Robotics for the Rest of Us

When I first started my job, I used to spend hours planning programs, planning for every possible thing that could possibly go wrong. I would arrive at my events an hour early and would nervously pace the room, thinking all the thoughts we’ve all had: Do I know what I’m doing? What if a teen has questions I can’t answer? What if I get fired and have to be a barista again? 

But since 2006, librarianship has changed. We are no longer expected to be experts and with the advent of the Maker Movement, teen programming has become more about HOMAGO than lesson plans. This led me to do something last winter that I never, ever thought I’d do: I started a Robotics Club with no knowledge of robotics. If I can do it, so can you. Here are my thoughts: Continue reading

Gamification of Summer Reading

Home Screen of Teen Summer Challenge

Games often provide an opportunity to have fun, learn new things, simulate real life, and explore things only dreamed of before. Whether playing a board game, role playing game, or a video game, players are challenged to overcome obstacles and use strategy to solve problems and meet goals. In classrooms teachers are using game elements more and more to encourage practice, assess mastery, or explore new concepts with students, while keeping lessons interactive and engaging.

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Children’s Rights in the Digital Age or, How UNICEF is Like Your Library

When I was eight, I won our school’s “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” throw down. I scoured the neighborhood for hours, wheedling coins and Snickers bars out of polite neighbors and adding them to my little orange box. By the end of the night, the hoard of pennies and nickels had broken the box at the seams, and I presented it to my teacher wrapped in a sustaining nest of duct tape.

The reward for all of this was a trip to UNICEF headquarters. Somewhere in my parent’s house there sits a billfold stuffed full of pictures of the wall art, the cafeteria, the library– all of the things that as a child I found interesting. At eight, I understood that UNICEF were the good guys, that they fought AIDS and built wells, and that they were kind of like the non-mouse version of the Rescue Aid Society.

But beyond saving Penny from Madame Medusa, UNICEF strives to help children and mothers in all aspects of their lives, including the digital.

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Robots Teach the Basics

The Booth & Dimock Memorial Library in Coventry, Connecticut purchased its very own 3D printer this past winter. That forced us to take the leap from encouraging the maker-mentality to full on maker space. It is still a work in process (and always will be) but we learned many great things during the past few months. Here is my favorite.

Sometimes it takes a complex project to make you learn the simplest of tasks. 

Robot

Our maker space brought other departments looking for collaborative programming before our 3D printer was even out of the box. We jumped right in and tried to pick a project that would encompass six ninety minute workshops and teach a variety of skills. We decided to make these robots to expose a group of eighth graders to 3D printing, soldering, wiring and coding.

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Fun with MaKey MaKey

In November, I began a 6-week series called Maker Mondays. The program attracted a small following and has since become so popular that I extended it into June and am even creating a summer Maker camp for teens. Maker Mondays is a program for grades 6-9 and serves around 15 students each week. Every Monday, we learn a new skill or do a new project.

The favorite activity by far has been the MaKey MaKey. MaKey MaKey’s are invention kits that work like simple Arduinos. It consists of a simple board and wires with alligator clips.

The MaKey MaKey

The MaKey MaKey

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Market Summer Reading with Social Media Apps

Make the most out of mobile social marketing apps to promote your Summer Reading Program by using Snapchat, Instagram and Tumblr this summer. As 21st century librarians are always on the go, even more so during the summer months, mobile social marketing apps can be effective tools of communication. Here is a breakdown of three high-traffic platforms to engage your audience in real time with a few simple taps.

1. Snapchat is a photo-messaging app that launched in September 2011. Today, 46% of Americans ages 12 to 24 years old use it. As of May 2014, Snapchat users send over 700 million pictures and videos each day.

Snapchat is unique in its ability to create short (1 to 10 seconds long) images or videos, which can be enhanced with graphics or text, and sent privately and ephemerally to your friends, followers and family. Once the message has been reviewed it is permanently deleted from your account, your recipients’ accounts and from the Snapchat servers.

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App of the Week: Plain Text 2

Title: Plain Text 2
Platform: iOS
Cost: Free

plain text 2

When my school adopted iPads for AP and pre-AP students, one roadblock some students encountered involved working away from wireless networks. I showed some how to set up individual Google docs for offline access, but sometimes students wanted to begin typing an assignment and hadn’t created or adjusted a doc so they could access it at home. Plain Text 2 provides an excellent word processing platform for those instances, and it’s clean interface has made it a go-to for writing many documents.

If you’re thinking Notepad, the text isn’t THAT plain. Fonts include Helvetica, Courier, and Times New Roman, and you can adjust the font between 10 and 24 points…the only down-side is that whatever you specify is set for the document, so you can’t alternate fonts or sizes. You can also double-space, much to the delight of my students working on English papers, and there is a running word count and Flesch-Kincade Grade Level and Readability Scores (under the “info” option). An extended keyboard provides convenient access to the most commonly used symbols without toggling.

photo (1)

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YALSAblog Tweets of the Week – May 23, 2014

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between May 23 and May 29 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.
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YALSAblog Tweets of the Week – April 4, 2014

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between April 4 and April 10 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.
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Self-Directed Programs: Scavenger Hunts

An amazing way to get your tweens and teens to know the “unfamiliar” bits of your library is to do self-directed scavenger hunts. You know that your “kids” tend to congregate to one particular area- whether it’s your teen space, a place with the most comfortable chairs or a low table for card gaming, or the place furthest away from the supervising eyes of the non-teen people at the desk. And while they’ll know where to find the YA books, MAD Magazine and Alternative Press, and manga, do they know where to find non-fiction books for reports? Or how to operate one of the databases? If you become devious and take a little time out of your day, you can take a theme and turn a lesson in the library world into a creative self-directed program that will make them want to participate.

Scavenger hunts can be as intricate or as simple as you want them to be. Think about your current teens and the browsers that you have. What do they like, what things grab them? Do you have a program coming up that you could use this program as a gateway, like a Lego or Rainbow Loom makerspace? Are your teens gearing up for state tests or are you starting to build up for summer? Are you celebrating Free Comic Book Day or Star Wars Day or any of the newer movie releases? Take any of those and create silhouettes or in-house graphics to place around the library- depending on the length you decide your program will be (a day, a week) they can be printed on normal printer paper or card-stock, but they don’t have to last long.

Or, like I did for Teen Tech Week this year, take a page from Gwyneth Jones (http://www.thedaringlibrarian.com/2012/05/qr-code-quest-scavenger-hunt-part-deux.html), The Daring Librarian, and go with a QR scavenger hunt! Instead of characters and pictures, make your hunt virtual and hide QR codes around the library for teens to scan and learn. I used ours to introduce our new Ipad and tablets to our tweens and teens.QR Code hunt

Once you have your theme, decide on the length of the hunt. I typically have used 8-10, depending on the size of the library, but you may want to go larger or smaller. Remember your audience- you don’t want them to completely zone out, but you don’t want them to think it’s a “baby” thing, either. Questions I’ve used before have been:

  • Nicely, introduce yourself to a staff member you’ve never met before, and get their initials. (with a picture of the Mad Hatter Tea Party on the reference desk)
  • Horror is a sub-genre of our fiction section, and Carrie is based on a book by this author. Find the author and the book and find your next clue.

So get creative and then sit back and watch the fun!

Submitted by Christie Gibrich