Working with youth from a distance
You already know how to work with youth. Technology is a tool for helping you do it from a distance. Extension has lots of resources to support you. You can offer your learners meaningful experiences even when you can't meet face to face. Here are some tips.
- Become overwhelmed by the technology. It's the tool - not the goal.
- Spend all your time on "programming during a pandemic shut down" because this is temporary. Instead, spend time developing learning experiences for youth -- and your own teaching skills -- that will be valuable long after this pandemic is over.
- Feel pressured to create tons of online experiences. The quality will not be good and learners may become overloaded. Focus on creating or adapting high-quality activities that serve your program's goals and your learners' needs.
- Ask your learners or partners what they need. Then come up with a solution that serves them. It may not involve much or any technology. For example, you might decide to send activity sheets with school lunch deliveries.
- Set a schedule for your programming -- whether weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Then stay in touch with your learners.
- Check on their progress.
- Update them on meetings that are scheduled, canceled, moved online, etc.
- Social media can offer ways for group members to interact with each other to maintain group cohesion.
- Remember to make it a high-quality learning experience. See 4-H guidelines for doing that.
How to choose tech tools
"Going online" does not have to mean live webinars by appointment. There are many ways to interact. Here are some tips.
- Use technology tools that you are comfortable with, that your audience is comfortable with, and that serves your program's teaching goals. Start with your own organization's in-house tech tools.
- Choose technology tools that align with your program's values and that take a positive youth development approach
- Consider going low-tech. Kids will appreciate hearing from you, and a note in the school lunch delivery or a letter in the mail may mean more to them than an email.
How to choose online activities
First, consider the source. Is it a reputable one? All activities produced by University of Minnesota Extension, Minnesota 4-H, or Extension in any state are grounded in youth development research. National 4-H sells curriculum and learning kits. There are many other reputable sources.
Consider these questions
- Does this resource comply with our organization's policies?
- Does it comply with our organization's code of conduct?
- Does it comply with the law? For example, under US federal law (COPPA), people under age 14 may not have social media accounts.
- Is it accessible to all? How would a vision impaired or hearing impaired person take part? Federally funded programs must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Are these the kinds of activities that our youth program ordinarily does? In 4-H, that's hands-on experiential learning.
- What will learners learn by doing this activity? Does that match up our teaching goals?
- Would the youth in my program enjoy it?
- Does it require families to buy anything? If it does, seek out activities that use only materials found in nature or in most households.
- Consider screen time: Have learners already spent the entire day looking at a screen? How will our learning experience include active learning and be different from formal education strategies?
Minnesota 4-H project pages
These contain lots of activities for youth to do at home. For example:
Challenges engage youth in learning and sharing.
- CRASH course in Newtonian physics (Video playlist)
- Engineering Design Challenge activities (Video playlist)
Create your own challenge
- Create a hands-on challenge related to your usual activities and ask youth to share their responses in photos or videos. Flipgrid is a good low-bandwidth sharing option.
Reviewed in 2020