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Extension > Youth Development Insight > November 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mobile learning apps connect with youth

Carrie-Ann-Olson.jpgSometimes it seems as though everywhere you look, people are using their phones. But what are they using them for? The Pew Internet Research Project reports that teen texting volume is up in 2012 while the frequency of voice calling is down. About three-quarters (77%) of teens have a cell phone; one in four say they own smartphones.

American teens on average are sending or receiving 3,339 texts a month, or more than six for every hour they're awake, according to a Nielsen Company report: Calling Yesterday, Texting Today, Using Apps Tomorrow. Although texting is at an all-time high, the largest area of growth was in teen data usage, from 14 MB to 62 MB per month. Almost half of teens surveyed reported using an app 10 times per day -- more frequently than general grooming and eating.

kids-with-smartphones.jpgSo how are you connecting with this mobile youth society? Do you text? Do you push meeting reminders? Do you have mobile apps that support the topic you are teaching while encouraging youth to build mastery in areas of interest? A recent presentation by Barbara Chamberlin, Extension instructional design and educational media specialist , New Mexico State University states that technology is changing the way our clientele work, think and play. We need to remember our basic learning objectives and then take those objectives into a mobile learning environment.

Healthy living, the programming area that interests me the most, seems to be a popular supported learning objective with mobile learning apps. However, where some apps get complicated, the Eat & Move-O-Matic will help you learn about the foods you eat and how they help fuel your body for your favorite activities. The Eat & Move-O-Matic was developed to support the National 4-H "Youth Voice: Youth Choice" program, and offers a simple and fun way to engage kids and adults alike in learning about the relationship between nutrition and exercise. The Presidential Active Lifestyle Award + Challenge encourages physical activity and building healthy eating habits with a online tracking of activity.

Games can make you happier. In a previous blog entry, Trudy Dunham challenged us to take advantage of games to promote youth learning and development. I believe that mobile learning apps can go a step further and encourage "anytime, anywhere" learning, as well as reach underserved children, because they are relatively low-cost.

Do you see the benefits of mobile learning apps? Do you have a favorite health app? How have you used any mobile learning apps to support your youth development learning environments?

-- Carrie Ann Olson
Extension educator & associate Extension professor, educational design & development

You are welcome to comment on this blog post. We encourage civil discourse, including spirited disagreement. We will delete comments that contain profanity, pornography or hate speech--any remarks that attack or demean people because of their sex, race, ethnic group, etc.--as well as spam.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tips for building right-brain skills for 21st century thinking

Jennifer-Skuza.jpgAs we explore what it takes to thrive in the 21st century, it is hard to ignore the growing amount of literature that suggests the right side of the brain is needed more than ever. Right-brain abilities - artistry, empathy, design, big-picture thinking, creating something that the world didn't know was missing -- are hard to outsource or automate and in high demand in workplace and community settings. Left-brain abilities -- the logical, linear, analytical, spreadsheet kind of skills -- are important but not sufficient for success.

So what does this have to do with the field of youth development? The answer is that it is directly related.

Our field plays an important role in helping young people to gain 21st-century learning skills and abilities to thrive in a global world. Here are some tips for building right-brain abilities through the learning environments found in youth programs.

Critique the learning environment
With youth take time to critically reflect on the types of activities in the program. Ask age-appropriate questions that informally assess the learning environment, such as "How are we learning?" "Does this program promote right and left-directed thinking" and, if so, "How?" "What do we need more of, less of, or the same?" Make time to pause, reflect and adjust.

girl-with-hand-paint.jpgCultivate creativity in design

Do youth have a role in the design of their learning experience? Promoting this role can tap the natural curiosity, creativity and imagination that youth possess by fueling their motivation for learning.

Create stories

Listen to youth as they tell their stories. Then, work together to create a collective story about the program that allows youth to see them themselves as part of that narrative and an important force in moving that narrative forward. This provides an opportunity for youth to develop big-picture thinking skills and to see how their contributions matter.

Do not interrupt

Youth have the ability to concentrate; they simply need space and time to do it. So, avoid interrupting their concentration with misplaced questions such as "What are you learning", "What are you doing?" and "Why are you staring off to space?" Wait for them to come to you. I know this is a hard one, but giving youth space to concentrate will reinforce their natural tendency to learn, while building autonomy.

Play more

Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. In youth-driven play, young people practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover their own areas of interest, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue.

Dig deeper

An important thing for one to learn is the capacity to recognize embedded assumptions and challenge them. So encourage youth to discover their assumptions in life, challenge premises, and bring false premises to the surface. Use reflective methods such as reading, writing, dialogue, discussion, role play and simulations. This can be a liberating experience of discovery that not only builds critical thinking skills but also artfully creates new meanings in life.

Build empathy

Empathy is commonly defined as identifying with and understanding another's situation, feelings, and motives. Build empathy into everyday programming by modeling it, reinforcing it among relationships, and encouraging this avenue over snap judgments or apathy.
The environments in high-quality youth programs are ideal for fully engaging youth in whole-mind thinking by learning through what interests them. Think about your own practice. What right- and left-brain directed skills do you use in your everyday practice and how do they influence the work you do?

Jennifer A. Skuza, PhD, assistant dean

You are welcome to comment on this blog post. We encourage civil discourse, including spirited disagreement. We will delete comments that contain profanity, pornography or hate speech--any remarks that attack or demean people because of their sex, race, ethnic group, etc.--as well as spam.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find out what it means to me" and to you

Beki-Saito.jpgBack in 1966, Aretha Franklin had a big hit song, R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Even if you weren't born back then, you probably know it, and maybe, like me, when you hear it, walk around for the rest of the day singing the chorus, "R-E-S-P-E-C-T: find out what it means to me..." The song became a hallmark for the feminist movement in the 1970's and remains relevant today, especially in youth work.

Young people say that respect is vitally important and is something they don't get much of from adults generally, and specifically from teachers, parents, police, and policy-makers.

I would say that a lack of respect seems to be the underlying cause for virtually every societal problem -- youth violence, teen pregnancy, school dropout, discrimination and prejudice against people of various ethnicities, religions and sexual orientation, gangs, bullying, social and civic disengagement and disconnected, and so on.

So why aren't we talking more about the importance of respect in society?
Going as far back as Thomas Jefferson and the constitution, the respect of individual rights is described as a fundamental virtue of the constitution and a moral imperative for democracy. Yet there is relatively little research about how children and youth become respectful. How does it play out between people of different ages, ethnicities, and roles? When and under what circumstances is reciprocal respect expected or required? How can we increase respect among our fellow human beings? Many seem to agree that it is a learned attitude and behavior shaped initially in the home and reinforced by society and media.

So what can one do to instill or increase intentional respectfulness?

Programs and interventions designed to teach respect all seem to believe that respecting others begins with respecting one's self. While one could imagine a young person with low self-worth speaking and behaving respectfully, it seems a good place to start. The ability to view things from another person's perspective -- often called role-taking ability -- seems a prerequisite. It provides a foundation for recognizing that even though others may not have identical perspectives, experiences and beliefs, they have value. Respectful relationships are built upon courteous communication and teamwork skills, patience and trust, and the humility and understanding that comes from admitting mistakes, apologizing, learning from experience and moving forward.

Ultimately, respect or the lack thereof underlies not only negative youth outcomes, but is at the core of all relationships. This is true not only between people who are thought to be somehow different from another (age, race, socio-economic status, rural/urban, sexual orientation, religion) but also among people who don't have any obvious categorical differences, whether in the work place among co-workers, between family members, neighbors, etc.

How does respect play out in your program, in your organization, in how you vote? How is it that such an important human characteristic garners so little research? What have you found useful in teaching and learning about respect?

-- Rebecca Saito, senior research associate

You are welcome to comment on this blog post. We encourage civil discourse, including spirited disagreement. We will delete comments that contain profanity, pornography or hate speech--any remarks that attack or demean people because of their sex, race, ethnic group, etc.--as well as spam.
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