Connecting Youth to a Digital World

“Everywhere I go, educators are asking: ‘How can we prepare our young people to succeed in an interconnected and borderless world?’” explains Dr. Yvonne Andres, CEO of GlobalSchoolNet.org and a co-chair of the SEE Education and Youth Working Group.
 
Children are coming of age in a digital world where information is available instantaneously and geographical boundaries are blurred. Educators in Russia and the US encounter the common challenge of how to bring this globalized connectedness into their classrooms.
 
In response to this challenge, the Education and Youth Working Group mobilized in-depth research, internet conferencing, social media networking, and crowd-sourcing video to transform community engagement opportunities for youth.
 
Entitled “Open Doors”, the working group’s project integrates the burgeoning concept of interconnectedness into youth education by promoting project-based learning, volunteerism, service-learning, and collaboration between schools and nongovernmental organizations. The overall goal, according to Andres, is to “[get] young people involved in activities that contribute to their local communities as well as the global community as a whole.”
 
In San Diego, SEE Fellows Maria Mikhaylova and Irina Ushakova partnered with local organizations and engaged students through volunteer and community service programs. Then, through digital storytelling, students exhibited their projects through blogs, videos, and presentations. “I would definitely encourage the wide use of this method at Russian schools,” stated Mikhaylova.
 
Fellows Bonnie Sutton, Sarah Chao, and Alexandra Kohut surveyed interesting Russian models for community engagement from Samara to Petrozavodsk and studied the use of innovative technologies within the educational sphere.
 
The working group’s efforts culminated in the “Open Doors” Symposium on March 31-April 3, 2014 in San Diego, California where working group members, fellows, and other educators strategized on how schools, organizations, and programs can strengthen connections between youth and local communities.
 
They produced a 70-page booklet titled School and the Community: Collaboration in the Context of New Educational Standards to showcase exemplary models of collaboration among schools and NGOs and to examine newly established educational standards in Russia and the US.
 
“These successful cases … are real-world examples of approaches that work… for schools that currently face the challenge of successful transition to the new educational standards,” said working group Russian co-chair Denis Rogatkin, Coordinator of the Youth Union “Doroga,” during a presentation at the “34th Parallel” conference of youth organizations in Petrozavodsk.
 
The working group also produced several videos comprised of crowd-sourced clips that embody the value of the “Open Doors” concept, and published an instructional guide for educators on developing their own CyberFair-style projects, further illustrating the momentum that the Education and Youth Working Group is swiftly gaining.