Teenagers’ Use of After-school Community Technology Programs:
The Flint, Michigan and Austin, Texas Experiences (2001 - 2003)
We focused on after-school community technology programs in Flint, Michigan and Austin, Texas to discover how such public library programs affect teenage participants. Our study of the Flint Community Information Agents Online (CIAO) program utilized interviews and focus groups held with teen participants and their teen coaches to determine impacts. The Austin “Wired for Youth” study comprised focus groups with librarians, in-depth interviews with library and project administrators, focus groups with youth participants, and interviews with local nonprofits operating similar youth Internet access programs.
Through these methods, we learned that the youth programs provide what participants consider a safe and welcoming place—often a rarity in the neighborhoods that these programs serve. They give students technology skills and knowledge that they can and do use, while contributing to a range of personal, social development, communication skills for participants and at times to their families. These programs broadened the worldviews of the children and teens who attended them, fostered active learning gains and skills and, for some, increased civic engagement and social capital gains. The specific outcomes of each program are modeled below.