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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Why does everyone ask, "Are you satisfied?"

Pamela-Nippolt.jpgIf you are like me, you are often asked to rate your level of satisfaction with quality -- at the doctor's office, at restaurants, at the service station, while shopping online. This practice takes extra time and resources both on the part of the provider AND on the part of the participant.

So why do so many businesses and organizations want to know our opinions about their service, product or program?

The answer is deceptively simple. High satisfaction is a key sign that program participants will continue their participation in the program.

boy-thumbs-up.jpgAs youth development professionals, we understand that program retention increases the chances that young people will reap the benefits - also known as program outcomes - from a high-quality program.

So, a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation approach for a youth development program has, at its foundation, a system for measuring participant satisfaction. In the case of youth programs, Caller, Betts, Carter & Marczak outlined three groups who are important to involve in determining satisfaction with programs - the youth participants themselves, their parents, and the program stakeholders in the community.

We know that parents play a big role in paving the way and making it possible for young people to participate in 4-H. For the past four years, Minnesota 4-H has asked parents and older youth to complete a satisfaction survey after their first year of involvement in 4-H.

What satisfaction or quality-related ratings does your team most need to understand, manage, and improve the programs that you lead?

-- Pamela Larson Nippolt, evaluation and research specialist

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, December 11, 2013

Learning in place: Thoughts about place-based education

Cathy-Jordan.jpgWhat difference does it make where a child is, when he is learning?

Last year I had the opportunity to bring David Sobel of the Center for Place-based Education at Antioch College New England in New Hampshire to my children's K-8 school for a staff development workshop and public forum on placed-based education (PBE). What I learned from Sobel got me thinking about three things:

  1. What are the benefits of learning in place to its multiple stakeholders? 
  2. Can youth out-of-school time programs make use of the principles of PBE?
  3. Do diverse youth have equal access to PBE?
According to Promise of Place, a public-private partnership in Vermont, PBE has its roots in environmental education, community development and service learning. PBE:
  • Immerses students in local heritage, cultures, landscapes, opportunities and experiences
  • Uses these as a foundation for the interdisciplinary study of language arts, math, social studies, science and other subjects across the curriculum; and
  • Emphasizes learning through participation in service projects for the local school and/or community.
Sobel would add that PBE provides learners with a path for becoming active citizens and stewards of the environment.

In PBE, learning focuses on local themes, systems, content and contexts that are personally relevant to the learner. Learning is grounded in and nurtures the development of a connection to and a love for one's place. Learning on the local level forms the foundation for understanding and participating in regional and global issues in developmentally appropriate ways.

According to a report of the Placed-based Education Evaluation Collaborative, PBE fosters stewardship by helping students learn to take care of the world by understanding where they live and taking action in their own backyards and communities.

Benefits to stakeholders

A growing body of research points to numerous benefits of PBE:
  • Higher student engagement;
  • Strong academic achievement especially in the area of writing, higher standardized test scores (reading, writing, math, science, social studies) and higher GPA;
  • Improved behavior in class;
  • More enthusiasm for learning because learning is more relevant to students' daily lives, their home, and community;
  • Greater pride and ownership in their accomplishments and enhanced self-esteem, conflict resolution, problem solving and higher-level thinking skills.
In addition to student benefits, PBE invigorates educators; results in higher teacher retention; encourages positive relationship among students, educators and the community; and builds strong community support for education. Communities and the environment also benefit through student service projects.

PBE in out-of-school time

youth-built-le.jpgPBE can take place in the school, in the local community and in the natural environment, and programs can take place during school hours as well as during out-of-school time. Youth out-of-school time programs could be ideal settings for, and greatly enriched by the application of principles of PBE.

Access to PBE

I could not find much information with respect to the question of whether diverse youth have access to PBE, in the literature or on the web. PBE is definitely appropriate in urban, suburban and rural settings and in built environments as well as natural ones. All of these contexts can provide the natural, economic, social, political and cultural dimensions that form the foundation for learning in PBE. But has PBE "caught on" in some locales or types of schools or programs more than others, in some cultural communities more than others, or in schools or youth programs with different levels of resources than others?

What are the attitudes, skills and training necessary for adults to provide quality PBE? Is training and professional development widespread so that educators and youth workers serving youth in diverse contexts can offer quality PBE?

What are your opinions, observations or experiences? Are there certain contexts or populations for which PBE works better, or worse? Would there be different challenges to, or benefits from, implementing PBE in some contexts or with specific populations, compared to others?

-- Cathy Jordan, director and associate professor

University of Minnesota Extension's Children, Youth, and Family Consortium

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, December 4, 2013

Adventures in social and emotional learning

Kate-Walker.jpgThe Voyageur Outward Bound School is an example of a program that fosters social and emotional learning (SEL). After our recent SEL symposium, I spoke with Poppy Potter, the director of operations and master educator at VOBS, a program that works to bring out these skills in young people.

KATE WALKER: Tell me about the Voyageur Outward Bound School.
POPPY POTTER: Our mission is to change lives through challenge and discovery. We use experiential programs to impact our students' lives. Whether a 28-day canoe expedition, or a High Ropes Insight Program, our programs are designed to demonstrate to our students that "they can do more than they ever thought possible." Our founder Kurt Hahn talked about teaching "through" rather than "for" and this philosophy is still present in all of our courses today.

KW: What are the program's goals? What SEL competencies or skills does your program develop?

PP: We hope our students look back on their course and discover that the trajectory of their life changed after their VOBS experience. We want our students to find they have better managed life's challenges and made better choices because of what they learned on their Outward Bound course. We strive to demonstrate that through discovery of their strength of character, their ability to lead and their determination to serve their community, that they help create a more resilient and compassionate world.

The competencies Outward Bound students experience and gain perfectly align with SEL. Language we use to describe the skills and attributes students gain include self-confidence, resilience, problem solving, collaboration, compassion, effective communication and social and environmental awareness. Similarly, when looking at the recent studies about grit, our students discover that perseverance leads to success through grit and determination, creativity and collaboration, and ultimately that they can choose to live differently by making choices that lead toward their dreams and goals.

boys-with-sled-dogs.jpgKW: What are the program components that promote and reinforce social and emotional learning?

PP: Students participate in programs ranging from 1-50+ days that are designed to help them discover and build the strength of their character, leadership skills and develop an ethic of service. Our expeditions are designed with a deliberate progression for students as they move toward new awareness of their capabilities:
  • Training phase: Knowledge = Success. During this part of our programming students 1) gain personal, interpersonal and technical skills, 2) practice problem-solving and decision-making skills, and 3) experience natural consequences and rewards.
  • Main phase: Transfer Responsibility = Gained Confidence. Our instructors facilitate challenges for participants to 1) face adversity, 2) experience successes and failures as learning opportunities with coaching and feedback, and 3) solve real problems using effective communication and conflict resolution skills.
  • Final phase: Own It = Apply It. Instructors recognize and affirm participants, resulting in 1) students receive increased responsibility, 2) collaboration skills as the students create and move toward a common vision, and 3) application of mastery of skills to achieve personal and group goals.
Within this progression, we have many course components that promote social-emotional learning.

KW: How does that happen?

PP: All of our staff are trained and mentored to move through a course design process using our educational framework. All VOBS programs are created with specific design principles that allow for a consistency in our programs, regardless of each program's uniqueness:
  • Learning through experience. We facilitate engaging, relevant, sequential experiences that promote skill mastery and incorporate reflection and transference
  • Challenge and adventure. We use familiar and unfamiliar settings to impel students into mentally, emotionally, and physically demanding experiences while managing appropriate risks
  • Supportive environment. We design experiences that support physical and emotional safety and develop a caring and positive group culture.
Lastly, we teach and work by these values: compassion, integrity, excellence and inclusion.

KW: Has the program been evaluated for SEL outcomes? What is the evidence of effectiveness?

PP:We use the Outward Bound Outcomes Instrument (OBOI) to evaluate outcomes of participating youth. OBOI is a validated survey developed by the national Outward Bound organization that includes nine measures. In a November 2012 evaluation of urban youth from River's Edge Academy, students reported the following gains from participating in VOBS activities:
  • 90% increased self-confidence
  • 87% increased goal setting
  • 90% increased resilience
  • 86% increased empowerment
  • 89% increased problem-solving
  • 92% increased communication
  • 86% increased group collaboration
  • 87% increased compassion
  • 90% increased environmental awareness
How does the VOBS story resonate with your own youth program? Are you intentionally fostering SEL competencies? If so, how? And how do you know if your program is increasing SEL in youth participants?

-- Kate Walker, Assistant Extension professor and Extension specialist, youth work practice

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 20, 2013

Turning STEM skills into STEM capabilities

Joanna-Tzenis.jpgWhat real opportunities do youth have to pursue STEM-related professions? Learning engineering skills is one thing, but knowing how to become an engineer is something else.

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) has emerged has an educational buzzword over the last few years. K-12 schools, higher education and non-formal educational programs alike have all increased their efforts to improve STEM learning and outcomes.

This effort comes in direct response to President Obama's "Educate to Innovate" campaign, launched in 2009. The national problem this campaign addresses is twofold: American students are lagging behind other countries in achievement measures in these subjects. Further, U.S. Department of Labor data show that of the 20 fastest growing occupations projected for 2014, 15 of them require significant mathematics or science preparation, but our young people lack the skills and training to fill these jobs.

Most STEM educational initiatives take a human capital approach. This approach says that an investment in young people's skills and knowledge will yield an economic return because young people gain the skills to participate in the labor market.

This approach doesn't go far enough. It does not address the less obvious social conditions that address how young people can actually translate the skills they learn in STEM education into a profession. Youth programs need to address this gap, too.

stem-youth.JPGIn contrast to the human capital approach, the Amartya Sen capabilities approach provides a framework for looking at the role that social, material or institutional conditions play in enabling (or restricting) young people to perform well in in their educationally pursuits and more importantly, to make the choice to pursue STEM-related professions. In other words, the capabilities approach does not just look at the skills young people have, but at the set of opportunities they have available to them to actually use these skills in a way that they value.

For example, imagine if a young person masters engineering skills and dreams of becoming an engineer, but doesn't know how to apply to college. What if she sees no female role models in the field, and believes it's not a real option for her because she's a girl? In order for STEM education to be of value to young people, we cannot solely train them with knowledge and skills. We must look at and address the set of opportunities they have to put these skills to use in a way that is meaningful to them.

Minnesota 4-H youth development is working to expand young people's opportunities to pursue STEM fields. We recently received a round of CYFAR funding to develop STEM youth programs designed for lower-income, middle-school aged youth living in Minneapolis and St. Paul who are part of the lower end of the achievement gap and not involved with youth programs. This program model is designed to work with youth across their many social settings -- connecting their education to their family and community contexts.

The hallmark of these programs will be working with youth to develop an educational plan connecting their learning to higher education. We'll take young people to university campuses where they can connect with mentors in the field and experience campus life.

Do you take a capabilities approach? How else might we expand young people's set of opportunities to pursue STEM related professions through education? What program inputs might shape young people's opportunities to pursue STEM?

-- Joanna Tzenis, assistant Extension professor, Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR)

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 13, 2013

Bringing the social and emotional learning to after-school programs

Jennifer-Skuza.jpgWhy is social and emotional learning important to youth development? I thought about this recently when I attended our symposium on this subject.

The symposium was a wonderful opportunity for more than 400 people who work with and on behalf of children, youth and families to learn about social and emotional learning (SEL) and identify ways to help young people thrive. Our keynote speaker, Dr. Roger Weissberg, defined social and emotional learning as a process through which children, youth, and adults learn to recognize and manage emotions, demonstrate care and concern for others, develop positive relationships, make good decisions, and behave ethically, respectfully, and responsibility.

As I reflected on his definition, I thought about why social and emotional learning is important to youth development. I see SEL as a foundation in which a strong sense of self can be built. With that stability, young people are better able to thrive in everyday life, while standing up to social pressures that sometimes knock people down or at diminish their quality of life. SEL can also chart youth on a path of discovering the world in relation to others - by this I mean, where young people learn to cultivate healthy relationships while personally investing in the people around them.
As I reflected on the event, some other insights also resonated with me as a thought about the relationship between SEL and youth development.

Social and emotional skills can be learned

To demonstrate this, Dr. Weissberg showed a video on how math could be taught as a social activity. In the video, the math teacher facilitated a process with students to identify classroom norms that reinforced social and emotional skill building. Those norms were then threaded through every activity in the classroom session.
This teacher was an excellent model. Youth workers could have similar effects in their practice - and probably many do. But what types of professional development are needed for youth workers bolster their skills even more?

Social and emotional learning can improve students' education outcomes

Data from a CASEL meta-analysis reviewed 213 rigorous studies of social and emotional programs in schools nationwide. Findings show that academic achievement and pro-social behavior significantly increase in schools that have such programs while behavioral problems and emotional distress decrease.

After-school programs can play critical roles promoting educational outcomes among students and creating positive school climates. What would be the impact if school and after-school personnel in any given school building operated from complementary educational philosophies that fostered SEL?

Coordinated family, school, and community networks are needed

This multilayered network is needed to both craft and implement social and emotional learning programs so that rings of support surround children and youth throughout the daily life. For instance, without a strong family, it can be very difficult to nurture a solid foundation for development in children and youth because family is the earliest, most basic environment in which we learn. So family is an important part of the network. Coordinating efforts among all the places and peoples that surround children and youth is a tall order but worth it. What would it take in the community you live or work in?

Learning environments are everywhere

They are all around us - homes, farms, schools, recreation centers, sports facilities, clubs, campgrounds, after-school programs, faith-based centers, libraries, parks, playgrounds, fields and forests. The list could go on. Each environment has the potential to build and reinforce emotional health and social skills. What can you do to improve the learning environments within your circle of influence?

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 6, 2013

A map through the jungle of social and emotional learning

elizabeth-hagen.jpgHow do we navigate through the SEL jungle? Having agreed that now is the time to make this journey I can recommend these valuable resources from Strive Together and its Minnesota network partner, Generation Next.

Strive Together

Strive is fostering a network of communities building the civic infrastructure necessary to support the success of every child from cradle to career. It has developed a Student Roadmap to Success -- a framework to guide communities in supporting the development of young people from cradle to career to improve youth outcomes and eliminate the achievement gap.

The upper half of the visual representation of this roadmap is focused on academic benchmarks, and the lower half on student and family support benchmarks - including the development of social and emotional competence.

The problem for many communities using the road map, however, was getting a better sense of how to more explicitly name social and emotional competencies and effectively move them to the level of the other goals that focus on academic proficiency.

clear-path.jpgRecognizing the need for greater clarity on how social emotional competencies affect achievement and how these competencies can be measured and improved, Strive recently released a three-volume report, Beyond Content: Incorporating Social and Emotional Learning into the Strive Framework. It is a good entry point for anyone taking on social and emotional learning. It focuses on five competencies:
  1. Academic self-efficacy
  2. Growth mindset/mastery orientation
  3. Grit/perseverance
  4. Emotional competence
  5. Self-regulated learning/study skills.

The first volume describes these competencies and summarizes the evidence of their malleability and their relationship to academic achievement. The second volume provides a summary of different measures of social and emotional skills across the Cradle to Career continuum, and the third volume includes the actual surveys used to measure these skills.

Together these reports serve as resources for cross-sector education partners as they select which competencies to focus on and how to measure the effects of their efforts. This focus on measurement acknowledges the reality that the development of social and emotional competencies is much more likely to be prioritized if data show both the need for such focus and that such focus leads to measurable improvement.

Generation Next

Here in the Twin Cities, Generation Next, our local member of the nationwide Strive Network, recognizes the importance of developing social and emotional competencies. Their Noncognitive Task Force has recommended a sixth goal be added: "All seventh graders are socially and emotionally equipped to learn". This proposed goal refers to learning in and out of the classroom, and to persistence in learning. Like the others, this goal names a skill and names a grade for assessment.
While ambitious, this level of clarity gives our schools, out-of-school programs, community leaders, and families a clear goal for bridging the achievement gap. Reaching it may lead to better understanding of which skills to focus on and how to improve these critical outcomes for youth.

What is your reaction to this proposed goal? If it were accepted, would it help your work? How could you make it a visible part of your community's commitment to young people?

How would measuring social and emotional development enhance your work with youth? Is this a path through the jungle that makes sense to you?

-- Elizabeth Hagen, Graduate research assistant for the Howland Social and Emotional Learning Initiative, doctoral candidate in school psychology

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, October 23, 2013

Teen Facebook posts can now be public. Does it matter?

trudy-dunham.jpg Facebook changed its policy for teens last week. In the past, teens' posts could only be seen by "friends" and "friends of friends". Now, they can designate their posts for public viewing.

Does this matter? Should teens have the same privacy, or lack of privacy, rights as adults?

There are concerns about what this will mean for teens. Will this policy change further compromise their online safety? Will the impact of cyber bullying, its frequency or severity, increase? Will more young people jeopardize their educational and career futures by "unwise" posting of images, opinions and links? Will marketing become even more focused on youth, as information about their likes and activities are harvested for more specific ad targeting?

And does it matter?
All these are possible and may even be likely outcomes of this Facebook change in policy. It raises the risks to youth who use social media, and youth who just know teens who do. But it also places their Facebook posts in the same category as Twitter and other social media use where teen postings have long been public.
The more important question is that, given the policy change, how can we use it as a teaching and learning opportunities as we work with youth? And, will youth use it to foster their awareness and understanding of personal privacy, and to enhance their voice and role in American society?

Privacy in today's digital society, where it is almost impossible to erase or hide one's presence and involvement, is something that we all need to learn to manage. Even if you don't have a Facebook account, your friend or family member does. And they have the camera in their pocket to snap those embarrassing photos of you, along with the right to tell stories about you and comment on your behavior online.

I think this change in policy can be an opportunity for us to mentor youth in growing into the responsibility of handling their online persona and social media accounts.

Have you talked with friends and family about their preferences on being "captured online"? Have you talked about what images, links and stories are appropriate for including in one's timeline? Have you considered the importance of using "is this being kind and generous?" or other criterion, as a filter before posting something online?

What do you want the world to know about you? That you like cat videos, what you had for lunch, the latest gossip about who did what? These posts can be fun. But is that really what you want the whole world to know about you? If you are going to make posts public, take advantage of the opportunity to craft your online persona.

What causes do you support? Can you use social media to express your opinion on these issues, to become a 'clickactivist'? Raise awareness of upcoming events and opportunities to show one's support? Express opinions of current events? Talk about recent research and scientific findings? Raise funds for needed research or services? Advocate for candidates or policies?

Perhaps you want social media to increase your community engagement. You may want to post about the need for safer walking paths or longer library hours, or how to decrease street litter and light pollution. You may want to showcase the success of the school debate team or an opportunity for community service.

Or perhaps you want social media to be a venue for your creative self-expression, your ideas, and the application of your skills in hobbies and community.

With our youngest teens, we should encourage them to keep their settings set on "friends" or "friends of friends." We can help them learn about privacy and responsible use. But as teens mature, they can use the opportunity of public postings to showcase what is important to them and who they are. This does require effort and maturity to take advantage of the opportunities while limiting the possible dangers and negative effects. Even we adults could use a little help!

-- Trudy Dunham, research fellow

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, October 16, 2013

Start seeing youth with incarcerated parents

sara-langworthy.jpgHow does incarceration affect the youth and families that you work with every day? Chances are, more than you know. You don't have to play too many rounds of six degrees of separation to find someone who's affected by incarceration. In 2011, 6.98 million people were incarcerated in the U.S -- about 1 out of 34 adults.

How many of those 6.98 million people have children? Sixty-one percent of women and 53% of men who are incarcerated are parents. In 2007, an estimated 1.75 million children under age 18 had a parent in a state or federal prison in the U.S. An estimated 1 in 15 African American children in the U.S. have a parent who is incarcerated.

In fact, there are more children with an incarcerated parent than there are with autism or juvenile diabetes.

Despite the shockingly high prevalence of parental incarceration, their children remain largely invisible as such. That's unfortunate, because they could use some extra help. We know that they are at higher risk for behavior problems, cognitive problems and delays in school.

incarcerated-mother.jpgIn fact, the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study indicates that individuals who had multiple risk factors, including having an incarcerated parent as a child, were at higher risk for many health problems later in life, including depression, substance abuse and suicide attempts. More recent research has found that maternal conviction and arrest is associated with youth's increased involvement with the juvenile justice system, and increased risky health behaviors.

Despite these staggering numbers and the disturbing health and education outcomes for these children, this issue has not received much attention from policymakers, practitioners, researchers or the general public.

So I ask you to think about it again: How does incarceration affect the youth and families that you work with every day?

Having an incarcerated parent may not be the only life turmoil these youth experience. In fact, there are probably many other, more easily recognizable risk factors that these youth endure. Having an incarcerated parent is linked to other risk factors including poverty, parental substance use, and parental mental health problems. These other risk factors may be more recognizable, and you as a practitioner, educator or provider may have better resources to handle those types of risk factors, but youth who have an incarcerated parent face a unique set of challenges and stressors.

Overwhelming numbers of youth are experiencing the affects of incarceration, yet society has done little to recognize and address the needs of these youth. However, that is beginning to change. Due to many recent initiatives to raise awareness of this important issue, resources are becoming more available, and these children's needs are being addressed. Meeting those needs starts with recognition on the part of those who surround youth everyday to provide understanding, support and assistance.
So I ask you again, one more time, how does incarceration affect the youth and families that you work with everyday?

Do you know? Will you ask? Will you start seeing these invisible youth?

-- Sara Langworthy, former policy coordinator,
Children, Youth & Family Consortium,
which is part of the Extension Center for Family 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, October 9, 2013

Tough choice? Youth voice!

Mark-Haugen.jpgChange presents adult coaches, mentors, club leaders and other youth educators with a chance to involve youth in the decision-making process. These opportunities arise all the time.

For example, every year thousands of young people compete in First Lego League, an annual challenge to design and build robots to solve a given problem. There is a different type of challenge every time and elaborate rules for participation. Among them are the equipment specifications -- software, sensors, programming. In January, First Lego League organizers announced the availability of a new robotic platform. More than 480 youth team leaders then faced the choice of whether to spend upwards of $500 to upgrade their equipment, and thus learn new software and skills, or use the equipment they already had and save precious team resources.

Would the benefits of upgrading outweigh the cost? Each adult leader faced this question. I wonder how many of the teams struggled with this decision and whether program leaders engaged youth in making it.

lego-boys.jpgThe benefits of developing strong youth decision-making skills are worth the investment. In The Leadership Challenge, Posner and Kouzes motivate leaders to teach this skill.
"By building...self-confidence, you are building their inner strength to plunge ahead in uncharted terrain, to make tough choices, to face opposition and the like because they believe in their skills and decision making abilities."

I saw the Lego league dilemma as a learning opportunity. Creating space and time to practice the skill of decision-making doesn't require an extraordinary talent, only a simple plan. In 4-H, youth learn about this when they join the The consumer decision-making project, which has a five-step process as a guide:
  1. Identify or define the situation or problem
  2. Determine possible options, choices or alternatives
  3. Evaluate the options, looking at the pros and cons of each choice based on the criterion: what is important to you?
  4. Choose one option and act on it
  5. Evaluate the decision - would you make the same decision again in a similar situation?

What do you think? When working with youth, how do you balance development of STEM-related skills and soft skills such as decision making? If you lead a FLL team, what decision did you make regarding the change in platform and how did you make it? I would especially love to hear stories of how youth were involved in the process.

-- Mark Haugen, Extension educator, regional 4-H youth development programs

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, October 2, 2013

How does out-of-school time foster social emotional learning?

margo-herman.jpgRecently, the Extension Center for Youth Development launched a three-year initiative to explore social emotional learning (SEL) and its role in positive youth development.

Colleagues of mine have blogged about the importance of SEL, the need to build understanding around common language and measures, and why the time is right to try and make a difference in how we think about, assess, and work to improve policy and practice.

This week, I ask you to think about the following important question: HOW do out-of-school time programs help youth acquire these skills?

A New York Times article on Sept. 11, 2013 "Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught?" was the second most emailed article for the paper that day. The author states "noncognitive skills -- attributes like self-restraint, persistence and self-awareness -- might actually be better predictors of a person's life trajectory than standard academic measures".

Based on extensive research by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), the model pictured here identifies interrelated competency clusters for social emotional learning that help us understand what skills we are talking about:
  • Self management - assessing one's feelings, interests, values and strengths
  • Self awareness - regulating one's emotions to handle stress and impulses
  • Social awareness - taking the perspective of and empathizing with others
  • Relationship skills - establishing and maintaining healthy and rewarding relationships
  • Responsible decision making - ethical, safe, respectful decision making within social norms
This CASEL research identifies specific stages of development of self concept and relationship skills through elementary, middle school and high school years.

This leads to the question of HOW youth learn and receive support for developing these important skills within families, schools and communities. In an article in this month's Kappan magazine, CASEL proposes two educational strategies:
  • Systematically teaching, modeling and facilitating the application of social and emotional competencies in ways that allow students to apply them as part of their daily behaviors,
  • Establishing safe, caring and highly engaging learning environments involving peer and family initiatives and schoolwide community building activities.
These two strategies have me thinking about how quality out-of-school time programs actually teach, model and support these competencies, particularly by providing safe, supportive, interactive and engaging environments for our youth. I am optimistic these two strategies may provide a springboard for us to consider as we move forward with the SEL initiative.

In a few weeks we have a unique opportunity to interact with Roger Weissberg, President and CEO of CASEL at our Oct. 30 symposium: Social and emotional learning: From research to strategies. He will help our symposium attendees grapple with these concepts and frameworks and spark further insights that may help us define strategies for Minnesota.

In what ways are you supporting this skill development in your current youth development efforts? Is it working? Who do you think is doing this work well that we should learn more about?

Margo Herman, Extension educator, 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, September 25, 2013

Why enter the social and emotional "jungle" now?

Dale-Blyth.jpgOver the years, I have seen fads come and go in our field. I would argue that the evidence is there and the time is right to tackle the "jingle jangle jungle" of social and emotional factors Kate blogged about last week.

Now is the right time to undertake an initiative aimed at making a difference in how we think about, assess, and work to improve policy and practice based on these factors.

We must:
  • Move social and emotional factors into the mainstream of what we social-emotional-jungle.jpgseek for our youth.
  • Expand how we seek to close gaps.
  • Change how we assess what is important for youth to succeed.
  • Change how we focus our efforts on the learning and development of our young people -- not only on tests but in school, life, college, careers and as citizens.
Why now, you may ask? The conditions that make a significant effort not only the right thing to do but also the right time to move ahead tend to share three characteristics:


Social and emotional factors provide a possible strategy to address educational and health disparities here in Minnesota, where our high averages but very large disparities are simply intolerable. Such visibility helps a strategy get attention in new ways. This opens the door to exploring new possibilities - even ones that may have been known for a long time.

There is a desire for impact approaches that use multi-sector partnerships and data to drive improvement and sustainable change. In the Twin Cities and all around the country there are a variety of cradle-to-career, educational pipeline efforts that are looking to identify new strategies that can make a difference, such as Ready by 21, Strive and Generation Next.

These visible, collective efforts are proactively looking for new strategies and have identified the need for a way to better support and advance social and emotional factors as part of their data-driven solutions. At a national level this has lead to the creation of a task force and major set of reports to be released shortly on how communities can define and measure social and emotional or so called "non-cognitive "factors. Our own Paul Mattessich from Wilder Research and Kent Pekel from Search Institute serve on that task force.


In order for a wave to get started and be sustained, there must be credible evidence that these factors, and strategies to improve them, can and do make a difference in addressing the issues of concern. This factor can best be seen in the number of reports cited in last week's blog by Kate as well as the book on How Children Succeed by Paul Tough. Ideally, as an issue or problem becomes visible the credible evidence for the strategy is also growing. These factors come to re-enforce each other to build momentum. This is currently happening in this area.


If a strategy sounds good but is not seen as something that we can and should be doing with our children, it is unlikely to catch on. There is now considerable evidence that social and emotional factors not only matter but they are changeable through intentional efforts (for CASEL reports as an example) by parents, schools and community programs.

In addition, the results are measurable. The "jungle" of measures out there makes it clear that these factors can and should be routinely assessed as a way of supporting learning and development in the classroom and in community learning opportunities.

Because of the visibility, credibility and do-ability of social and emotional learning I believe this is a wave that can become a sustained movement that makes a difference -- not just another fad that crashes on the rocky shores of educational disparities.

Do you agree that the time is right? What do you think about these factors in the social and emotional jungle we face?

Dale Blyth, Extension professor, School of Social Work, College of Education and Human Development *

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The jingle jangle jungle of social and emotional learning

Sung to the tune of "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off":

You say non-cognitive and I say socio-emotional,
You say initiative and I say self-direction,
Engagement, motivation,
Problem solving, critical thinking,
Let's call the whole thing off!

To be successful in school now and ready for college and careers later, young people need to develop a range of skills variously referred to as social-emotional, non-cognitive, soft or 21st century skills. In this basket of skills, you may think of self-confidence, perseverance, empathy, teamwork or critical thinking. There is increasing evidence that these skills are critical to success, but little agreement about how to label and measure them.

We have different terms for similar concepts, such as initiative and self-direction. We use the same term, like engagement, to mean different things, like motivation and participation. A recent report reminds us that "21st century skills" have been valuable for centuries. Another report laments the false dichotomy between academic "cognitive" factors and softer "non-cognitive" skills. Dr. Charles Smith, executive director of the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, referred to this terminological morass as a "jingle jangle jungle". But rather than call the whole thing off, let's get past labels and start to build shared understanding.

Here at the Extension Center for Youth Development, the Howland Endowment sponsors an endowed chair and a learning series designed to bridge research and practice around critical youth development issues. As part of the larger University and Extension efforts to address Minnesota's achievement and opportunity gaps, the next three-year series is dedicated to understanding social and emotional learning. The goals are enhanced understanding of the importance of social and emotional learning, increased consensus around common language and measures, and increased efforts to promote, assess, and support social and emotional learning in youth development programs.

On October 30, Dr. Roger Weissberg will present the first in this series of symposia, "Social and Emotional Learning: From research to strategies." Weissberg is president and CEO of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), an international organization committed to making social and emotional learning an essential part of education.

Weissberg will share a rationale for making social and emotional learning an educational priority in the United States. He will describe recent research and proven strategies of how families, schools and communities are strengthening social and emotional skills as an essential part of every young person's learning and development. You can register for this event now and attend online or in person.

Which terms from the "jingle jangle jungle" resonate for you, and why? If you could focus on helping young people develop just one of these skills, which would you choose? (See how others answered this question when the Search Institute posed it in the Soft Skills Prioritization Poll.)

What is one thing (an action, a resource) that you hope would result from a multi-year focus on social and emotional learning?

-- Kate Walker, Assistant Extension professor and Extension specialist, youth work practice

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

To help youth succeed, allow them to fail

Samantha-Grant.jpgWhy do we shy away from letting young people try and fail?

When I first started my work at the University of Minnesota, 4-H was new to me. I can remember attending a day of judging at the local county fair. I sat in awe of this experience and was envious that I had never had it.

I remember in that county fair judging experience that one youth brought an arts and craft project that was less than stellar. Rather than hyping up the project, the judge got the boy to reflect on what went wrong. In the 10 minutes that they spent together, this young person was able to take constructive feedback, and I honestly think that he walked away knowing how to improve.

People will often tell you that judging is a place for youth to reflect on their learning with the support of a caring adult. True. What they won't tell you is it's a place where failure is okay.

What?! Failure is okay. That might seem like an odd thing to associate with learning, but I would argue that we have to do more in the way of helping youth cope with failure.

youth-presenting.jpgWhat does that have to do with youth development? A lot. According to Paul Tough the author of How Children Succeed. Grit, curiosity, and other character traits are important predictors of future success. Check out an interview with Paul Tough on Minnesota Public Radio. An underlying theme throughout his book is that youth need to have experiences in failing in order to grow and learn to succeed. If we are constantly letting youth explore only in "safe zones," we are stunting their ability to grow and build important resiliency skills.

Youth programs are great places to allow youth to fail and be supported. As Tough writes about a chess coach who was a prime example, "Her job was not to prevent them from failing; it was to teach them how to learn from each failure, how to stare at their failures with unblinking honesty, how to confront exactly why they had messed up." How cool would it be if youth learned all of that in their after-school programs?! I think it's a reasonable goal.

How can youth programs help youth to learn to cope with failure? Can youth programs help youth to develop grit and other important character traits? How can you as a youth worker help young people to learn when they fail?

-- Samantha Grant, assistant Extension professor, program evaluation

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

STEM learning: Which is more important, creativity or content?

Rebecca-Meyer.jpgWhen it comes to program goals, what is the relationship between inventiveness and engineering content? I am working on strategies to engage youth audiences in engineering education. While searching for effective curricula to facilitate inquiry learning through hands-on activities, I reviewed the Design Squad Invent It, Build It curriculum. It suggests that invention is about "making the world a better place." Struck by this definition, I started to wonder if or how "invention" is different from or related to the engineering process.

Digging a little, I find that engineering is the systematic process of solving problems (using science and math skills). Invention, on the other hand, is the creative act of making something new - the critical step that actually solves problems. The "necessity," that is often cited as the "mother of invention" sparks the engineering process. Likewise, the engineering process feeds creative invention. After mulling it over, I believe that the two are different, but inherently linked.

Leonardo da Vinci said "Learning never exhausts the mind." It is from this notion that we strive to create intentional, ongoing learning opportunities for youth and adults in the Minnesota 4-H Program. I work closely with the Minnesota 4-H Science/STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to create these sustained learning experiences. In this capacity, I focus time and energy on our investment in facilitating inquiry learning through hands-on activities.

youth_outdoor_science.jpgI think in informal education it is critical that we keep inventiveness in our aim. The National Academies of Engineering in K-12 Education stipulate as one of three core principles that education "should promote engineering habits of mind," including systems thinking, creativity, and optimism. It calls on the value of engineering education and technology to improve student motivation and achievement.

As my colleague, Hui-Hui Wang, pointed out in an earlier post, we clearly need to teach STEM content knowledge through our learning opportunities to help youth apply the engineering design process.

However, I am more inclined to emphasize an aim toward inventiveness to motivate youth toward habits of mind that build 21st century learning skills (e.g. critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity). I think that invention provides the real world context to make engineering education relevant, fun for our youth participants in informal programs.

I know that others are thinking about this question. What do you think? Is it more important to facilitate learning for content knowledge or creativity?

-- Rebecca Meyer, Extension educator, educational design & development

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Is there a "secret war" on after school at the federal level?

Deborah-Moore.jpgI listened with interest during the recent National League of Cities webinar about the federal financing proposals to revise use of the 21st Century funds. During the webinar, the Afterschool Alliance and state representatives from after-school networks, including homegrown City of St. Paul Sprockets leaders, held a discussion on the revision of the current 21st Century funds policy and how these changes could affect after school programs here in our community.

My recap of the proposed policy: "How do we open as many doors as possible for schools to access the funds currently designated for after school programs?" My conclusion - if passed in any iteration being considered, community youth programs will have even less access to public support than they have now.

Harsh criticism I know, but it is hard not to get angry when the only specified source of federal funding through education for community youth programs is being compromised. In a Washington Post blog, Jodi Grant from the Afterschool Alliance gives her take on the diversion of afterschool policy by the current administration in "The secret war on afterschool programs."

What the policy revisions left me wondering was this: Where are the voices for the kids and practitioners in our community who know the distinct value of youth programs and can go head-to head with the politicos and expose how our children only lose more ground in this new scenario? Who needs to talk to whom? And how do we change the debate in this particular policy and the many other similar debates that pit after school and school day against each other?

palestine girls.jpgI would argue that until we see after-school learning as distinct and of equal importance, any policy that connects the two will continually favor the education giant -- K-12 schools.
For me, school and after-school, in spite of the words shared in their titles, do not represent the same kind of learning. Each has distinct purposes that are important to the development and learning of our young people. There is a great deal of literature and research that supports those distinctions and it is faulty thinking to confuse the two as one and the same.

Formal education (aka school) has a tremendous amount of research, policy, resources, infrastructure and public support and yes, it still has enormous challenges. The nonformal learning environments (aka afterschool) also have a great deal of research. What after school does not have is significant federal support, state and federal infrastructure, consistent local, state and federal policy - and unsurprisingly it also has challenges.

But they are very different challenges. One of the biggest challenges in after school is access for youth who want and need it. The current 21st Century policy gives children access to programs that need it most. So why do we have to pit school against after school in our choices for federal funding by further blurring the lines? Placing these very different learning environments in the same policy makes it impossible not to do so.

The Washington Post has a blog and an article on the issue - I have posted my thoughts, what will you post? Last month, two of my colleagues here at Minnesota Extension spoke at a US Senate briefing on afterschool in rural communities and the benefits of 4-H. Who else do we need to talk to? Let's speak up about this! Perhaps if we blow up a blog with comments, Washington will notice that this is an issue we pay attention to in Minnesota.

-- Deborah Moore, state educator, program quality

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Chef for a day, science and decision-making skills for life

carrie-ann-olson.jpgWhat youth program activity combines math, chemistry and decision-making skills? Cooking!

Healthy living is one of the national 4-H mission mandates, and here in Minnesota we are using the Chef for a Day program to get youth involved in eating more healthfully and gaining science and decision-making skills at the same time.

We know that eating habits are established early in life. Studies tell us that kids who are involved in meal preparation and cooking are better at making healthy food choices.

Beyond healthy diets, we also know that cooking programs can teach youth about doing science, by learning how to:
  • follow directions group-4h-boys-cooking.jpg
  • understand food terminology
  • predict the chemical reactions from mixing ingredients
They can also take learning a step further and encourage youth to make their own science experiment. Research has shown that youth can be sufficiently motivated and empowered to come up with their own research questions and design proper experiments to test their hypotheses through cooking. In addition, cooking programs with youth can be just as beneficial to a young person's decision making skills as with the long-term impact of healthier food choices they will make.

Our Chef for a Day program starts with some basic nutrition and cooking skill safety, and provides a basic recipe for a stir-fry or a salad that uses terms like protein, liquid and vegetables. Youth teams craft their own variations on these dishes, recording their tweaks to the ingredients or cooking methods as they go. This method of thinking, problem solving and tinkering is the basis of all science research and engineering, and provides a foundation for food and cooking literacy.

Chef for a Day will culminate at the Minnesota State Fair in a cook-off for youth. Thousands of visitors to our 4-H building will be able to watch these demonstrations. Participants will be evaluated on their knowledge of safe food preparation, nutrition, meat preparation and importance of protein in the diet. The 2013 cook-off is a one-day event, but like everything in 4-H, future programming will be youth-driven, and could be expanded.

Are you using cooking as a way to teach healthy living, science or life skills? Can you share your ideas here? And please come and see us at the fair!

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

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

To narrow the achievement gap, don't forget to play

Jessica-Russo-2013.jpgAt a recent event, I was inspired by the story of a high school principal who turned a failing school around by focusing on making the students happy. Poor achievement, low attendance, and general naughtiness caused by poverty, hunger, domestic violence, you name it, had resulted in high levels of stress in students, parents, teachers, administration. Quite simply, the kids were unhappy. But what to do -- More math class?

Rather than hiring more reading and math specialists, this principal hired more art and gym teachers. He brought in partners and other resources that would to help provide a safe environment for youth to play, get dirty, and explore, through programs such as Extension's 4-H and Master Gardeners. Students liked it. They got more interested in school and test scores improved dramatically.

This story reminded me what decades of research has confirmed--that play is essential to learning (for adults too, by the way). Classic psychologists such as Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, and ‎Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (who described the "flow" of learning) have shown that not only is play physically good for the brain (by stimulating nerve growth), but it also teaches us valuable social-emotional skills and actually makes it easier for us to solve problems.

group-of-youth-in-circle.jpgWith the current emphasis on test scores and the achievement gap, many formal educators and school administrators are understandably reluctant to make a concerted effort to prioritize play over straight academic support. This is where nonformal learning organizations like 4-H can help, because they have the flexibility to incorporate play into a focused learning experience.

Nonformal learning offers real-life, meaningful opportunities that can appropriately challenge youth in an environment that encourages active reflection as a way to turn failures into lessons about persistence in learning.

In fact, one of the best ways to close the achievement gap may actually be to help steer youth away from a belief that achievement is about natural talent or abilities (a fixed mindset), to the realization that everyone can learn, change, and develop the skills they need. Research has shown that this "growth mind-set," as Dr. Carol Dweck calls it, helps narrow the racial achievement gap. In one particular study, three times as many students who were taught this growth mindset showed improvement in effort, engagement, and grades, compared with the control group, which received no information about the growth mindset and continued to show declining grades. Few people are motivated to work hard if they think their efforts will be wasted. This fixed mind-set causes people to shy away from challenges and criticism, give up easily, and feel threatened by the success of others.

But as Dweck explains, "If you target that belief, you can see more benefit than you have any reason to hope for." Because people with a growth mindset believe that they can develop the skills they need, they tend to welcome and are better prepared to tackle and persist through challenges, they learn from criticism, and they are inspired by the success of others. This allows them to achieve more.
So, what can nonformal learning environments do to cultivate this growth mindset? And how can play help strengthen the learning experience? Here are a few tips:
  • Explicitly teach that the brain is like a muscle that can get stronger. Show them the research! Once they understand, they will begin to see themselves differently and open up to the possibility of improvement.
  • Praise their effort in attempting a challenge. No one loves to fail, but we can all learn to love a challenge when we can see it as a puzzle to solve and not an impossible obstacle.
  • Don't praise them for something they seem to do easily, since according to the research, this will cause them to equate intelligence with quick and easy success, and they will learn to fear a challenge. Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson presents a wonderfully simple article with three helpful tips for giving feedback.
  • Help them equate challenge with fun. We want them to learn that persistence pays off. Give them a puzzle to solve. Praise their effort. Encourage them to watch others to learn new strategies. Help them figure out what went wrong. Teach them to try again.
  • Make the effort fun! If a challenge gets too hard, stop and play a random game. Research shows that a playful mindset improves our ability to creatively solve problems.
How do you incorporate play into the learning environment? What do you see as the benefit of teaching and encouraging a growth mindset?

-- Jessica Russo, assistant Extension professor and director, Urban 4-H Youth Development Office

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Coaching for best results

margo-herman.jpgWhat is coaching? The variety of contexts and definitions people have for it is surprising. Coaching has surfaced in a surprising number of conversations in the past few weeks:

A colleague shared how she sees coaching as guiding employees on performance plans for poor performance.

I recently coached colleagues toward high-quality youth programming by using the Discovery Process, following a YPQA observation at a 4-H youth camp.

This week, at a county fair judging event, I coached a staff member on the Youth Program Quality Assessment "YPQA on a Stick" tool.

We are planning a professional development session for the Collaborative Leadership Fellows cohort next month in Rochester for fellows to learn how to coach and be coached for personal growth and goal setting.

A program conference planning team that I am on is considering including a coaching workshop under the theme "balancing professional and personal life."

The following definitions of coaching coaching-grow.jpg from the International Coach Federation provide a sense of how and why coaching can be a helpful practice for ourselves and with youth, colleagues and employees.
  • "Coaching is a highly personalized learning process designed to bring about effective action, performance improvement and/or personal growth for the individual"
  • "Coaching builds the client's awareness and responsibility and provides the client with structure, support and feedback"
John Whitmore unfolds some essential skills in his book Coaching For Performance, including: active listening, asking effective questions, and reflecting back to the client. He also proposes a model called GROW. This model suggests developing a sequence of questions focused on the following four stages:
  • Goal setting for the session as well as short and long term
  • Reality checking to explore the current situation
  • Options and alternative strategies or courses of action
  • What is to be done, When, by Whom, and the Will to do it
When it comes to coaching, what works? To me, whether formal or informal, with colleagues, youth or employees, the essence lies in clients building awareness, taking responsibility for learning, and nurturing self belief. Coaching requires a refinement of skills to achieve good results.

What do you think? Which of these skills or perspectives do you most successful in your environment? Can you share any favorite resources for effective coaching?

Margo Herman, Extension educator, educational design & development

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Top 10 tech tools for our work, redux

Kate-Walker.jpgWhat online tools do you use for collecting data, collaborating, and creating presentations? Two years ago I shared a top ten list of tech resources. Some of you shared yours too.

Since then I've been introduced to more (mostly) free tools that are both useful and user-friendly. I use them for research, but can imagine lots of programmatic uses, as well.

  1. Online Survey. Use Google Forms -- part of the suite of apps in Google Drive -- to easily create an online survey embedded in your email message. A Google form is linked to a spreadsheet and sent out via email, and recipients' responses are automatically collected in that spreadsheet.

  2. Face-to-face survey. Use Quicktap Survey on your tablet (iPad or Android) to create and collect information quickly and easily. Just pass around your tablet to collect data, then export to Excel to analyze results. The free version allows for one survey at a time, but you can have 50 questions and up to 150 responses.

  3. Audience poll. Use Poll Everywhere to poll your audience by having them send their responses via text message on their mobile phones. Response graphs update in real time and may be embedded in a PowerPoint. Free for audiences up to 40 people.

  4. Recorder. The Voice Record Pro app allows you to record interviews, meetings or voice memos on you iPhone or iPad. You can even pause recordings, convert to MP3, and trim or append your recordings afterwards.

  5. File Share. I'm a big fan of Dropbox for sharing files online and across computers and phone. Another great online collaboration site is Box. I'm part of a research team with staff across multiple states and we use Box as a simple, secure way to share files.

  6. PDF reader. With GoodReader, you can download or convert documents to an editable PDF file on your iPad or iPhone that you can then highlight, underline, or make notes. You can then save your annotated version of the file. This app is not free, but $5 well spent.

  7. Conference Call. Conduct free conference calls anytime without scheduling in advance with There is no fee, callers just pay their standard long-distance rate (this is not a toll-free number). The free version limits call to six hours and 96 participants.

  8. Timeline. Create timelines with Office Timeline, a free add-in for PowerPoint. The easy-to-use wizard walks you through the process of creating a timeline to track project milestones and intervals. I've often imported these timelines into evaluation reports in Word, but if you keep them in PowerPoint they update automatically.

  9. Comic. Create your own comics with Pixton's easy-to-use customizable templates. For this comic, I just selected a template and characters, changed their poses, emotions and colors and added text to the speech bubbles. A creative and engaging way to present information!

  10. Word Cloud. If you like Wordle, you'll love Tagxedo for creating word clouds, those visual displays of text. You can create shapes out of your word clouds and even upload your own image and wrap text around that image

So, what tools would you add to this list? And how do you stay up-to-date or find out about the latest and greatest technology tools, apps or resources?

-- Kate Walker, Assistant Extension professor and Extension specialist, youth work practice

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Stories of diversity and inclusion

josey-landrieu.jpgIf you had a chance to tell your diversity and inclusion story, what would you say? What themes would emerge?

I am asking this because I am on a team that is putting together a digital media campaign about our efforts to reach new and under-served communities, our engagement with diversity, and how we've overcome barriers. To do this, I want to engage everyone in 4-H and beyond to help us tell our diversity and inclusion story.

We are thrilled to have this grant-funded opportunity; to share a diverse narrative of our work in youth development and we can do so by engaging staff, volunteers, youth, and partners! One of the reasons for sharing a diverse narrative is to overcome the opposite kind -- the "single story" that lumps many people into one, or many cultures into one.

The writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Life is about the journey, not the destination". In youth development we are often reminded of this. We often find ourselves caught up in the end goal, but what matters most in what we do is HOW we get to that desired outcome. When youth and adults come together in our programs, what makes a difference in the end are the relationships that are developed; what youth and adults learn from and about each other; and the skills that youth develop while working on projects, activities, and events that relate to their interests and passions. A journey-like metaphor is even more appropriate when we strive to work in diverse and inclusive programming environments.
When you think about your own journey:
  • What are things you think are worth sharing with others?
  • What themes, ideas, or strategies would you share in a short video segment that others could watch and learn from?
  • What barriers have you overcome, and how?
Please share a short snippet! And remember "If we are always arriving and departing, it is also true that we are eternally anchored. One's destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things." (Henry Miller).

-- Josey Landrieu, assistant Extension professor, program evaluation

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