INSTAGRAM OF THE WEEK — FEBRUARY 8

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

Following up on his final State of the Union address, President Obama announced the “Computer Science for All Initiative.” In his weekly address on January 30th, Mr. Obama said that computer science is a “basic skill right along with the three R’s” that is vital for the 21st century economy. Details of the initiative include $4 billion in state funding and $100 million directly for local districts to provide training and support for increased access to computer science courses, particularly for girls and minorities. Libraries are already embracing the youth coding movement, but we have more work to do.

From programming with Ozobots and MaKey MaKey sets to hosting video game design competitions, school and public libraries are engaging teens in exciting ways to promote computer science skills. While it may seem daunting to offer coding classes for youth in your library, rethinking our role as co-learner and creating strategic partnerships will ensure successful learning outcomes. The Future of Library Services for and with Teens emphasizes that we are not expected to be experts nor keepers of information, but must learn to be comfortable working alongside teens to learn together. Meanwhile, libraries are partnering with their local CoderDojo, FIRST Robotics leagues, and makerspaces to connect STEM-based learning opportunities within their communities. Promoting outreach with women and minority-based groups such as Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code will support efforts to get more girls hooked into STEM and encourage young women to choose technical careers. As The Future of Library Services for and with Teens explains, when libraries embrace our role as both formal and informal learning environments, teens are able to develop 21st century skills, content knowledge, and expertise, engage in peer-supported learning, and connect with a broader community based on common interests. However, more needs to be done to widen our efforts.

In Linda Braun’s recent YALSAblog post, she says that annual events like CSEdWeek and the Hour of Code are great opportunities to celebrate coding in the community, but they need to be a part of something bigger. She asks “what if libraries and other formal and informal learning organizations focused on Hour of Code as a way to expand and enhance STEM learning and 21st Century Skill development and used the event as a way to celebrate that learning? Or, what if learning organizations participated in Hour of Code as a piece of a broader program focused on skill development and/or college and career readiness?”

How will your library answer the call?

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My Problem with Hour of Code

code.org public domain logoI’ve been a proponent for many years of the idea that coding is something that all youth should learn. I firmly believe that, through coding, youth gain a variety of 21st century, college and career readiness, and STEM skills. But, when I hear people talk about Hour of Code, and in December when I saw all the Tweets and Facebook posts and so on about the events being sponsored by libraries, schools, and out of school-time-institutions in honor of Hour of Code, I have to admit, I cringed a bit. Here’s why. It seemed to me that for many of the institutions that I was reading about, the work was being done as a one-time event. And, I don’t believe we can help youth gain the skills that coding activities lead to in an isolated once-a-year program. Hour of Code is a great way to celebrate what learning to code can bring to youth, but it should be the start or middle or end of something bigger. It should not be a one-and-done experience.

This idea is highlighted on the Code.org website on the page titled, What’s the Impact of the Hour of Code. One point really stood out to me on that page when thinking about my “problem” with Hour of Code (bolding and caps added by me): Continue reading

Impact on teen friendships in an age of technology

It’s hard to go through a day without seeing a teen using some piece of technology. Sometimes it seems like they are glued to their phones (similar to their adult counterparts), even when they are walking. Or you’ll see many of them together, snapping and Instagraming their afternoon at the local coffeeshop.

How does all this technology impact teen friendships? As a teenager, friendships are crucial. Your friends become your sounding board, provide advice and support you in times of need, and become a pseudo family as you head towards adulthood. The Pew Research Center was curious about this and in 2014-2015 conducted a nation-wide survey of teens aged 13-17. The report, Teens, Technology, and Friendships, was published in August 2015 and I think it sheds some light on teens’ communication style.

From the report, I pulled three main ideas. The report is jammed packed with interesting statistics and worth a look through. But for a condensed version…

Making friends online

According to the teens surveyed, 57% reported that they had made a friend online at some point. However, it was less likely that these online friends turned into people teens met in person (only 20%). When you break up the 57% of teens who have made at least one friend online, it was more likely these teens were older (15-17 years old).

Boys were more likely to have made online friends through video games (the networked component that allows you to play with other people online playing the same game) while girls were more likely to make friends through social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram).

The so what: As I was reading this section of the report, I thought back to growing up and writing pen pal letters to students either in the United States or across the world. Could something like this be replicated through video games or social media platforms by the library? Perhaps if a library has a video game system for teens to use, they could pair up with another library who has the same video game so their teens could play against and with each other? Or the teens could “take over” a social media platform that the library uses to communicate with teens and talk to another teen department at another library?

Keeping in touch with friends

Regardless if the friend was made online or is an in-person friend, texting is the popular means to communicate with them. Teens reported that 49% used texting as their main form of communication with friends. Other forms of communication included instant messaging, social media platforms (and direct messaging), email, video chat, phone calls, video games, and other messaging apps (Kik or WhatsApp). Many teens said that the medium to communicate was based on the type of friendship they had with the other person. Only the closest friends would be eligible for a phone call, while newer friends were easier to text or talk to in another messaging app. It was interesting that 85% of teens said they had called their friends at some point (analog is not dead!).

The so what: Teens have created a system for building trust in friendships seen through how they communicate with each other. They have rules for how to communicate with each other and these look different than how we might be use to communicating with friends. By seeing that this sample of teens is more likely to use written word to communicate can better help us understand the teens we serve (and what sort of programs could happen with this framework in mind).

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CLOUD901 – a Digital Learning Lab Exclusively for Teens

CLOUD901 is a digital learning lab that opened September 16, 2015 in the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library in Memphis, Tennessee. At 8,300 square feet over two floors, it is one of the largest learning labs in the country—and it’s all for teens. To enter the lab, you must be a library card holder between the ages of 13-18 (or be an adult on a scheduled tour). The space is amazing—I never thought I’d willingly be in high school again… but CLOUD901 would make it worth it.

I interviewed Janae Pitts-Murdock, Teen Services Coordinator, to see how the lab was shaping up after being open for four months. I wanted to find out what spaces were most popular, what programs were being taken advantage of, and what problems were cropping up.

CLOUD901 images
Clockwise from left: CLOUD901 entrance, Video Production Lab, Audio Production Lab, Dream Catcher Space. Images from Memphis Public Library and Information Center

On any given afternoon, most teens can be found in the Gaming Zone, Collaboration Zone, or the Play Cafe.

  • The Gaming Zone is exactly what it sounds like—a video game area where teens can play a variety of games on different consoles. Instead of fighting over what game to play or whose turn it is, Pitts-Murdock says that teens are more likely to organize a tournament. Instead of being isolated in their video games, teens talk about their favorite games and other common interests.
  • The Collaboration Zone is a meeting space where teens can literally write on the walls. Pitts-Murdock says this is “where the activists gather”—teen organizations like BRIDGES USA and a local LGBTQ group host meetings there.
  • The Play Cafe is unique because it’s the only place in the library where food and drinks are allowed. Because of all the expensive equipment in CLOUD901, staff didn’t want teens sneaking snacks and getting crumbs in keyboards and spills on audio equipment. The Play Cafe has become a community gathering place within CLOUD901.

The music programs are the most popular, which is appropriate for a city known for its music culture. CLOUD901 staff and local musicians offer a series of workshops that lead teens through the process of writing, recording, producing, and mixing songs. Teens can use the equipment by themselves, but there’s often a lot of collaboration. Pitts-Murdock says teens almost seem to use the Audio Production Lab as “group counseling for each other—sharing lyrics about life experiences.”

In general there is so much to do in CLOUD901 that every patron finds their niche. Since Memphis is such a high poverty and high crime area, Pitts-Murdock initially worried that there would be more problems in the teen learning lab. Instead, patrons have a safe space because they’re given freedom and responsibility. “Teens rise to the level of responsibility that you give them,” Pitts-Murdock said proudly.

There is also a mobile CLOUD901 that goes to other branches to reach the teens who can’t make it to the Central Library. This isn’t like a technological bookmobile where teens come inside; it’s equipment that is taken into the library to construct a pop-up learning lab. It includes computer monitors, hip and comfortable furniture, a 3D printer, and equipment for music production, like a microphone, laptop, and headphones. CLOUD901 took a lot of fundraising and grant money, and while what’s offered in the mobile version wasn’t cheap, it might be a little easier for other libraries to assemble something similar: Taking makerspaces to a new level, developing 21st century skills that teens can use for creative expression as well as to get a leg up on college- and career-interests.

See more about what CLOUD901 has to offer on the Memphis Public Library and Information Center website. See cool behind-the-scenes photos and videos of CLOUD901 in action on Instagram (@knowledgedefenders) and Facebook.

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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Top 5 YA and Libraries Research in 2015 (But Mostly from Pew Research Center)

In the world of research about young adults and libraries, 2015 has been good year. This blog post will offer a recap of the Top 5 (in my opinion) young adult and library related research that you may have caught or may have overlooked throughout the year. Not surprisingly, several of these studies come from the Pew Research Center. If you aren’t familiar with Pew, it’s occasionally checking out the work that they do or signing up for daily or weekly research alerts (like research nerds, like me, do). According to Pew’s (2015) website, the research center is  “a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. (¶1). ” They do some really terrific research on all sorts of topics but of interest to us is their work on young adults, the Internet, and libraries. Well, enough about Pew and more about these five studies that I would like to highlight from this past year. Included in my top five are a couple of leading researchers in young adults and libraries like Drs. Denise Agosto, June Abbas, and Marcia Mardis. Enjoy this research roundup!

Agosto, D. E., & Abbas, J. (2015). “Don’t be dumb—that’s the rule I try to live by”: A closer look at older teens’ online privacy and safety attitudes. New Media & Society, 1–19. http://doi.org/10.1177/1461444815606121

Dr. Denise Agosto is a faculty member and researcher in the School of Information at Drexel University who does amazing research on young adults and libraries. Another fun fact: she is the current editor for YALSA’s own Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults (JRLYA). Dr. June Abbas is a faculty member in the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Oklahoma who also does fantastic research on libraries, young adults, and technology. In this article, the authors discuss older teens feelings and concerns about online privacy. The research reveals that while young adults are concerned about privacy they also feel the need to offer personal information online to friends. For librarians, this article closes with implications for instructing teens about online security and privacy.

Horrigan, J. B. (2015). Libraries at the crossroads (pp. 1–52). Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/09/15/libraries-at-the-crossroads/

            When this research came out, it made quite a splash in the library community. The research reveals that citizens see libraries as critical “community institutions” and are interested in the programming and services libraries provide, but indicated that library visits by Americans are slowly decreasing (p. 3). Included in this research were older young adults who expressed a desire for public libraries to support community education, improve the local economy through assist to local businesses, employers, and job hunters. They also wanted libraries to take a lead role in emerging technologies and help the community learn how to use these gadgets. Although this research wasn’t focused strictly of 12 to 18 year olds, it does highlight the needs and desires of older young adults and emerging adults regarding the library and its services.

Lenhart, A. (2015). Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015. Washington, D.C.: Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/teens-social-media-technology-2015/

                Pew Research Center’s Amanda Lenhart often takes a lead role in reporting on young adults, technology, and social media.  Not surprisingly, this report provides an overview of current young adult social media use. It is worth a scan of the summary of findings, which reveals that Facebook is still the most popular social media platform among teens, and 71% of young adults are using more than one social networking site on a regular basis. For librarians, this report may assist in better understanding current social media and online technology use by young adult patrons. It may answer (or at least help answer) lingering questions young adult or youth services librarians have about the technology habits of the population they serve.

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Instagram of the Week – December 28

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

This week’s Instagram roundup serves two purposes: to showcase the fun things happening in libraries as the holiday season comes to a close and to provide some inspiration for a teen Instagram takeover. It’s hard to scroll through Instagram without seeing an account that has been temporarily taken over by an outside person as a way of collaborating, sharing content, and introducing followers to other accounts and topics of interest. Many schools are jumping on the bandwagon and allowing students to take over their Instagram account for a day or week to highlight what it’s like to be on campus. For examples, take a look at Nazareth College’s Student Instagram Takeover page or Jamestown Community College’s Instagram Takeover Application.

If you aren’t ready to take the plunge and host a teen takeover on your library’s account, you can still involve teens by having them find and create content to post. The Future of Library Services for and with Teens report explains that libraries are no longer a place for users to connect with just print resources, but also digital resources, library staff, community leaders, and peers. However, the report also notes that the likelihood of teens owning or having access to a computer, tablet, or smartphone varies across socioeconomic and racial demographics. Libraries are in a position to provide teens with opportunities to use these digital devices and gain experience with the photo/video editing software and apps that come with them.

Although the images and videos selected for this week’s column may not have been created or posted by teens, they provide examples of the types of content teens could create for the library. For instance, teens could take a video of a program in action or photograph a display they created by using the library catalog to find materials with specific themes or cover art. By experimenting with different apps, teens can learn how to use effects, combine music with images or video, and have fun creating content for upload on the library’s account. Seeing their work uploaded may not only make them proud of their efforts and be inspired to continue to try new things, but can also encourage them to follow the library’s social media accounts. Getting teens to follow (and continue following) the library on social media is tricky, but gaining followers allows us to maintain connections with our teens once they’ve left the physical library space.

Have you hosted a teen takeover on your library’s Instagram account or asked teens to help create content? If so, we want to hear from you!  What type of content did they create? If you hosted a takeover, how did you recruit teens who were up for the task?

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Blog Post Round-Up: Intermediate Maker Programs

Blog post round-up is a series of posts that pull from the great YALSAblog archive. The topics have been requested by YALSA members. Have an idea for a topic? Post it in the comments.

 

Looking for posts on intermediate maker activities? Here are some great examples:

Week of Making: Maker Faire

Thinking (Out Loud) about Learning in Makerspaces

Cultural Competence and the Maker Movement

Week of Making: Collaborative Coding: Participation in a Community Appathon

Idaho Libraries Shake Up the Maker Movement: Creating makers, then spaces (part three)

Idaho Libraries Shake Up the Maker Movement: Creating makers, then spaces (part four)

2015 Teen Tech Week Grant Winner – Alexandra Tyle-Annen

2015 Teen Tech Week Grant Winner – Alexandra Tyle-Annen

Blog Post Round-Up: Beginner Maker Programs

Blog post round-up is a series of posts that pull from the great YALSAblog archive. The topics have been requested by YALSA members. Have an idea for a topic? Post it in the comments.

Need help getting started with making in your library? Check out these helpful posts.

Looking to Create a Makerspace in your library? Here are some ideas.

Week of Making: The Making of Librarian Makers

Week of Making: Getting Started: Creating a School Library Makerspace from Scratch

Maker March: Are You Already Making @ Your Library?

A Week of Making: What Making is Really All about?

Back to School with Making

Teen Tech Week and Beyond: Makerspaces

Idaho Libraries Shake Up the Maker Movement: Creating makers, then spaces (part one)

Idaho Libraries Shake Up the Maker Movement: Creating makers, then spaces (part two)

 

Instagram of the Week – December 7

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

Last week marked the end of Nanowrimo. In case you haven’t heard of Nanowrimo it is a writing challenge with a name comprised of the condensed words: National November Writing Month. This annual call to write has swelled to include more than 53,000 writers from 6 of 7 continents. This challenge attracts big named published authors like Rainbow Rowell and Carrie Ryan. Fangirl by Rowell is a Nanowrimo book. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan…that’s a Nanowrimo book too. Nanowrimo churns out a fair number of YA literature every year and attracts more and more young adults as participants each year. Since 2005, Nanowrimo has been hosting YWP – Young Writer’s Program – for students in grades K – 12. When users turn 18, they are directed to the main site, where the word requirements jump from 30,000 for the month to 50,000.

As we all know (and to the lament of Nanwrimo writers across the United States), with the end of November comes Thanksgiving and Black Friday. So in the midst of basting turkeys, Walmart brawls, football games and #ThanksgivingClapback dinner conversations, Nanowrimo writers continued to write – and guess what? Many of them actually finished, and then they did something even more awesome — they posted their experiences on Instagram! Nanowrimo writers posted quotes that inspired them, strategies for rising to the challenge, pictures of laptops, and furry writing buddies. There were lots and lots of pictures with coffee! Coffee with swirls, coffee in cute bookish mugs, coffee next to laptops, and then next to laptops and furry writing buddies… There were lots of pictures of food! My goodness, are Nanowrimo writers foodies or what!?

If you missed this year, get inspired for next year, or catch the motivation to start your own writing club. You could give your youth a monthly word challenge! Make it something fun with just a pinch of challenge! Empower your teens. Let them tell their stories, and maybe let them explore ways they can publish their work. Page 3 of the Future of Libraries for and with Teens report states:

“Now is the time for public and school libraries to determine how they can contribute to solving and alleviating the issues and problems that negatively impact teens. Cultural competence preparation for future and current school and public library and information professionals is one place where these issues can and should logically be addressed since many of the statistics cited above stem from structural issues such as institutional racism, classism, and sexism. However, research suggests that some LIS students feel ill-prepared to deliver this kind of culturally competent library service upon graduation. Cultural competence has to do with recognizing the significance of culture in one’s own life and in the lives of others; and to come to know and respect diverse cultural backgrounds and characteristics through interaction with individuals from diverse linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic groups; and to fully integrate the culture of diverse groups into services, work, and institutions in order to enhance the lives of both those being served by the library profession and those engaged in service.”

By empowering your teens to tell their own stories, to start something and see it through to the end. Teaching teens to navigate the process of editing and publishing their own written work fills the cultural competency void, but it also seeks to narrow the #WeNeedDiverseBooks gap. Nanowrimo writers posted memes about the healing power of writing in fighting suicidal ideation and depression. They posted happy face selfies – the seal of empowerment for having met their literary goals for the month against school/work demands, against #ThanksgivingClapback, and family/home obligations. Page 3 of the Future of Libraries for and with Teens report also states:

Accordingly, preparing young adults for the workforce is a major concern in the United States. In the last three decades, the skills required for young adults to succeed in the workforce have changed drastically, but the skills emphasized in schools have not kept up with these changes.34 This has led to a widespread concern that young adults lack the necessary skills for job success and are entering the workforce unprepared. Several recent studies, including Workforce Preparation in the Context of Youth Development Organization35 and Literacy Skills and Self-Views of Ability among First Year College Students,36 have documented this skills gap. Now is the time for school and public libraries to reimagine themselves as 21st-century learning spaces.

Writing is a critical skill quickly being eroded in the age of text, tweets, and emoticons. Nanowrimo is a way for young adults to express themselves in a connected learning environment where they are able to say what they want to say in their own voice. Which brings us to our next point that can be found on page 8 of the Future of Library Services for and with Teens report:

At the heart of connected learning is the idea that young people learn best when that learning is connected to their passions, desires, and interests. This focus correlates strongly with the learning ecosystem and learning needs of the teen of 2020 that Rainie described in his summit presentation. As noted in the CLRN report: The connected learning model posits that by focusing educational attention on the links between different spheres of learning—peer culture, interests and academic subjects—we can better support interest-driven and meaningful learning in ways that take advantage of the democratizing potential of digital networks and online resources.

Having said that, enjoy this homage to the final week of Nanowrimo, and if your library participated in youth writer’s circles and posted on Instagram, maybe you’ll see yourself and hopefully you’ll be inspired to participate next year.

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