Positive Use of Social Networking #19 – Collaborating at school


During October a small group of YALSA bloggers are posting ideas and information about positive uses of social networking tools in schools and libraries. Here’s positive use #19.

Social networking software that promotes collaboration has special significance in the school setting. Students who learn collaboration skills at school are likely to be more valuable contributors to today’s workplace, which generally values collaboration and team work.

Linda has written about some of Google’s newer collaborative tools, such as Google Docs and Spreadsheets and Google Calendar. Wikis and blogs are naturals for classroom collaboration. Joyce Valenza tells us about some of the classroom wiki collaborations going on at her school. English classes are using a wiki to create podcasting scripts which they will use to report “on the spot” breaking events in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. And AP U.S. History is using a wiki to build collaborative answers to critical study questions. Helpful design patterns for education-focused wikis have been developed by Bernie Dodge and Karl Richter at San Diego State University.

For our computer literacy semester projects, we are using phpBB bulletin board software for student groups to post their weekly progress reports. Teachers and other students in the class then post feedback on the reports. These interactions are not visible to the world at large, but teachers and students in the class have full read/write access. This semi-public forum encourages sharing among students and creates a sense of accountability that goes beyond the typical closed teacher-student interaction.

Other tools that, on the surface just look like lots of fun, can be adapted for classroom use. A Ta Da list is a simple way for groups to keep track of tasks. As each task is finished, it can be checked off the list. Students can use Flagrant Disregard’s Flickr toys to create movie posters, magazine covers, photo mosaics, motivational posters, trading cards, and photos with comic book captions.

Social networking software clearly has much to offer to the classroom learning experience. Legislation like DOPA would stymie the potential positive contribution it could make in this area.

Positive Use of Social Networking #18 – Youth Participation


During October a small group of YALSA bloggers are posting ideas and information about positive uses of social networking tools in schools and libraries. Here’s positive use #18.


Social networking is all about participation and integrating social networking technologies in libraries provides librarians with great oppotunities for creating and developing youth participation projects. For example:

  • Teens can setup and maintain the library’s MySpace space. As a part of the process teens would have to figure out who is responsible for what aspects of the space, what to include on the space, and how to add and respond to friends and comments. See Donnell Teens for an example of a library MySpace space managed by teens
  • Teens create a library Flickr account and upload phots of library programs and events to the space. As a part of the process teens would have to determine what photos to upload, how to tag them, how to describe them, and how to organize them on the space.
  • Teens maintain a library blog of reviews, news, etc. Teens who work on the project would have to figure out what to write about on the blog, how often to post, setup a schedule of posts, and make sure the blog was updated on a regular basis.

These are all ideas that have been mentioned in some way already as a part of YALSA’s 30 days of social networking on this blog. However, it’s important to focus on the fact that each of these is a youth participatory activity that can support teen development. Teens can take part in these project-based activities from the library, from home, from school, wherever they can access the Internet. They can be involved in activities that have meaningful results and make a difference to the community.


Social networking is a perfect opportunity for youth participation in libraries. DOPA would limit the ability of libraries to offer teens the chance to do things that make a difference and that are actually of personal interest

Positive Use of Social Networking #17 – Networking with authors

During October a small group of YALSA bloggers are posting ideas and information about positive uses of social networking tools in schools and libraries. Here’s positive use #17.

YA author Brent Hartinger generously donated his time to talk about social networking issues and DOPA. If DOPA had passed, many teens would be unable to engage in opportunities to connect with authors such as Brent. Schools and public libraries miss out on being able to connect authors in places teens are at and comfortable in communicating.

1. When did you decide to start using social networking tools such as blogs and MySpace? Did you have an online presence and belong to any fanfiction communities, participate on forums, etc. long before you started publishing books?

Hmmm, interestingly, this whole online community thing sort of coincided with my emergence as a writer. I sold my first novel in 2001, and I immediately started putting together my website. I was definitely connected before that, but not nearly in the way I am now. It’s interesting to think about how connected I’d be if I wasn’t an author. Trying to sell books, and making myself available to readers, that’s definitely a motivation, partly because it’s so darn much fun, but also because, hey, this is how I make my living, and I need to eat!

2. How has having an online presence through these social networking tools allowed you to connect with teens and other authors or fans in ways that you wouldn’t have been able to?

Oh, it’s amazing! I respond to dozens of emails, and chat with at least another dozen people via IM every single week. And then there’s blog postings, and responses to my postings, which I always respond to. I swear, every single day, some new opportunity comes to me via the internet. Which is great, even if I’m chronically way over-extended.

I happen to be an author who does a lot of “live” events–I tour for every book, and speak at a lot of conferences and schools, something like 60 events a year. But even with all that, I don’t have nearly the “live” contact with readers that I have online, which is definitely in the thousands of people every year.

3. What is your criteria for ‘friending’ people on your MySpace page?

Well, I’m pretty liberal. But if I sense that it’s spam, someone trying to sell me something, I say no. Frankly, that really annoys me. I love to sell books too, but only if readers come to me! I’m an opt-in kinda guy.

4. There has been criticism of the scene(s) in Geography Club where Kevin and Russell, online friends first, meet in person. If teens do want to meet their online friend in person, what would you recommend?

Keep in mind that, in the book, Russel discovers that he and Kevin definitely go to the same school. So they “know” each other, and they know they’re both teenagers–they just don’t know each other’s names. That scene was also written in 1999, long before we became hyper-aware of these things.

In real life, I would always absolutely recommend meeting in a public place, like a mall, and definitely going with friends. Don’t EVER go anywhere with anyone alone on that first meeting. Believe me, there are lot of sickos out there–and most of them don’t necessarily look like sickos!

5. If the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) had passed in its current form, and teens possibly would be unable to access your MySpace site from the school or public library, what does that mean for you?

That would be unforunate, because I do hear from a lot of folks from school. Mostly, I’d think it would just be sad, because I’d like to see individual schools pass their own policies on these things, based on the needs of their own students. If they must mandate anything, how about some kind of reasonable, non-hysterical online education? (With the funding to pay for it, of course!)

6. Do you have any idea how many young adult authors have MySpace pages?

More and more. Obviously everyone has limits as to what they can do in a day, but I happen to think it’s almost required. In fact, I often say that if you’re uncomfortable dealing with people, and don’t want to have anything to do with anything online, you might consider another profession than that writer of teen books. These days, it’s almost a requirement that you be accessible to fans, at least if you want to sell books. But honestly, it’s the best part of my job, and I didn’t think it would be. I mean, fan email? How could that EVER get old?

7. Anything else you want to add?
Well, I’m pretty proud of my website, which

I think it pretty unique and is hopefully an entertainment experience in itself.

Here’s my MySpace profile

And my Live Journal blog

And I also contribute to another blog, http://asifnews.blogspot.com, one about issues of censorship and intellectual freedom, for a group I helped found called Authors Supporting Intellectual Freedom (or AS IF!)

Much thanks to Brent for his time!

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki

Positive Use of Social Networking #16 – SingShot

During October a small group of YALSA bloggers are posting ideas and information about positive uses of social networking tools in schools and libraries. Here’s positive use #16.


Karaoke is probably one of the most popular games that teens play in libraries. Male, female, cool, and not cool bond over the possibilities karaoke provides. Well, imagine taking the game one step further by having teens record songs online and add photos and slideshows. That’s all possible with SingShot


Here’s what it takes. (Make sure you have a computer microphone and speakers.) Create a library account at SingShot. Have teens browse through the site, check out how it works, find out what music is available, select songs to record, etc. Teens might work in groups to work on songs of a particular genre. Once recordings are made the teens can select images on the site or on their own computers to add to the recording. This is a great opportunity to talk with the teens about the mood that the song elicits and what images would help to set that mood.


It’s also a great opportunity to talk about copyright issues as they relate to digital materials. You could steer teens to sites that provide access to Creative Commons licensed images to use in their SingShot recordings. One site you might use for these is Wikipedia Commons.


There is lots of collaboration, group discussion, and evaluation that goes into creating a SingShot recording. While teens will have a good time creating their own online karaoke recordings, that creation provides great opportunities for critical thinking and planning.


Once teens upload their recordings and images you can host contests on the library web site or blog to vote for the favorite SingShot recordings made by local teens. You can link to the recordings on your web site, blog, or MySpace. The opportunities for integrating this web site into library programs and services are pretty broad. But, those broad opportunities would be lost in a world in which DOPA had passed. Teens wouldn’t be able to participate in the community of SingShot. That would mean there would be one less opportunity to plan, collaborate, think, discuss, evaluate, and enjoy.

Happy Teen Read Week!

It’s time to Get Active! @ your library… (like you haven’t been running around anyway!) All this week, libraries and teens will be celebrating Reading for the Fun of It with programs, parties, poetry slams, volunteer activities, book displays and more!

How are you celebrating Teen Read Week? I’ve got my posters up, we’re having a scavenger hunt in the library tomorrow, and the Teen Advisory Council is hosting a Fall Carnival for Kids this weekend. This afternoon, I’ll display as many of the Teens Top Ten nominees as I have on the shelves, and I’ll be encouraging teens to vote online for their favorites.

During Teen Read Week, teens can also vote for next year’s theme, take the reading survey at smartgirl.org, and submit a theme and logo for the 2007 National Library Legislative Day. Publicize all of these great activities with this flyer from YALSA.

Please let us know in the comments how you are celebrating Teen Read Week!

Positive Use of Social Networking #15 – Collaboration

During October a small group of YALSA bloggers are posting ideas and information about positive uses of social networking tools in schools and libraries. Here’s positive use #15.


I think most readers of this blog would agree, collaboration is a good thing. Collaboration gives teens the chance to learn to work as a part of a team and to share responsibility. Social networking is all about collaboration and the possibilities created by technology for collaboration are really pretty amazing. Two social networking tools that can be used by teens, teachers, and librarians in project collaboration are:

  • Google Docs and Spreadsheets (Formerly Writely and Google Spreadsheets) – It’s afterschool and a group of teens need to work on a school project. One of the teens doesn’t have computer access at home so he goes to the library to use their computers. The teen at the library signs into Google Docs and Spreadsheets. He sets up a new document and then emails his team members/classmates an invitation to join him and collaborate on the document. Soon the three or four teens are all working on the document they need to create for class together. Each teen can write and revise while the others are online looking at the same document. A history of revisions are saved so the teens and the teacher have a record of the document creation process.
  • Gliffy – Similar to Google Docs and Spreadsheets except this is a tool for creating mind maps, flowcharts, floor plans, and more. Users sign-up for Gliffy, start a new document, and invite others to join in the creation. Imagine a group of teens working on developing an architecture for the library web site. They could meet on Gliffy and plan it out together, yet each be in a separate location – school, home, the library – while collaborating with classmates.


Tools like these are great for collaboration and they also give teens access to software products that they might not have access to outside of school. Teens who don’t have computer access aren’t left in the dust when it comes to collaborating with classmates on school and library projects.


In a world where DOPA was passed a teen who didn’t have access to technology in the home would not be able to collaborate with classmates because she wouldn’t be able to access the tools in the places that are most often used for that kind of access – the school and the public library. DOPA doesn’t help teens become better users of the technology and it certainly doesn’t help provide access to technology to those who don’t have it inside their houses.

Positive Use of Social Networking #14 – YouTube

During October a small group of YALSA bloggers are posting ideas and information about positive uses of social networking tools in schools and libraries. Here’s positive use #14.


Have you ever searched for library on YouTube? If not you should give it a try. Two things to notice when you do:

  • Libraries show up on YouTube as active fun places where teens hang out comfortably. (What a great thing.)
  • Teens (and librarians) can create useful library instruction videos.


YouTube ends up being for libraries:

  • A great place for libraries to advertise programs and services
  • Where teens can feel empowered by publishing work they’ve done and seeing what their peers can do.
  • A resource that highlights constructive use of time through video creation.
  • An outlet for creative expression. There are library mystery, horror, music, and more videos on YouTube.
  • A place to learn, in entertaining and creative ways, how libraries work.


Of course, video on the web is nothing new. However, the fact that teens and librarians can create video and upload it easily to a central website (and the library doesn’t have to pay for the hosting of the video or the bandwidth) is fairly new.


Of course, teens creating videos as a means of self-expression is nothing new. However, the ability to publish that video for the world to see as a way to show the active and positive things teens can do is fairly new.


A library that works with teens on creating videos for YouTube provides teens with opportunities for engaging in both visual and text-based literacies. Teens and librarians that work together on YouTube videos get the chance to plan, manage, and implement a project that uses time management and organization skills. And, teens and librarians that work together on YouTube videos support the community by showing what a great place the library is as a positive support for and advocate for teens.


If DOPA were passed teens could of course continue to create videos. Librarians could of course continue to create videos. But, the library and teens working together on projects would no longer be possible. Librarians would lose the opportunity to help teens understand how to use a site like YouTube in ways that support positive teen development. That would be unfortunate.

Positive Use of Social Networking #13 – Second Life

During October a small group of YALSA bloggers are posting ideas and information about positive uses of social networking tools in schools and libraries. Here’s positive use #13.

Second Life(SL) is a 3D virtual world for adults age 18 and over where one can create an avatar, interact with others, and design the world they want to live in. Over 100 universities and colleges are involved in SL to offer their students a learning experience through this world.

Teen Second Life is for teens, 13-17 and is separate from adults because of safety reasons. Teens can own land, run their own business, design clothes, create machinima, bring their favorite story scene to life through build and design skills, and learn about social issues such as child pornography and sex trafficking which was what GlobalKids did through their camp in Second Life this summer with teens. Schools such as Suffern Middle School in New York, is aligning curriculum standards for their 8th graders with Teen Second Life, and will have a presence to serve their students hopefully by next month.

The Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County in NC and the Alliance Library System in IL have announced a partnership last week to collaborate on library services for teens through Teen Second Life. The project will involve a collaboration with libraries and other youth serving organizations to reach teens where they are at and keep the library relevant to their needs. To find out what libraries are already doing on Second Life with adults, check out: www.infoisland.org Many YALSA members are already involved in Second Life with incredible and tremendous talent and are involved with the teen library project as well. The Alternative Teen Services blog links to Second Life under their ‘connect’ list.

While background checks are required for any adult working with teens on Second Life, if DOPA in its current form, had passed, teens at public and school libraries that are offering Second Life as a program, might be unable to access it or at least the rich world of communication tools that surround the virtual world such as blogs and wikis that foster collaboration and information for projects.

Developmental needs such as community support, motivation to learn, and cultural competence are perfect combinations to build upon through Second Life.

For more information on the library project, or to get involved, check out www.infoisland.org. To find out what other educators are doing in Second Life, go to the SimTeach wiki at: www.simteach.com.

It’s not too late to participate in Info Island’s open house going on this weekend in Second Life. Create an avatar and join the fun! Audio presentations will be archived on OPAL

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki

Great Stories CLUB

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In March of this year 181 libraries were selected to participate in the Great Stories CLUB, an initiative funded by Oprah’s Angel Network aimed at getting books into the hands of troubled teens. The initiative, implemented by ALA’s Public Program’s Office and YALSA, helped establish book discussion groups for teens in alternative schools and juvenile detention centers. To read about one librarian’s experience with the initiative, go here.
-Beth Yoke