After several cohorts across our different pilot sites in Hamilton, Toronto, Sudbury, London and Belleville, we are now ready to begin the evaluation process to better understand the impact of our programming. Working in partnership with Outlier Research and Evaluation from the University of Chicago, a leading research and evaluation organization that focuses on STEM-based programming, this evaluation process will involve cohorts starting this month. Utilizing a mixed medium approach of facilitator and youth surveys, as well as in-person interviews, we aim to capture how participants feel about the program and the subject of STEM in general, at both the beginning and end of the program.
As we collect insights from the evaluation, we will be sure to share the findings in our quarterly blogs moving forward. The driving intention behind this next step is to better understand the existing and anticipated benefits and limitations of the DLP program, as well as to examine how youth feel about coding and using digital tools throughout the learning process. A potential outcome of our evaluation is to inform the Brookfield Institute’s policy recommendations to key stakeholders and partners.
When launching the DLP program, we concentrated on the quality of the program to ensure a positive and productive experience for all our youth participants. As we moved into our evaluation conversations with Outlier, we recognized that it was now to time to turn our attention to supporting youth once they have completed the program. Working with the Brookfield Institute team, we focused on the creation of a resource grounded in the experiences of our young people. We wanted to make sure that the finished product was colourful, fun and easy to use. We are now ready and excited to launch our new zine (like magazine without the maga), After Digitally Lit! A big thank you to our incredible illustrator, a young, local artist to Toronto, Katie Hicks. You can check our more of her work on instagram @kati.hicks and twitter @kate_lynn_hicks.
This zine follows a group of users who have just completed the DLP program and instructs them how to carve out learning pathways in four key areas: 1) programming, 2) digital literacy, 3) UX design and 4) HTML code. The zine highlights in-person and online learning opportunities for youth based on their geographic locations and areas of interest.
From the outset, the DLP program was designed to focus on supporting programmatic capacity in community-serving organizations. This has allowed us to truly embrace a collaborative and open environment that encourages youth engagement. It is not, however, without its challenges. Like many community programs, it is difficult to utilize a “one size fits all” lens because youth are dynamic and diverse in their experiences.
A few well-documented challenges with after-school programming include:
- Instructor turnover: After-school hours can be challenging, especially for those who have to commute to lead a session. These instructors are often unable to continue teaching due to time demands and scheduling conflicts.
- Inconsistent participation: We are consistently working towards finding a solution to address participant attrition, as well as inconsistent attendance, because we do not require formal registration in after-school spaces. We forgo this kind of rigidity with the hope of creating a trusted space for youth that is welcoming and inclusive. While we recognize the corresponding challenges with this kind of model, we are committed to providing a program that is as barrier-free and flexible as possible.
Through the development of the pathway zine, one policy insight we discovered is a lack of low-fee/free STEM programming in some of our communities, which means that for these youth much of their post-DLP learning will be online and self-guided.
One of the exciting elements of any pilot is the ability to learn as we go. Challenges can be addressed and strategies developed to ultimately ensure that the final program design will meet the needs of our communities and youth.
To keep up-to-date with the Digital Literacy + Coding Pilot, check our Twitter, Facebook and our project page, www.brookfieldinstitute.ca/project/digitally-literate/