Our former Outreach Manager, Kate West, used to make jokes all the time when she’d witness you doing something and feeling proud or accomplished, saying “empowering [name] through [activity]!” For example, “Empowering Sophia through Excel budgets!” It’s a riff on our old tagline, Empowering Youth Though Action Sports, the irony being that while STOKED is a youth development organization, it develops and empowers our staff as well. Even in the most mundane activities, like learning some new flashy chops in Excel.
Keeping in mind the perspective that the more educated, with it, and knowledgeable our staff is the better our work will be, we’ve started a new professional development initiative here in the office: STOKED Reading Club. (Note that, unlike traditional book clubs, this one isn’t optional.) While we don’t have quite the bandwidth to follow Google’s 20% Rule, we’re making a deliberate effort to take time to make ourselves better at our jobs. That means that each Tuesday I, a self-diagnosed nerd and scavenger for information in any way pertaining to STOKED’s work and industry, select an article that I’ve come across and send it to our staff, both in NYC and LA. We all then have one week to read, digest and wax philosophical in a group email chain, sharing our thoughts and response to the reading.
The result will soon be a re-energized, more learned staff better prepared to do what we do. We also hope that this will inspire our community to follow suit, joining the Reading Club and contributing to the discussion.
– Sophia, Senior Program Manager
This Week’s Reading: “No Child Left Untableted” from the New York Times Magazine.
Some STOKED Offerings:
“What will this do to the student? If the average middle schooler spends seven plus hours a day staring at a screen outside of school, adding more screen time to their school day is not healthy. So much is learned through social interactions, I cannot help but think putting a tablet in a child’s hand would decrease personalization and increase isolation. I have seen a good amount of kids who join Stoked who are painfully shy. By the end of the season, program, or whatever it may be, they are speaking in front of groups of 30 or more people like it’s no big deal. If we put a tablet in their hands rather than encouraging these group interactions, they probably wouldn’t push themselves to break out of their shell.
When all is said and done, the educational benefits of new technology depend on good teaching. If it is so easy to find the money for cool, new technology, then why is it so hard to find the money for good teachers?”
– Kat, Program Manager, Los Angeles
“While I feel that an adaptive learning platform for students does give rise to a more personalized educational experience, I don’t feel that our educational system is ready to make use of these tools. Sure there are some public schools that are performing pretty well and could roll in the use of a new educational tool to keep down the cost and weight of textbooks. What about the majority of city public schools which do not have any art or theater classes? What about the teacher hiring freezes and lack of unions, contracts and worker protections that are preventing people from wanting to become top notch teachers?”
– Stu, Office Coordinator, New York
“Also it remains that lazy students will be lazy until they are engaged, and that’s a lot more complicated than giving them a toy. A human has to do it… Fancy tablets should be given to students that show that they are already achieving or on the road too, there should be either a test to qualify or an application. You can’t give tablets to kids who need humans more than anything.”
– Coach Barry, New York
“I’m all for finding new ways to engage youth in the classroom, but I think that this initiative is just feeding a booming tech industry. The idea that youth can be spending more time using machines, and less time having face-to-face interactions scares me… This tablet program means well, but the real concern should be working to adequately train teachers and help them find creative ways to engage students and measure progress, not yet another way to have the 50 minute class pass as quickly as possible.”
– Hannah, Program Manager, New York
What are your thoughts? Comment here!