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Digitally Lit: Quarterly insights

Digitally Lit: Quarterly insights

As we move into our second year of the pilot, find out what we’re learning along the way in our latest quarterly update, from female participation rates to flexible learning practices, and more
Digitally Lit: Quarterly insights
Simona Ramkisson
Senior Projects Officer​
February 25, 2019
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One year down, one to go! Since launching last winter, over 600 young people have participated in our Digitally Lit program. During this time, we have been able to release two iterations of our curriculum, giving us an opportunity to innovate on our materials and release a final digital version available for all sites to use. We also began working with an outstanding evaluator to help us document key learnings and impacts during the pilot period. Although the evaluator’s report will not be available until the end of the year, we want to continue to reflect regularly on what we’re learning, and what it means for the future of digital literacy in Canada.

What Have We Learned So Far?

Female Participation

From the inception of the Digitally Lit program, our target was to ensure that 60% of our participants identified as female. However, our latest numbers indicate that our female participant average is sitting at roughly 30% across all six sites. We have prioritized working with each site to develop engagement and recruitment plans to encourage greater female participation. Sites have begun seeking out girl-focused spaces to lead the program as well as expanding outreach to locals schools and other community organizations to help spread the word about Digitally Lit.

Flexible Learning

Our facilitators also play a major role in the success of Digitally Lit. Each facilitator must spend considerable time building trust with the group in an effort to better serve them. However, this effort does not always align with the schedules of our young participants. A major challenge working with youth is that they are often obligated to balance a number of responsibilities, such as working part-time jobs, caring for younger siblings, attending school and participating in extracurricular activities. Regular attendance then becomes a challenge for some participants, and instructors have been employing different strategies to ensure all youth have access to a meaningful experience throughout the program.

Some sites have begun to run review sessions in parallel to regular programming and weekend drop-in sessions for those looking to catch up on what they missed. Other sites have created buddy-systems or have adapted open computer time to include one-on-one time with the Digitally Lit facilitator if participants need extra support.

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One of the most inspiring parts of the pilot so far has been the new elements our instructors have created to help participants continue learning after completing the curriculum. These talented instructors have backgrounds in various disciplines that intersect well with digital literacy, including game design, video production, programming and digital design.

Instructor Turnover

One of the first challenges we recognized early in the launch of Digitally Lit was that the instructor turnover rate was higher than originally anticipated. Some sites have not experienced turnover, which has allowed these instructors to build stronger relationships with participants and the community in general. However, some site instructors have moved on to pursue full-time roles that align with their backgrounds, or shifts in their post-secondary schedules have prevented them from continuing with the pilot.

As a result, we have spent considerable time supporting recruitment and onboarding, an effort that has been challenging and time-consuming, especially when candidate pools are limited in some of the smaller communities. Another challenge of working in community spaces is that due to formal pay scale policies, sites are unable to offer highly competitive salaries. The most effective intervention for this issue has been working with sites to build partnerships with formal learning institutions such as universities and informal learning organizations like CoderDojo to increase potential candidate pools.

Site Innovations

One of the most inspiring parts of the pilot so far has been the new elements our instructors have created to help participants continue learning after completing the curriculum. These talented instructors have backgrounds in various disciplines that intersect well with digital literacy, including game design, video production, programming and digital design. Our instructors have found ways to bring this learning into the afterschool space and to document these new lessons so that other sites can also utilize them. We have seen digital comic book production, video game design, as well as exploration using Javascript on web pages. Participants have begun to take what they have learned in Digitally Lit and apply it in real-time to other areas of interest.

As we move into our second year of the pilot, we are grateful for the opportunity to constantly learn from our successes and our challenges, and from our participants, instructors and partners. We continue to work towards innovative solutions to challenges, and to develop a program that offers real value to our participants. We look forward to keeping you, our communities and stakeholders, updated along the way as we continue to build and refine the program.

For media enquiries, please contact Coralie D’Souza, Director of Communications, Events + Community Relations at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship.

Simona Ramkisson
Senior Projects Officer​
February 25, 2019
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