Bridging Generations: Nebraska Extension's 4-H Tech Changemakers Workshop

Nasrin Nawa | 

May 31, 2024


Nebraska Extension's 4-H Tech Changemakers workshop is a pioneering event where educators transition into learners, and students take on the role of teachers, sharing their knowledge of the technology they are immersed in daily. This unique initiative aims to cultivate proficiency in using emerging technologies and empower educators to integrate them into their classrooms.

 “4-H Tech Changemakers gives teens the tools and support they need to become true agents of change by teaching digital skill-building workshops to adults,” said Dawn Lindsley, Extension educator and the 4-H Tech Changemaker leader.

 It was the first year that educators from all corners of the state convened for this transformative event. Held at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s East Campus Union, the workshop saw a diverse cohort of over 100 attendees, ranging from youth of various ages to seasoned educators with diverse backgrounds and varying levels of technological expertise.  

Educators from elementary, secondary and postsecondary institutions, both formal and informal, are encouraged to participate and enrich their teaching practices. 

The event covered about 50 different topics, ranging from using art and technology to create joy of learning, to the changing landscape of multimedia and trends in ag technology. 

Autumn Lindsley, a fourth-generation 4-H member, has been actively engaged in the Tech Changemaker program for three years. She emphasizes this program has not only enhanced her own tech literacy but also equipped her with the ability to effectively teach others. "Aspiring to become an educator myself, this program has provided me with invaluable opportunities to refine my skills in a bunch of different settings" she said.

A teacher from Cedar Catholic School, Russ Gade, expressed, "I am old, so I need new ideas. This workshop provides me with valuable resources and inspiration for my web show and multimedia classes." 

There is a lack of teacher trainings in tech, said Hector Palala, a PhD student at UNL College of Education & Human Sciences, at the Department of Teaching Learning and Teacher Education who presented to educators about How to use IA for active learning and skill development. 

Palala emphasized, "Many teachers are tasked with integrating technology into their teaching without receiving proper training. Consequently, it's challenging for them to stay updated with technological advancements. Programs like these are essential for educating educators and facilitating technology-enhanced education for the new generation."

Julia Cunningham, Director of Rural Engagement at the U.S. Department of Education, a key speaker at the event, emphasized the increasing importance of technology, especially in rural education. She underscores the urgent need to ensure "access to resources and establish sustainable avenues for rural districts to embrace technology fully. Failure to bridge this gap risks leaving students behind."

Lisa Kollbaum, who teaches computer science at Lincoln Public Schools, stated, "This seemed like a valuable opportunity to enhance my teaching skills by familiarizing myself with the latest technologies available. Meeting new people and exploring emerging technologies has been a rewarding experience."

Marusa Jones, a Nebraska Extension educator, shared, "I'm attending today to expand my knowledge of various digital media formats, which will enable me to better engage my audience, both in-person and online." Reflecting on the program, she noted, "It has been incredibly worthwhile, as I've gained valuable insights into leveraging AI in my professional endeavors."

"I believe this will significantly impact our state, as agriculture is our number one industry. By leveraging digital tools to enhance access to vital services, we can promote community prosperity and vitality," stated Mike Boem, Vice Chancellor at UNL. "When these individuals share their experiences with ten others each, the reach can easily extend to a thousand people. It's contagious," he added.

"It's not often that youth have the opportunity to teach adults, so it's a really cool experience," remarked Lindsely. "Having adults genuinely listen, especially when it comes to something as dynamic and evolving as technology, which we've grown up with, is quite remarkable."