What's the Buzz about Technology in Afterschool?

This session is being recorded as a podcast, so you can listen as soon as it's uploaded. The presenters are Marilyn Heath and Kathy Dick. There are also resources listed on this page, such as a link to the PowerPoint file. The National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning has many resources available. I am taking notes during the session, and posting at the end.

For a quality afterschool program, things that are needed are "safe, academically and socially enriching program." It's not just baby-sitting. There are many students who go home and have nobody there to supervise them until their parents go home. By having an afterschool program, opportunities for technology, the arts, and other activities are made available where they may not have been available before.

These programs do not have to be run in the school, as community groups can run these as well. There are many states who are taking part in investing in these programs, often as part of NCLB. Could this be something that could be tied into CFF, as Marilyn mentioned that many states are including this in their 21st Century initiatives.

As you look into an afterschool program, the idea is to make the instruction somewhat different from classroom instruction. How do you get the kids to benefit from a program like this when the classroom instruction model isn't working for them? This must be different as the students haven't been responding to the classroom model.

Each program offered different things, such as Lego robotics, geocaching, creating music and video, online homework support, and tutorials. There was even a program where students wer taught how to build a computer that they were able to keep in the end! What a concept! A great way to teach new skills, and also a way to help students get their own computer.

One thing that is being talked about quite a bit by Marliyn is that she is talking about looking for more creativity in the afterschool programs, which I agree with. This is a great chance to give these extra opportunities to expand on learning and skills obtained during the school day. This brings up another thought: is there creativity in the regular classroom? There is such a push for hitting the standards during the regular school day, that many teachers have said they don't have the time to be creative because they have to get through the content. We have to do well on the test, right? This is something I have seen a lot when talking with teachers. They will say, "How can I do these projects and be creative when I have to cover the content?" Why can't you do both? Creativity and covering standards are not mutually exclusive ideas. They should go hand-in-hand. Why is it that we have to expand on the school day in order to bring in creativity? Maybe these ideas could be expanded into the regular school day.

Kathy took over and started covering the toolkit and curriculum resources. As she started, she mentioned a way to get audiences (teachers or students) more attentive is to pass out Atomic Fireballs. I'm trying to check out the links they are at in the presentation, and I'm not quite able to access the same pages they are at.

These are some great resources, and they're aligned to ISTE standards, and it's helpful as the instructors may not be certified teachers. I am a bit tuned out of this session now, as it seems to be just covering the Afterschool Training Toolkit. It is nice that these lessons are broken down into fully-planned lessons, but I would like to see more of how to integrate technology in. This is more just a session on the Toolkit at this point that says there are lessons and resources out there.

A video on GPS in an afterschool program was then shown. The instructor talks about how he had to learn the technology from scratch, just like the students will, except they have him as a guide. The students are showing a lot of excitement, and it's great because it gives them a chance to apply what they have learned in geography and math classes. It also helps with extending knowledge, as the activity could be used as an activating strategy.

Watching this video has me wondering why this is an afterschool activity? There are so many possibilities for this to be used in regular instruction as well. The only difference is that there aren't standards and content to cover in an afterschool program, so there is more flexibility.

This session is getting my juices flowing. I have been thinking about starting an afterschool technology program, where I can help students discover more ways that they can use technology to enhance their lives and education. There are so many students that I see only using technology for socializing and entertainment. They don't always see how they can use these tools to create new ideas and concepts and to collaborate to extend their own knowledge.

Marilyn takes over again and offers some challenges: "How can you bring technology to afterschool? Who are decision makers that can help you accomplish this? What are your challenges? What are some solutions or options? Can the National Partnership help?" A booklet was then shared with us that contains information for helping with set up and how to include technology into the program.

In the end, the big idea I am getting from this session is that due to the flexibility available in an afterschool program, there are many opportunities for extending instruction in a fun way. Resources are available, and students are given the freedom to explore and make mistakes, all in the name of having fun learning.

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