This module should take you 18-25 minutes to complete.
Set a vision for digital learning in your afterschool program by considering how technology can support your program’s mission and goals.
- What is our afterschool program currently doing with technology?
- What does our program want to do with technology?
- How does technology support our overall program goals?
- Why is our program using technology?
If your program already offers tech-related activities for students, that’s great! By creating a shared vision for digital learning, you can allow all partners—afterschool staff, school, community, parents and caregivers, and students—to be on the same page about how you use technology to support your broader program goals.
This section will prepare you to create or refine your program’s vision for digital learning. In this section, you can expect to accomplish the following:
- Understand the importance of creating a shared vision for digital learning.
- Review the process for creating a shared vision.
- Determine the first step to set a shared vision for digital learning in your program.
A shared vision for digital learning is a statement of what you and your program’s stakeholders want to accomplish by using technology in your afterschool programming. Start with your existing program vision and layer in digital learning.
Your program’s vision can help keep your program’s technology use focused and meaningful. Use your program’s vision as a guidepost to:
- Make intentional decisions about digital learning curricula or activities.
- Set explicit expectations with students before putting devices in their hands.
- Train, develop and hire staff with the knowledge and skills to support your digital learning vision.
- Sustain strong digital learning in your program when staff or partners change.
- Identify partners and community collaborators who share your vision.
- Make a plan to invest in technology.
- Determine what your program measures and reports on when it comes to technology.
Following are sample digital learning vision statements. Use these examples as a starting point. Then, learn how to write your own vision statement.
Sample Digital Learning Vision I: LA’s BEST
We envision equal access to evolving technologies for students and staff throughout LA’s BEST to enrich learning experiences, build 21st Century skills, and promote lifelong learning.
Sample Digital Learning Vision II: Beacon House
Through its technology-enabled afterschool programs, Beacon House will empower learners to have the confidence to innovate and creatively solve problems in school, work, and life.
Sample Digital Learning Vision III: Community-Based Program
Technology offers young people an avenue to succeed as citizens in a global society. Technology can improve communication, enhance thinking skills, make instruction more efficient and effective, and help students develop life skills critical to success. We envision a program that works to close the technology gap in low-income communities and provides learners with the skills and competencies necessary for problem solving and lifelong learning. Our program incorporates technology in order to support and facilitate academic success, support homework, engage youth in citizenship, build relationships, and create opportunities for students to connect, navigate, and be productive.
Sample Digital Learning Vision IV: School District Program
We believe that technology is a tool to facilitate learning, expand instructional possibilities, and increase the capacity of staff and students. We make the following commitments to our stakeholders including the district, staff, students, parents, and partners:
- We will use technology to enhance and expand students’ academic achievement, especially in reading, writing, math, and science.
- Our classrooms and media center will be technology-rich, and technology will be used to meet the needs of students with various learning styles.
- Technology will be used to advance communication among and between our staff, students, and parents to deepen 21st Century skills including collaboration, critical thinking, and effective communication.
- Through the use of technology, staff and students will expand their access to tool, networks, and resources.
- Staff will be supported and trained in the use of new technologies.
If the process of creating a shared digital learning vision statement feels overwhelming, don’t worry. It’s OK to start small! If you already have experience setting a shared vision or have begun conversations about digital learning, jump in! You’ll see exactly where you and your organization fit in the vision planning process.
1) Clearly articulate your program goals.
- What do we want students to know or be able to do?
- How can technology support our goals?
- How can technology enhance positive youth development?
For example, if helping students complete homework is a program goal, include how your program will use technology to meet this goal as part of your digital learning vision. If you want to increase youth voice, partner with students to brainstorm ideas and give input on technology resources needed. When you establish a shared vision for digital learning in your program, make sure technology is used to build relationships and set high expectations and that students experience age-appropriate opportunities.
2) Identify partners.
Build a team to share the responsibility (and fun!) of setting the vision. The size of your team will vary depending on its members. Try to include at least one representative from some or all of the following stakeholder groups: school day teachers, students, program alumni, community partners, and caregivers. A clear but simple email or mail invitation should explain what you’re inviting them to do, how many times they would need to meet, and why you think they would be an important contributor. You may also consider posting an invitation for team members on your website or in your calendar or newsletter. Having a diverse team will provide a range of important perspectives. Remember that students are your partners, too! Use this visioning process as a way to engage students to help set the expectations for digital learning and use of technology.
Can’t get everyone in the room together? Try integrating (and modeling how to use) video conferencing technology.
3) Find out what your community needs.
Surveys and focus groups are two ways to find out what your community needs. Try using different strategies to get information from stakeholders. You will likely find that stakeholders and partners have different priorities. For example, families may be interested in knowing how technology can help provide homework support while students may be interested in using technology to develop career-readiness skills. After gathering the data, analyze it and share the results with your team.
Sample Questions to Ask Stakeholders
- From your perspective, how can technology support your goals (for example: helping students complete homework, engaging with parents in real time, or helping teens develop job skills)?
- If the sky were the limit, how could technology help students succeed?
- What is our program already doing to encourage digital learning?
- What is one thing our program should avoid when it comes to technology?
4) Research relevant data and trends.
Reach out to colleagues and contact local or statewide networks or school districts to identify information or organizations that have data highlighting technology use. Look for information about competencies or digital learning trends that you may want to incorporate or address in your vision. Use the information you find to help you set your vision.
5) Set the vision.
Determine a time when you can bring stakeholders and partners together. Remember to include students! Work to answer these questions:
- What are our program goals?
- Why should our program integrate digital learning?
- What types of technology or digital learning experiences would help us reach our program goals?
- What barriers should we remove, and who can help us remove them?
- What supports/equipment do we need in order to fully integrate a digital learning plan into our work?
- What opportunities are we creating to deepen our positive youth development approach (build relationships, set high expectations for youth, and create opportunities)?
- How will we know if our vision is successful?
- Whose voice is missing from this conversation? Who else should we have on our team to help us create the vision?
Use the answers to these questions to craft a statement about how you want to approach digital learning in your program.
To help you write your statement, refer to the sample digital learning vision statements in this module or use the following template. Here are a few tips for customization.
- Include your program name and values.
- Describe how embracing digital learning can help your program meet its existing goals.
- Create a list of action steps.
Visioning Statement Template
_________________(our afterschool program) envisions providing access to technology in order to ____________, ___________, and _____________. We will empower learners to ____________. We will empower staff to ______________. We will help our broader community to ____________.
Developing a Vision for Technology-Enabled Learning:
Beacon House’s digital learning vision is: “Through its technology-enabled afterschool programs, Beacon House will empower learners to have the confidence to innovate and creatively solve problems in school, work, and life.”
For over 25 years, Beacon House has served children and youth in northeast Washington, DC, by providing afterschool education and youth development programs to students ages 5 to 18 in a safe and nurturing environment. Beacon House has made great strides in increasing high school graduation and college enrollment rates in the community it serves.
In 2017, Beacon House embarked on a journey to redesign students’ educational experiences to equip them with critical 21st Century skills. Beacon House partnered with NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, which awarded Beacon House a grant to accomplish this goal through the infusion of technology into its education programs.
With part of NCTA's grant, Beacon House hired an educational consulting firm to help guide a visioning process for its program redesign effort. As a place-based organization with strong roots in Washington, DC's Edgewood Commons affordable housing community, Beacon House knew it would be critical to engage the community in creating a digital learning vision for its program. Beacon House included students, parents, all staff, and board members in the process.
Beacon House began its visioning process with a Visioning Summit. The agenda for the Visioning Summit reflected staff input and allowed families and students to share their ideas about skills that students should gain at Beacon House and ways that students could use technology to build those skills. The Visioning Summit yielded an initial digital learning vision statement for the redesign process.
Next, Beacon House engaged in peer crowdsourcing by conducting interviews and visits with innovative peer organizations and afterschool education experts to learn more about what effective technology-enabled learning looks like. Beacon House used its findings to refine the vision statement and create a programmatic theory of change.
Beacon House used surveys and group discussions to facilitate a second community crowdsourcing convening during which families and students provided feedback on the new vision and possible new program offerings. This helped Beacon House gauge the level of excitement and interest around potential offerings and solidify a new direction.
With input from families, students, staff, and peer organizations, Beacon House developed a strategic implementation plan with a focus on piloting technology-enabled program offerings aligned with the needs and interests of the community.
6) Share your vision.
Share your vision widely and frequently. Make sure everyone understands your vision by referencing it in your planning meetings and sharing it with stakeholders. By sharing your vision for digital learning, you empower partners to understand the part they each play to help realize the vision. Keep your vision statement visible. Post it in your program space and/or on your website in order to motivate students, stakeholders, and partners to be excited about using technology as a tool for digital learning.
7) Use your shared vision as a guide.
After you have developed a shared vision statement, use it to help make decisions about how your program uses technology.
Using a Digital Learning Vision Statement
LA’s BEST’s digital learning vision is: “We envision equal access to evolving technologies for students and staff throughout LA’s BEST to enrich learning experiences, build 21st Century skills, and to promote lifelong learning.”
Key elements supporting their vision seamlessly connect all curriculum and programming to the organization’s overall mission and values. The concept of digital citizenship promotes critical thinking about responsible and respectful behavior online. This aligns with the organization’s value for co-creating a safe and respectful space for youth and adults.
The digital learning vision LA’s BEST has created is also the foundation for establishing specific goals including training staff to utilize technology, increasing access to well-equipped computer labs, integrating evolving technology into the core components and programs, fostering a culture of technological competence among staff and students, and showcasing the creative use of technology by students and staff.
In their process for creating this vision, LA’s BEST staff engaged in critical reflection and dialogue about what students would need to be successful in terms of digital learning. The Digital Learning Director attended several technology conferences and reviewed The National Education Technology Plan, P21 Framework for 21st Century Learning, and other relevant reports. All of this, along with the staff’s deep knowledge and understanding of the communities they serve, helped LA’s BEST craft a vision that continues to cultivate innovation and growth in their digital learning programming.
8) Revisit your vision.
Put a note on your calendar in five weeks, three months, and six months to circle back to these questions.
- What have we achieved so far, and how did we do it?
- Where have we gotten stuck, and why do we think we got stuck? What will get us back on track?
9) Refine your vision.
Setting a vision is an ongoing process, so it may feel like things happen in fits and starts. When you revisit your vision, make adjustments as you learn more. Reconvene your stakeholders periodically as part of your process to assess progress and make revisions.
Take what you have learned in this module, and start implementing a digital learning vision for your program. Use the following questions to jumpstart the process.
- What is our first step to set a vision for digital learning in our program?
- How can we get staff excited about setting a vision for digital learning?
- Who can be a champion to help promote the vision setting process?
- How are we including students and creating teachable moments within the vision setting process?
- Continue learning with the next module of the Toolkit.
- Sign up for a training session.
- Share your thoughts and participate in community chats on Twitter by using the hashtag #AfterschoolTech.
- Join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on new module releases and training events.
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