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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!



January 18, 2022

The pandemic may have left program leaders and staff feeling like they were isolated in an ivory tower, removed from their students and peers. But great lessons were learned about connecting virtually around the globe. Check out Y4Y’s new course, which shares both cautions and benefits to ensure that technology continues to serve your program faithfully.

The host, Sky, will guide you through this video game-themed professional development experience that will help you explore ways to use virtual tools and interactions in your program, and use technology to your advantage in achieving both program and professional development goals. After you’ve completed the Implementation Strategies section, you’ll earn an Advanced Level certificate and be able to

  • Demonstrate more comfort and confidence in using virtual tools purposefully.
  • Select technology, equity, relationship and personalization strategies to increase learning and engagement.
  • Make strategic choices about intentional use of technology for in-person, hybrid and fully virtual settings with students, families, staff and partners.
  • Review and revise the program activity schedule to move seamlessly to virtual programming when necessary.

The course begins by establishing important terminology and “basic training” central to becoming a tech-wise 21st CCLC professional. Next, you'll gain tech power, or the ability to select and use virtual tools strategically to achieve a specific goal by evaluating several factors. You’re now ready for your missions of

  • Program management – with attention to budgeting and planning considerations outlined in the course
  • Engaging stakeholders – navigating how to communicate, coordinate, support and strengthen your school-day, family and community partnerships around virtual learning
  • Supporting and developing staff – for technology comfort without overkill
  • Expanding student opportunities and support – to conquer challenges in a hybrid or virtual learning environment
  • Engaging families ­­– collecting virtual strategies to get families involved in their students’ and their own expanded learning
  • Implementing with fidelity – collecting and using data to continuously improve your virtual programming

Program leaders can “level up” with a Leadership Level certificate when you engage with the Coaching My Staff section of the course. In less than an hour, you’ll gain strategies for decision making around the kind of training to provide so staff are ready to use technology to engage students in person, in a hybrid setting or in a fully virtual program.

Technology isn’t just the wave of the future; it’s the wave of the present. Your students and staff will be more flexible and effective in your program with strategies for embracing the virtual edge. So, instead of letting virtual learning lock you in an ivory tower, help everyone to see how it can actually connect you in new and exciting ways, both within your program and around the globe!



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!



August 23, 2021

For generations now, educators have invited parents into the classroom to speak about their work in hopes of both engaging families and sparking professional inspiration. Meanwhile, virtual learning has opened many creative avenues. Consider how you might investigate virtual opportunities to bring a physician or researcher or entrepreneur who looks like your students into your program virtually, and make a surprising impact on your students’ lives.

Start by Asset Mapping

You always want to start with your own community when it comes to guest speakers, though we’ll move on to expanding that thinking in a moment. Guest speakers are nothing more than a new type of partner, and Y4Y’s course on Strategic Partnerships, and specifically, tools for identifying partners, community asset mapping, (and then mapping community assets to partners) can help. Reach out for guest speakers in your own geographic community if your goals include

  • Highlighting professionals who have walked in the same shoes as your students.
  • Featuring adults with an intimate understanding of your community.
  • Establishing a longer-term relationship that might lead to field trips or internships.
  • Providing a resource to families.

Reach out and Touch Someone

The quest for a guest speaker doesn’t have to be limited by geography. What goals of your program might demand expanding your horizons and reaching out to touch professionals outside your community?

  • A desire to connect students to a highly specific profession such as astronomer or neurosurgeon.
  • Inspiring students with a minor celebrity such as a lesser-known children’s book author or minor league athlete.
  • Offering a vision of life beyond your community.
  • Connecting with any professional areas that you can’t tap into in your own area, such as an active military member, farmer, marine biologist or TV producer.

Where Should I Start?

Follow these tips to empower your program and bring exciting guest speakers to your program.

  • Think big. The worst thing that happens is that your emails go unanswered or told no. It hurts nothing to ask.
  • Do your research. If a public figure, local or otherwise, is inclined to work with youth groups, you’re bound to find traces of that on their social media. If not, you can always note that you might be asking them to reach outside their comfort zone, and will keep their visit out of social media yourselves.
  • Reverse-engineer it. Build buzz about a lesser-known author or professional by introducing students to their books or work, then approaching the author or scientist (or athlete, etc.) with tales of the students’ enthusiasm over their contributions.
  • Make no promises. Speak in general terms with the students about the kinds of guest speakers they’d like to have in your program so you’re sure to include their voice, but don’t let them in on specifics until you have firm commitments.
  • Have an elevator email. Remember the 1-minute elevator speech you’ve been advised to carry around on the tip of your tongue? Modify it to a 1-minute email. Be dynamic! Be funny! Be shameless! But be professional. Guilt trips are never a way to go. Instead, keep it light and positive, focusing on how inspiring it might be for them to meet your students. Don’t forget to include a catchy, informative subject line – you’re a marketer now! Something like, “Our urban students love your book, Ms. Love,” or “Please take our rural students to the Phoenix Cluster, Prof. M!”
  • Be prepared. Once you have a commitment, make sure students have questions prepared. Offer them areas of wonders they could draw from, such as the guest’s own childhood, education or training, inspirations and even guilty pleasures.
  • Follow it up. If you’re lucky enough to get an exciting virtual guest for your program, be sure every student sends an old-school thank you note. “Package” the experience with a digital scrapbook to use for future guest and student recruitment. Most important, have a meaningful reflection project for your students.

Something to bear in mind as education shifts into recovery mode is that we have many areas of strength and resilience to draw from after the pandemic. One power of virtual learning is the ability to bring every corner of the world right into your program space. Prospective guests are sure to respect your focus on the positive. And why not show your students there’s a lesson to learn in every setback?



July 8, 2021

Some educators suggest we should resist the idea that “learning loss” is the only thing that happened to students during the pandemic. Why? They want everyone, including students, to recognize what they’ve gained over the past 18 months. For example, some gained technology skills; developed a greater appreciation for family, friends and the great outdoors; and discovered resilience they didn’t know they had. Yes, there were losses, but there were gains as well. What does this mean in your 21st CCLC program?

Focus on the Positives

If policymakers were to build from scratch a new program to support learning recovery today, it might look a lot like a 21st CCLC program. Summer and afterschool learning. Tutoring. Family engagement. Student voice and choice. Attention to social and emotional learning and positive learning environments. Increased support for underserved students in the communities hit hardest by the pandemic. These are priorities that have been emerging in all recovery plans, so existing 21st CCLC programs are ahead of the game! With that in mind, let’s set aside those negatives that are getting plenty of airtime and focus on the positives.

  • Funding. The American Rescue Plan for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP ESSER III) is disbursing funds through states and school districts. Whether you’re in a school-based or a community-based program partnering with a school district, you’re sure to be already collaborating on how your program can beef up tutoring, especially to meet shared student goals. If you missed Y4Y’s webinar on ARP ESSER III addressing how 21st CCLC programs can make the most of funding, check it out today!
  • Lessons learned. The world of education is ever-evolving. Challenging periods can provide important lessons, if we pay attention. Your program professionals have likely discovered how to be resourceful about everything from seeking out education resources to strengthening human connections — with peers and students — when faced with obstacles. Your students’ families have learned how to advocate for their children on a whole new level. And students are walking away with skill sets nobody would have imagined at such young ages.

Name and “Own” Your New Strengths

Which of these new strengths have you, your staff or students developed during the pandemic?

  • Flexibility. You had that going for you before the pandemic, but now you’re the Olympic gymnasts of education when it comes to flexibility.
  • Tech wizardry. Staff and students alike have gained amazing skill sets for navigating the virtual world. You’re making the most of a whole host of useful features on various platforms and eking out new kinds of experiences — like fascinating field trips around the world and in your own (literal) backyards — thanks to virtual learning.
  • Organization. The added workload called on staff to heighten their organizational skills. At the same time, students — even younger ones  — developed impressive skills at time, schedule and workload management.
  • Social and emotional development. The five skill domains of social and emotional learning (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision-making and relationships skills) got a lot of “exercise” during virtual learning. Most educators have concerns that gaps in social-emotional development are as pronounced as academic gaps. Yet being on camera every day gave many students a boost in certain aspects of self-awareness and self-management. It also reinforced an appreciation of relationships, leaving students eager to participate and be fully present for in-person learning.
  • Resilience and a growth mindset. The oyster and the pearl are the ultimate symbol that an irritant can turn into something beautiful. The resilience that all staff and students have gained sets everyone up for great future achievements.

Apply What You’ve Gained

There are so many positives and new strengths to focus on! How is your 21st CCLC program moving forward to apply what you’ve learned and make “learning loss” an obsolete term? See how many of these things you’re already doing:

  • Trying new virtual platforms. You’re no longer afraid of the brave new virtual world. The more tricks you can find, the better! Check out Y4Y’s two archived webinar series on 21st CCLCs in a virtual world (part 1 for novices or part 2 for masters). You’ll learn about dozens of platforms and how you can use them virtually or in person.
  • Leaning into the power of resilience. Keep reminding students that as things get better, as things feel better, they’ll carry with them always the muscles built when they had to be resilient. Nothing hits a message home like a good story. Y4Y offers a Teaching Resilience Book List with suggestions for read-alouds at different grade levels.
  • Counting on partners. You may be increasing the number of paid and volunteer tutors in your program. Your retired teachers association is a great resource. Be sure to map other community assets as well. To learn the basics of partnership development, see the Implementation Strategies section in Y4Y’s Strategic Partnerships course.
  • Making time to connect. Developing relationships is the pinnacle of social and emotional development. So even as academic focus intensifies, you’ll want to make sure that human connections stay front and center in your program. Y4Y’s Building Relationships Training to Go is a great tool for brushing up if staff are looking for fresh ideas on how to connect with students. These basic ideas carry over into ever-important peer relationships as well.
  • Bringing students along in planning. In February’s Education Week, there’s a great quote from Neema Avashia, an eighth-grade civics teacher in Boston Public Schools (and Boston’s 2013 Educator of the Year). She notes, “One important lesson I’ve learned from my students is that everything I plan with them goes much better than anything I plan without them.” Build on the self-awareness they’ve developed and consult Y4Y’s Student Voice and Choice course or accompanying tools like Student Survey: How Do I Learn Best? if you’re looking for tips on how to effectively incorporate student voice in your program and activity planning.

Whether we’re conscious of it or not, every human experience gives us a new opportunity to weigh our practices, our habits, and our ways of doing — and to weed out the things that don’t work. With that exercise comes the opportunity to view new experiences differently. Instead of focusing on “learning loss” in your 21st CCLC program, scrounge around for the unexpected opportunities brought about by the pandemic, and discover how you can build on those gems to ensure a bright future for all your students.