Programming is challenging, especially when you have to anticipate

Since May, I’ve been part of a planning team designing a week-long summer camp (July 20-24, 2015) for 8-12 year olds and for teens in the Peoria Heights (IL) area. This team is a smaller aspect of a much larger project, the Digital Innovation Leadership Program (DILP). This project is funded through the University of Illinois Extension and works with 4H offices across Illinois to plan and lead programs. Our goal is to focus on three learning areas: digital manufacturing, digital media production, and data analytics.

For me, it’s an exciting grant because it really builds off what I’ve done this past year. I get the opportunity to think more about digital literacy and how what I learned can be applied in other situations, always bending the curriculum/workshop to fit the context of the group. Additionally, I played a major role in the creation of the 8-12 year old camp and played a support role in developing the curriculum for the teens. The teens are building off the work of Ann Bishop and her team have been doing in Seattle: InfoMe, which I wrote about in my December 2014 post. Here are five things I learned (or got confirmed) about planning along the way.

  1. Plan A is rarely your best plan.
    • I think our morning camp is in version 3.5. We would have an idea, run with it for a bit, think of something better, tweak it, and run with it again. A few times, we threw out the whole idea and came up with something better. Just like writing a paper for my English classes in undergrad, my best work comes after a few revisions, a few freakouts, and some good conversations with mentors & peers.
  2. Nail down objectives early so that when new ideas come up they can quickly be  assessed if they fit the objectives. If yes, then accept the idea and if not, the idea is vetoed (need help deciding on objectives or learning outcomes? check YALSA’s wiki).
    • This was incredibly helpful as we kept coming up with different plans. Our team had met with some community leaders in Peoria Heights at the beginning of May to get an idea of what they wanted from this camp. The main objective that came through was strengthening community pride. When we came back to Urbana-Champaign to play, we had that strong objective in mind. Our camp was framed around that idea and it helped keep us focused and remember what was important.
  3. Give yourself enough time, especially if you’ve working with community partners.
    • Everyone is busy. It seems like such a simple fact, but often forgotten. While a community partner you meet with several months before the program seems very excited about collaboration, as the program actually approaches and the summer is flying by, they might be harder to get in touch with. However, if you contact them early enough, get the date on their calendar sooner rather than later, and provide solid information on expectations and program objectives, then you can feel confident going into the program. Also, I don’t know about you, but I never can estimate how long something will actually take me.
  4. Clear communication is crucial. 
    • Use clear and direct email subject lines, direct emails with questions or bullet points of information, call the person/people on the phone when needed, and also don’t forget about the value of visiting the place the program will take place (if it’s off site or for us, in a completely new city). We took another trip to Peoria Heights in June with a draft of our camp and some questions. It was so nice to sit across from the stakeholders and on-site organizers to make sure we were on the same page.
  5. Anticipate all you want, but sometimes you just have to relax and rely on your ability to change on the fly.
    • With the camp a week away, we suddenly started coming up with all these ideas. Well, if project A doesn’t work, we could do this alternative project A, or alternative project B. Oh…wait, here’s another idea. When you start to go into that spiral, things become overwhelming. I think it’s good to have a backup plan, but somethings you just can’t anticipate. I found myself needing to feel confident about what we had planned and trust myself to think on my feet if during the week, something changes.

Since the camp is right around the corner, I’ll be blogging reflections after the morning camp on my personal website and then will be posting short reflections on the teen camp here on the YALSA blog. Looking forward to sharing this camp with you!

About Hailley Fargo

Hi, I'm a new professional working as the Student Engagement Librarian at Penn State University, University Park campus. As someone who provides reference to undergraduate students and teach information literacy to primarily freshman, I'm curious about the intersections of the work of YALSA and academic libraries (and how we can collaborate and work together to help our teens). In my spare time, I like to bike, read memoirs, watch TV shows, and consider myself an oatmeal connoisseur.
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