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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Midwinter 2014: Digital Badges Update – A New Way to Learn & Show What you Know

yalsa communications marketing outreach badge image You’ve read about them. Maybe you learned about them at Midwinter 2013. Now you can even see how they work on Sunday, January 26 from 8:30 to 10AM in room 108B at the Philadelphia Convention Center. What am I talking about? YALSA’s badges for learning.

YALSA’s badge program focuses on helping library staff working with teens gain skills in areas related to YALSA’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth. The badges are for any school or public library staff member working with teens. Currently three badges (Access to Information; Communications, Marketing, and Outreach; and Leadership and Professionalism) are available to testers. For each badge-earning process there is a lesson that takes badge earners through a set of steps in order to gain skills and understanding about the topic covered. Badge earners create content that they post on the badge earning site and others in the badge earning community view the content and provide feedback and support.

When a badge is earned they can be used on resumes, in social spaces and to show colleagues, administrators and current and potential employers what a staff member knows about teens and libraries.

Learn more at ALA Midwinter in Philadelphia, get a chance to see how the badges work, and sign-up to help beta test the badge-earning process. Don’t miss this chance to gain new skills and become a part of a learning community.

Rethinking What We Do: Professional Development

It’s not a new premise that you can take part in professional development on your own time and at a computer. But, have you thought about the ways you can take part in professional development not just to learn new things but to expand your professional learning network (PLN) and learn from colleagues about how to provide exceptional service to teens? That’s the real new world of professional development. It’s not just about taking content in by listening to some expert tell you how it’s done. It’s also about connecting with others who have experience you can learn from and learning from a wide-range of community members how to do your job even more successfully. For example:

  • YALSA's communications badgeBadges: You’ve probably read posts on this blog about the YALSA badging project which will help library staff working with teens gain skills in the areas covered by the association’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth. A key aspect of the badges is that participants will get the chance to show what they’ve learned by creating artifacts. They’ll share those artifacts with other library staff serving teens. And, they’ll get feedback from those staff who will be members of the YALSA badging community. That’s a great way to learn and a great way to improve what you do. Not only that, when a learner completes an activity in the badge program, he or she will actually get a virtual badge. Continue reading

Going Back to School With Badges

Communications Outreach Marketing Badge ImageIt’s that time. I know you know. Back to school.

It’s also time to give YALSAblog readers an update on the YALSA professional development badging project. A project that will give library staff working with teens a chance to continue their learning about working with teens successfully.

As many readers know, for about a year YALSA has been developing professional development that supports gaining skills and knowledge related to the association’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth and that results in learners earning badges. We’ve hit a few stumbling blocks along the way, but we are now on a good track for soft-launching the badges this fall. (Those of you who have volunteered to test the badges will definitely be contacted as a part of this soft-launch.)

While there have been some challenges as the badges developed, every time we take a look about what’s being built I get more and more excited about the opportunities that this project will provide library staff, and others, to learn about how to successfully work with teens. Some things to know about this upcoming form of YALSA professional development: Continue reading

Catch-Up on YALSA’s Badge Project @ Midwinter

YALSA Services BadgeWe’ve posted quite a bit about YALSA’s badges project on this blog and on Twitter. But, maybe you’ve been saying to yourself, “This all sounds great but I want to learn more face-to-face.” Here’s your opportunity, we’ll be talking badges at ALA Midwinter in Seattle on Sunday, January 27, at the Washington Convention Center Room 604, 8:30 to 10AM.

Now I know that might seem early to get up and out to learn about something new. I promise you it will be worth it. YALSA Board member Chris Shoemaker and I will take you through what we are working on for the YALSA project and give you a chance to give us feedback on our plans. It will be an interactive session with lots of time to ask questions and talk about badges in general and about the YALSA badging project specifically.
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Connect, Create, Collaborate: Badges for Lifelong Learning

A version of this post originally appeared on the YALS site on Tuesday, December 25.

Have you heard about YALSA’s badges project – a project funded by the MacArthur Foundation; Mozilla; and the Humanities, Arts, Sciences and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC). The monies give YALSA the chance to develop a set of badges to help those working with teens in libraries gain skills and knowledge. The badges, which will launch in the spring, focus on the seven competencies covered in YALSA’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth.

You might wonder, what are badges and why should I care? We’ve got some answers for you in this podcast with me, Matthew Moffett – YALSA’s Podcast Manager, and association Board member Sarah Sogigian.


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Badges Outside of School

In this post in the YALSAblog series on badging programs we look at the way that programs that serve teens in their out of school hours are integrating badges into their programs and services. There are a lot of interesting ways these programs are using badges and they can serve as models for libraries that might want to develop their own programs. Or, present opportunities for partnerships between community organizations and libraries who can develop badging programs together.

While some schools are just now realizing the usefulness of badges, some out of school time programs, like Girl Scouts, have been using badges for years. Now, even Girl Scouts, are using badges in new ways. “My Girl Scout Sash is an App, aims to encourage girls ages 5-17, with an emphasis on those in middle and high school, to learn app development as a way of seeing computer programming and other science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) skills as career choices….”
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Why Badges in School?

For the past few weeks, and for the next few weeks, the YALSAblog is talking about badges. This week our focus is on the positive impact of badge programs in school environments.

An example of a school-based badge program is the New York City Department of Education’s course called DIG/IT. This course prepares students for life after high school. “The DIG/IT course provides a context that empowers and encourages learners to develop new real-world skills and knowledge that advance life goals, while engaging with others in a social give-and-take that builds community credibility and connections. Fun, motivating badges demonstrate to the world what the learners know and can do, and how others value their contributions.” Continue reading

The Future of Badges, Resumes, and Professional Credentials

In our ongoing series of blog posts on badges, this week we thought it would be interesting to gaze into our crystal ball and look at what experts are saying about the future of badging and professional credentials. What will happen to resumes, college transcripts, and other traditional forms of credentialing in a world of badges? Read on to find out.

  • Dr. Martha Kanter, Under Secretary of Education at the U.S. Department of Education, believes badges are very valuable and have great potential as “microcredentials.” In a podcast interview with Jonathan Finkelstein, founder of LearningTimes, and director of BadgeStack project, Kanter spoke about employers moving from looking at paper to learn about the skills and knowledge of potential employers to reviewing digital information about what a potential employee is capable of. Her comments focused on the fact that badges are an excellent way, in this new environment, to document and demonstrate what someone knows and can do. Continue reading

How to Have a Good Badge Experience

Over the next several weeks we’ll continue to post on the YALSAblog about what is going on in the world of badging, how organizations like YALSA are integrating badges into their initiatives, and how badges can be used in educational settings.

Last week we posted on how badges can enhance professional development. As you think about participating in a badge program, you might wonder, what should I look for in a good badge experience? Two things to keep in mind:
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