Written By: Olivia Pavco-Giaccia - Guest Writer
Three years ago, I co-founded the National Girls Collaborative Project’s Young Girl’s Advisory Board (YoGA Board), a group of high school students from across the U.S. who are passionate about closing the gender gap in STEM. In that time, YoGA Board members have reached hundreds of thousands of their peers with STEM-related activities as diverse as marching in the Pasadena Rose Parade in support of Amazon Studio’s latest movie on astrophysics, interviewing members of Congress about new STEM Ed legislation, and even helping out with the creation of this magazine!
Our members are located all across the country, so we conduct our group meetings and feedback sessions virtually. Along the way, I’ve learned some important lessons about how to incentivize students to engage within a digital learning environment. Below are three of my best tips:
1. Meet your members where they are.
One of the initial challenges that YoGA Board faced was finding a platform where our members felt comfortable regularly engaging and interacting with each other. At the time, Zoom wasn’t as common as it is now, and our members weren’t familiar with other video conference platforms such as Google Hangouts or Adobe Connect. We decided to choose a platform that our members were already frequently engaged with: Instagram. We have conducted all of our meetings via Instagram since. If your school or program has mandated a particular video streaming service, it might useful to create a separate Instagram page or Snapchat group chat where students can interact with you/each other outside of class. Think of these social media pages as virtual billboards where students can post questions, find additional resources, and receive reminders on what’s coming up next. In addition to facilitating communication within the board, our Instagram meetings helped spark another positive idea: creating a public Instagram page that contains peer-to-peer STEM resources. Today, you can view our public page and find opportunities in your area at @Girls.Collaborative on Instagram. Follow us and check it out!
2. Assign a few students to speak in advance.
During an online class or meeting, it can be hard to know if a student is actually listening...or just making TikToks. In order to ensure participation from everyone on our YoGA Board, I’ve started sending out a meeting agenda in advance and randomly assigning certain topics to different members who haven’t spoken up in a while. During the group discussion of the topic to which they were assigned, members are expected to join the video and contribute their thoughts. This contribution could take the form of an opinion, a question, an additional idea -- essentially anything, as long as they add something to the conversation. I like assigning these contributors in advance rather than just cold-calling during the meeting because it gives students the chance to mentally and physically prepare for being on camera (something that can feel more intimidating than just speaking up normally in a classroom). In addition, this methodology has allowed members of the YoGA Board to start feeling a sense of ownership over “their” topics. Many have chosen to continue to engage with the topics that they were assigned to, resulting in student-driven projects that continued offline.
3. Take advantage of innovative online experiences.
I know, I know...the internet is overwhelming, and it can be tough to find credible, pre-vetted learning resources. If you are looking for a place to start browsing options, the National Girls Collaborative Project recently put together a webpage of STEM Resources for Online Learning. YoGA Board members helped recommend several of the groups/activities listed, including TechGirlz free workshop plans and Girls Excelling in Math And Science (GEMS) challenges and club activities. If you or your students are looking for an engaging, digital-learning class activity, these programs are a great place to start.
The YoGA Board is currently accepting new member applications, so if you or your high school-aged student is interested in joining our group, please feel free to reach out for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org Also, be sure to follow us on our public Instagram: @Girls.Collaborative
I hope that these tips are useful! If you try any of these and have any feedback, please share it in the comments section below.
This article was written in collaboration with the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP). You can learn more about NGCP on their website, ngcproject.org