Taking Action in New York with TASC

by Susan Brenna
July 11, 2011

We were thrilled by the energy and enthusiasm that the Action Teams brought to the Cooney Center Leadership Forum last May. The seven groups that we brought together willingly embraced our call to work as local networks of organizations dedicated to making an impact on the future of children’s learning in their communities. We have invited each Action Team to share their experiences at the Forum with us, and hope that they will continue to keep us posted on their activities throughout the coming year. Our first Action Team blog post comes from TASC, The After-School Corporation in New York City. Susan Brenna shares her team’s excitement about the new insights they gained during their time in Los Angeles and the collaborations they look forward to developing with fellow New York team member organizations.

I suspect many of us have been to more than one forum where we could recite every panelist’s talking points without leaving the lobby coffee bar. “Learning from Hollywood” was the opposite of that experience for my colleagues from The After-School Corporation and me. Every panel was a revelation. My notes from the event look like letters from a kindergartner: bolded, starred, high-lighted, a glorious mess of upper case and exclamation.

At TASC we are old hands at the work of expanding learning time and opportunities for kids who otherwise have few enriching options outside traditional school hours. But we are relatively new to thinking deep thoughts about digital media and the power of digital content and technology tools to make kids the center of their own learning, with schools and families and after-school educators all partners within kids’ human and online networks. (I trust I can come out as a beginner to Sesame Workshop friends: new learners are the ones with the greatest potential!)

Here’s what we came into the conference knowing: That the after-school hours (and summers and weekends) present ideal venues for expanding learning through high quality digital media. That the least advantaged kids are the most likely to attend publicly-funded after-school programs, so integrating digital learning goes right at re-dressing the digital divide. That the national structure of after-school systems – including 39 statewide after-school networks and multiple city-wide systems – are pathways to push out the best in digital tools, strategies and networked learning opportunities. And that school and community educators are overwhelmed by options and products; they need help finding the good stuff.

Here’s what we came away with: inspiration, generous advice, and a storehouse of promising ideas and models from people doing good stuff across the nation. We got really excited about the possibilities, through formats like online badge portfolios, for kids to start to documenting their true 21st century competencies and learning accomplishments beyond what in-school tests show.

Through the New York Action Team, we became network buddies with the trailblazers in the New Youth City Learning Network. They are leading the way toward demonstrating what kids can accomplish as creators, not just consumers of digital media. We set a new goal for ourselves: to help New York break down institutional barriers and become a city of connected opportunities where digital natives can leap from one learning experience to the next, building their skills and leadership capabilities every step of the way.

We’re hosting a forum on digital learning in and out of school time in New York this month to keep the conversation going. Come if you can, and share. We’re still learning.

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