Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from April, 2011

Is your youth program keeping up with technology?

Young people in our programs do not remember a time without computers. They are adept at interpreting face-to-face interactions and web-based experiences. As social networking becomes the number-one activity on the web and teens increasingly own cell phones, young people expect to communicate instantly. For them, e-mail is sooo yesterday.

Is your program keeping up with the pace?

Over the past year, my 4-H colleague Karyn Santl and I have worked on a project to answer that question for eight northwest Minnesota 4-H county programs. We set three objectives:
To determine communication needs for county 4-H programs.To increase knowledge and skill levels of 4-H staff, volunteers and members to use communications technology. We are working with counties that demonstrate interest, infrastructure capability and staff capacity. In February I facilitated a team of youth and adult leaders from Clearwater County through the POST (People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology) Method to create a prot…

Are we building a workforce, a profession, or a field?

By Dale Blyth

What is our vision of ourselves? What do we in the youth development, out-of-school-time, non-formal learning field want to become?

During discussions at the National Afterschool Association Annual Convention in Orlando, Fla., a weekend of great sessions and discussions about the future of the youth worker workforce sponsored by the Next Generation Youth Work Coalition, part of a series of critical conversations that started back last fall at the History of Youth and Community Work Conference I was struck by these most basic questions.

Do we want to be a workforce with multiple job categories and a checklist of the skills each should possess? Something that systems can support but also control, as Joyce discussed last week? Is that enough?

Do we want to be a profession with a defined body of knowledge and a set of values and ethics driven by both practice wisdom and research wisdom on what works and how? If so, are we professional front-line youth workers? Or are we pr…

What's shaping youth work today: Systems or programs?

What is the best way to make sure the after-school and youth development workforce is stable, prepared, supported and committed? For youth workers gathering at the National Afterschool Association conference this week, lots of ideas are on the table.

In light of today's tough budget times, where should we put our energy -- into system-building or into improving the quality of youth work practice?

In this country, we have focused on strengthening programs and activities. Leaders in US youth work have long admired the system in the United Kingdom, which has focused on creating systems that support nonformal learning and the professional workforce.

I recently discussed this question with Nicole Yohalem. Nicole and I serve on the board of the Next Generation Youth Work Coalition and she is special projects director for the Forum for Youth Investment. She observes that we can learn a lot from the British system, and makes three important points.

1. The UK's youth work profession, w…

How can we build community when youth, families, and programs are under stress?

Megan Gunnar, a professor of child development at the University of Minnesota, recently spoke on Minnesota Public Radio about the damaging long-term effects of the stress of poverty on brain development in infants, children, and youth. This illustrates to me the insidiousness of our economic policies and beliefs about who deserves what and how much they deserve. Poor children and youth do not have equal opportunities for healthy growth and positive development. We are ignoring the data of the best youth development thinking of the past 75 years.

Dr. Gunnar's talk reminded me of the work of influential American educator John Dewey and his drive to create equity and community with and around youth to improve their learning and their lives. Dewey said that "what the best parent wants for his own child, so much we all want for all children and young people."

Sadly, in the 75 years since Dewey, not much has improved for many American youth and their families. In Minnesota, b…