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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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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YOUmedia Hartford is a digital learning and maker space for teens ages 13-19.  The space is a research-informed, informal learning environment utilizing principles of connected learning, the HOMAGO learning theory and positive youth development.  Students come to Hang Out, Mess Around and Geek Out in content areas that include video and photo production, music production, game design, computer programming, design and making.  Through partnerships with local artists and professionals, businesses, schools and other informal learning spaces, students discover new opportunities and build knowledge and skills in areas of interest.  For instance, this coming summer students will work with award-winning producer Quadeer Shakur to produce, distribute and market a Best of Hartford Hip Hop album.  Others will work with a local botanist to build a hydroponic window garden from recycled materials.  Still more will enter 3D modeling, design and film contests under the guidance of our mentors.  Hundreds others will seek help with homework and personal projects, meet new friends and attend social events.

For Teen Tech Week the YOUmedia Hartford staff wanted to get out of the library and into classrooms, and so we did!  Through partnerships with several local schools we were able to take e-textiles and stop motion animation workshops on the road.  The projects showcased the variety of activities available at YOUmedia and to expose students to the processes behind some very fun and practical technologies.  These workshops also acted as carrots to attract new youth to the space, so that they might find themselves immersed in a resource-rich environment, staffed with knowledgeable mentors and full-to-the-brim with other young people exploring similar pursuits.  All of the materials used for the workshops are available freely to any youth in the space.

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How do You Celebrate Cultures?

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

During the year there are many celebrations to participate in. This month, Holi, a Hindu celebration of colors, was one that we wanted to celebrate at our library. Below you will see 'grams that picture what Holi is and also how we celebrated it, but looking in to celebrating cultures many factors can take play. How do you decide what cultures to celebrate? What happens if you leave one out? Will you have time to incorporate them all? Will you offend someone if you offer or don't offer a program? If you have any tried and true methods, please feel free to comment and let us know how you go about having cultural programs. We have quite a large system, so I must say we are lucky in the fact that if my location isn't doing a certain program, chances are another one is. Also, what great cultural programs have you implemented and how did you make it library friendly? For our Holi program, we were not about to let the teens throw the powder on each other and then track it all through the library later so we let them use the powder as another way to "tye dye" t-shirts.

This is my 2nd year of being a media specialist so this is my first go around with Teen Tech Week.  We have come up with about 17 activities at Chestatee High School for our students to try their hand with at learning.  Some activities are limited for just a few students to be working with at a time like the Spheros, Exofabulatronixx Robot, slow motion animation, Makey Makey, K’nex, Chaos Tower and littleBits.  These items will help our students to learn about coding, building, circuitry, and video making.  This allows our students a new opportunity to learn something or to further their knowledge of a passion they already enjoy.  We received the grant from YALSA and Best Buy and we were able to purchase Spheros and an Exofabulatronixx Robot.  Both of these items will help our students learn the skill of coding.  The Sphero is merely a remote controlled ball in which they can program its movements.  We hope to incorporate the Sphero and coding into a math course next year.  Teen Tech Week will give the students the first glimpse of what they can accomplish with such a simple tool.  The Exofabulatronixx Robot is one in which our students can put together and take apart and put together in a different form again.  Its pieces connect by means of magnets.  When the students have finished creating their robot, they are then able to create a program which will tell their robot what path to take.

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In 2012 the Teen Advisory Board received a grant from the Nebraska Library Commission (NLC) of $1,900 to start a Teen Media Club to give teens a chance to learn how to create digital content. Many of my teens do not have access to basic technologies. The library’s computer lab does not have filters so you must be 17 to enter which means that our community’s teens that do not have access to computers outside of school can’t even use the library’s resources. Many of my teens do not have Internet at home, have outdated computers that seem to freeze all the time and not connect to the library’s wireless, and many do not have smartphones.

The goal of Media Club was to use technology to enable teens to create such things as book trailers and the creation and maintenance of a teen library website. The original NLC grant funds were used to purchase an HD Digital Recorder, a laptop for the teens, and various props for their videos. While there still is a lot of interest in Media Club we realized that just having a camera and a laptop was not enough. As we went about beginning to create, draft, and record various video projects we learned that we really need certain other tech equipment to properly be able to run our club. We discovered this after a large-scale project (La Vista’s Next Top Project Snazz Maszter—a “reality” show cross between America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway) which we filmed during a 17-hour lock-in (filming all 17 hours!) and discovered afterward that a lot of the film was unusable. Our library has 20-foot ceilings and the sound on most of our film was barely audible because of echoes. We also realized free film editing software can’t do things like green screen effects. The teens decided they wanted me to apply for a YALSA/Best Buy Teen Tech Week grant for funds to be used toward the purchase of the additional equipment we need to get Media Club properly equipped and off the ground again.

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