Create it at Your Library: Preparing for Teen Tech Week 2016

Teen Tech Week is YALSA’s yearly initiative encouraging libraries to engage their teen community with resources that enhance their digital literacy skills. During March 6-12, libraries across the country will be buzzing with tech programs, STEM activities, and will be showcasing their digital resources with pride. Not only does this week in March allow us to engage teens with exciting opportunities, but it also gives libraries the ability to demonstrate their incredible value to the larger community. As library staff, we understand how imperative it is that our teens enter college and the workforce with skills that will allow them to hit the ground running. For some, this is an exciting task that they feel well equipped to tackle. For others, it’s a struggle; budgets are tight and technology can be pricey. However, no matter what the technological climate is in your community, there are a myriad of ways to prepare for Teen Tech Week that don’t involve dumping loads of cash into a new 3D printer. With the help of some great resources and inspiration, you’ll be well on your way to hosting the best Teen Tech Week ever.

Taking incremental steps is the best way to begin your preparation. Head over to YALSA’s Teen Tech Week site and register for a free account to access all of the resources that are available to new members. Under the “Resources” tab, you’ll find toolkits that will help you advocate for teens and technology, develop programs and activities, and publicize this exciting week in your library. As you explore the site, you’ll be ready to integrate the maker mindset into your programs and services. Use the Easy Advocacy toolkit to get your administration on board and word out to local policy makers and community leaders. Understanding the importance of this initiative will ensure their support and help you out in the long run.

Since 2016’s theme is “Create it at your library,” programs specific to Teen Tech Week should highlight the library’s place in the maker movement. Libraries are on the forefront of this movement for many reasons; they provide access to information and technology, encourage resource sharing, and they are neutral spaces for teens to explore their interests with support. Harness these advantages by providing programs that tap into a teen’s natural desire to tinker and mess around. If you have a teen space, host a “techy take-apart” where teens take apart technology like keyboards, computer monitors, and even printers and cameras. This is a great way to ease your teens into the STEM mindset by allowing them to see how these technologies are created, but in reverse!

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Teens using Scratch to create digital games.

If your teens are more advanced, host a program series where Scratch is used to teach the basics of computer game programming. I led a three-week Scratch programming workshop at my library last year, called “Storytime for Teens,” where I taught digital storytelling and gameplay development with Scratch. Teens loved Scratch’s fun interface and how it provides the basis for more complex programming languages. After the program series, teen participants walked away with a completed game that they could share with their friends.

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Using iPads at the Technology Petting Zoo.

Introduce teens to new technology and all of the resources that your library has to offer by hosting a Technology Petting Zoo. Set up stations around your library or in a large meeting room where teens can sample different resources through an activity. We highlighted our new iPads by setting up an activity where teens took pictures and printed them in the style of an old-school photo booth. They learned to use photo editing apps and how to navigate their way through the iPad’s printing steps and connect it to our wireless inkjet printer. Teens also used our new Cameo Silhouette printer to design and print a vinyl decal for their phone or laptop. This format allows you to be as creative as you want to be!

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Designing and printing vinyl decals.

You can highlight your library’s new ebook resources by providing demos or show off a new piece of equipment that your library has purchased. The possibilities are endless! For more program ideas and inspiration, check out the Teen Tech Week site and YALSA’s new Teen Programming HQ, which is full of incredible programs that have been tried and tested by library staff all over the country.

Ask your teens what they want to learn and experience at your library. At the end of the day, they are your best resource. After each program, ask for their opinions about the program as they leave. Not only will this give you a guide for future digital literacy programming, but it also gives you a leg up when demonstrating to administration and the community about the vital role of libraries in the lives of its youth. Share your stories to demonstrate impact!

No matter what position your library is in to provide technology programming to its community, making and the maker movement are versatile and can be tailored to any experience level and budget. The idea is to be creative and aim to teach new skills, engage interests, and point towards the future. So as you prepare for this year’s Teen Tech Week, strive to take your making to a whole new level.

Looking for a list of YA fiction about technology for Teen Tech Week? Check out this post on The Hub.

About Elise Martinez

Elise Martinez is the Teen Services Specialist at a library in the northern Chicago suburbs. Elise is always looking for ways to communicate the vital role of libraries in the lives of teens and is interested in connected learning, digital literacy, and technology-based programming. You can find her bookish ramblings on Twitter @elisereneem.

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