First of all, one should stop thinking about anything digital as some magical goal to achieve, or some sort of life changing super-powerful trick that will automagically keep your youth interested, participating, active, engaged or whatever else one can dream about.
There is nothing magical in anything digital: the only magical thing is the youth worker’s competence and the ability to design and set up learning experiences for young people. Digital media should be considered simply extra tools in this process, opening up possibilities, letting us access new, sometimes uncharted, territories where youth work could happen.
This does not happen without trying out yourself, playing around, spending time and energy with a tool to learn how it works and even reaching out for training courses to support that process. But that’s how learning something new works all the times, right?!
And let’s make it very clear: this is not a matter of age, either. There is no such thing as “digital natives” when it comes to learning. So find here our top 5 list of digital youth work tools, taken from training activities that we designed. Each tool will be explained and commented with the aim of offering practical hands-on tools, for digital youth work.
Discover and try out the scravenger hunt app that allows you to easily create interactive, collaborative learning experiences in form of rallies, quizzes or hunts. You can play existing open bounds, or you can create your own e.g. in and around your youth centre or city. Participants play on their own devices through a free app. When setting up your bound -you need to have a profile- you can combine different kinds of tasks (answering questions, finding spots etc.) with different kind of media: audio, video, pictures etc.
You can only use Actionbound for free when using it privately. Within educational settings in non-profit-organisations you will have to get a license. Currently a license for 20 players will cost you 25 Euros.
Create a music video with your target group showcasing e.g. your institution, project, city or youngsters! Lipdubs combine lip syncing and audio dubbing, meaning that you film people “singing” and dancing to a certain song and afterwards put the original audio of the song to it. Lipdubs should be done in a single and unedited shot or “camera movement”.
For filming, a simple tablet or mobile can be used, but better results can be achieved with an action camera. You can find a variety of different lipdubs on Youtube, from very elaborated ones (Jeff High School) to simple ones. Mind that not all songs can be used if you want to share your lipdub with a bigger audience. Youtube amongst others provides CreativeCommons / no copyright music in their audio library.
Participants should be involved in every step: from choosing the song to filming, decoration, make-up, editing the video to uploading it.
It is an orienteering / treasure hunting recreational outdoor activity in which participants use GPS to hide and seek containers (“geocaches”) at specific locations. Geocaches are often located at spots worth seeing, which makes it a good possibility to playfully explore places.
A typical cache contains a logbook, where the finder signs with his/her name and date to prove that the cache was found. Geocaching can be played with any GPS devices: mobiles (with specific apps) or other navigation tools.
You can show your participants the geocaching world by using the original website and app (mind that the free app doesn’t show all caches you will find on the website). Check all the caches yourself before letting your participants play! Some caches may be inactive or really difficult to find! You might consider coming up with an extra hint for your participants to find the caches.
It is also a good and safe option to create and hide your own caches, simply designing your own map with coordinates that participants can seek with any navigation software like maps.me, google maps, etc.
Geocaches are often located at spots worth seeing, which makes it a good possibility to playfully explore places.
It is a free game-based learning platform that enables you to easily set up multiple choice quizzes that can be played in group settings. Questions are displayed from the website (so you can screen them on a beamer or even play online), while players answer on their own mobiles through a free app. You need a profile for setting up your own game but not for playing an existing game. Besides creating your own kahoots, you can search among existing ones.
5. “Brian The Onion”
It is a simple digital storytelling activity, using Instagram pictures / videos and some hashtags, directly created by our DIG-IT UP! team.
A creatively made character, e.g. a decorated onion (let’s call him Brian or Winona) is portrayed in different everyday life situations, defined by the different hashtags that participants would get from the youth workers. Then pictures of these everyday life portraits are uploaded on Instagram and so the online story of our character is told and his/her profile created. It may be used to open up discussions and increase awareness on people’s digital reputation, how online pictures and video may have impact and leave traces, and so on. You can find very detailed instructions to this exercise in our publication (p.23).
We consider many of these exercises as a way to engage into conversation and discussion with our participants on controversial topics regarding digital media e.g. related to online privacy, such as body images online, sexting, reputation, GPS position tracking etc.
If you start thinking at digital media tools as, exactly, tools, it could be a lot easier to come up with some new ideas on how to use them in your activities, how to blend them in what you already do or how to include them in your tool kit, even just to spice up a bit what you offer your young people.
We hope this inspired you to try some tools and explore existing offers. Everybody can learn how to include digital media in youth work, and we are so sure about this, that together with Joanna Wronska we created the training course DIG-IT UP! exactly to teach and show the participants how to. On the official website www.digitup.cloud you can download for free “Digital youth work: dig-it up!”, the publication we wrote about this experience. By the way, a new edition is coming during spring 2018 in Italy, so you could also find information about it soon on the website, or on SALTO-Youth training calendar.
If you want to learn more about Dig-it up, you can also click on it in the text to be linked to the website or listen to Michele chat about it in the “Digital Youth Work Sessions” by clicking on the Logo above.
Raphaela Helena Blassnig
lives in Austria and works as a freelance trainer, facilitator and process designer. Her work focuses on outdoor education, leadership training and professional orienteering.
Michele Di Paola
lives in Italy where he is active with his organization Spazio Giovani and as a freelance, in creating youth activities, training youth workers and teachers on the many possibilities of using digital tools in non formal education.
Photos © participants Dig-IT UP