The theme for this year’s Teen Tech Week is “Libraries are for Creating,” and an important aspect of creativity is failure and the ability to embrace trying something new to see what happens. Programs based around improv games and experimenting with recording video can give teen and youth patrons an opportunity for low-risk creation. Continue reading
Teen Tech Week is finally here! “Libraries are for Creating” is a good theme for to introducing teens to Steampunk. Steampunk is not “punk” at all; the science fiction author, K.W. Jeter made up the word in the 1980’s. Think of it as science fiction meets Victorian Age. Jeter coined the word to describe some of his works, such as Morlock Night and Infernal Devices. It is not only a genre of literature, but also a style of clothes, video games, movies, and more. Steam-powered technology was prominent in Victorian times, when there was no electricity. Steampunk is a fun and creative way to get teens excited about reading and get them thinking outside the box. Not only does Steampunk inspire reading, but it also fosters creativity and encourages recycling. Continue reading
This year’s Teen Tech Week theme, “Libraries are for Creating,” highlights how teens can combine technology and creativity to create some truly unique products. The ideas and resources here make for great program activities this Teen Tech Week and any time of the year.
This low-tech, low-cost project integrates art into an activity that is perfect for teaching how circuits work. The main supplies are copper tape, a 3-volt coin cell battery, and a basic LED. MIT’s High-Low Tech features a tutorial and templates, and Sparkfun has a list of projects. If money is not a barrier, take it a step further with LED stickers from Chibitronics.
Sewable Circuits / Wearable Electronics
Sewable circuits similar to paper circuits, only instead of copper wire, electrical current is conducted through conductive thread. Create a circuit with the thread, an LED, a battery holder, and metal snaps. The sewing is fairly basic, so sewing newbies should be able to participate, but teens without an existing understanding of circuits might do better starting with paper circuits. One draw of sewable circuits is that teens can create a functioning and (possibly) fashionable product in a relatively short amount of time. MIT has an excellent lesson plan here, or this Instructables project is a good starting point.
Recently, teens have been bombarded with rhetoric and actions that do not support their development or provide a safe environment for them to thrive. Unfortunately, there are far too many recent examples of young people being bullied or harassed by their peers or adults. For example, a report from the Council on Islamic American Relations of California indicated that more than half of Muslim students ages 11 to 18 report having been bullied because of their religion. As teen library staff, we should address this atmosphere of fear and social injustice and work with teens to turn it into something positive by promoting the intrinsic values of tolerance, equality, and acceptance. And we should do this regardless of whether or not our communities include a large population of people from diverse backgrounds. In order to be successful, well-adjusted adults, we need to help all of our teens learn how to understand, accept and work with others, regardless of their background.
Recent discussions at a national level about immigrants and Muslim-Americans point to the need to help young people separate fact from fiction. Regardless of whether or not your community is hosting immigrant families or has a large Muslim community, now is great opportunity to convey to our teens the importance of compassion and inclusion for people of all backgrounds. One tool that I found incredibly helpful is the YALSA’s Cultural Competence Task Force1. This task force has compiled an extensive list of resources that not only provides general information and training information in regards to cultural competence, there is a great section of resources that we can use to help our teens develop cultural competencies through youth involvement. One article, entitled Engaging Youth to Create Positive Change: Parent Support Network of Rhode Island published by National Center for Cultural Competence, Center for Child and Human Development, and Georgetown University, states the following:
YALSA is seeking teen programming Content Experts for its upcoming web resource, Teen Programming HQ. The mission of the new site is to provide a one-stop-shop for finding and sharing information about programs of all kinds designed for and with teens. The site will promote best practices in programming by featuring user-submitted programs that align with YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines and Futures Report. The site will also enable dissemination of timely information about emerging and new practices for teen programming; raise awareness about appropriate YALSA tools to facilitate innovation in teen programming; and provide a means for members and others interested in teen programs to connect with one another to support and share their efforts to continuously improve their teen programs. The site is in beta testing now and will fully launch October 1st.
One of my favorite sections of the Teen Programming Guidelines (is it nerdy to have favorite sections?) is “Align programs with community and library priorities.” But you have to be deeply involved with community agencies and activities in order to be ready to act on the community’s priorities as they arise. This sounds obvious (and it is!), but it’s taken me a few years to figure it out.
Several years back my coworker and I began working with the Seattle Youth Employment Program (SYEP). SYEP is a city agency that places youth with barriers in paid internships in a variety of environments in city government and the private sector. It also provides them with job training and academic support. We worked with SYEP staff to design a curriculum that would build the interns’ digital and information literacy skills. We were sometimes surprised by the needs identified by SYEP staff and the interns’ employers: touch typing, for example, and basic MS Word. We learned a lot about putting our own assumptions aside.
This year, Seattle’s mayor put forth a huge Youth Employment Initiative in which he asked SYEP to more than double the number of youth placed in jobs over the summer. Suddenly, the community had spoken: youth employment was a major need. Because we already had an ongoing relationship with SYEP, the library was poised to expand the partnership to serve more youth with our trainings. We also helped in other ways, like providing meeting rooms for SYEP staff trainings. Next summer, the mayor intends to make the program five times larger than it is this year (eep!), which will present a huge opportunity for library involvement.
Of course, being in the right place at the time is always partly a matter of luck. But you can’t be lucky if you’re not out there.
Admission time: like many of us in Library Land, I am still figuring out the best ways to measure program outcomes. Marking attendance is relatively easy (although to be fair, sometimes the teens move do around a lot, which can make them tricky to count). It’s a bit harder to identify the changes I want to see as a result of my program, and then accurately measure those changes.
The Programming Guidelines ask us to “Engage in youth-driven, evidence-based evaluation and outcome measurement.” I’m not quite there yet. As I mentioned in my post about our weekly drop-in, we’ve been working with participants in that program to identify priorities, and now we’re moving towards evaluations that will measure whether those priorities are being met. But it’s still a work in progress.
What I have gotten better at is working with community partners to create evaluations for programs. For example, we regularly work collaborate with Year Up to build their students’ information and digital literacy skills. Before each workshop, we meet with Year Up staff to make sure that we’ll be teaching the skills they want participants to gain. Collaborating with partners on our evaluations and learning from them about their own evaluation methods has made a huge difference in the quality of our evaluations overall.
At Year Up, I give the students pre- and post-tests to see how much our classes are moving the needle on desired skills and knowledge. We send Year Up staff an early draft of the tests (same questions for both) and incorporate their feedback in the final evaluation tool. Seems foolproof, right?
While digital media labs complete with green screens, cameras, computers and software may be out of reach for many libraries, creating composite photos and videos with your teens doesn’t have to be. I set out a few weeks ago to find a free or low-cost green screen option and have been fortunate. After testing several chroma key apps, Green Screen by Do Ink is the one I keep coming back to for flexibility and user friendliness. I had begun by looking for free apps, and quickly discovered that I could either pay up front for green screen capabilities, or download free apps that include “in-app purchases.” In-app purchases meant paying to unlock the chroma key tool or to get rid of an obtrusive watermark that rendered the free version essentially useless. I also discovered in one case that the developers’ definition of green screen did not match my own (it was basically a $4.99 masking tool, something that comes included in many photo editing apps). With no advertisements or watermarks, Green Screen’s $2.99 cost is worthwhile.
In my last post, I talked about the importance of relationship-building in outreach and community partnerships. It’s not always easy to create the time and space necessary to figure out what a partner organization really needs from the library, but for a strong community partnership, it’s well worth the investment.
But “community partnership” is a pretty vague term. I should probably clarify what I’m talking about.
For me, library partnerships fit into one of two main categories. Continue reading
We often hear about amazing library programming-enormous board games, scavenger hunts, and stellar teen turnouts. ‘ But what about the programs that didn’t exactly work out as expected? ‘ Sometimes it happens! We can’t have perfect programs every time, but we can certainly make sure others don’t walk right into the same programming problems. Join us for the vent session, complete with goat poop, all-nighters, and a surprising amount of marshmallow-related problems. Please feel free to include your own Teen Programming Flop in the comments section-we’d love to hear. Let the commiseration begin!
Top Things We Learned
If you invite a goat to the library, make sure he’s wearing a good diaper.
Marshmallows are probably better outside toys.
All-nighters are less fun than they sound.
When all else fails, Gangnam Style videos on YouTube are a proven win.
Our Horror Stories
Public Domain Movies and The Bothersome Buffering
â€œFor Teen Read Week one year, we had to pick from a list of programs to have, but I found out days before the program date, which had by then been advertised for months (via annoyingly tiny posters), that we were on our own to put together the described-by-someone-else program. I picked a Halloween horror movie, but then I found out that it had to be a public domain movie only, which, it turns out, means Really Old and Lame. All of our public domain horror DVDs were checked out, so someone sent me a website streaming old horror movies that we could play from the laptop. By old, I mean like, from the 30s. All of the ones that looked remotely fun popped up with an error message that said the content had been taken down due to copyright infringement. So we ended up with some random, ancient, lame movie with a picture too dark and grainy to see, and to boot, since it was streaming, it kept stopping every couple seconds to buffer. Most of the teens looked in and smartly walked on by, but I had one trooper who was content to watch this movie anyway. Soon, though, the other teens realized (exactly what I thought they would realize) that laptop= internet, so they came in and bogarted it and instead put on Youtube videos of Gangnam Style. I didn’t even protest!â€ Continue reading