To live, learn, and work successfully in an increasingly complex and information-rich society, today's students must be able to use technology effectively and think creatively. Afterschool programs are ideal for introducing exciting technology-enriched activities that promote learning, communication, and life skills.
Use of Technology in Afterschool
Here are four great reasons to integrate technology in your afterschool program:
- Students love to use computers. Offering exciting, technology-enriched activities can spark their imagination and enthusiasm.
- Technology-enriched activities provide strong opportunities to reinforce reading, literacy, math, arts, and science skills.
- Offering creative technology activities for students can be a strong marketing tool for your afterschool program.
- Studies show that parents consistently name access to technology and computer literacy as high priorities for their children.
Principles of Quality Technology Activities in Afterschool Settings
These guiding principles can help you plan, implement, and assess your technology efforts in your afterschool program. Afterschool technology-enriched activities should:
- facilitate learning, communication, creativity, and self-expression;
- promote student-centered activities where the students become involved in determining the course of their own learning;
- motivate and engage students in authentic, real-world, relevant activities;
- promote opportunities for communication and collaboration in project-based and inquiry-based activities;
- support activities that promote problem-solving and higher-order thinking skills;
- support different learning styles; and
- be safe, operational, and accessible to all.
Choosing the Right Technology Tools for Your Program
The most common technology tools found in afterschool settings are computers, printers, digital cameras, scientific instruments, the Internet, digital video recorders, GPS handhelds, and various types of related software. Learning to use these tools helps students engage and thrive in the ever-changing world of technology.
Technology use in afterschool programs must be carried out in a way that focuses on teaching and learning. That is, technology use needs to be "intentional" and not "unsupervised play." With such an array of technology choices, it is essential that afterschool decision-makers have a basic understanding of how different technology tools and applications support different instructional purposes. In short, you should match the tools and strategies to the goal that's being accomplished. For more information about the broad categories of educational uses of technology and how they support different types of learning, see Type I and II Educational Technology Applications (PDF).
Additional information and a discussion of research findings can be found in the Literature Review (PDF).
For additional guidance on designing and managing a technology program, copyright and fair use issues, and safety on the Internet, see the Resources page in each of the Technology practices.
We encourage you to consider both technology standards and relevant content standards as a resource and inspiration for your lesson planning. These standards are not focused specifically on the afterschool setting but they do offer ideas and context that can support afterschool planning. To find your state's standards, go to your state department of education website.
Hardware and Computer Software Considerations
Note that you don't need a lot of equipment to get started. A computer or two, a digital camera, and access to the Internet can provide opportunities for lots of projects. Keep in mind that the focus of the activity is not the technology itself but an interesting project or problem with technology serving as a tool. You can add more tools as your projects progress.
Learn from others. Visit other afterschool programs to gain ideas and insights. Staying up to date on technology, or working regularly with people who do, will be a strong plus for your program.
Resources for Instructors
- Information for afterschool planners on recommended program elements can be found in Planning for and Managing Technology in Afterschool (PDF).
- Information about planning technology-enriched activities can be found in Getting Started: Considerations for Activity Planning (PDF).