Want to offer more hands-on learning opportunities for and with the teens in your community?  3D Systems Corp., in partnership with YALSA, is giving away up to 250 3D printers to members of YALSA.  Learn more and apply online by Oct. 30th.  Are you not a YALSA/ALA member yet?  Membership starts at $60 per year.  Contact Letitia Smith at lsmith at ala dot org, or 312.280.4390, to get the best rate and to learn about paying in installments.  And don't forget to check out all of the great maker and connected learning resources on YALSA's wiki!

How do students’ research skills turn into love of inquiry?  The answer is HackHealth!  I work in a middle school library with grades six through eight.  Because I serve a population of over 1,000 students, it is challenging to see all of my students on a regular basis.  When I did see them, their research skills were very basic and most of them knew only Google.  Although I love Google myself, I know that there is so much more that goes into research.  How can I teach these skills to students with the limited time that I have with them?

The Beginning

Researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) in College Park came to me with the idea to form a weekly after-school program, HackHealth, to teach students how to research health topics that interest them.  I jumped at the opportunity.  My first step was to recruit students.  There are several very effective ways to do this, but I will focus on the method that I used because it worked so well for me.  I approached my school’s science team.  I told them about the HackHealth program and asked them to recommend students who were interested and would benefit from this program.  I received responses back from almost 20 students who were interested.  We had an initial meeting with approximately 12 interested students where the program was introduced by the UMD researchers.

Implementing the Program

The HackHealth program at my school lasted for 12 weeks.  During the first session, I talked with them about choosing a topic.  Our students viewed short videos introducing them to the program. The next step was to explore possible sources for their research.  Students brainstormed sources which they would use to find credible information.  For example, would they use the Internet, ask a family member, read a newspaper?  They discussed the pros and cons of each of these sources based on prior knowledge.

How to Take Notes

sandwich boardsUMD researchers and I went over notetaking skills.  Three skills were introduced:  Mind-mapping, tables, and making lists.  The students were introduced to each method and then formed groups to practice these methods.  At the end, they were asked to present their assigned note-taking strategy to the group.  The group discussed which method is most effective for which circumstances.

Credibility Screenshot Activity

postit1 postit2

We used posters of various health-related Web pages for this activity.  The posters included: WebMD, Dr. Oz, Wikipedia, a government website (alzheimers.gov), a blog (“Sharing my life with Lewy Body Dementia”) and a kids health website (KidsHealth.org).  The students were given red and green post-its.  The red represented not credible.  The green represented credible.  The students wrote why they felt the website was credible or not on their post-its. We got together at the end of this activity to discuss the differences in opinion and how to handle the “grey” areas on assessing credibility of online information.

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This semester I’m enrolled in a Collaborations in Feminism and Technology class. It parallels the larger organization, FemTechNet. During our most recent class, our discussion turned to a frequently talked about: children/teens and technology. What sort of access to technology should they have and how will they use it?

Part of our class veered towards the idea of technocentrism (technology is the center of our world and it controls us. See Seymour Papert’s paper to read more) or technological determinism (essentially get on board with technology’s pace or forever be left behind). We discussed just giving kids and teens technology and counting on them to “just know” how to use it. We discussed restricting access because they aren’t old enough to really know how to use technology. And we discussed that teens simply don’t understand the permanence of putting something online.

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

Incorporating 21st century technology practices and presence in your library is a critical way to engage young adults and be at the forefront of introducing programs to enhance experiential and connected learning. Most librarians have at least heard of makerspaces, if they haven't already incorporated them into their library programming. Staying on the cutting edge, having adequate space, and staying relevant are very real challenges that librarians and library workers face in facilitating makerspaces for young adults.

Makerspaces can include a wide variety of activities and ways to breed a variety of mediums. Makerspaces allow students to blend their interests while gaining critical skills that could translate into the workforce. Is your makerspace incorporating best practices as outlined in The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action? Are you considering the demographics of you community in an effort to engage the diverse populations of your community? Are you thinking outside the box and incorporating techniques and tools you haven't tried? Check out these makerspaces from this week, and the next time you host a makey makey event, be sure to post it to your library's Instagram or other social media page to advertise to your teens!

I’ve been blogging for YALSA for almost year. Crazy to think I’m starting my second year of graduate school. Those job descriptions that come into my email box seem a little more real, and a little more attainable.

What makes me so excited about heading into the professional world of librarianship is when I get the chance to interact with other librarians, librarians that have experience and insight, insight that I hope to one day have. While I know they, technically, are my colleagues, I still feel a little out of their league. However, that doesn’t stop me from soaking up as much knowledge from them as I can.

I got an opportunity to meet a handful of other librarians (and YALSA) bloggers last week. Crystle, our blog manager, had arranged some Google Hangouts as a way for us bloggers to meet each other. I logged on Monday night, not quite sure what to expect.

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Title: Crop
Cost: Free, with $ 1 in-app purchase to remove ads and maintain aspect ratio
Platform: iOS

Sometimes an app is so simple, but works so well, it's hard to imagine how you would get along without it. For me, one of those is Crop by Green Mango Systems.


Whether it's focusing on the content of a screen-captured Instagram post or creating a quick thumbnail for an avatar, there are many occasions when you'll want to remove the bulk of an image or rotate it on the fly. You simply select the image, use the eight points of the image canvas to determine the size you want, and you can keep finessing things until you hit "Save." And unlike the crop option within the iOS photo roll, Crop saves your creation as a new file, so you don't loose the original.
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Title: Padlet
Platform: iOS (Android coming soon)
Cost: Free with paid versions with extra features for schools, businesses, and personal use

padlet logoPadlet is a web-based tool that's been available for a few years. Recently an iPad app launched which makes it easy for libraries working with and for teens to use the tool in a variety of ways.

As with the web-based tool, the Padlet app is a good way to create walls of content. The content might be a curated list of resources - including audio, video, websites, Google Docs, images, and more - that a teen is going to use in a presentation. It, might be a wall where teens brainstorm together and collaborate on ideas for a new project. Or, it could be a place where library staff working with and for teens collect resources of interest to help them provide high-quality service to the age group.
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With our youth patrons returning to school, now is the perfect time to re-evaluate your community’s demographics and set goals to “Get Away” and connect with those underserved populations. As you consider where to start, the first step may seem daunting, but tackle the unknown in a way that is most comfortable for you. We’ll be sharing our ideas about setting goals during our Teen Read Week Twitter chat Setting Goals to Reach Underserved Teens onFriday, September 11 at 2 pm EST. If numbers and statistics read like a first language, you’ll probably have your own plan of action in which to gather information and compile results into charts and graphs. However, many of us need a different approach in order to ease our way into such unfamiliar territory and we offer a few ideas here.

Demographics from an insider view

Consider your teen patrons’ habits as a diving board into better knowing your community. For instance, if your teens often ask library staff for change to spare for food, comment about not eating breakfast, or are eager to attend library programs especially for the free snacks, you may want to further explore this trend. Start by investigating the nearby school’s stats on free and reduced lunches, the city’s poverty percentages, or the state’s caseload counter for food stamp families. The location of these resources will also provide other relevant data that may offer a more detailed view into the issue. Once you have a baseline of data, connect with local food pantries and other social service providers and start a conversation. You may discover any number of ways to partner with these organizations from creating a bookmark for the public listing the location of these services to facilitating meal programs.

Demographics from a bird’s eye perspective

Map the government, parks, nonprofit, and other community agencies within your library’s service area. If a particular trend in services exists, investigate its related statistical topics and connect with those organizations. Also, the types of businesses in your service may offer a starting point into better understanding your community. If you notice an unusual number of liquor stores in your area, you may check the location of rehabilitation centers or AA groups and connect with them. Another way to address your map of agencies, is to first connect with the organizations located nearest to your library, as those service are directly targeting your immediate area.

Take action with us in better understanding your community by joining the Teen Read Week Twitter chat on Friday, September 11 at 2 pm EST. Come ready to share your goals and gain new ideas and resources from your peers. When joining the Twitter chat, be sure to use #TRW15. See you there!

Amanda Barnhart is the current chair for YALSA’s Teen Read Week committee, an MLIS student, and a Young Adult Associate for the Trails West branch of The Kansas City (Mo) Public Library.