Massachusetts 4-H Embraces Technology during the Pandemic
In a year like no other that required technology to learn as well as connect, Massachusetts 4-H embraced technological tools to keep youth engaged in the 4-H program and educate them simultaneously. This reliance on technology held true for both 4-H educators planning their curriculum and 4-H clubs working on their projects.
Adrienne Card, leader of the Black Walnut 4-H Club, praised her club members’ experience with the 4-H Smart Show System, a fair preparation software. “They’ve learned lots of new things.”
Card explained that the 4-H Smart Show System, which the members began using in February 2021, enables them to study cattle, goats, chicken, pigs, rabbits and sheep. Card led the members in studying one animal each month.
The Black Walnut 4-H Club met virtually each Sunday throughout the late winter and spring to learn about their monthly animal. Each animal’s module included several videos. The members watched a 5-8 minute video that covered “tools and tricks” such as caring for the animals or preparing them for the show ring. The video would be followed by a 8-10 question interactive quiz.
Card believes the 4-H Smart Show System helped fill a gap for the club members during a challenging time. “It keeps them engaged, plus it reviews things that I don’t want them to forget,” she said. “We’ve been very happy with it,” she said. “It’s another tool in our toolbox.” In fact, Card found the 4-H Smart Show System so beneficial that she demonstrated it at a meeting of 15 Middlesex County leaders.
Va Shon Wallace-Hiltpold, a 4-H educator from Suffolk, Middlesex, and Essex Counties, also leveraged technology during the pandemic to provide fun and learning for 4-H youth. Her choice of tool? Kahoot!
Kahoot: Learning by Gaming! hosts a learning platform, in the form of a game, in which several players compete by answering questions, often multiple-choice questions about a given topic. The game is designed so that a user logs in to a device (typically a smartphone) that is completely separate from the viewing device, often a laptop computer or tablet.
The players read the questions on the larger screen and enter their answers via their personal device. After all the players answer a question, Kahoot! displays the correct answer, and then tallies players’ points according to correct answer and response speed. At the conclusion of the game, Kahoot! shares the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place podium winners sprinkled with a stream of confetti. The youth love Kahoot!, and as many have utilized it in school, it is familiar to them, explains Wallace-Hiltpold.
The Massachusetts 4-H program has featured Kahoot! in a couple of exciting ways over the past year. Wallace-Hiltpold and educator colleague Angelica Parades chose Kahoot! to check participants’ knowledge throughout Massachusetts 4-H’s Babysitter virtual training program. Massachusetts 4-H teens also participated in a “Northeast 4-H Teen Virtual Meet n’ Greet” back in February in which they mingled virtually and played Kahoot! games with other 4-Hers up and down the Eastern seaboard.
Wallace-Hiltpold noted that Kahoot! comes with built-in quizzes on many topics, saving the educators time. “It’s a way for 4-H members to gain information they may or may not have heard of before,” said Wallace-Hiltpold. “It’s a really fun way of learning, so I don’t want to saturate the 4-H members with it too much!”
Because technical tools took center stage during the pandemic, 4-H will likely continue using many of them into the future, augmenting the hands-on programming the program is traditionally known for. “We need to look at what we’ve done that works well,” explains Linda Horn, Interim 4-H Director. Technology became a way for 4-H to expand its footprint throughout 2020-21.