At the core of the Digital Youth Network (DYN) are skilled mentors
DYN Mentors develop students’ technical skills, serve as role models, provide access to professional communities, access and training in the use of digital media tools, opportunities to create and critique media; meaningful learning activities that support the development youth identity as creators, users, and teachers of digital media. Because DYN’s principles are built on developing and supporting this type of learning and engagement for today’s youth, there is clearly a need to provide a base for support and development for the adults that are working with and teaching youth in such programs, hence the need for professional learning and development.
The cornerstone of DYN is the professional development (PD), which involves the training and development of adults as new media educators. The professional development model is designed around four qualities that DYN feels makes a successful educator in this field; 1) Pedagogical Knowledge, 2) Cultural Capital, 3) Technical Skills, and 4) Personal Portfolio.
Pedagogical Knowledge involves understanding content/subject area and learning how to translate that subject matter into and understandable form for youth. This also requires possessing knowledge about the process of teaching and understanding connections between teaching and what students are learning. In the DYN context, mentors possess a strong knowledge base around their specific medium or media, however may not have an understanding of how best to translate the knowledge and skills to middle or high school students.
Cultural Capital involves building relationships with youth in physical and digital spaces. Building relationships with youth can be critical to the success of the student and the mentor. In DYN, mentoring takes on a number of forms (one-to-one, group, peer), occurs in different mediums (face-to-face, online) and numerous contexts (communities, schools, organizations). With this in mind, there is a strong need and desire to develop relationships with youth for competency, purpose, and meaning.
Technical Skills involve the development of a skill set in a specific medium or across media that enable mentors to work with youth.
Personal Portfolio means mentors having a personal portfolio of their professional work to share with students as a way to build social/cultural capital with students. This also involves mentors developing a professional portfolio as a result of working for DYN, which include teaching video, student work, and unit/lesson plans.
In reflecting on the 2010-2011 professional development design, I have learned a great deal this year! Some of the new practices that worked well were:
• Mentors learning from other mentors. Core Mentor were charged with facilitating learning with new mentors, which involved the leading of discussion grounded in research or journal articles, leading learning activities and supporting mentors in implementation of curriculum. This enabled core mentors to get a sense of what it means to facilitate! However, the challenges were many. Many mentors were challenged with managing time and getting through the activities. Based on this data, there is a need for all core mentors to be training in the area of coaching and facilitation. Two of are mentors have been trained in the CFG processes and practices, but there is a need for all mentors to be trained in facilitation and coaching. As a result, DYN will conduct training this summer (2011) for all core mentors to participate in training with a focus in these two areas. .
• Designing learning experiences based on the four key areas (pedagogical, technical, portfolio, cultural capital) keeps us focused on the goal: developing quality new media educators!!
• Developing professional development around DYN social practices. This enabled DYN mentors to develop a deeper understanding around what DYN BEST PRACTICES are and what they look like! This work has enabled us to develop concrete activities and practices that support our current work as well as being able to support others (schools, institutions, etc.) in how to engage youth in digital literacy learning! It has been exciting to say the least!
As a result of this year’s PD experiences and lessons learned, which will inform next year’s PD work, I have established the following questions to inform the PD goals for the 2011-2012 school year: