Tennessee 4-H Tech Changemakers

Over 24 million people in the U.S. lack high-speed internet access, and many more don’t have the skills needed to take full advantage of online resources.  The combination of inadequate internet access and limited digital skills has created a digital divide, impacting future opportunities for young people and adults.

4-H Tech Changemakers is empowering young people to close the divide and provide #Opportunity4All people in their communities by providing the education and tools they need to teach digital skills to adults.

Digital Literacy, as defined by the American Library Association (ALA, 2022), is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information that requires cognitive and technical skills. Tennessee’s workers, students, and families increasingly rely on the internet and digital devices in everyday life.  Some 37% of Tennesseans do not have home access to high-speed broadband internet, and many cannot afford broadband subscription services or the devices needed to maintain access to high-quality internet (BroadbandSearch, 2021).

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA, 2022) defines digital inclusion as activities needed to ensure that individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, access and use information and communication technologies.  These technologies include five elements: 1) affordable, robust broadband internet service; 2) internet-enabled devices meeting user needs; 3) access to digital literacy training; 4) quality technical support; and 5) applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-reliance, participation, and collaboration. Digital Inclusion must evolve as technology advances, requiring intentional strategies and investments to reduce and eliminate access and usage barriers to technology.

A lack of digital readiness and literacy poses lifelong consequences for Tennesseans across education levels, race, age, and socioeconomic levels. The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified this reality, increasing the “digital divide” between those who have internet access and those who do not, but also the ability to access critical physical and mental health resources. Although recent progress has been made, there is still a lot of work to achieve digital equity and support digital inclusion at the state and local levels.

Tennessee 4-H members in 9th to 12th grades as of August 1st, 2022!

We plan to expand this programming and allow Junior 4-H Tech Changemakers for Middle School ages in 2024.

Teen training will take place annually for 4-H Tech Changemakers and STEM Ambassadors. Please reach out to Dr. Daniel Collins or your 4-H Agent/Staff in your county to find out more information. The contact information below will give you the best routes to reaching these individuals.

State 4-H Office ContactCounty 4-H Program Contact
Dr. Daniel Collins,
State Extension Specialist
4-H STEM and Camping
Use the link below to contact your 4-H program in your county.
dcolli38@utk.eduTennessee Extension Offices

Other Program Contacts
  • Dr. Sreedhar Upendram (supendra@utk.edu)
  • Mrs. Jamie Harris (jhharris@utk.edu)
  • Dr. Lori Gallimore (lbelew@utk.edu)
  • Mrs. Lynne Middleton (lmiddle2@utk.edu)

Because STEM and digital programming in Tennessee 4-H are valued more and more each year, the plan to implement this programming includes 4-H Tech Changemaker Ambassador Program – teens will learn and train on topics focusing on digital literacy, broadband access, and evidence-based programming to enhance their communities and bridge STEM gaps, no matter their socioeconomic status and demographic. With the enhancement of virtual platforms, Tech Changemakers can enhance Tennessee through Virtual STEM Clubs that build on 4-H member interests and their determination to foster more adult-teen knowledge-building opportunities.

The ability to network and collaborate with more departments and colleges within the University of Tennessee system will be a key component to implementing the 4-H Tech Changemakers programs. Because the collaboration focuses on our county programming, the AGENT STEM Steering Committee will focus on developing a more STEM-forward curriculum surrounding digital literacy with our teen participants and adult learners. 

Local Tech Training with suggested topics such as General Computer Use, Social Media 101, Netiquette, Online Safety, Workforce, and Career Readiness. Many of these topics have 4-H-specific curricula already developed for youth, teen, and adult audiences. Still, the hope with Tennessee 4-H members is that we develop even more opportunities surrounding these topics. 

Listing of Potential and Current Partners

We hope this first year will see more partnerships developed throughout our counties and communities focusing on digital literacy and access.

  • County and local libraries
  • K-12 teachers in the county and local schools
  • Extension agents and specialists working on county 4-H programs and clubs
  • Local teen programs including faith-based and under-resourced audiences
  • Local Y, Boys & Girls Clubs, Girls, Inc. clubs
  • Best Buy Teen Tech Centers
  • UTIA Marketing and Communications
  • UT Extension Information Technology  

Contact Dr. Daniel Collins if you have questions or want to learn more about partnering with the
Tennessee 4-H Tech Changemakers programs.