We had a great Positives Pilot Launch meeting, facilitated by EPIK (in collaboration with Paula Plant of USOE, and hosted by Carrie Rogers-Whitehead at the West Jordan Library). The intent of this meeting was continuing support of HB213 implementation.
This report will include a brief summary of the meeting, including links to meeting handouts and outputs.
As part of the report, we also want to draw your attention to the newly-launched DigCitUtah blog. The blog launch includes a post (“Not about them without them“) that features the TEDx talk given as “pre-work” for the launch meeting. And, in the spirit of “Not about them [the children] without them,” we especially encourage you to take a few minutes to read insights and takeaways from John, one of the six teens who participated in the meeting (see the post “Empowered“). John’s post captures so well what the Positives Pilot has the potential to do to bring adults and youth together in a cooperative effort.
Meeting Summary (Meeting Model/Training for Creating Positive Pilot Projects)
Dinner and intros:
EPIK provided a light dinner, and we went around the room and did brief introductions. (For all of EPIK meeting agendas with attendee lists, see this shared Google folder.)
We were honored to have Devorah Heitner of Raising Digital Natives join us by video conference. She shared some thoughts about the opportunities of working with youth to make the most of our digital world. Michelle gave a brief overview of how the Positives Pilot project came to be, and what the objectives of the launch meeting were (to model pre-planning processes to help adults 1) practice listening to/working with youth and 2) focus deliberately on positive uses of technology).
Meeting attendees were given this handout, which outlined the two pre-planning steps EPIK recommends in a Positives Pilot project planning process. The handout also includes information for school community councils about HB213 implementation, as well as meeting facilitation guides for the following two activities.
Activity 1: Modeling a “Fishbowl” meeting with youth: Kathy Gowans (consultant who helps EPIK with design and facilitation of meetings) gathered the six youth in attendance in a a half-circle at the front of the room. Adults were behind the youth as the “fishbowl” — encouraged to listen only to the youth as they shared ideas about positive uses of technology/positive digital citizenship. (Adults also wrote down ideas for positives uses of technology on sticky notes, but did not share with the group at this time. We did gather these ideas and they are part of the meeting notes document. There’s also another list of ideas from the Envisioning Digital Citizenship meeting in June.)
Youth shared both where/with whom positives uses of technology could have an impact (e.g., at home, at school, with seniors or veterans, with young children, in the classroom, in a work or church setting, etc.), and also shared specific ideas of how technology could be used in productive and service-oriented ways in these different contexts.
Purpose of this exercise: This fishbowl exercise was meant to model how an initial Positives Pilot meeting with youth could go.
Often adults are tempted to jump in too quickly when working with youth. It’s too easy to slip into the mode of doing things to/at/for youth instead of with them. But the digital citizenship conversation needs the input of youth! Because of the authority differential that exists, and because of adults’ natural tendencies, adults need to be very deliberate about really listening in a spirit of curiosity.
Also, in general, when it comes to project planning (whether among adults or when working with youth), the tendency is almost always to jump in too quickly to planning and decision-making before truly gathering inputs from councils/committees/team members. In the spirit of “Not about them without them” EPIK is trying to encourage adults — in whatever capacity they may find themselves — to consider how to deliberately bring youth perspectives (and team member perspectives) into the digital citizenship conversation and pre-project planning process.
What would have happened had we had more time: We definitely would have lingered longer in the mode of gathering ideas from the youth. (The energy in the room was amazing!) We also then would have guided them to cluster their ideas into common “buckets” or categories, so that everyone in the room could see the similarities and differences between the ideas. Lastly, we would have let the adults share and cluster their ideas as well, and encouraged everyone to note similarities and differences between youth and adult ideas and perspectives.
Activity #2: Modeling a group discussion with youth Fishbowl ideas as inputs: Participants were divided around three tables (approximately nine people at each table, with a mixture of both adults and youth in each group). Each group focused on a different cluster of ideas gathered from a Fishbowl activity with the Bountiful Youth Council that was held the week before. (Many thanks to Kendalyn Harris and the Bountiful Youth Council for letting EPIK join their meeting!) Those idea clusters were used by the three groups as a springboard for a group brainstorming process, where the group worked together to list possible Positives Pilot project ideas. Each individual in the group had time to read through the youth inputs and then each member of the group had time to share his/her ideas. All the groups chose a recorder for their discussion, and each recorder then shared the list of ideas with the whole room.
Purpose of this exercise: The intent of this second exercise was to model how a follow-up meeting with youth could unfold. Using the outputs from a Fishbowl experience (with ideas clustered/categorized), more brainstorming about possible project ideas can happen in ways that seek to take all the inputs into consideration. This collision and comparison and conglomeration of ideas can often spur thoughts and discussions that would not happen otherwise in a typical decision-making and planning processes that are often more concerned about managing time, fulfilling requirements, or other constraints. EPIK is encouraging a deliberate “front-loading” of the the process to flesh out ideas and insights before investing time and resources into projects.
It’s important to note that no decisions are made at this point in the process. It’s still a brainstorming, idea-clustering and comparison phase. Again, fighting instincts to hijack, control, or shorten the process is important. As Kathy often says, “Trust the process.”
What would have happened we had more time: There are no bad ideas in brainstorming, so ideas that were shared ranged from specific project possibilities to more general wishes and needs (some were almost like tech requirements). We would have helped the groups process such ideas further so as to start to get closer to actual projects that could be specifically by a classroom or other group of children or youth. We would have helped the groups consider questions such as, “Whom do we want to help?” “What matters to our group?” “What audience would we like to impact?” “What passions does our group have?” [And we probably could have more clearly folded such questions as guides into the instructions.] Getting to the “why” of ideas is as important, if not more so, than the “what”s. Still, the kind of brainstorming that took place could have easily been guided into more discussion, asking people to consider what might be spurring some of the more general ideas, and translating general wishes, goals, and desires into tangible project ideas.
We also would have helped people think about how something that seems technical on the outset (like ideas for app functionality) could actually reflect unmet human needs (e.g., “I wish there was an app that could shut my parents’ phone off). Discussions could have been mediated around what such thoughts can tell us about the opportunities and challenges of living in a digital world, as well as some of the “why”s that are on people’s minds.
We only had a few minutes to gather insights and impressions from the meeting. There were several questions about how this process could be applied to elementary-school aged children. We hope to help people engage with children of that age. In the meantime, Kathy reiterated the concept of “Trust the process.”
What we would have done had we had more time: We would have let both adults and youth decompress more from the whole process. We only had a few minutes at the end, and one of the teens noted after the meeting that he felt uncomfortable speaking up at that point. This was instructive. Even in a setting where we were deliberate about emphasizing that we wanted to hear youth perspectives (and we are professionally aware of the importance of creating a setting where children feel space to speak), the natural dynamic of adults speaking and youth stepping back appeared.