Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How Kids Learn Conference: Now on YouTube

By Sam Piha

Bob Cabeza
How Kids Learn
Presentations
On January 27th, over 180 people from across California and the country met at the David Brower Center in Berkeley to hear from experts on How Kids Learn - the first conference sponsored by the Learning in Afterschool & Summer project. 

Participants included representatives from school districts, youth organizations, private funders, the State Department of Education, and afterschool advocates. Over 60 people on the waiting list were unable to hear the presenters share their best thinking and recent research in 20 minute presentations to the audience. These presentations are now available for viewing on the How Kids Learn YouTube Channel.

We invite you to view these informative and stimulating presentations and to share them with your colleagues. 

Speakers include Paul Heckman, Associate Dean of Education at UC Davis; Michael Merzenich, a leading brain researcher at UC San Francisco; Alexis Menten from the Asia Society; Shawn Ginwright, a professor and community practitioner from San Francisco State University; youth from San Francisco's Youth Empowerment Fund; Carol Tang from the Coalition for Science After School; Bob Cabeza from the YMCA of Greater Long Beach; and many others. For a complete list of presenters, see the How Kids Learn website.
Shawn Ginwright

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Conversation with Terry Peterson About the News Literacy Project (Part 2)

By Sam Piha

Terry Peterson has been an important figure in education and afterschool learning since before his service to the Clinton administration. See his full bio below. 

Q: Do you have any ideas of how we can bring the News Literacy Project into afterschool?

Terry Peterson
A: NLP is expanding in its three current locations: New York City, Chicago and the Washington, DC region. It is seeking new partners as well as funding to support the program in these areas. It is also seeking partners and financial support to expand the project to other locations, including Los Angeles.
 
Q: In the Learning in Afterschool & Summer Project, we promote 5 important learning principles: learning that is active, collaborative, and meaningful, expands horizons and promotes mastery.  How does this align with what you know about learning and engagement? 



A: Your learning principles fit very well with what we know about effective and engaging afterschool and summer learning programs.  These principles are even more important for older youth. 


Q: How do these principles align with the News Literacy Project?


A: These principals dovetail with NLP’s programs, both in the classroom and after-school. The project’s lessons are interactive and engaging. It stresses collaboration in its student projects. The focus is meaningful for students because it reaches them where they live – in a world saturated with news and information and through their devices, which is where they receive much of it. It expands horizons by bringing journalists and the world they cover into the classroom with authentic learning. It also encourages students to tell the stories of their communities and empowers them with the tools to do so accurately and fairly. Finally, NLP promotes mastery by giving students the critical-thinking skills to sort the credible from the incredible and helping them learn and use digital skills to engage effectively in the local, national and international conversation. 
Here is an example of bringing those principles to bear this fall in a classroom program: Youth Violence was produced by middle-school students in Chicago in 2011


Q: In California, all the dollars supporting afterschool learning opportunities for high school youth come from federal 21st CCLC funds (most of the funding for elementary and middle school programs come from protected state funds); how important do you think it is that we include high school age youth in the afterschool equation? 
A: It is very important that we include high school age youth in the afterschool equation. Nationwide this is a fairly new field of endeavor, so we don’t know a lot about how to do it well yet.  But this should not be an excuse to avoid working hard on developing more effective and efficient programming in afterschool and summer for older youth.  The reasons for providing quality expanded learning opportunities may be even more important for older youth, even though it is often more difficult to put all the key elements in place successfully.   Many high school age youth need more and better opportunities, time and helping hands to catch up, keep up and get ahead.

In this economy, graduating from high school and having the educational and personal experiences to possibly continue with career training or college beyond high school are critical if our young people today are going to be self sufficient and an active part of the American workforce, our democracy and economy.  Yet many middle and high school students get off track:

  • by not being able to find subjects or occupations of interest so they are bored, 
  • by failing core courses,
  • by not accumulating enough of the “right courses” to graduate or prepare for future training or education, 
  • by missing too many days of school or not turning in homework, or
  • by not seeing the relevancy of the regular curriculum so they may disengage or act out. 
Expanded learning opportunities afterschool and/or summers can help some of these young people to get and keep on track.  Effective programs are engaging and personalized, utilize caring and energetic community and classroom teachers, tap into learning opportunities in the community, capture the creativity of the arts and/or excitement of discovery in science and involve families.

Clearly the Learning in Afterschool Project’s 5 important principles of learning that include being active, collaborative, and meaningful and that expand horizons and promote mastery are terrific starting points for designing and delivering afterschool programming for high school age students. 

There is growing concern that some of the proposals to extend the school day or year will simply extend the same typical school day or year and won’t include these principles in a meaningful way.  Just doing more of the same longer won’t make a positive difference for struggling students.  In addition, this approach is very expensive, potentially reducing or eliminating resources for expanding learning opportunities in better, less costly, partnership, and innovative ways afterschool, weekends and summers.

____________________
Dr. Terry K. Peterson served as counselor to former Education Secretary Richard Riley. Terry spearheaded numerous national education initiatives during the Clinton administration as well as state reforms as education adviser to Riley during his governorship of South Carolina. In both positions, Riley said, Terry was his “right-hand man.” He remains deeply involved in education as a senior fellow at the College of Charleston, director of the Afterschool and Community Learning National Network and chairman of the national Afterschool Alliance. Terry called the News Literacy Project "very impressive" and "a very important effort." 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Conversation with Terry Peterson About the News Literacy Project (Part 1)

By Sam Piha


Terry Peterson has been an important figure in education and afterschool learning since before his service to the Clinton administration. See his full bio below. 

Q: Much has been written about the need to prepare young people for the 21st Century, and there has been an emphasis on critical thinking skills. What do we really mean when we talk about critical thinking skills? 

Terry Peterson
A: Because we are in such a rapidly changing world, knowing the basics is important but not sufficient to becoming an informed citizen and productive member of the American workforce.  As a result, there is a growing interest in afterschool and summer programs that can help students solve problems in creative and innovative ways. Students need to be able to compare and contrast solutions to problems. Also in this media and internet saturated environment there is a growing realization that “all information and news are not created equally, fairly and accurately.”  Thus, more than ever, our young people need to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. They also need the tools to be responsible and effective creators of news and information themselves.
 
Q: You recently were re elected to the board of the News Literacy Project and a member of the founding board. Can you briefly describe the mission and goals of this project? How does the News Literacy Project align with the need to develop critical thinking skills? 

A: The News Literacy Project connects seasoned journalists with schools and youth media programs to give students the critical-thinking skills to sort fact from fiction in the digital age. NLP also seeks to develop an appreciation of the standards of quality journalism and to light a spark of interest in news and information that matters. The project’s goal is to give young people the tools to become better students today and better-informed citizens tomorrow. It also wants to share those tools with teachers, librarians and other educators to reach as many students as possible. Working with educators, students and journalists, NLP has developed original curriculum materials that focus on such topics as discerning news from opinion, advertising and propaganda; determining the credibility of sources; the importance of the First Amendment; viral email; using Google and other search engines to find information, and the ethics of blogging. Most of the activities include one or more of the following elements: student discussion, engagement with journalists, and interactive challenges. Many require the use of multi-media technology, a focus that NLP encourages with its educators and journalist fellows. The curriculum is built on four pillars that address questions of critical importance:
Why does news matter?
Why is the First Amendment protection of free speech so vital to American democracy?
How can students know what to believe?
What challenges and opportunities do the Internet and digital media create?
The project aligns with critical thinking by getting students to ask questions about the credibility, accuracy and fairness of the news and information that students read, see and hear. It also helps to give students the tools to be responsible and effective creators of news and information themselves.
The project views news literacy as tantamount to literacy for the 21st century and the skills it embodies essential to success as a student, a consumer and a citizen.


Q: Do you think this project is a good match for afterschool with older youth? If so, is it better designed for middle school youth or high school age youth? 

A: The project has already worked with students in after-school programs in New York and Chicago. The flexibility and additional time permits students to work collaboratively with each other and with NLP journalist fellows to learn valuable digital skills and to create compelling and substantive video and audio reports. In the case of the three pieces listed below, the students also presented their work to the community at showcase events. All three pieces are posted on NLP’s YouTube channel and the two audio pieces done in Chicago are on the PBS site as well. NLP has been successful at the middle-school level with its afterschool programs and feels this would also be a good fit at the high-school level. 
East Harlem IS was produced by middle school students in New York City in partnership with NLP and Citizen Schools in 2009
Peer Pressure was produced by middle-school students in Chicago in 2010 
Video Games was produced by middle school students in Chicago in 2011


_______________________
Dr. Terry K. Peterson served as counselor to former Education Secretary Richard Riley. Terry spearheaded numerous national education initiatives during the Clinton administration as well as state reforms as education adviser to Riley during his governorship of South Carolina. In both positions, Riley said, Terry was his “right-hand man.” He remains deeply involved in education as a senior fellow at the College of Charleston, director of the Afterschool and Community Learning National Network and chairman of the national Afterschool Alliance. Terry called the News Literacy Project "very impressive" and "a very important effort." 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Measuring Learning in Afterschool

Corey Newhouse
By Guest Blogger, Corey Newhouse of Public Profit

In this blog post, I explore the ways in which we can measure learning in afterschool. This requires two complementary approaches:
  1. Understanding the ways in which an afterschool program is structured to promote learning.
  2. Exploring the extent to which young people are actually learning.


Why focus on how programs are set up? Aren’t we really just interested in whether the kids are learning something? Yes! But…

Program evaluation is all about establishing a strong link between participation and outcomes. We want to be able to state that a young person got better at something while they were in an afterschool program because the program is structured to do this. Without this link, any good things that happen for kids is more likely the result of other things, like what they’re doing in school or their other extracurricular activities, rather than to the afterschool program.

First, select a self-assessment or observational tool that explore whether afterschool programs are structured to support learning. (See the Learning in Afterschool Crosswalk article for some examples.) Select a tool that incorporates measures of:
  • Whether young people have the opportunity to make meaningful choices;
  •  Whether they have regular chances to reflect on what they are doing;
  • The extent to which youth are encouraged to do more challenging things over time;
  • The ways in which youth have opportunities to present their work to others.
Depending on the ages of the kids in the program, a program-level assessment should also explore the program’s “paths to leadership” – the structured ways that youth can assume successively higher levels of autonomy and responsibility.

There are lots of options to document the extent to which young people are learning new things. First and foremost, ask the kids! With a little context setting, youth can articulate the new things they’ve learned in afterschool, whether through a survey or quick interview. Asking youth to respond to the statement “I got better at something I care about in this afterschool program” is a simple way to establish whether participants attribute their own growth to the afterschool program.

Consider incorporating rubrics into assessments of young people’s accomplishments. Rubrics document different levels of performance, helping young people assess their own progress and making external reviews (i.e., by staff members or peers) clear and consistent. Rubrics are terrifically flexible, and can be developed for presentations, final products or portfolios. There’s a very good, free, guide to developing rubrics from University of San Francisco and a wonkier version from SRI.

To support continuous program improvement, explore links between program structure and kids’ growth. Are youth in particular activities showing especially strong progress? Do kids credit a particular method or routine as a really big help? This kind of input can point the way to further enhancements to assure that all kids are learning in afterschool.
_____________________________________
Corey Newhouse is Public Profit’s Founder and Principal.  Ms. Newhouse has a wide range of experience in evaluating programs that serve children and families. Ms. Newhouse earned her Bachelor’s degree from Columbia College and her Master’s degree from the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.

Prior to founding Public Profit, Corey managed the evaluation division of Hatchuel Tabernik and Associates (HTA) where she was responsible for managing and performing dozens of youth service organization evaluation contracts totaling more than $1 million annually. Subsequent to her work at HTA, Ms. Newhouse was a Senior Policy Associate at Children Now where she was responsible for the development and publication of several widely released research reports.