Teens and How They Use Technology – What’s Our Role?

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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Take 60 Seconds to Support School Libraries!

The Senate is working on a new education bill (aka ESEA reauthorization) right now, and it’s vital that they include school libraries!  You can help ensure that happens:

  1. Go to this web page
  2. In the blue bar in the upper half of the page, choose how you want to contact your members of Congress: letter, Tweet, or phone call
  3. Click on the option(s) you want, provide the required contact info, & submit.  The letter and Tweet are pre-written for you, so it’s super easy! (but you do have the option to customize them if you want)
  4. Forward this message to library advocates in your community & encourage them to do take action, too
  5. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done!

For more information, read this blog post from ALA.  Thank you for supporting libraries!

-Beth Yoke

DeSTEMber: STEM Activities for Girls

This December, one organization is working to give girls a gift that will last a lifetime: resources to reach their potential in science, technology, engineering, and math. STEM is a prominent part of current educational models in the U.S., but girls are traditionally underrepresented in STEM-related professional fields. DeSTEMber aims to change that.

DeSTEMber is hosted by non-profit organization Girlstart. “Half of the world’s potential ideamakers—women and girls—are discouraged from developing their ideas because of social bias or inequity. More girls with more ideas create more solutions,” notes the organization. Girlstart has been working since 1997 “to increase girls’ interest and engagement in STEM through innovative, nationally-recognized informal STEM education programs.” Their work covers girls in grades K-16. (See their About Us page for more information.)

The DeSTEMber website offers a STEM activity for each day of December. The downloadable activity PDFs include instructions for the activity and a short explanation to go along with it. Each one also features links to additional resources, plus a Career Connection section that describes a profession relating to that activity. These are intended to be far more than one-time activities; they are springboards into the future, both for short-term learning and long-term education and career goals.

Interested in participating? Although DeSTEMber is almost over, these activities are relevant all year long. Girlstart also maintains a link to the DeSTEMber 2013 activity page, meaning users can access 62 free STEM resources.

Librarians and other educators interested in getting involved with Girlstart should visit their educator page.

September Eureka Moments

Even if you don’t work in a school media center, I’m guessing your life still tends to run on an academic schedule when you work with teens. So welcome to the new school year! Here’s what I think might be interesting, useful, or intriguing to you and your patrons this month.

  • If your teens are interested in what’s new in the going green movement, have them look more globally to see what’s going on. In coastal Ecuador, young people from farming families are heading up efforts to save, cultivate, and redistribute heirloom seeds to revitalize the environment and help farmers prosper. Part of an organization called FOCCAHL, 20-year-old Cesar Guale Vasquez travels throughout nearby areas collecting seeds from farmers and also hosts swapping events so that farmers can trade seeds with each other in order to have more vibrant and diverse crops. Now take that for inspiration and add to it your own library’s resources on climate change, farming, and nutrition and plan an interesting program that combines science with activism and see what your advisory board wants to do with it. Many libraries now are creating their own seed libraries, and whether they’re for wildflowers or corn, they can be a great way to bring communities together, get young people to work with older people, and freshen up your local environment while doing your small part to keep the world cleaner and greener.
    Matthews, J. (2012). Ecuador’s seed savior. World Ark, May 2012: 10-15. Continue reading

App of the Week: iTranslate Voice

App of the Week: iTranslate Voice

Cost: $0.99

Platform: Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4S, iPod touch 3rd/4th generation, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later.


I regularly hear the teens in my library grumble about their struggles in foreign language classes and having taken my share of Spanish classes, I can certainly relate. ‘ It’s hard to remember a word’s spelling let along the pronunciation when you can only see it written. So when I recently stumbled upon this wonderful app, I knew I could not keep it to myself. iTranslate is definitely not the only language translation app on the market, but I am willing to bet that it very well may be the best. Continue reading

App of the Week: Angry Birds Space

Title: Angry Birds Space

Cost: $0.99

Platform: iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 (s), iPod touch, iPad, and Android. Requires i0S 4.0 or later.


The pigs are back to try to outsmart the birds, but this time they meet their fate in…space! Rovio Mobile, the same company that developed all of the previous Angry Birds games, has just unveiled the newest addition to the Angry Birds game family, Angry Birds Space. This game has all of the same excellent and addictive features as its predecessors, plus more. Since launching just last week, the app has already been downloaded over 10 million times! What makes it so cool? Well, the battles between the pigs and the birds take place in space where there are gravitational force fields and the game has new varieties of birds with special abilities, such as the bird who can freeze things by casting an ice shield when launched. This game is really fun and a must for teens who already enjoy the original Angry Birds games. Continue reading

App of the Week: Frog Dissection

Title:‘ Frog Dissection
Cost: $3.99
Platform: iPad iOS 4.3 or later.

This app gives students a seemingly real frog dissection experience without the nasty smell of formaldehyde. The graphics are stunning and the 360 degree views give students a close-up, 3D look at each different organ within the frog’s body cavity.

I can remember dissecting frogs in 10th grade biology class with my lab partner. Once we were finally able to open the frog’s belly, everything inside sort of looked the same. Due to the storage process of the specimens, the brine the frogs are kept in has a way of washing out the color of the frog, making everything appear grey in color. This makes it hard to decipher the different parts of the frog and where they are located. The app brings the dissection process from the lab right to your iPad. If I had this app to review before and after the actual live dissection in class, I would have been better equipped for the proceeding test.

The dissection portion of this app is both interactive and educational. I found myself enjoying using the scalpel to cut and the forceps to pull back the layers of the epidermis. Other parts of the app serve as study guides and tutorials to reinforce what you have just learned during the dissection. Continue reading

App of the Week: safeGdriver

Title: safeGdriver

Platform: iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later.

Cost: $1.99

Let’s face it, teaching a teenager how to drive is not the easiest thing to do. I can remember my parents alternating turns teaching me how to drive, taking me into empty parking lots to practice braking, parking, and controlled acceleration. I remember noticing that both of my parents drive differently and I would learn one thing from my mom that my dad would neglect to tell me and vice versa. When I finally did get my license, there were some rules to adhere to. I was not supposed to be listening to music, though I know I did, and I wasn’t allowed to have anyone in the passenger seat for at least the first 6 months. Although I’m pretty sure if safeGdriver was around when I was first starting out, this app would be definitely be allowed to ride shotgun with me.

safeGdriver was developed by a software engineer in Webster NY. The main function of this app is to identify gravitational force, which can causes errors like braking too late, harsh swerving, and other errors that an untrained teenage eye may make. This app is like having a parent in the front seat to tell you when you are going too fast, braking abruptly, or turned too quickly. To use, a teen may activate the device and place in a cup-holder or in an iPhone mount. It works any which way you put it, even upside down. As you drive, safeGdriver will send out a variety of audio signals to communicate any errors the driver may make. I know some may be thinking right about now, but Erica, this will encourage teens to fiddle with their phones while driving. I have to say the creator did not fail to address that concern.’ This app produces absolutely no visual feedback, only audio.’ So, there is no reason to even look at the phone until after you’ve reached your destination. When you are ready to view your results, safeGdriver provides some graphs highlighting the difficulties the driver had. For a teen, getting visual feedback works wonders, as opposed to a parent telling them they have made mistakes; now there is proof from an unbiased party. Continue reading

Second Life Best Practices in Education

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Second Life’s first conference for Best Practices in Education was a great success. Presenters such as Kathy Schrock, Administrator for Technology in MA, (Kathy Drybaugh in sl) showed the audience some great places to support teaching and learning, Peg Sheehy, Instructional Technology Facilitator, in New York, (Maggie Marat in sl) shared examples of her island on the teen grid where over 400 eighth graders are involved in such projects as creating a mock trial after reading Of Mice and Men. Barry Joseph with Global Kids in New York, (globalKids Bixby in sl) talked about working with teens in real life and second life to raise awareness on global issues. The conference also had poster sessions, exhibit spaces for vendors and non-profits and a wide range of presenters using different paradigms of education to influence their work in second life. Archives of key presentations available here soon. Also, check out the blog or wiki.

Add your blog in the comments if you attended the conference. Great post here about Kathy Schrock and Lisa Perez, (Elaine Tulip in sl) with the Chicago Public Schools.

Also, The University of Illinois has partnered with the Alliance Second Life Library to offer Virtual World Librarianship courses which started last week.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usFree Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki