Our lives have become digital a while ago
Working in a National Agency on the training of youth workers comes with many benefits. Learning about emerging trends in youth work is one of them. While there have been some scattered initiatives by early adopters before, around 5 years ago things around digital youth work began to be more concrete.
When new trends emerge, one tends to be a bit sceptical at first. Having worked for 10 years on residential trainings I felt like many youth workers did: “Fancy, but it’s just for a tech savvy crowd and I will get lost in a jungle of ever-changing tools that I do not know well enough, and of course meeting face-2-face can never be substituted”.
One of the other benefits of working on a European level is that often you can find a very safe learning environment so thanks to that and my inquisitiveness I slowly but surely, got more and more into this topic. Soon I saw the many advantages and I encourage you to do this too.
Let us look at the three arguments above:
“It’s only for a tech-savvy crowd” – while maybe true 10 years ago our whole world became more digital in recent years. From reading newspapers on smartphones to selecting participants for training courses online (instead of sending a fax with applications around), having a mobile boarding pass (back when we were still travelling) to saving me some backpain with carrying a Laptop to a DJ gig (instead of two suitcases full of CDs): digitalization is a part of many aspects of our lives, it will not go away and is only accelerated by the current situation.
So give it a try – from my own experience I know that even the colleagues I work with across Europe that I would (definitely) not put into “tech-savvy” category happily work on Padlets, etherpads or Jamboards nowadays, once they are introduced to it and see the benefits
Digitalization is a part of many aspects of our lives, it will not go away and is only accelerated by the current situation
Digital tools help us stay in touch both privately and professionally
You don’t have to start from zero
“I will be lost in a jungle of ever-changing tools that I do not know well enough” – while there is an abundance of tools, there is also a lot of guidance available online – check out the Online handbook by SEEYN that gives you a very extensive list sorted by type of activity or browse the padlet by Dan Moxon that provides you with tools but also valuable knowledge, study results and interesting articles just to name two.
So, you don’t have to start from scratch, there are many good starting points and you will very soon find out what works for you in your professional context.
And just a short note on the notion that young people know much more about all of those “digital things”. While probably true, that handling of digital tools might come more natural to them, what often is lacking is the knowledge on how to use these tools responsibly and I think youth work has an important role to play there. And for this you don’t need to be an expert on all of these tools.
“Meeting face-2-face can never be substituted” – It is not a “black or white” discussion. Including digital aspects in your work is not intended to substitute working directly with people, it’s just a way to enhance them, find new channels of communication or maybe even reach out to the young people, who are feeling more secure in these settings. Sitting at home for a couple of weeks of lockdown as I’m writing this, I would agree that face-2-face meetings are important but this situation also shows that digital tools help us stay in touch both privately and professionally and it allows us to continue our work.
You are not alone in this
Trying to find always a bright spot even in dark times like these I think that one good thing coming from this COVID-19 situation is the fact that the willingness (or maybe necessity) to try digital things has increased substantially. It was beautiful to see that only after a couple of days of lockdown in Europe ideas and tools were shared widely online, webinars and online Q&A sessions were put together to support the transformation of youth work into the digital world. While borders are being closed and the end of the European Union was proclaimed (again), youth workers and trainers from all over Europe came together to help each other out and National Agencies of the Erasmus+ Programme will do their best to support them in these challenging times. So, if you are new to the digital youth work party, now is a good chance to join us.
And it is necessary because youth workers are doing what they always have: quickly adapt to the needs of their young people they work with. And that makes me proud to support youth work and it gives me hope that youth work like through many difficult situations before this will come out of this situation stronger than before.
by Marco Frimberger (2020)
Marco Frimberger is working as the Deputy Director at IZ, the Austrian National Agency of Erasmus+: Youth in Action and has been responsible for the training of youth workers for more than 15 years.
Photos: Title © David Pisnoy on Unsplash, all others © Domagoj Morić