Teen Tech Week Maker Cart

The White Oak Library Disctrict wanted to buy our own Maker Cart, but our funding was cut due to the Illinois state budget crisis. We were lucky enough to receive the Teen Tech Week Grant from YALSA and Best Buy; we would not have been able to afford the Maker Cart without the YALSA grant. We used the money to build Maker Carts for our Crest Hill, Lockport and Romeoville Branches.

Our Maker Cart contains an Ozobot, a Makey Makey Standard Kit, a Da Vinci Catapult Hydraulics DIY Wood Kit, Lie Detector Kit and Fold n’ Fly Paper Airplane Kit. We also purchased a Neutab tablet that we are loading with science apps that the teens can learn from.

We wanted to focus this grant on serving homeschooled teens, and teens from low-income areas – teens that might not have access to STEM-based resources. Our Crest Hill and Lockport branches have growing home school populations we have been trying to reach. We give them access to technology they would not be able to afford and help them become more prepared for college. Our Romeoville branch is surrounded by five schools where over 60% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunches. We run a lunch program during the summer to make sure our children and teens are getting meals.

Our goal was to get teens to recognize the library as a place of learning and fun, without out-of-pocket costs. The item that I am personally most excited about is the Ozobot, which teaches coding through drawing. The teens will create their own tracks for the Ozobot to follow; it will be a challenge to see how far they can make the Ozobot go.

We demoed the Maker Cart at our first annual STEMFEST on March 4th at our Romeoville Branch – a whole day centered around STEM. We had a variety of science presenters come and talk about science.

We will be having a Teen Tech Week Edition of Teen Advisory Group where will be showing the carts off and asking for their input on what apps we should add to the tablet and what type of future kits they would like to work on as a group.  We also plan on doing a few science kits with the teens who attend TAG. We hope these carts will make science more than just something they learn at school, but also something they enjoy.

Cindy Shutts is the teen librarian at the Romeoville Branch at White Oak Library District. She loves spending time with her cocker spaniel Harry Winston and is currently reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

Teens, Autonomy and TTW

Think back to when you were a teenager- no matter how long ago that was.  You probably remember fights with your parents over curfews and independence.  You wanted autonomy.  This still holds true today. One thing we routinely hear from our Teen Advisory Board is that they want to be involved, they want leadership opportunities and responsibilities.  They want to be involved in planning and implementing programs for younger children and they want to help with summer reading events for small children.  This inspired us in planning for Teen Tech Week.

Our library has wanted to hold a workshop on smartphone photography for adults and seniors.  However, the planning  of this workshop had stalled until the opportunity for Teen Tech Week came about.  What better way to give teens leadership and responsibility than by inviting them to help us plan and implement this workshop.  Teens often have technology experience and skills far beyond those of adults, so it is only natural to incorporate them into the design of this workshop.  Teens are invited to help us brainstorm a workshop to help adults learn to take quality photos with their smartphones and how to share the photos electronically.  We hope to discuss basic photography skills such as focus, zoom and basic composition as well as popular apps for editing and sharing photos.  In conjunction with this activity, teens are invited to participate in a photo contest.

Continuing the theme of utilizing teens’ skills and experience as well as their desire for leadership and independence, we are going to invite them for a discussion on what it means to be a responsible digital citizen.  Library staff will lead and guide a discussion on protecting your personal data online, and controlling your digital footprint.  We also hope to incorporate “fake news” and current events into this discussion.  Teens will then have the opportunity to create library displays, an educational bulletin board or other informational materials to share this knowledge with the community.  Again, this allows teens to creatively share their knowledge with a wider audience.  Along with this program, we will ask teens and tweens to create anti-cyberbullying posters for the library.  This will allow teens to inform younger children about how to protect themselves online, and how to stand up to cyberbullying.

Lastly, it was our goal in planning Teen Tech Week that we encourage young women in technology and other STEM studies.  We have partnered with a local college’s Women’s Engineering Club.  The club will provide hands on activities such as Makey Makey and Lego Robotics in addition to the library’s Ozobots, 3Doodlers and circuit stickers. Giving teens hands on experiences with fun technology is important.  But we also wanted to provide role models, particularly to girls.

Our plans for Teen Tech Week look to meet our teens’ needs by providing them with opportunities to share their knowledge, build their leadership skills, and foster a library environment for teens that promotes respect.   This year’s Teen Tech Week slogan, “Be the Source of Change” implores libraries to be sources of positive change, starting with our teens.  What better way to do that by giving them autonomy.

Melanie Miller is the Director of the Alfred Box of Books Library located in Alfred, NY, a recipient of YALSA’s Teen Tech Week 2017 Grant.

TTW Grant Winner: VR @ the Library

For this year’s Teen Tech Week, the Willmar Public Library will be implementing a virtual reality (VR) program for teens.  Through YALSA’s Teen Tech Week Grant, the library was able to purchase an HTC Vive, green screens, and several Steam apps for teens to test out.

VR @ the Library will be a two-part program.  On the first day, members of the library’s Teen Advisory Board (TAB) will teach their peers about VR and show them how to use several Steam VR apps.  The teens will then get to choose which VR app they would like to try and each of them will get to take a turn in using the equipment.  For the second, four-hour program, twelve registered teens will get twenty minutes each to test out the app(s) of their choice.

Through this program, the library hopes to give teens the opportunity to experience, learn and create with the Steam VR apps Job Simulator, Tilt Brush, Sound Stage, The VR Museum of Fine Art, and Google Earth VR.  TAB members selected these apps for their universal appeal and  potential to provide quality educational experiences: Job Simulator allows teens to try out four different jobs that were available before the fictional robot apocalypse, giving them a taste of what life could be like in their future careers, albeit with a humorous twist; Tilt Brush allows teens to create their own virtual world with the touch of a brush, allowing them to express themselves creatively; Sound Stage lets teens become their own DJ, making and manipulating music to create their own sound; The VR Museum of Fine Art allows teens to browse through a museum of real life art and learn about the history of each piece; and Google Earth VR lets teens travel to and explore places around the world that they may not otherwise have the chance to visit.

To prepare for the program, TAB members will install and test out the VR equipment and software to get a better idea of what the VR apps can do, what age range each app is suitable for, and estimate how much time it will take for a person to complete an activity in each of the apps.  The teens will use this experience to help set up the equipment on the day of the program and to help their peers use the apps if they are not sure what to do.

The library hopes that this program will provide a fun and safe environment for teens to explore VR technology together, while still having a quality educational experience.  The library also hopes that this VR experience will make teens feel more comfortable with using new technology and inspire them to try out other new technologies as well.

The impact and success of this program will be measured through the number of participants as well as by the teens’ evaluations after both programs and at the monthly TAB meeting. 

By the end of the program, the library expects that teens will:

  • have developed a basic understanding of VR
  • be comfortable with using VR equipment and at least one VR app
  • be able to teach their peers to use VR equipment and at least one VR app
  • feel that they have learned skills that can be applied to other areas of technology and life
  • express an interest in learning to use a new technology
  • feel comfortable approaching and learning a new technology

Evaluations will be assessed by the TAB, teen services librarian and head librarian.  The library would like to use the evaluations to plan subsequent VR programming at the library that reflects the interests and needs of the teens who attended this program.

The teens have been talking about implementing VR programming since early last year and are so excited to get started during Teen Tech Week.  Thank you again to YALSA for making this programming possible.

Emily Sovell is the Teen/Young Adult Services Librarian at Willmar Public Library.  The Willmar Public Library is the largest of a 32-library consortium, which is part of the Pioneerland Library System.  Willmar is located 90 miles west of Minneapolis/St. Paul, in West Central Minnesota.

12 Insta Easy Instagram Library & Literacy Promotion Ideas

What’s the point of Instagram and why should you spend your precious time and money on it?  Well, don’t worry about the cost, because it’s FREE! So, all you really need is creativity and a few minutes a day to make meaningful, fun, and lasting connections with your community.  And with Instagram you get a twofer! Even maybe a threefer, fourfer?! That’s right, for the amazing low price of FREE, each Instagram post can cross pollinate to your Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, and that thing called Swarm that kinda took the place of the annoying Foursquare? That’s pretty powerful!

But to be truly effective with those connections using social media, your graphics, caption copy-writing, conversation, and photography skills should strive to be, positive, professional, and on point. Realize, however, that those skills will be mostly self-taught.  But that’s ok, that’s where I come in. We’ve got this! I’ve gathered ten really easy Instagram ideas you can implement tomorrow.  You know, librarians can do anything when they set their minds to it! Using social media for library, literacy, book, and program promotion is all about storytelling. And we are born storytellers!  The idea is that you’re curating your feed to include online what you would do in person -be influential, personal, relevant, humorous, and educational.

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Connected libraries: Surveying the current landscape and charting a path to the future

Library programs designed for and by teens. One-on-one professional mentorship. Makers of different age groups and cultures collaborating on projects. Partnerships with department stores, architectural firms, and design schools. These are just a few of the ways that public libraries are leveraging the principles of the connected learning framework to help to teens connect 21st century skills to their own interests and peer relationships.

A new white paper titled Connected Libraries: Surveying the Current Landscape and Charting a Path to the Future, from the ConnectedLib project collects the existing literature on connected learning in libraries to explore trends (such as treating teen volunteer programs as workforce development), opportunities (such as building community partnerships), and challenges (such as measuring the impact of a program). The white paper also describes how the ConnectedLib project addresses gaps in the existing connected learning research and resources for libraries.

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YALSAblog News of the Month – November 2016

Welcome to the YALSAblog News of the Month. In this post we highlight a few news items from the past month that we think are of interest to staff working with teens in libraries, schools, and youth development organizations.

Scratch Summit 2016: Combing Hip Hop and Coding in Your Library

Scratch Summit Participants Learning to Use Scratch

Scratch Summit Participants Learning to Use Scratch

This year was the first Scratch Summit, a partnership between the Progressive Arts Alliance (PAA) – a Cleveland based organization that deepens the learning experiences of youth by designing and implementing arts-integrated, project-based learning programs; the Scratch Team; the Scratch Foundation; and researchers from the Coding for All project – including those from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and the Digital Media and Learning Hub.

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Post-Emergent Library Makerspaces: SLAMS, a Path Forward

At DML 2016 I went to a session on post-emergent library makerspaces. This session really dug into the challenges of maintaining a makerspace in a library overtime, looking past makerspaces and learning labs emergent phase. The session explored libraries that were part of a 1 year action research plan funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Below are challenges and solutions from three different libraries of thosedescribed in the session:

Anythink library created The Studio originally planned and staffed by the teen and the technology librarians but they have now moved on to other position. We don’t have the people to support the spaces. Professional artists had been working in the space but the turnover created communication breakdown between the artists and the library. The loss of the original staff also caused institutional knowledge gaps. It is a small library so there was very little written documentation. In order to keep The Studio going the library realized that all staff needed professional development training, not expert knowledge, just a basic understanding of the materials and the space: what is the tech, how to connect patrons to correct media, how to get in touch with artists-in-residence. To be successful the staff at The Studio recommend that you integrate your program into your institutional structure. Your makerspace can’t just be that shiny room in the corner, it needs to be framed as experiential learning for the patrons. No matter what staff member a patron talks to they should be able to give the gist of the program. They found that they needed to change recruiting and hiring of staff, that they need traditional librarians but also need other professionals with different skill sets. Creative professionals bring their network with them.

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Getting inspired at DML 2016

img_4174Recently, I attended the Digital Media and Learning Conference (DML) in Irvine, California hoping to learn a bit more about this education focused world I’ve jumped into after finishing up a PhD in Information Science. I was not disappointed. The DML Research Hub is composed of a group of researchers who are interested in all things digital media and learning (not surprisingly). They have several initiatives including connected learning, make-to-learn, and youth and participatory politics. You can find out more about their work here.

The conference included a mix of educators, researchers, academics, and even librarians. The wide range of presentations held during the conference is what impressed me most. Everything from game design and maker programs to Scratch and digital citizenship. There seemed to be a space for anyone interested in how digital media impacts youth learning. For someone interested in the everyday lives of young adults (like me), the conference demonstrated how commonly used digital media such as gaming and Makerspaces can play a role in the education of youth. Education no longer seems static, fixed in the traditional classroom, but instead learning can occur in many forms and engage the learner rather than bore them.

Three sessions that I attended stick out in my mind: The first, Get Creative with Coding: Dance, Sports, and Other Interests, asked that all participants to take part in some hands on playing through Scratch, a free coding program available from MIT. By taking time to play with Scratch and a smaller version of Scratch called Scratch “Microworld”, we learned how to encourage youth to develop their own online projects on whatever they find interesting – music, sports, fashion. The tie into libraries is that as an informal space for learning, libraries can motivate youth to use the library resources to access this freely available online coding program and become more involved in making within their communities.

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Messiness as Progress: Reflections from the 2016 DML Conference.

Knock on wood, but I’m pretty sure that the universe won’t be able to top the craziness that was my 2012.  In the same month I:  became my library system’s first Youth Services Manager, was voted to serve as YALSA President, and had a baby.

Why do I mention that personal trifecta? Because quite soon thereafter, the year that I was President, The Future of Library Services for and with Teens report came out and challenged me profoundly. As we all now well know, it called for a “paradigm shift” in the way that we approach and implement teen services in libraries and I happened to have been in the unique position to think through those shifts on both a local and a national scale… while at the same time managing significant personal and professional capacity issues (as so many of us often do).

I mention all of this in a post intended to focus on this year’s Digital Media and Learning Conference because as I’ve worked to support future focused outcomes related to youth and libraries, I’ve spent a lot of time:

  • Trying to achieve perfect solutions for complex problems
  • Feeling like a weirdo for piecing together concepts, research, and tools from disparate sources
  • Worrying about the general mess that comes with change

As it turns out, I need to get over myself. It’s not just me, or even just libraries for that matter, that are struggling with these issues. At DML, I had conversations with or heard from computer scientists and afterschool club organizers, intermediaries and funders, researchers and teachers who are all feeling as messy as I have been. But as we talked and connected, that messiness felt good, exciting, and full of possibility. That messiness felt like we were all moving forward to help this country’s most diverse demographic of teens be successful in an ever evolving tech, career, and cultural landscape.  That messiness felt like progress.

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