Recently I had a conversation, via Twitter, about teen librarian interest in exchanging ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies). After that I started thinking about what it would be like if along with ARCs librarians were sent early releases of technology products in order to give teens a chance to test out the products at pre-release or in early stages of release. What if teens were able to test these technology products?
- Asus Eee PC – these ultra-light, ultra-small, and fairly inexpensive computers might be a great way for libraries to get computers into the hands of teens. If teens were able to review the PCs for Asus and the library they might come up with interesting ways to use the hardware inside and outside the library building.
- Amazon Kindle – It may be close to impossible to get a teen’s hands on a Kindle – they have been out of stock at Amazon almost since the minute they went on sale – but if you could, Amazon and the library might discover what uses young adults have for a portable book reader. Teens might suggest ways that they would like to use the Kindle for informational and pleasure reading. Teens might provide ideas on how the device could be better designed in order to suit the needs of their peers. Teens might discuss what else they would want in a portable device of this kind.
- Microsoft Surface – I mentioned the Surface in my last post and continue to think about how this technology could be used in the library by, for, and with teens. With it’s high price tag it’s not likely that you and your teens would be able to get your hands on a Surface to test out. However, what about giving teens a chance to look at the Surface videos on the product web site and brainstorm the different ways the technology might be used in the library? It’s likely the teens would come up with ideas that librarians and Microsoft would never think of.
- Photoshop Express – this isn’t a piece of hardware it’s a web-based software product – Adobe’s online version of its Photoshop and Photoshop Elements software packages. Express launched just a week ago and it has been getting some good press as a free online way to edit and share images. Teens might check out Photoshop Express and come up with ideas on how they might use it to edit images for school and library projects and how they might use the software to collaborate with friends. Also, talking about Photoshop Express with teens provides you with a good opening for discussing issues of copyright within the realm of online photo sharing.
Of the three technologies listed above, the Surface is the only one that is yet to be released to the world at large. That means teens wouldn’t be testing the other technologies at a pre-release stage or even an early release stage. However, even if teens aren’t pre/early release testers it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be asked what they think of new technologies and how they fit into the library.
It’s also possible to have teens provide reactions to new technologies without getting their hands on the actual hardware and software. (Of course hands-on is the best but if that’s not possible there are other ways to go about testing.) As mentioned above, taking a look at the product web site and brainstorming uses is a good possibility. It’s then possible to have teens present their ideas via email to the manufacturer of the product and/or to the library administration who might be making decisions about what technologies to purchase.
Teens who test out new technology for the library wouldn’t just be helping out the library, and the companies that make the technology, but they would also have a chance to fulfill several of the developmental assets (as defined by the Search Institute) including empowerment, positive identity, and support. Whether its hands-on or via the web at least some teens at your library will no doubt have good ideas about new technology for them, and you, to use.