My brain is spinning after a full day of great speakers and interesting ideas. There was an amazing amount of content presented today and I think for anyone who was there that if they are able to take at least one idea back to their home library and start working on that idea progress will be made. We are going to link to the presentations on the blog but not all of them are available yet. So, check back for those links. For now here’s a brief recap with a link to my presentation.
Anthony Bernier from San Jose State University started things off with an inspirational overview of the teen literacy landscape. A primary concept within Anthony’s presentation was that teen’s can find joy in their literacy practices and he gave some specific examples of how we see that in the reading, writing, and community building that they do. Within his presentation Anthony discussed the writing that teens do in the print world in a variety of teen-driven magazines and newspapers and he also showed participants examples of radio and TV production that teens take part in.
At the end of his presentation Anthony posed a variety of questions for participants to consider. Each was incredibly thought provoking.
They included a asking that we question how we define YA literature. With the explosion of teen produced content Anthony suggested that we start recognizing not just the literature that adults produce for teens but also the literature, podcasts, blogs, and so on that teens produce themselves.
Anthony also asked participants to consider how libraries and librarians are going to use space in order to work with teens within the new literacy environment filled with needs to build community, collaborate, and create. He talked about inverting library spaces so that what we present to teens first is comfortable space for community building and collaboration and that the collections are on the periphery of that space. Beth Gallaway blogged about Anthony’s presentation on the PLA blog.
I spoke next about what I call the teen 3Cs – community, collaboration, and creation. I put together a website to go along with my presentation and it’s available now. In my presentation I focused on how teens are using blogs, wikis, and podcasting to create content that helps them not only expand their literacy but also helps them understand who they are. I talked about Charlotte a 15-year-old in southeastern MA who publishes a blog and her blog postings demonstrate how teens write/produce thoughtful well-written content via their blogs. I also showed Charlotte’s end of 2005 recap in which she discusses her past year month by month and reflects on how she changed over the year.
We also looked at how teens are creating podcasts in order to talk about things that are important to them as a part of their personal and global experience. I played a clip from the Pod Princess podcast that is produced by a 15-year-old in New Jersey. The podcast is well developed with content that is obviously outlined and well-thought-out. I contrasted the podcast with Emo Girl Talk which is not as well thought out but is a perfect example of a young teenage girl just having fun with the technology. Mariana Butler who is the host of Emo Girl Talk was the first teen podcaster to acquire a sponsor.
The podcasting environment is making it possible for teens to express their literacy skills in different ways including writing and outlining content, presenting that content to a specific audience, and marketing the content to the world. We then talked about how schools and libraries are using wikis as a way to help teens write books about a variety of topics.
I talked about how wiki software gives teens the chance to collaborate with their peers in writing. I also mentioned that podcasters can use wikis as a place to have listeners write about what the podcaster talked about on the show. That way some teens can produce and perform the podcast and others can write about it after it’s over.
As a final part of the presentation I talked about My Own Cafe a website for teens that provides several opportunities for reading and writing including very active discussion boards. Teens are able to talk about topics of interest to them – movies, books, games, local news, and politics. They are active participants in the discussion boards thereby producing content and creating community on a regular basis. I ended by outlining for participants the important features of the things talked about previously that support and enhance literacy including writing, reading, building, thinking, and making choices.
After lunch Frances Jacobson Harris talked about the ethical issues related to teen’s use of technology. Frances broke down the ethical issues into a series of mind-size-bites and discussed how teens sometimes intentionally do unethical things via technology but also are unethical in unintentionally. What really stood out in Frances’ presentation, at least to me, was how open she is with teens about ethical behaviors in an online world.
Frances went over the scenarios she uses with her students in order to help them understand technology ethics. She showed that there is no one right answer when it comes to figuring out how to behave in various technology situations. For example, she showed clearly how a teen’s viewpoint when it comes to downloading MP3s illegally is rationale and reasoned from the teen perspective. She showed how teens think through situations related to linking to pornography on a teen site that is not hosted by the school. She talked about issues of privacy and freedom of speech when a school-wide email list is involved. The specific examples she was able to use along with quotes straight from the students with whom she works were wonderful.
One story Frances told keeps coming back to me. She told of a student who had gone through the ethics lessons with her. He then went off and did something unethical and asked Frances, “Am I now going to be a scenario.” The student obviously knew that his behavior wasn’t ethical but he did it anyway. In other words we can do our jobs to help teens understand right and wrong behaviors but we do have to then let them go, make their own choices, and learn from their mistakes.
Next were Robin Brenner and Beth Gallaway who talked about graphic novels and games and the connections between the two. Robin went first and talked about several things that I could tell the audience was going “wow” or “cool.” At one point she dissected what illustrations in manga really mean and that was obviously enlightening to lots of people.
Robin brought up some interesting points about how teen interest in manga has actually had an impact on their interest in international news, culture, and so on. She mentioned that as teens read Manga and watch anime they become interested in Japanese culture. That was interesting to me as we had earlier talked in the day about teens on the My Own Cafe website talking about real-world issues and perhaps part of their interest in those issues comes from their reading of manga and graphic novels.
As a part of her presentation Robin also talked about how teens create content related to manga and graphic novels on the web. She showed some examples of fan art, fan movies, and fan fiction that teens have posted on the web. Teens are obviously creating content as a part of their interest in manga and graphic novels and as a result are improving their literacy skills.
After Robin’s presentation Beth spoke about the games teens play, why they play, and who teen gamers are. One thing she talked about was how gaming encompasses Role Playing Games, Video Games, Online Games, Card Games, Board Games, Handheld Games, etc. Games come in a variety of styles as do the teens that play them. Beth also mentioned that there are a lot of gamers that you don’t see in the library and that librarians need to be aware of the number of teen gamers that there are in the world.
Beth talked about the fan fiction that teens write related to the games that they play. She said that teens develop game histories based on their play as well as stories around the characters, setting, and events in games. That’s is definitely an example of teen literacy practices.
In Beth’s presentation she talked about how teens are influencing the creators of games through the modifications and enhancements they make to game play. Producers of games work with teens who have modified games and incorporate those modifications in future versions of the game. The manufacturers also hire those modifiers. Soon the teens will be the owners of the gaming companies and we will see quite interesting product coming out of those companies.
Anthony Bernier brought us back together at the end of the day to recap some of the ideas discussed and to facilitate a question and answer period. In Anthony’s recap comments he talked about how what he heard during the day reminded him of important movements in our history including the civil rights movement and the feminist movement. He connected the ideas we’d discussed related to community, collaboration, and creation to some of the foundational elements of those movements.
Anthony also talked about how the topics and discussions of the day made him realize that we were talking about a new type of YA librarianship. He said the YA librarians we talked about during the day didn’t fit any of the job descriptions he’d ever seen/read.
Another important idea Anthony highlighted was that we need to start thinking beyond summer reading clubs and book awards to awards and such for those teens that are creating and producing in the electronic world. It’s a world beyond books now and YALSA, librarians, educators, etc. have to recognize that and move in some new directions.
At the end of the day I think lots of people were feeling stuffed. But, I also think that everyone was able to leave with at least one new idea with which to work. It would be great to know what ideas, inspiration, and so on participants left with. Comments to this blog related to that would be great.