IMLS National Leadership Grant – Artificial Intelligence (AI)

You may be aware that YALSA is partnering with Michigan State University and Indiana University for an AI literacy program for youth in underserved communities. The libraries involved in the project include the San Diego Central Library (San Diego, CA), Carroll County Public Library (New Windsor, MD), and the Capital Area District Library (Lansing, MI).  The following is an interview with Dr. Heerin Lee and Dr. Kayhun Choi who are leading the project. This will be a great resource for working with teens and AI!

Q: Please introduce yourself and briefly explain how you are partnering with YALSA.

A: Heerin: Hello! I am Heerin Lee, a Principial Investigator (PI) of a project called “AI & Co-design in public libraries: Empowering underserved youth to cultivate symbiotic relationships between Artificial Intelligence (AI) and their communities.” I am an assistant professor in the department of media and information at Michigan State University, working in the field of Human-Robot Interaction (HRI). I design and evaluate robots for social good with the aim of empowering socially marginalized groups, including people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, racial minorities, and older adults.

Kahyun: Hi, I am Kahyun Choi, a co-PI of this project. I am an assistant professor of Information and Library Science at Indiana University Bloomington. I am an expert in AI models for music digital libraries. I bring my experience of developing and teaching an introductory and intuitive machine learning course to this project. When I am not working, I love to spend time with my husband and daughter, do yoga, and listen to audiobooks, podcasts, and music.

Heerin & Kahyun: YALSA as a partner will publicize our open-source education materials developed within this project to librarians all over the US. These materials will include a detailed process of how we develop our program and how we run it including a summary of each session, main takeaways, lessons learned, and suggestions for future literacy programs. YALSA will also help us develop AI literacy webinars for librarians, promote the program, and perform other marketing activities via their outlets, such as social media, weekly newsletter, e-blast and other platforms.

Q: What interests you most about AI, and what led you to it as a course of study?

A: Heerin: While AI influences many people, only a relatively small population of engineers determine how the public interacts with AI in everyday life. The public’s limited access to AI knowledge stems from the fact that it is mostly disseminated by higher education programs. In particular, these programs mostly focus on computational aspects of AI rather than on social and ethical aspects. This could reinforce a digital divide and inequity issues at a national level. Thus, I thought it is crucial to run AI literacy programs through sustainable infrastructures like public libraries where community members, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds, have access to AI knowledge.

Kahyun: About 15 years ago, I got fascinated by powerful emotions coming from music. Instead of becoming a singer-songwriter, I built an AI model that could understand music emotions to some degree by capturing relationships between audio signals and emotions. Ever since, I have developed AI models that can annotate music, song lyrics, and poems with topics, emotions, and genres. While developing and offering an introductory AI course based on music applications to students without technical backgrounds, I realized the importance of intuitive and accessible AI education for the public and, particularly, underserved populations.

Q: Why did you choose public libraries to focus your research?

A: Heerin & Kahyun: As I briefly explained in my answer above, I think it is significant to disseminate AI knowledge through well-developed infrastructures so that many people have access to it regardless of their socioeconomic status. Economically underserved communities, in particular, are vulnerable to AI’s negative consequences as they are largely excluded from the decision-making process of envisioning AI technologies in society. Since the internet emerged in the mid-1990s, public libraries, as early adopters, have long played a critical role in enhancing the public’s technology literacy in the US. As we enter an era of increased AI technology in our society, libraries have tremendous potential for nurturing AI literacy.

Q: Is there anything you hope that youth will gain with AI as a result of your project?

A: The two main components of our program are 1) Module 1—Understanding core concepts of AI, and 2) Module 2—Envisioning AI for local industries. With these two modules, we hope youth not only learn core AI concepts, but also get more actively engaged with their local civic issues as AI co-designers. For example, we will introduce local media stories about AI in their communities and discuss how technological issues are closely entangled with social issues. Our program will develop critical thinking capabilities, enabling youth to understand AI-related social issues in their communities and actively participate in public discourse about AI technologies.

This project particularly adopts an asset-based approach, which is a pedagogy built upon a critical race theory that views students from socially underserved communities not as people with deficits but as people with “community cultural wealth.” We hope this process help students see themselves as people with their own knowledge and position them as people who can utilize AI knowledge. This will also help them more easily become co-designers in our participatory design sessions.

Q: What is the timeline of your project -or when people can expect to see more information?

This is a two-year project that started in Aug 2021. We are currently recruiting youths and their teachers for interviews to understand how they think about AI and their career paths. Based on findings, we will build and evaluate the two AI education modules by Aug 2022. Subsequently, we will run the AI education workshops with the materials in three public libraries one by one, the Capital Area District Library in Lansing, Michigan, the San Diego Central Library in San Diego, California, and the Carroll County Public Library in New Windsor, Maryland, until May 2023. After the workshops, we will disseminate our findings and materials through YALSA, our website, and conferences.

Q: If people want to read more about the grant, where can they find it online?

A: The grant proposal, which includes detailed project design, is available online. https://www.imls.gov/grants/awarded/lg-250059-ols-21 If you want more information, feel free to contact us at heerin-at-msu.edu.

 

 

 

YALSA Digital Equipment Grant Winner: Teens Take Ownership of Books

Though I spent years as an elementary school teacher and school media specialist, then as a children’s librarian in a public library system, it was with YALSA that I really found my niche as a librarian. I love working with teens, and I’ve learned so much from my peers.

Now when I see an email from YALSA, I’m quick to read it. I believe the collaborative grants YALSA has with Dollar General are some of the best. When I read in the spring about the $1,000 Digital Literacy Equipment Grant, I knew it was just what my school library needed.

We have some great makerspace tools in the media center, but a number of them would be more useful with digital apps. Our one iPad, however, was too old to install apps, and it only came with the basics from however-many-years-ago. I knew we weren’t getting enough from the technology we had.

I would have used my personal phone and/or iPad mini, but the district no longer puts employee devices on the wifi network (a ban since lifted). Our media center is directly in the middle of the school—and on the first floor. It’s a dead zone for any Internet-based technology not on the network.

Cue the hero music–I knew just what we could use with that $1,000 grant opportunity! I’d solve both problems with a couple of the most recent iPad minis (I like the friendly size of the minis), get sturdy shockproof cases for both, and give the students practice with an Apple pencil, too. This was cutting it close to the $1,000 limit, but I figured if I went over budget, I’d chip in the rest. Teachers are always paying out of pocket for students and I’m no exception!

School was out in mid-June when I discovered that our media center was one of the libraries selected for the grant. Oh, and I was reminded that we’d need to do a project, using our new grant equipment, to promote the Teens’ Top Ten book awards. I was actually in Arizona on vacation when I had to sign the paperwork before the deadline (thanks, Mom, for printing the contract for me!).

While awaiting the funds, I thought through the best way to create the project. It was going to be difficult—school would be starting, and the teachers were getting to know their students and establishing routines. The start of a school year is always busy, and I had new responsibilities, too. What I also have, though, is a supportive school administration, a great working relationship with an understanding English Language Arts teacher who always puts reading first, and my regulars: students that frequent the media center (even multiple times a day) for books to read.

I notified YALSA that we would make a digital book about the Teens’ Top Ten nominee titles, using the Book Creator app, and that it would incorporate the use of green screen pictures and videos using the Green Screen by Do Ink app.

First, we created the basic digital book in Book Creator. After considering—and trying—a few options, we kept it simple: an image of the cover along with the title and author on the left side of each two-page spread and a video for that book on the right. With 25 nominated books, that meant a 52-page book with the front and back covers!

Then we used the Green Screen by Do Ink app. The app uses layers to create the composite image. One layer is the main part of the video: we used videos of students standing in front of the makerspace’s green screen. The middle layer is the background image or video—the part replacing the green screen. Although we didn’t do this, another layer with animation or other features  could be added.

After a few failed attempts, we decided to prerecord one video for each nominated book using the iPad’s installed Camera app. I gave each student an annotation for a nominated title. The students practiced reading their annotations—and discovered how difficult it is to speak when you’re in front of a camera!

We selected an image or a video to be used as the background layer for each book’s final video. It had to match the feel of the story. It was fun trying to decide the best way to capture the theme of each book. Pixabay is a great source for images that can be legally used. Some artists allow free use of their videos, too. Continue reading YALSA Digital Equipment Grant Winner: Teens Take Ownership of Books

TTW Grant Winner: Do you want to drive a robot?

This march during Teen Tech Week, students in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District will have the opportunity to touch the future by learning coding and computer programming skills.

TTW 2016 NPPL2Thanks to a grant provided by YALSA and Best Buy, students in our district will be given access to robots that they can use to learn coding skills and complete challenges.  We will also provide students with access to the Never Alone game, which is a computer game where students can learn about the mythology of the Inupiat culture. This cultural connection may encourage our Alaska Native students to pursue a computer sciences degree so they can create games that highlight aspects of their culture. This will provide an opportunity to reach out to the underserved Alaska Native community present in our schools.

Continue reading TTW Grant Winner: Do you want to drive a robot?

Help YALSA Advance Teen Services

Those in the YALSA community would probably have no trouble agreeing with the statement that teen services in libraries could benefit from broader support from the library community and beyond.’  In an effort to help advance library services for and with teens, YALSA and its Future of Teens & Libraries Taskforce have submitted a grant proposal via a competitive challenge organized by the Knight Foundation.’  If funded, the project would help libraries improve their overall teen program by providing them with free tools and resources to incorporate connected learning into their existing services. ‘ In order for this to have a chance at getting funded, the proposal needs to get a significant number of ‘applauds’ and comments from visitors to the site.’  We encourage you to ‘applaud’ the proposal and/or leave a comment, but also to take a moment to share this link out with your library networks, advocates and colleagues and ask them to leave a comment or give us some applause as well.’  The post is open to comments and applause until Oct. 21st, so timing is limited!’  Thank you for all that you do to help teens succeed in school and prepare for college and careers.’  The great work that you do makes a difference in so many lives, and together we can have an even bigger impact!