In 2014, the California Workforce Investment Board funded Hack the Hood and Winnow Design Research Studio to research, design, develop, and test pilot video projects to enhance employment training for disconnected youth. We recently completed the project, and are excited to share the results with the world, including other organizations interested in using video to engage young people in workforce training.
Below is a Q&A with Hack the Hood's COO and co-founder, Mary Fuller.
What is HTH?
We're a non-profit that teaches low-income youth of color important tech and professionals skills and about tech careers by training them to build websites for small, local businesses in their community. We won a big, public grant from Google to scale our program through partners.
What was your original “Big Idea” when you applied for the CWIB funds?
We thought we could accelerate and deepen learning for disconnected youth (youth who are not in school and not working) by flipping our classroom with Khan Academy-style videos that they could watch before coming to class. We thought that would give us more time for hands-on learning, and giving our youth more flexibility about when and where they absorbed lessons.
The other part of our big idea was to apply Human Centered Design to try to understand better the needs of our youth so we could find the right way to integrate video into our curriculum.
What have you done, and What have been your major accomplishments so far?
We engaged a Human Centered Design firm called Winnow Research Studio to help us dive deep with our participants, staff, and with workforce experts. Together, we developed a set of design principles and Winnow produced a report that described the youths' needs, what we already do that's effective for learning and engagement, and how we might translate those strengths into innovative and effective video curriculum. The principles we developed can be helpful for anyone interested in doing this for their own program.
We also developed nine different videos based on concepts we came up with during the research. We did a test bootcamp that just ended in April to test the video curriculum.
Any elements that haven’t turned out as planned? Why do you think that is? Any lessons your can share from that?
The researchers actually found that what was really effective about our program was the high level of engagement we inspire in our youth. They found that that engagement really stems from relationships that youth developed with each other and with the instructors, and those relationships really started during our workshops. That meant we couldn’t use the flipped classroom idea. So we pivoted. Instead we experimented with ways that video could add to the engagement. For example, one video features an interview with one of our program clients where he talks openly and honestly about his life, his business, his insights into customer service, and how busy he is during the day. All these elements can lead to a rich classroom discussion about engaging busy customers, how to provide high level of service. It also just signals to youth that their clients are real people with back story and adds to empathy they need to provide good service for them.
Another novel approach that grew out of the research was our Reality Bytes tapes. We set up a booth in the bootcamp and had one of our instructors interview youth during the course of the program. Since many of our youth were facing challenges at home, some really deep stuff came out and it was almost therapuetic for them to be able to talk about how sometimes the chaos in their lives affects their work life and their outlook on their future. They also expressed their change in self-perception as well as their hope for their future, which are all critical for getting these youth on the track towards further education and a career.
What’s next for your project/work?
We’re looking for more ways to reach more people with this video content. Going forward, we’d love to run further with the content that we created and to massively build on it and get the content out to more disconnected youth. We’ll be applying for a second round of funds to build Hack the Hood 2.0- a new bootcamp where disconnected youth will work in partnership with tech professionals to build a skill building and career exploration app for other disconnected youth. We'll feature videos of tech professionals of color to show youth that people who look like them can and do make it in tech. We have lots of great ideas for features, but really, we want the youth to come up with them on their own. Ultimately, we want to create a much larger online community of youth and mentors who can support each other as we diversify the tech industry.
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