing guidance is available through Y4Y’s literacy course, including tools for Pre-Writing Activities, Revision Conference Planner, Writer’s Workshop, and Peer Editing Checklist. Tools like Guiding Content Creation and Presenting to Different Audiences can also help students with age-old questions like “What information will my teacher want me to include?”

But let’s take a step back and talk research! Students today face a whole new set of questions. They’re unlikely to step into a brick-and-mortar library and head over to a card catalog where nothing but reliable sources are conveniently organized by subject. Instead, they’re probably doing all of their research online. So, the questions they might be asking themselves are

  • How do I narrow down all of my “hits”?
  • Which sources are reliable?
  • Why can’t I use just the information that validates my ideas?
  • Who’s even going to know if I just copy and paste text?

Y4Y is here to help navigate many of these dilemmas of the information age too!

How do I narrow down all of my “hits”?

To begin, there are some simple tips for yielding smart lists of hits.

  • Orient students to internet research with Y4Y’s relevant terms around digital literacy.
  • Use more than one search engine, such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
  • Use several terms to narrow the search. For example, if a student is writing a paper on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, encourage them to not simply search on Dr. King’s name, but also on “Million Man March,” “civil rights,” “famous orators,” and “I have a dream.”
  • If they need to further narrow their search, add .org, .edu, and .gov to the list of terms.
  • Check out Y4Y’s Searching Safely podcast for tips on how to search thoroughly and safely. Have students take the Y4Y Youth Digital Literacy Self-Assessment to be sure of that safety.

Which sources are reliable?

After you’ve introduced students to the basics of finding information, consider these tips:

Why can’t I use just the information that validates my ideas?

Help your students understand that the best argued points are those that recognize the strengths of an opposing view and counter that view. 

Who’s even going to know if I just copy and paste text?

This might be a rhetorical question, but educators today have access to many resources to discover if a student has plagiarized someone else’s work. It’s OK to copy and paste if a student is properly citing a reference, so be sure to align with the school day on citation practices. It’s also possible that the project your student is engaged in isn’t meant to be a formally researched report, and there’s room for creative license. Help them have some fun with those projects! Just ask Andy Warhol: Some of the best art is born of imitation.



November 22, 2021

Misinformation is as old as information itself. Without a doubt, broad internet access has amplified access to both. Where students in previous generations worked hard at finding information, today’s students have all the information they could ever need, and more. Y4Y’s new Click & Go on digital literacy will help you guide students through discerning online content to become more savvy learners. Borrowing from the creative program ideas in this month’s newsletter — What was the actual first U.S. European settlement? — you can break this mystery down with new Y4Y tools, including why the answer differs from what lies on the surface at Thanksgiving.

Find and Evaluate

The mini-lesson in this Click & Go provides an overview of the cognitive and technical skills students will need. The components of find, evaluate, create and communicate are all fundamental to strong digital literacy, but within evaluate — perhaps the most important — students are asked to consider the accuracy and credibility of information. The second podcast with this Click & Go, Evaluating Information and Digital Content, lays the groundwork for this exercise. The Guide for Spotting Misinformation and Disinformation is another useful tool. So, back to that question: What was the actual first European settlement in what is now North America? Let’s scratch the surface with critical thinking questions! Are we talking about a settlement that became permanent? Were women and children along? Is there archeological evidence or only a cultural or religious story shared from one generation to another? By answering these questions, again you’ll get many different answers!

Create and Communicate

Let’s move on to the digital literacy components of create and communicate. With the Guiding Content Creation, Comparing Presentation Modalities and Presenting to Different Audiences tools in hand, you can guide students through a number of considerations to produce a digitally literate assignment. Suppose your student who claims heritage dating to the Mayflower wants to prepare a report on the first Thanksgiving and frame Plymouth as the first European settlement in America. All credible sources — such as those ending with .edu, .gov or in some cases .org — say Jamestown was earlier, and some Spanish and French settlements that don’t remain today were even earlier. Other credible sources assert that the people who were native to this part of the world were the true first settlers. After listening to the podcasts Communicating With Your Audience and Creating Content, you and your student might decide together that their plan needs some modifying.

Striking a Balance

Does your student need to abandon all plans of honoring their family’s tradition of Thanksgiving to demonstrate digital literacy? Absolutely not! They can

  • Frame Plymouth as the widely accepted first European settlement in New England. In other words, be direct about accuracy.
  • Call out any importance or relevance of the “first Thanksgiving” as a personal opinion.
  • Honor known facts and historical figures in other ways with mentions and citations.
  • Be clear with audience-appropriate tools — such as humor or illustrations — what the intention of the piece is and is not.

The world would be a very dull place if all we had access to was dry, factual information. For centuries we’ve read novels, enjoyed paintings, appreciated trick photography and told ghost stories with very little threat of mistaking facts for fiction once each new medium was understood. Young and old alike are slowly discovering how to apply the skills of scrutiny that have always been there to the brave new digital world. By appreciating that in all that color, texture and variation of digital content there is a sort of beauty, we’ll become better skilled at scratching the surface and strengthening our digital literacy at Thanksgiving and year-round. Y4Y’s new Click & Go is a great place to start!