2015 Teen Tech Week Grant Winner – Sarah Ryan

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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Thinking (out loud) about learning in makerspaces

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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The “Activity Gap”: More thoughts on libraries and after-school programs

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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App of the Week: Lark

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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. Continue reading

Instagram of the Week – March 23

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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Just Dance @ Your Library

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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2015 Teen Tech Week Grant Winner – Lockport Public Library

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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2015 Teen Tech Week Grant Winner – Tricia George

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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Instagram of the Week: March 9th

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.

Instagram of the Week: February 16

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

February is Library Lovers’ Month, a close but sometimes ignored cousin of National Library Week in April. There is no elaborate, ALA-driven campaign for Library Lovers’ Month, just an older website with resources and links that are still active (and helpful!). However, it should come as no surprise that many public and school libraries have initiated innovative programming, displays, and outreach that often combine the concepts behind Library Lovers’ Month and February’s more popular celebration, Valentine’s Day.

The initial campaign identified #libraryloversmonth as, “… a time for everyone, especially library support groups, to recognize the value of libraries and to work to assure that the Nation’s libraries will continue to serve” (librarysupport.net). As other national campaigns evolved, #libraryloversmonth was given the chance to morph into an informally awesome celebration. Individual libraries define #libraryloversmonth as they see fit; some libraries heavily incorporate Valentine’s Day (romance-themed book displays, card-making workshops), while others focus on the love between patrons and their libraries. Interestingly enough, a quick survey of Instagram’s content “proves” the biggest participants in #libraryloversmonth are teens and middle grade children. Keep working the YA love, librarians!

Is your library participating in Library Lovers Month? What programs did your library develop? Do you have a favorite Library Lovers Month campaign? Share in the comments below!

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