Presenters

Kasey BozemanFollow

First Presenter's Institution

University of Georgia

Second Presenter's Institution

NA

Third Presenter's Institution

NA

Fourth Presenter's Institution

NA

Fifth Presenter's Institution

NA

Location

Session 3 (Scarbrough 1)

Strand #1

Family & Community

Strand #2

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Relevance

Currently in the United States, there are 23.4 million people who lack broadband internet access (Federal Communications Commission, 2019). Access is only half of the problem; feeling secure and knowledgeable enough to adopt and use the technology is the other half. Through a partnership with 4-H and Microsoft, 80 communities nation-wide trained youth and adults to collaboratively work together to teach digital literacy skills to their community members. Not only were rural communities served through this project, but teens also developed valuable planning, organizing, communication, and leadership skills through the project.

4-H Tech Changemakers empowers teens as teachers of digital literacy and Internet safety and security, with the goal of increasing the adoption and use of technology by adults in rural communities. The teens are called “digital ambassadors” as they work cooperatively with adult partners to provide needs-driven educational programming in local communities, whether those communities represent a rural census tract within a county or the entire county.

The goals and expected outcomes of 4-H Tech Changemakers are: (1) Empower community members to adopt and use technology to improve their opportunities and outcomes through the use of broadband Internet. Community members will gain technology awareness and skills related to what broadband Internet can provide; (2) Raise the visibility of the partnership and mission as 4-H Tech Changemakers engage with lawmakers, media and other stakeholders. Teen leaders will be trained as spokespeople to lift up and expand youth voice in this critical conversation; and (3) Infuse positive youth development approaches in relation to citizenship and technology skills development throughout the life cycle of the project. Teen leaders will successfully engage their local community to solve their digital literacy issues.

While the program was designed and initially implemented with 4-H youth development audiences, the program could easily be replicated with any group. Evaluations have clearly indicated a postive impact on both families and communities with this outreach and engagement project.

Brief Program Description

With over 23.4 million people lacking broadband internet access in the U.S, families and communities demonstrate struggles. Feeling secure and knowledgeable enough to adopt and use the technology is another challenge. Through the 4-H Tech Changemakers project, youth and adult teams taught digital literacy and safety skills to 80 communities across America. This session will share how to implement a similar program in your community.

Summary

The partnership with National 4-H Council and Microsoft began in 2017 to drive greater digital skills and adoption across some of the hardest to reach communities in America. The Tech Changemakers program was created to encourage youth to utilize tech as a force for good in solving local challenges that they’re passionate about with community service. Programs are currently running in Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Through Tech Changemakers, 4-H teen leaders engage with citizens from across their community to identify a community need, develop an action plan and execute a solution utilizing technology. While specific local issues include economic development, mental health, and food insecurity, a common thread across all Tech Changemakers projects is working with citizens who have a gap in digital skills to improve their knowledge of how to participate online safely and securely. In addition to driving direct local impact, these youth are also working with local and federal officials and agencies to bring greater awareness to their issues and in some instances, influence policy change.

It quickly became clear that these youth Tech Changemakers had a skillset in technology, trusted voice in the community and unique ability to drive change. In 2018, National 4-H Council and Microsoft expanded the partnership to reach more communities across the nation. Our partnership elevates teens as teachers to provide training and communication to assist adults in 80 Counties throughout the country. This training will increase the comfort level of adults in utilizing new technology empowering them to truly adopt and use technology to improve their opportunities and outcomes. Ultimately, this work will have profound effects in education, workforce development and community sustainability.

While this program began with 4-H audiences, it is applicable to ANY youth/adult group.

Evidence

After the initial implementation of the 4-H Tech Changemakers project in 18 communities in 2017, survey data suggested that not only were community members, families, etc. learning valuable information, youth were developing valuable life skills, such as planning, organizing, communicating, and leadership skills. Microsoft was so impressed with the initial project, 80 more communities were chosen to participate in 2018, reaching over 8,000 people with digital literacy programs.

The development and passion of teens as part of this project demonstrate the true impact:

One youth stated said, “Learning about the digital divide has made me so passionate about teaching others… I want to help others that want to learn more, but that don’t have access to that education.” She recognizes her own privilege in growing up in a household with broadband and with a parent that is highly skilled in technology and she wants to help give this to others. Through her Tech Changemakers program she is focusing on providing parents to children in their county’s schools with training that will help them foster their own children’s online learning. In addition, she is hoping to eventually move onto teaching adults about tools available for managing household finances and saving money.

Another youth personally struggles with internet access at home and it has been a huge barrier to his ability to do school work and communicate with friends. He complained how his parents have switched providers three times but their service is still unreliable. He shared that he always “knew that our community had issues with internet and digital skills,” but he didn’t realize before that it was such a national issue. He described how he wants to prepare older generations in his community for future broadband access by showing them all the opportunities that it can provide. “Their biggest challenge [the elderly] is learning the digital skills to create the demand for bringing broadband”, he stated. With over 30% of residents being age 55 or older he realizes the huge impact they can have on driving local broadband access. He views his role as preparing his community with digital skills trainings so that they see the value and take advantage of it once they can access it at home.

Note: If we are unable to present a workshop, we would like to be considered for a poster presentation.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Kasey Bozeman is the University of Georgia Extension 4-H Specialist for Science and Environmental Education. She holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Education and Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science. Kasey is currently earning an EdD in Curriculum Studies. Her specific areas of interest include integrating creativity and imagination with STEM programs and environmental education. Her favorite learning environments are outdoors, engaging, and fun. She’s presented her work at numerous youth development conferences across the nation.

Keyword Descriptors

technology education, rural education, outreach, youth development, youth-adult partnerships

Presentation Year

2020

Start Date

3-9-2020 3:00 PM

End Date

3-9-2020 4:15 PM

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Mar 9th, 3:00 PM Mar 9th, 4:15 PM

4-H Tech Changemakers Project: Empowering Teens & Serving Rural Communities

Session 3 (Scarbrough 1)

With over 23.4 million people lacking broadband internet access in the U.S, families and communities demonstrate struggles. Feeling secure and knowledgeable enough to adopt and use the technology is another challenge. Through the 4-H Tech Changemakers project, youth and adult teams taught digital literacy and safety skills to 80 communities across America. This session will share how to implement a similar program in your community.