The “Afterschool in Action” blog series is dedicated to highlighting cutting-edge afterschool and summer programs that embrace digital learning and STEM exploration. If you know a program doing great work in these areas, let us know! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to recommend a program to be featured.
Our first set of programs comes to you courtesy of a white paper released in January by The After-School Corporation (TASC). It discusses both the advantages and challenges of community-based organizations (CBOs) in offering technology-enabled learning. While CBOs are uniquely positioned to excel in the afterschool space, TASC suggests that there are barriers that CBOs must overcome. These include the decentralized structure of the out-of-school-time field, a lack of clear ways to identify quality tools, outdated equipment, privacy concerns and funding.
Despite these challenges, three New York City programs are featured in the TASC white paper and are garnering attention for their success in engaging youth through digital learning during the hours after school:
- Some students at IS 528 Bea Fuller Rodgers School are earning respect through their involvement with the MOUSE Squad. This program is the local affiliate of a national youth development organization that teaches students from underserved communities the skills they need to provide technical support to their schools. The students develop expertise through a combination of hands-on experience and completion of a series of online modules.
- The Global Kids youth development organization offers a digital media program, Playing 4 Keeps, that allows middle and high school students to gain leadership and game design skills that they use to develop and produce socially conscious online games. Drawing on their knowledge of history and current events and their technical skills, students are encouraged to create a game that is both fun and educational. Once complete, the student-designed games are released to the public and played by hundreds of thousands of educators and students.
- Through its parent organization, Institute of Play (IOP),the Short Circuit Studio afterschool program encourages kids to explore and discover innovative uses for physical and digital materials, like circuits, conductive inks, LEDs, the latest programming languages, paper, pipe cleaners, iPads, video, audio and websites. Described as supporting the development of “DIY digital media skills,” Short Circuit leverages mentors, artists and designers from leading New York City institutions to work with youth.
These are just a few of the programs doing great work in the area of digital learning and STEM exploration. They offer a model for how quality afterschool programs can leverage emerging technology to engage youth.