We were ecstatic when we found out that we would be receiving funding for Teen Tech Week.   We were able to plan a variety of programs that focused on programming, photography/video, and robotics.   Our goals were to:

  1. Reach teens that have little or no technology skills
  2. Grow the skill level of teens that already have a strong technology skills
  3. Have teen(s) assist with programming.

A local teen happened to be a tech wizard and helped plan and teach a few of the programs!  He was able to connect with the teen participants and many of the younger teens were in awe of his knowledge.  He was a great asset to the program and a huge reason the programs were so successful!

We were able to purchase a GoPro (along with accessories), Cubelets, and littleBits.  Along with classes, we held drop in sessions for teens to play creatively with the tools on their own.   We also encourage the teens to use the GoPro during the other programs to create videos of their projects and learning experiences.

It is truly amazing to see how all of the teens were able to quickly grasp most of the concepts.  They were able to understand everything from how numbers flow through Cubelets to drawing shapes and creating games with python!  They were able to manipulate the code we produced as a class to put a personal twist on the projects.  The most popular programs were the GoPro class and the Python 101 classes.

Due to the number of participants and the number of tools we needed to create small groups to work together on their projects. It was a great opportunity for the teens to work as a team.   Having them work in teams encouraged discussion and a new level of creativity!

We were surprised that most of the teens that participated in Teen Tech Week were not from our core group of library teens. A few of them have increased their library usage and are becoming familiar faces.   An almost equal amount of girls and boys attended the programs.

The library is planning on providing additional technology based off the teens’ suggestions and interests.  It is important to us that we find a way to have the Cubelets, littleBits, and GoPro available for teen use within the library.  We are currently reviewing different options on how to do so.

Alexandra Tyle-Annen is the Adult/Teen Services Manager for the Homer Township Public Library in Homer Glen, IL.

Many libraries across the country are offering great STEAM programs for teens; but are these programs as accessible and interesting to diverse teens as we would like them to be? Teens identified as underrepresented minorities--i.e., African-American, American Indian, Hispanic/Latino, and Pacific Islander teens--routinely score below their white peers’ in math and science. It’s not about aptitude, though; it’s about whether these teens have adequate access to learning opportunities that prepare and inspire them to pursue and succeed in science, technology, engineering, and math. That’s where the library can step in with informal learning opportunities that engage all teens in STEAM.

To make STEAM programs accessible and motivating, directly involve teens in the process of “doing” STEAM. Hands-on learning is great, as it emphasizes that every person is capable of doing science. Even better is collaborative work, which allows teens to work together to create a product greater than they could accomplish on their own; this is often called “citizen science.” Hands-on activities also allow teens to prioritize the things they enjoy and find interesting in a program.

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When I started as the Teen Services Librarian at the Hancock County Public Library in 2013, one of the first things I noticed about HCPL teens was their love for comics and manga. My desk is located next to the teen room, parallel to our comic and manga shelving. Day after day at 3:30 p.m. teens would flock to that section and take over the entire space in the teen room. Inspired, I started a monthly comic book club and anime/ manga club – which just celebrated its 1st birthday!

During our clubs, teens discuss the respective genres. Many create their own art or have started drawing their own comic/ manga panels. Numerous teens expressed their interest in making comics at the library.

Our library uses the yearly Collaborative Summer Library Program themes, and this year’s focus is superheroes. While planning for Summer Reading 2015, superheroes and villains were dancing in my head. Teen Tech Week, Summer Reading, and the wishes of our library’s teens came together and formed a program plan. The grant funds awarded from YALSA and Best Buy were used to purchase 10-Wacom Intuos digital drawing tablets equipped with comic-making software.

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I recently made an expedition to SXSWedu in Austin. I was really excited about this conference because I thought it’d be useful to me as an educator/facilitator/enabler of science and technology-based programs and projects at my library. I was looking forward to hearing new-to-me perspectives on student (or in my case teen)-centered learning; maybe I’d pick up some tips on how to help teens feel comfortable expressing their interests or how to frame  a challenging project in a manageable way or chunk it into achievable pieces. What I most hoped to do, I think, was speak with other educators about the unique challenges and opportunities of learning in a makerspace-type environment. It was a valuable experience in many ways, but not quite what I expected. (The usual caveats apply – YMMV, perhaps I picked the wrong sessions, didn’t find the right folks to network with, etc.)

As I left SXSWedu and headed for home, I reflected a bit on my experience. I was disappointed, because I had hoped to connect with experts - people who knew more than me about what I was doing. I didn’t. At a panel where I expected higher-level conversation about makerspaces and learning, I left frustrated that the conversation was ‘what is a makerspace?’ and ‘low-budget vs high-budget’ and ‘you don’t NEED a 3d printer’ instead of ‘this is what makes a makerspace special, and this is how to maximize that opportunity.’ I wanted nuts and bolts and a user’s manual, and I got Tinker Toys. As I thought more and more about what had happened, it occurred to me that if I wanted to talk about this, I ought to just start the conversation I wanted to hear. To that end, here are the questions on my mind right now, and some of my possible answers.

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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 March 27 and April 2 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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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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lark_icon

Title: Lark

Cost: Free

Platform: iOS

Many youth services specialists will be familiar with Lark's parent site, Storybird, which enables dazzling yet simple drag-and-drop digital storytelling. Like Fridegpoems by Color Monkey, Lark, Storybird's Poetry app, is a digital incarnation of a refrigerator magnet poetry set, inspiring creativity within a finite vocabulary set as you move and reorder the words it generates over an image.

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A lightning bolt icon launches a new project. You can browse art in a gallery, search by keyword or choose a random different background or word bank by swiping left. Many of the images, alternatingly fantastical and almost unbearably poignant, look as if they were cribbed from vintage picture books. You can also use a color picker to change the colors of the words on screen for optimal artistic impact. The overall effect is quite attractive and quickly achieved. Read More →

A brief look at 'grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

On Saturday, March 21, over 130 locations throughout all 21 counties of New Jersey participated in the inaugural New Jersey Makers Day. From public libraries and museums to businesses and schools or youth organizations, each site celebrated maker culture by hosting events that promote making, tinkering, and STEM-based learning. Presentations, demonstrations, and hands-on activities introduced attendees to local makerspaces and provided an opportunity to interact with new technologies such as 3D printers, littleBits and Makey Makey kits, and computer programming. A wide variety of workshops were offered in which participants could try their hand at making things such as light bulbs, balancing toys, jewelry, duct tape bags, robots, and sculptures as well as learn the basics of sewing, gardening, origami, woodworking, car maintenance, and more! For more information on Makers Day and to see a list of activities provided by participating sites, visit the Makers Day website: http://njmakersday.org/

Similarly, just a week prior to Makers Day, Teen Tech Week took place from March 8-14 with the theme "Libraries are for Making." Aimed at helping teens develop digital literacy skills and demonstrating the value libraries can provide for non-print resources and access to technology, this week also provides an opportunity to showcase all the library has to offer in a collaborative and hands-on environment. Many fun programs were held this year and shared on Instagram including a technology petting zoo where teens can interact with different products, using 3D pens, making solar powered cars, and a retro gaming night with older gaming consoles.

Did your library participate in NJ Makers Day or Teen Tech Week? Which types of programs and technology did you offer? How did you get teens involved? Did they volunteer and help ensure programs ran smoothly or share their interests with the community by conduction demonstrations? Did you collaborate with other local organizations or businesses? Share with us in the comments section below!

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Teens have an amazing variety of programs at their fingertips ranging from college prep, crafts, gaming, pop trivia, anime, and much more.  What if there was a way to combine many of these elements into one activity that is not only fun, but will have amazing health benefits as well? I bet you are thinking the same thing I am: dancing. Before I go any further, some of you may think I am crazy because there is no way teens would voluntarily dance in public, especially amongst their peers. Well, I am very excited to tell you that there is actually a way to get them to dance and have fun, but it requires us to lead by example. In other words, we got to shake our money makers so teens can see just how fun it really is.

Before I go any further, I would like to discuss some rather disturbing facts. According to the American Heart Association:

“About one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese. The prevalence of obesity in children more than tripled from 1971 to 2011. With good reason, childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also states:

“The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.”

Clearly, obesity is on the rise and it is something that we should address in our programs and services. For example, are we sponsoring programs, or partnering with organizations, to prevent drug and alcohol abuse? If we are, are we addressing obesity as well? If not, it’s time that we do because teens are living in a world where body shaming and weight-related bullying is rampant. Furthermore, teens literally live in a digital age where video games are much more popular than physical exercise.  If we care encouraging teens to exercise their minds with books, why can’t we encourage them to exercise their bodies as well?

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When the Teen Tech Week grant was written, it was hoped that we could get teens interested in more library programs. Teens will show up to use the computers to chat with friends and watch internet videos, but mention digital literacy or STEM/STEAM and they’ll look at you like you’re an alien. Don’t get me wrong; our schools are hardworking, Title I schools that strive to teach students what they can. But a rural area of Lafourche Parish is not really at the top of the list for the fast paced information technology industry.

Like any library in the country, we know we have to get them young or we lose them until they’re adults. And without many options they’re not going to stay in this area. The public library still has that stereotypical “the library is where the losers hang out” view to contend with among the teens. Our programming has to be unusual to get them in. We all know video games are always a popular draw. I’ve used free programs like Scratch and Kodu with them before. But the funds and resources to host a large scale video game design program were simply beyond our scope before now.

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