Be sure to read the full Seattle YMCA IMPACT Newsletter.
|Digital literacy and access to technology|
Many homes and schools do not have access to necessary technology, creating challenges for students as job applications and even GED tests make their way online. Access to technology and this new digital literacy becomes imperative for every student’s path to success.
|Youth voice and civic engagement|
We have a huge responsibility to guide young people in how to leverage technology to express their voices in positive ways, and we have an even bigger responsibility to listen and support their ideas.
Can you remember the last big social movement that did not involve young people? Can you imagine a future movement that won’t utilize technology and social media?
YTech trains youth to create and share cause-driven media online: videos, photographs, audio pieces and digital art, and more.
Youth-created content lives within YTech’s online community, PugetSoundOff.org, where students connect around important issues and speak out collectively for positive change.
|Youth taking action offline|
We are updating PugetSoundOff.org this fall to support more youth-led take action campaigns in the community that create offline space for others to see youth as agents of change.
For the last year YTech has transformed the Clapp Room into a cozy space for teens and starting this fall, will host a series of technology workshops, topic discussions and even youth networking events.
Talk to us if you would like to host something specific to your program area out of our space!
We’ve also taken on the curating of the Triangle Art Gallery which is back to rotating youth art every 1st Thursday of the month.
Sept. – Japan Global Teens
Oct. – Prague Global Teens
Nov. – Youth Voices Against Violence
|Collaborate with YTech|
Talk to Colleen if you need tech equipment: projector, laptops, or even a sound system. Let her know if you want to see your youth create cause-based art for the Triangle Art Gallery or media for PugetSoundOff.org. Or maybe you’re just interested in hosting a conversation with youth around your cause within the Y:)
It’s been over a month since the Digital Inclusion Summit, but meaningful engagement with technology is something that’s always on my mind. On Monday, I had the chance to help out Emily, a co-worker at the Y @ Cascade People’s Center. She reached out to YTech hoping to use some of our laptops for a basic computer class for the folks utilizing the food bank at the Immanuel Lutheran Church across the street. On the Mondays the food bank is open, there is a lull between when the tickets are passed out and when the individuals receive their food, so the CPC opens their doors for the interim and offers coffee and tea. Emily saw this as an opportunity to engage with this population and provide an opportunity in addition to coffee and tea. She felt this population could benefit from a basic computer workshop, but wanted to insure that it was taught in the most accessible and meaningful way. The demographics of the population utilizing the food bank are predominantly Ukrainians who speak Russian. Emily reached out to Jane, CenturyLink’s Market Development Manager, and Jane reached out to Olga, a CenturyLink employee who happens to speak Russian.
Monday morning arrived and I set up the laptops, Olga set up her PowerPoint and Jane powered up her camera. Olga went around to each of the tables and, in Russian, invited people to participate in her presentation. Many were hesitant to participate at first, but as Olga continued on with her presentation, people started meandering to the laptops to follow along. As an outsider watching the interaction between Olga and those engaged, I was reminded how important it is to understand why individuals don’t have access to computers then try meet them halfway. Emily saw an opportunity to meaningfully connect with the population using the CPC and took advantage of it. As a bystander, I could see how pleased the individuals were when someone spoke to them in a language they understood. After the training, Olga mentioned that many of the participants were interested in learning about programs offering cheaper internet and computers. (Both Comcast and CenturyLink offer similar basic internet programs.) This population is clearly interested in having access to computers but, because of the language barrier, they were unaware of the many programs in existence which many of them would qualify for. I was happy YTech could support this meaningful training and it was reinvigorating for me to be a part of this collaboration.
Every morning I wake up to my alarm from my iPhone, check One Bus Away to see how much time I have to become presentable, run for the bus, then arrive at work to type away on a computer. Technology has become so ubiquitous in my life and with my work at YTech I often forget not everyone is wired like me…
Attending the Digital Inclusion Summit reminded me that only 1/3 of Americans in the United States have access to Broadband…1/3 or 3.3333 people out of 10! This is a hard statistic to comprehend in Seattle – a city home to Microsoft, Google offices and Adobe offices. Laura Breedan, the Summit’s keynote speaker from the Department of Commerce, explained the true cost of digital exclusion. We use the internet every day for everything from buying a car to finding employment. With so much of our daily activities online, those who do not have access are falling further and further behind. In her keynote, Lauren spoke to libraries as being the forerunners of digital inclusion. With the help of national and local grants, like BTOP, more non-profits and organizations have taken queues from libraries to become hubs for digital access. This summit was a chance for organizations and nonprofits around Washington to share their programs with like-minded individuals. It was a reinvigorating experience reminding me why I was so intrigued with YTech when I first stumbled across it.
The format of the summit was an “unconference”. What does that mean you ask? I like to think of it as a conference for the people, by the people. Basically, the day included two workshops for folks to attend, but the sessions were decided day of by the attendees. Kinda awesome right? Well, Colleen and I decided to brave the crowd, and we presented a potential topic about our award winning Civic Voice curriculum.
The people of the conference voted and our topic was chosen as one of the sessions. Together, Colleen and shared the story of YTech to a small group of people and ensued was a great dialog about youth created media.
At YTech we are working hard every day to make technology and media more than just a toy. Like Spiderman said, “With great power comes even greater responsibility”. We are not super heroes at YTech, but we are helping the digital natives of this city harness their technology skills and use them for something meaningful.
While meaningful engagement through technology is an important priority for us digital inclusion advocates, I’m grateful that meaningful non-technological, face-to-face forums still exist. On March 4, Seattle’s Town Hall hosted a talk with California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom about his new book, Citizenville. (Not surprisingly, I learned about this event online and, not surprisingly, you can listen to the recorded $5 event for free here.)
Refreshingly straightforward for a politician, Gavin clarified that his new book was not “about” campaigning; it is about governing, and how data can be used to help. By default, he said, government is closed and only provides the most basic of information to the public out of fear of controversial headlines. To counter that government standard, Gavin’s position is that government openness should be required.
Gavin’s main point was that “slingshots of technology are tearing down institutions.” How so? What does that mean? While deciphering that metaphorical sentence would be an excellent high school Language Arts prompt, Gavin followed up his embellished statement with an example from his days as San Francisco’s mayor:
San Francisco was one of the first cities to require their departments to provide data sets online, and city officials were anxious about that shift. More specifically, Gavin recalled that the implementation of “compost police” during his term as mayor was controversial, even in liberal San Francisco. But after the City posted information about the rules of composting online, citizens voluntarily designed easy-to-use apps relaying the information to fellow San Franciscans. By sharing their composting information online, the City catalyzed the process of making the information even more accessible to San Franciscan smartphone users, and without any extra cost in time or money to the city bureaucracy.
Gavin sees that technology can be, and already is, a platform for civic engagement. Town Hall settings will not be the future for politics, he says, because people with advocacy stickers and one-track minds take over the conversation. He expects that, following models in Brazil and New York, important political decisions like budgeting will become a more public process. Via online interaction, we can localize decision-making and opinion-sharing, enhancing the fact that everybody is an expert in something.
My coworker Melissa and I were impressed with Gavin’s candid and informed insight. Coming from YTech, though, we were distracted by the fact that he didn’t even mention that multiple barriers exist for technological civic engagement. After his talk, Gavin personally acknowledged to me and Melissa that he didn’t even touch on issues related to digital inclusion during the talk. While he made digital inclusion issues a priority with various public housing initiatives as San Francisco mayor, he pointedly said that nobody has a silver bullet solution for digital inclusion issues. His specific comment was that continuing to drive down the prices for technology, referring to a $10 tablet in India that was recently released, will create major headway for digital inclusion issues.
Gavin openly admitted that citizens play a vital role in re-engaging politicians, who easily get caught up in the world of Politics. “The most important office is citizenship.” As a citizen in the Digital Age, I know that I can use my resources to learn about how to re-engage my politicians and fellow citizens, whether it is through searching for a politician’s address so that I may write a letter, following up with a documentary that has a corresponding documentary issue campaign, or by interacting with local youth on PugetSoundOff.org. Still, as powerful as the Internet and its resources can be, I’ve gotta say that there is nothing like a Town-Hall style event that reinvigorates my commitment to my role as a Citizen.
While Colleen and Niki were spending their time in North Seattle at Ingraham High School facilitating workshops promoting teen dating violence awareness, Lily and I were across town at Cleveland High School exploring relevant social problems with Mr. Coughran’s freshman humanities classes. The students combined their knowledge of persuasive writing with YTech’s Civic Voice Curriculum and the result was a dozen powerful Public Service Announcements.
Working in groups, students self-selected a variety of topics ranging from distracting electronics to bullying to more comprehensive sex education. Lily and I challenged the students to think creatively about how to portray their messages through PSAs. We asked probing questions and discussed example PSAs to encourage creativity while relying less on descriptive dialog. By removing certain elements from the filming and editing process (sound, color or objects) Lily and I saw the creativity flourish among the students and their projects.
After scripting, storyboarding, filming, and editing their PSAs, students were proud to share the final products with their peers and YTech staff during the final Media Viewing. Here is a little teaser of what PSAs came out of the students’ hard work – the rest can be viewed on Puget SoundOff
The students learned a variety of skills during the week including, how to hold a camera while not looking like a tourist and the importance and value of civic engagement. Our week at Cleveland allowed the students to become producers rather than consumers of technology; something we strive for everyday at YTech.
A message from YTech’s Aaron Curtis:
Every now and again life presents amazing opportunities that, once grasped, leave positive imprints on us forever. Fortunately, at the YMCA and Horn of Africa Services (HOAS) these opportunities present themselves everyday. And for us at YTech and HOAS, it happened once again when we had the opportunity to facilitate an English literacy and digital media program with fourteen exceptional East African immigrants and refugees.
Every Tuesday and Thursday for three months the East African youth met at the Seattle Public Library Central Branch for reading and writing exercises, followed by a technology component in the YTech computer lab.
The program wasn’t all work. At YTech, we place an equal emphasis on having fun. That’s why in addition to completing the rigorous requirements of the English literacy program, the East African immigrants and refugees also toured the Seattle Art Museum, visited Denny Park, played indoor soccer with one another, practiced photography skills with state of the art digital cameras, and sat in a board room at Ryan, Swanson, & Cleveland’s law office in Downtown Seattle to meet with attorneys Roger Mellem and Shannon Laweless and learn about careers in the legal field.
Nonetheless, a great deal of work was involved! During the English literacy program the youth: 1) drafted a college admissions essay, 2) read “The Translator” by Daoud Hari, created a resume, 3) attended a resume critique event with seasoned professionals from Boeing, Microsoft, and Slalom Consulting, 4) wrote a short essay about their experiences in immigrating from Africa to the United States, and lastly 5) created a Digital Book containing their stories.
So please help us celebrate all of the youth have accomplished during this program by reading their digital book, Tarikna, located online at: PugetSoundOff.org/tarikna