Chris Crutcher Inspired Me to be An Intellectual Freedom Activist for Teens

I had only been a school librarian for a few years when a school in a neighboring county had a high profile materials challenge involving Chris Crutcher’s Whale Talk. Area libraries and Crutcher responded by planning some related events coinciding with the 2005 Banned Books Week, and his stops included our local public library. When one of my teachers saw the promotional poster I’d created for Crutcher’s speech, she echoed my belief that limiting access to anything sets a dangerous precedent. We were both eager to capitalize on the opportunity for her students to hear the renowned author and re-imagined her twelfth grade research paper as case studies in censorship.

Chris Crutcher (2005)

The project was successful beyond our wildest expectations in engaging students intellectually and promoting conversation about fundamental rights. Though the event with Crutcher was remote from campus and held in the evening, the majority of the class attended the lecture. He was gracious enough to pose with our students afterwards (above). Crutcher’s talk that night made me understand the needs of young people to see their experiences reflected in literature. As he spoke about his background as a family therapist and the many ways in which his books reflect the lived experience of young people and offer support for those who needed it, it galvanized my belief in intellectual freedom as a fundamental aspect of youth services.
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Looking forward: School libraries in the new year

The inclusion of school libraries in the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) of 1965 authorization as ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) in late 2015 was a victory, especially for districts reliant on federal funding, but it is technology that is altering what is going on in so many schools.

1:1 technology push
States switching to the computer-based standardized testing required by Common Core State Standards — independent of the CCSS backlash, major assessments are still and will likely remain CCSS aligned — will require supplying hardware accommodating increasingly resource-intensive testing with interactive charts and graphs and locked-down browsers. In many schools, the librarian will be the point-person for maintaining that technology.

1:1 technologies require new metrics
At the AASL conference in November, Michelle Luhtala shared a picture of charging blocks and cables. That’s what she “circulates” at 1:1 New Canaan High School, and it’s a brilliant idea for quantifying student use. Door count had potential as well to show the vibrant, active aspects of our school library spaces independent of checking out books.
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#ACT4TEENS: USING COMMUNITY INFORMATION TO SUPPORT ADVOCACY

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In this podcast (click through to download or connect to online player), LeeAnna Mills, Former Legislative Chair and Past President of the Alabama School Library Association, librarian at Northside Middle School and District Library Media Coordinator for Tuscaloosa County Schools, discusses how you can use data to reach administrators, school board members, and legislators in support of library services for young people.  And, don’t forget to check out YALSA’s advocacy resources at www.ala.org/yalsa/advocacy

Wendy Stephens is a member of the YALSA Advocacy Resources Taskforce.

App of the Week: Apple News

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Title: Apple News
Cost: Free with iOS update
Platform: iOS 9

Think RSS is dead? Maybe it’s really just hiding. Like Flipboard, the Apple News app delivered as part of the iOS 9 update earlier this month focuses on the very thing missing from earlier feedreaders: the aesthetic.

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As part of the roll-out, Apple is offering development tools in the form of Apple News Format to inspire digital journalists to embed videos, animations, and photo galleries specifically for this application. And the channels of well-designed sites are especially attractive within this interface.

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As with RSS readers, when you first launch Apple News, you can select from among legacy and online media outlets to add to your feed. You can follow particular sites (they become your “favorites”) or browse by subject (“explore”), and search for breaking stories by keyword. The “channels” appear to be vetted through the application rather than simply allowing someone to pull in any site with a feed (like this blog).
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App of the Week: Crop

crop
Title: Crop
Cost: Free, with $ 1 in-app purchase to remove ads and maintain aspect ratio
Platform: iOS

Sometimes an app is so simple, but works so well, it’s hard to imagine how you would get along without it. For me, one of those is Crop by Green Mango Systems.

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Whether it’s focusing on the content of a screen-captured Instagram post or creating a quick thumbnail for an avatar, there are many occasions when you’ll want to remove the bulk of an image or rotate it on the fly. You simply select the image, use the eight points of the image canvas to determine the size you want, and you can keep finessing things until you hit “Save.” And unlike the crop option within the iOS photo roll, Crop saves your creation as a new file, so you don’t loose the original.
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Back-to-School Week: What’s the Value of School Summer Reading Lists?

Every library worker has gotten that request for a strange, old book which is still somehow required at some school somewhere. Betsy Bird did a terrific take-down of those outdated list earlier this summer, and an attempt to “update” the choices for teen appeal backfired in South Carolina and Florida.

Yes, assigned whole-class summer reading can be problematic. The number of titles (and the page lengths) required seems to have dwindled over decades, and other supposed innovations including “read any one book from the New York Times bestseller list” has led to a scramble for the shortest books.

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App of the Week: Google Cardboard

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Title: Cardboard
Platform: Android and iOS
Cost: Free

It’s more than a high-tech Viewmaster. Google Cardboard that takes advantage of the gyroscope in your phone to replicate 365 degree, stereoscopic viewing. Cardboard itself is an app which helps you get started, calibrate your device, and learn to manipulate the navigation and controls. A whole stable of apps and games build upon the Cardboard concept, but the populist VR trend is so new that the content is very uneven. Even in Google’s demo, the international capitals captured through Street View pale next to the underwater landscape of the Great Barrier Reef.

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Google Cardboard is truly low-barrier. It works as well with Android as with iOS, so more students can use it, manufactured Cardboard cases are inexpensive and you can download a kit to create your own headset.
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#act4teens: Partnering with Policy Makers for Improved Advocacy Outcomes

act4teens

Just in time for District Days!  In this podcast (click through to download or connect to online player), Dorcas Hand, longtime Houston-area Independent School Librarian, discusses her experiences working with school board members, candidates, and legislators in support of library services for young people in her area and beyond.

The files and links that Dorcas mentions can be found below:
YALSA Advocacy Benchmarks
Students Need Libraries in Houston ISD webpage
Students Need Libraries in Houston ISD facebook page
Students Need Libraries facebook page
TASL: Parents & School Librarians Partnering for Student Success
TASL: Teachers & School Librarians Partnering for Student Success

Wendy Stephens is a member of the YALSA Advocacy Resources Taskforce.

App of the Week: Halftone and Halftone 2

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Name: Halftone and Halftone 2
Platform: iOS only
Cost: $0.99 (Halftone) and $1.99 (Halftone 2) and in-app purchases for square page layouts

Ever wish you were a cartoonist? The Halftone apps let you realize that aspiration easily enough. Named after the printing process for rendering images through gradients of black and white or color, these apps is easy to use and produce amazing effects.

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You begin by importing a picture or using your camera. You can choose different caption styles, speech bubbles (which can be layered) as well as a series of classic “stamps” to simulate action. Fonts include a range of easily legible comic-based styles, with three sizes. The whole set-up means you can create something worthy of the funny pages in mere seconds.
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App of the Week: PhotoMath

Photomath
Title: PhotoMath
Platform: iOS and Android
Cost: Free

From WordLens (now part of Google Translate) to Invisibility 3D, apps which use the camera as an input tool to harness machine intelligence always interest me. When one such app, PhotoMath hit the top of the download charts last year, there was some minor outcry among educators. Would students use the app to cheat? But while the PhotoMath app reads and solves mathematical problems by using the camera of your phone and tablet in real time, it is far from the scourge of math teachers. Like Wolfram Alpha, it is a nice tool to have on hand when you can’t remember enough math to help students with their work.

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Within the app with an active camera, you can manipulate the size of the datawell to pick up the whole of more complicated questions, and the app solves advanced math problems including quadratic equations and inequalities. The app goes beyond solutions, anticipating the admonition to “show your work.” A red button opens the step-by-step process for doing just that. Continue reading