Teen Design Lab Reflections, Day One

Hi everyone! So I wrote a post on Friday about an upcoming camp I was helping to plan. During the afternoons this week, we are leading a Teen Design Lab camp. Our general objectives for the camp are:

  • Help youth learn about the community through exploration
  • Engage youth in contributing to community problem-solving
  • Learn about digital media and technology

I’ll be leading a week long reflection series about how the camp goes with the teens each day and how what we are doing fits in while YALSA’s programming guide. I’ll try to have the reflection post every evening, although this first post is the morning after (since the first day is full of craziness, debriefing, and figuring out where to get dinner).

Day One 

What we did:

  • Spent some time on designing a roadmap for the week (see photo). Ann had written this roadmap for the week in terms of the themes of the projects we would be working on and then what skills and outcomes we were hoping for. This roadmap was partially empty and in the picture, you can see we asked questions and got answers from the teens to fill in the roadmap.
  • Community tour. We had the teens go out into the Peoria Heights downtown area and observe what they liked about the area (and what teens might like about this area), what they thought was problematic or what they didn’t like about the area, and then what questions they had or what surprised them about something they saw. We also sent them out with iPad Minis to take photographs with. We encouraged them to talk to store owners and ask questions. The facilitators wandered around the downtown area as well, but we really let the teens do their own thing. We will use this feedback for future design projects this week.
  • Spoke with the township administrator, Roger, (we had met him previously and he gave us input in how he hoped the camp would run). He talked about his beliefs in doing community engagement and some of the neat projects the Richwoods Township had done recently.

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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.

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ALA Annual 2015 — How to Participate From a Distance

Summer is here and at least in Illinois, it’s heating up fast! With June halfway over, we know that ALA Annual is on the horizon. And what says summer better than San Francisco, California? The theme this year is “Transforming libraries, ourselves.” With 25,000 library affiliated folks coming to town, it’s an event you don’t want to miss!

Unfortunately, I’ll be diligently working in Illinois during ALA Annual, but that doesn’t mean I have to miss out on the conversations. If you’re like me and won’t be in San Fransisco, here’s a guide to staying in touch, from a distance.

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Graduate Student Reflections After Year One

Part of why I enjoy blogging for YALSA is that I can have my voice, as a librarian-in-training, be heard among other professionals. And so, I wanted to post a reflection after my first year in graduate school.

Year one was great. Choosing University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign was the right choice for me. I feel challenged and surrounded by peers who are just as passionate about libraries as I am. These peers are also my friends, and together we explore Urbana-Champaign. The faculty have supported me in my endeavors and have shown me more resources than I can go through (thank goodness for websites like Diigo to keep track of all of them). My master plan has been changed but this professional has the ability to be flexible. I’ve embraced my revised path and feel even more confident than I did a year ago. Even sitting in graduation, hearing our dean speak, reminded me of why I joined this profession and all the things I have to look forward to. I think it’s truly an exciting time to be in library land.

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30 Days of Teen Programming: Would this ACTUALLY work? A graduate student contemplates Twitter

When the email got sent around the bloggers about doing a 30 days of programming, my mind instantly went blank. I’m just a librarian-in-training and haven’t done a lot of hands-on programming with teens. What could I bring to the conversation?

Then I remembered I did have a program. A hypothetical one that is. I’m currently taking a Media Literacy for Youth class which has been amazing. One of our assignments was to create either a lesson or program plan about a media literacy topic. It could be targeted to any age group and should last 2-3 hours. We had to write about outcomes, lay out all the activities, essentially plan it so some librarian could do it with the kids they work with.

I’ll lay out my idea and then want your feedback. Is this program realistic? Would it work with the teens you work with? And if it’s not realistic, what needs to be changed?

So…here I go!

As a twenty-something, I would say I’m pretty well-connected in social media. If someone asked what my favorite social media platform is, I would say it’s Twitter. There something exciting about Twitter when you think about it like a cocktail party (shout out to blogger Dave Charest for this analogy) — there are hundreds of conversations going on around you and you decide which ones to tap into. And our teens are using it so why not have a program that challenges them to think about not only how they use Twitter, but how others use Twitter?

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The “Activity Gap”: More thoughts on libraries and after-school programs

Back in October 2014, I wrote about a report entitled: “America After 3 PM.” The Afterschool Alliance was writing about how students spend their time after school. In it, I raised the point of libraries as hubs for after-school activities, a free spot for teens to come if they don’t have the resources or access to other after-school programs. At the end of January, Alia Wong from Atlantic wrote an article called “The Activity Gap,” which discusses the access issues students from various socio-economic classes face with participating in after-school and extracurricular programs.

Wong begins the article by comparing two different students, Ethan and Nicole, whose family backgrounds contribute to two different lifestyles and life paths. While their names have been changed, these two students do exist and were case studies in a study published in Voices of Urban Education. This national study was conducted by Brown University’s Annenberg Institute of School Reform.

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Thoughts on ALA Mid-Winter from a Librarian-in-Training

Since ALA Mid-Winter was conveniently located in Chicago this January, I decided to make the trip and attend the conference on Saturday. I had been to professional conferences before, but all for writing centers, not libraries. My first thought upon walking into the conference center was the same familiar feeling I got in writing center conferences: a bunch of people who are all passionate about one thing: libraries. I always love the energy at conferences; the energy that helps renew your passions and reminds you why you do what you do day in and day out.

My focus at Mid-Winter was seeing how ALA and the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation worked together to promote libraries to work with their communities to affect social change. They believe that public libraries should use their position in a community to help facilitate conversations that could lead to effective change. This is all under the ALA umbrella of Transforming Libraries. I was interested in these sessions because during my first semester in graduate school, I found myself drawn to and working with communities (both talking about community ideas in class and then working with a community for my assistantship). I’m currently taking a community engagement class and was interested to see Harwood’s spin on engagement.

After some freight congestion, I was able to attend two out of the four sessions: intentionality and sustaining yourself. Intentionality focused on the three As: authenticity, authority, and accountability. They wanted to make sure you deeply knew the community you were working with and followed through on promises. The final session, on sustaining yourself, focused on knowing personally what keeps you going (ways to destress and relax) and who you can talk to about frustrations and triumphs. Both sessions stressed small group discussion, which gave me the opportunity to meet other librarians (in all variety of roles). There was good discussion all afternoon however I left wishing I could have heard more from the pilot libraries who were coached by Harwood. Two different libraries gave short intros to start the sessions, but in five minutes, you can’t learn much about all the successes (and also the roadblocks).

In some ways, I felt out of my element at ALA. I was simply a student, one who didn’t have any long term experience in libraries. I could listen to conversations but sometimes felt I had nothing to add. However, at the same time, I got this great sneak peak into the professional world I’m preparing to jump with two feet into. Public libraries and communities are a big deal right now and if I can present a resume with experience in working with and for communities, then I help to separate myself from the rest of my peers competing for the job opening. What ALA and Harwood are picking up on isn’t a new concept — public libraries have been working with communities since they first began. These sessions serve as reminders that we as librarians are serving our community and should be an open, safe place to have tough conversations and conversations that begin to work towards social change.

Teens and the Networked World: Aspen Institute Task Force Report Recap

In September 2014, YALSA blogger Jaina Lewis began a series on the Aspen Institute Task Force on Learning and the Internet 2014 report entitled Learner at the Center of a Networked World. Lewis’ post focused on 24/7 learning and how libraries and librarians can help keep the learning going outside the walls of school.

As Lewis says, the report is comprehensive, clocking in at 116 pages. This report is full of excellent resources and websites to explore. The Aspen Institute feels that our youth today need to be fully connected. In order to do that, we need to rethink our current models of education and technology infrastructure so that we create an environment of connected learning.

I particularly liked the definition of connected learning the report gave saying that “connected learning…is socially embedded, interest driven and oriented toward educational, economic or political opportunity” (34). In this definition, not only are we making sure the learner is at the center, but we are also taking into account the various things that surround our learners. In order to prepare youth for being smart, savvy, and critical citizens in our digital age, we have to remember the influences, histories, and cultural values that shape our youth.

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Let’s Code!

In early December, YALSA blogger Jami Schwarzwalder wrote a great post (with many great resources) on how to participate in Hour of Code week. I want to expand on her work and talk a little more about some of my experience with code and how that may translate into teens and code.

It seems that in today’s day and age, knowing how to code can be a crucial job skill. It gives you an edge and from a personal standpoint, knowing how to code can be incredibly empowering. It’s especially important to help get females (at any age) interested in coding because as we see time and time again, the difference between males and females involved in the technology field is astonishing (just search “girls in technology infographic” and see the fascinating percentages).

I think there are many ways to go at coding for teens. If you want to encourage girls, the video from Intel, who sponsors Girls Who Code, is pretty inspiring. The website itself, provides nice photos, information on past programs, and even the ability to download their most current curriculum for you to adapt to fit your teens.

Another similar website to Girls Who Code is Made With Code (through Google). They offer many projects for all levels of coding experience. These projects are fun and also include the ability to share with the world through their favorite social media outlet.

If you have teens that don’t have as much experience with coding, I would suggest doing the hour of code at code.org. Usually the theme of these puzzles is Angry Birds, but it looks like for the holiday season, the developers have moved over to Elsa and Anna from Frozen. It’s a great way to see “the blocks of coding” which will be helpful in future coding exercises. The videos that are every five or so levels are also helpful in letting you know what the blocks do and how they all work together.

With some coding under their belt, I think MIT’s Scratch is a good place to start. While there is a version that can be download onto your computers, their web version also works quite well. If you’re unfamiliar with Scratch, I would suggest watching some of their tutorials or even checking out Super Scratch Programming Adventure by the LEAD Project. This book would be great for teens to use (lots of cool drawings and learning is done through a comic form) and just to familiar yourself with the program (if you’re interested).

What is great about Scratch is that they can make their own projects (pretty much anything they can think of) or do what’s called “remixing.” Essentially they can look at completed projects and “look under the hood.” The teens can see how people created various projects and then “remix” and revise it for themselves. It’s a great way to learn all the capabilities of Scratch and give the teens some ideas of projects of their own.

Finally, if your teens want even more, I would direct them over to CodeCademy.  Here, they can sign up for an account and tackle many different programming languages: Python, HTML/CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, PHP, or Ruby. You go through a series of lessons, all that can be self-directed by the teens themselves. CodeCademy also has some projects to help see coding in action. I’ve personally used CodeCademy to learn Python and HTML/CSS and like the website, as well as the public forums for when I get stuck on a lesson.

Best of luck and I hope some of these resources will be useful to your teens!

Teens as Information-Mediaries: An Investigation of Teens, Technology, and Design

Today, we often take for granted how teens use technology. It seems to be embedded into their every day lives and something they pick up easily. But have we ever wondered how teens use technology to help others every day, especially others who do not understand technology as well? A group of researchers at the University of Washington’s iSchool are investigating these teens, whom they refer to as “info-mediaries” (InfoMes). Karen Fisher, Philip Fawcett, Ann Bishop, and Lassana Magassa are working with mainly groups of ethnic minority teens in the Seattle area to gain a better understanding of how teens, as information mediaries are using information and technology to help others.

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My group working on our app. We are in the visual stages where we are drawing out what our problem is.

To gain this insight, the research team created Teen Design Days (see video link for a longer explanation). This is a three-day workshop where the teens gathered to discuss, learn, and explore how they help people in their social networks with information and technology. The teens are paid for their time and by the end of the workshop, will have created a design project that would help them. The design days are structured around the developmental needs for teens, identified by J. Davidson and D. Koppenhaver in their 1992 publication, Adolescent Literacy as “physical activity, competence and achievement, self-definition, creative expression, positive social interaction, structure, and clear limits.” This means that along with the learning, the teens take an active role in shaping the outcome of the workshop. From designing the rules and expectations, to participating in “light-and-lively” activities (physical activity component), the teens are truly front and center. As they begin to move from discussing their role as information mediaries to more fully fleshing out designs and solutions to improve their InfoMe work, the teens talk with each other, share ideas, and revise their design.

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