May 13, 2022
Remember 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:
- Is it OK to share your birthday online?
- Is it OK to share your favorite color online?
- Is it OK to share your street address online?
- Is it OK to share your pet’s name online?
- Is it OK to share your Grandma’s name online?
- Is it OK to share your shoe size online?
- Is it OK to share your email address online?
- Is it OK to share your favorite flavor of ice cream online?
- Is it OK to share where Mom hides the key to the front door online?
- 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.
- Is it OK to trust information on a site that ends in “.gov”?
- Is it OK to trust information on a site that asks you for a donation?
- Is it OK to trust information on a site that requires you to sign in?
- Is it OK to trust information on a site that ends in “.com”?
- Is it OK to trust information on a site that asks you to enter your birthday?
- Is it OK to trust information on a site that ends in “.org”?
- Is it OK to trust information on a site that makes you feel upset or angry?
- Is it OK to trust information on a site that ends in “.edu”?
- Is it OK to trust information on a site that your friend or family member sent you?
- 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.
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!