Building 21st Century Technology Skills

PPL Offers techspark!

The skills that youth need to succeed in life have changed dramatically over the last several years. In addition to mastering the 3Rs (reading, writing, and mathematics), youth need to develop fluency in the 4Cs (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation). Computers, access to the internet, and software programs that support learning are central to building 21st century skills and preparing youth to enter today’s workforce.


To respond to this community need, in 2010 PPL began working with TechdotMN, two tech entrepreneurs, to develop an innovative approach to specifically address the technology skill-building needs of tweens and teens from low-income households. techspark! encourages youth to explore digital technology, connect to professionals in technology fields, and gives them the skills to experiment—opening a world of possibility. After four years of program development and refinement, PPL is pleased to announce the launch of techspark! as a “plug ‘n’ play” open source digital literacy curriculum for other area nonprofits and beyond. Available at, here’s what nonprofits can expect from techspark!:

  • A guidebook for coordinators and mentors, including program hardware and software requirements, how-to’s, lesson prep, and enrichment options.
  • A techspark! student workbook, with lessons on basic digital skills and “sparks” for independent exploration.
  • Progressive lessons beginning with keyboarding and computer maintenance and culminating with basic graphic design using free, open source software.

Eric Oines, PPL Associate Director of Youth Development, introduced techspark! to youth workers at a recent Youth Intervention Programs Association
webinar, as well as connected with industry peers for feedback, generating a lot of excitement.

“techspark! is a relevant, engaging, and useful program,” said Janelle Leppa, Family Housing Program Director at Simpson Housing. “I learned things that I didn’t know!”

Interested in learning more? Visit or call Eric at 612.455.5110. Together, we close the digital divide for low-income youth in our community.

Get E-News

Thank you for your interest in PPL’s e-newsletter.