Should we be teaching our 4-H kids technology or taking away the opertunity?
Hello, I'm currently my county's poultry committee president. At our latest meeting my mother and I brought up a rule change in our current record book "all required pages must be completed in your handwriting". Well in previous years we have seen many kids get marked down due to poor penmanship, spelling or grammar. Now I completely understand that some kids are capable of doing so and just don't try, but other kids with learning or other disabilities that make it impossible to write well are getting marked down. If we implemented the use of technology allowing kids the choice of handwritten or done with a fill in the blank adobe format, it takes away the disadvantage to some kids. Not only would spell/grammar check help kids but also text to speech and speech to text for those that have trouble both reading and writing. I also just recently had a head injury causing difficulties reading and writing. Although at MSU we use Microsoft office for most assignments so I have the technology that catches spelling and grammar errors along with e-text reading software. Now back to the Poultry committee, almost everyone on the committee still lives in the stone ages and are against the use of technology. Do you have any ideas how we can get our point through, which making these record books completed by handwriting only is a disadvantage to some kids? I thought 4-H was building tomorrow’s leaders today, tomorrow is technology and I believe we should be helping kids prepare for the future and give them equal opportunities. Your opinion, experience, knowledge or any other help would be greatly appreciated.
Lapeer County Michigan
Thanks for your question. Preparing children and youth for the future does involve building skills and comfort using technology in a variety of manners - including communication. One way we have included technology for state wide 4-H programs is through the modification of the State 4-H Awards Program Application. It is now digital and youth apply by completing a writable pdf (typing) and emailing the completed application. This mimics scholarships, college entrance exams and job applications they will encounter in the near future. Many counties have recently updated their record books to mimic the new State 4-H Awards program application. That can serve as one example. There are concerns that youth do not do their own work and using technology can make it easier for work and writing to be disguised. I don't know if that is a concern here, but it is something we are cognizant of. As you know decisions of this nature are made at the county level. You could use the State 4-H Awards Program, reasons for the changes, and some counties adapting their record books as examples on how technology is being used in these settings. We also need to remember that all 4-H programs are open to all youth without discrimination. If a 4-H rule/program is limiting youth who can participate then that should be closely examined.