21st Century Teens: Literacy in a Digital World

At the 2014 ALA Annual Conference, YALSA hosted 21st Century Teens: Literacy in a Digital World, a full-day workshop. Thanks to the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and Blink, this workshop was free for attendees who applied earlier this year. The workshop was broken into shorter presentations by librarians, authors, and other experts on topics relevant to teens and the librarians who work with them.

The session kicked off with Common Core 101, a presentation by Kathryn Lewis, director of media services and instructional technology for Norman (Okla.) Public Schools and chair of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Common Core task force about the Common Core Standards as they relate to public and school librarians. She talked about the big picture ideas of the Common Core, including that it is focused on results, not on prescribing a curriculum. Both public and school librarians should be familiar with the standards, especially since research and media skills and reading are integrated throughout the standards. She also emphasized the importance of reading choice, since students are more likely to read higher complexity materials if they are interested in the subject matter, and the importance of students being able to enjoy the pleasure of fun, easy reading.

Librarians can support the Common Core in a variety of ways, whether they work in a school or not:

  • Provide opportunities for students to have collaborative discussions or to present in front of their peers, like through book clubs or teen advisory groups, to help to emphasize the Speaking and Learning standards (see: English Language Arts Standards, Speaking and Listening, Grade 8)
  • Present to parents in the community about the myths and facts surrounding the Common Core
  • Pair fiction and non-fiction materials in displays, handouts, and programs
  • Select more narrative non-fiction materials for your collection
  • Model the use of databases to your teens and their parents

For more resources, visit the Common Core State Standards Implementation Assistance Toolkit and the Common Core State Standards Action Toolkit for Public Librarians.

The morning continued with Click Here: Teens, Technology, and Literacy, an author panel featuring Lindsey Leavitt, Neal Shusterman, and Scott Westerfeld, moderated by Jack Baur from Berkeley Public Library. The authors discussed how technology informs their work, as well as how it affects their relationship to readers. Here are some Tweets from the panel:

To close out the first half of the workshop, Erin Jade Lange, author of Butter, presented Never Read the Comments. Drawing from her experience as a television news producer and her own adolescence, Lange talked about teenage cruelty as it exists in the world and in teen literature. Here are some Tweets from her talk:

Lunch was followed by Nobody Looks Like Me: The Importance of Diversity in Literature, an author panel featuring David Levithan, Marie Lu, and Graham Salisbury, moderated by Walter Mayes, librarian at The Girls Middle School in Palo Alto, CA. The authors discussed how they define diversity, how they represent the world through their characters, and what authors and librarians can do to get people reading books with various viewpoints. Here are some Tweets from the panel:

Matt Wallaert from Microsoft presented Not Everyone Has a Smart Phone, introducing the Bing in the Classroom program and the research Microsoft is doing into digital literacy and search. In his talk, Wallaert defined digital literacy as the ability to use technology to do something you want to do. Microsoft researchers are looking at how searches, especially natural language searches, are tied to digital literacy. Through schools participating in this program, researchers have discovered that schools with lower teacher-to-student ratio tend to do more searches. They have also found that girls tend to search less than boys. He offered a few suggestions for promoting searching in libraries:

  • Get people moving around the library more by getting away from clustering computers into traditional computer labs
  • Offer a search question of the day and tie it to a prize drawing
  • Teach iterative searching and how to ask good questions instead of teaching Boolean and keyword searches
  • Play Mystery Skype in a classroom setting, where each class has to guess the location of the other classroom by asking each other questions

For more information about ad-free search and how to earn tablet computers for your school, visit Bing in the Classroom.

Closing out the day, Abby Harwood from the Carnegeie Library of Pittsburgh talked about Libraries on Location, specifically her library’s successful CLP BAM! (Books and More) program doing outreach in schools during lunch. This service is intended to simulate library services in a school lunchroom, so they might check out books, create library cards, and do recreational activities like crafts, music, technology, and games. By providing outreach to schools in this manner, class time is saved for instruction, they can reach the entire school, and scheduling is simplified, as they visit on a regular, pre-arranged schedule. For more on the program, view the Prezi from the library’s longer ALA presentation or check out the chapter “Turntables and tater tots : lunchroom outreach that works” in Library Youth Outreach: 26 Ways to Connect with Children, Young Adults and Their Families.

About Whitney Winn

Whitney is a Teen Services Librarian at the King County Library System in WA. She also serves on the YALSAblog Advisory Board and is the chair of the YALSA Website Advisory Board.
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