Using Technology to Advance Your Afterschool Program
Here’s something you already know: most kids love to use computers.
If you are fortunate enough to have access to computers and other
technology in your afterschool program, how can you ensure that you
are making the most of your resources?
“Although it might be tempting to let them blow off steam by
playing computer games, students will benefit more from your technology
program if you and your staff are intentional and know what you want
them to learn,” says Marilyn Heath, a program associate at
the National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning at SEDL.
Heath oversaw the production of the technology portion of the National
Partnership’s Afterschool Training Toolkit, a staff development
resource organized around six promising practices in afterschool
that have been shown to improve student performance in school.
Heath points to “gathering
and sharing information,” one of the toolkit’s
six practices, as a way to engage students in interesting activities
while teaching them critical-thinking skills. With this practice,
students use technology to record information about the world around
them, analyze it, and share their findings with others.
Monarch Butterfly Watch,” for example, students
participate in an international migration research project where
they record changes in daylight and temperature, and any observations
of monarch butterflies in their various stages of growth. They submit
their information to an online project called the Journey
which receives data from participants in Mexico, the United States,
and Canada and generates maps that track the butterflies’ migration
north every spring. “Instead of reading about monarch butterflies
in a book, students are studying them in their community and using
the Internet to contribute to scientific research and connect with
other schools to learn how butterflies behave in other parts of the
country,” Heath says. The Journey North also tracks migration
patterns of other animals and collects data on when various plants
bloom across the country.