Reclaiming Digital Futures: Lessons to Help Youth Thrive Through Informal Learning with Technology

Santo, R., Ahn, J. and Sarmiento, J. (2019). Reclaiming Digital Futures: Lessons to Help Youth Thrive Through Informal Learning with Technology. University of California-Irvine, Irvine, CA.

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Overview from report

Narratives about digital technology and why it matters for youth, their education, professional trajectories, and envisioned futures are everywhere. Most often these narratives position youth as subjects of the world of digital technology rather than the drivers of their own pathways and those of their communities. The reality is that kids today make their own choices about when and how they use technology. They are protagonists, exercising agency and autonomy. And they are civic actors, using technology as a means to contribute to and transform their communities. Theirs is a new story; a new way of growing up and learning about the world, based on a very different kind of experience. Any effort to prepare today’s youth for their futures needs to be driven by youth agency, by a notion of them reclaiming digital futures.

Youth, with help from thoughtful educators, are already doing this work and bringing this vision into reality. Together this report and the associated website hopes to offer a toolkit for how others might achieve this. The contents of the toolkit have been gleaned from deep learning and discussion with some of our nation’s leading out-of-school time (OST) organizations focused on equipping kids to navigate a world both analogue and digital.

This report and the site is a curated cross-section of resources attempting to communicate knowledge and best practices in how kids can achieve authentic and relevant success in digital learning. It includes practical 9 guidance for educators, practitioners, administrators, funders, researchers and all those filling roles promoting how to best aid youth in leveraging digital technology as they learn, grow, engage and contribute. The materials were sourced through collaborative partnership with eight exemplar OST organizations. The partner organizations represent a real diversity of youth programming, from arts, journalism and media literacy to others in coding, engineering and computer science. While the approaches of our partners vary widely, all the program designs featured here recognize youth as more than passive learners; they acknowledge youth as authors, experts, creators and entrepreneurs. This collection of resources is the product of a two year endeavor intended to name and explain those tools that help close the skills gap in areas needed for youth to thrive.

Our hope is that these resources provide insight and strategy that might be constructively adapted by peer organizations seeking to cultivate youth to become both successful professionals and civic-minded community members.

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