The YALSA Programming Guidelines help YA library staff plan, create, and evaluate teen programs. In this month’s blog, Michele Rivera, Digital Learning Specialist (aka Librarian) at Sheridan Technical High School in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, explains how she designs “interest-based, developmentally appropriate programs that support connected learning.”
Blogger: Michele, I know that Sheridan Tech is a public magnet high school, what else do we need to know?
Rivera: Like our two “sister” schools in Broward County, Atlantic Tech and McFatter Tech, students who wish to enroll in our school must meet certain academic criteria and enrollment is limited to 600 students. But Sheridan Tech is unique because it was founded on the commitment to a blended learning environment – combining face-to-face instruction with online curriculum, support, and resources. Every student is issued their own laptop. In their first two years, students attend their academic classes full-time on campus, with all their lessons and support available online. In their junior and senior years, they are enrolled half-time in academic classes, and half-time in their chosen technical program. Sheridan Tech offers over twenty different technical career choices, ranging from Automotive Service Technology to Practical Nursing. Students can graduate with a college-ready diploma, articulated college credit, as well as industry certification in their technical field. It is definitely not the old model most people think of as a “vocational school.”
Sheridan Tech Innovative Learning Center
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When Mimi Ito, Tara Tiger Brown and I started Connected Camps a little more than a year ago, we did so in part to deepen our understanding of how connected learning could power a mission-driven start-up. As educators and entrepreneurs we wanted to create high quality online learning experiences accessible to young people in all walks of life; as geek girls we wanted to do it in a way that was collaborative, fun, and hands-on.
We chose Minecraft as our core platform and now run a FREE multiplayer Kid Club server where youth (aged 8 to 15) can level up their tech and SEL skills. The server runs year-round from 12pm – 6pm PT daily and is moderated and staffed by trained high school and college counselors. The counselors host a variety of themed clubs and activities daily, including minigames, survival challenges, and build events. The server is supported by forums, which are filled with all kinds of free Minecraft resources, for youth, educators, and parents alike.
Last summer we partnered with LA Public Libraries to offer free programming for the young people they serve. The partnership was so successful that this summer we want to invite all libraries with an interest in Minecraft to have their youth join our free Kid Club server. We know there are a ton of wonderful programs being run at libraries nationwide that are connected learning aligned. Here’s a bit more on our approach:
- We are a freely accessible online learning community.
Our online programming is available all year round and youth can connect to our servers and mentors from anywhere—home, school, a library, or a community center. Our format means that we are a persistent community, not a one-time experience. Youth can continue to learn, grow, level up, and develop lasting friendships. Research shows that when we give youth the opportunity to develop friendships and connect with experts while building and problem solving together, the experience is transformative. Not only do they retain specific content and skills better, but they also acquire higher-order skills like problem solving, teamwork, and literacy.
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Want to offer more hands-on learning opportunities for and with the teens in your community? 3D Systems Corp., in partnership with YALSA, is giving away up to 250 3D printers to members of YALSA. Learn more and apply online by Oct. 30th. Are you not a YALSA/ALA member yet? Membership starts at $60 per year. Contact Letitia Smith at lsmith at ala dot org, or 312.280.4390, to get the best rate and to learn about paying in installments. And don’t forget to check out all of the great maker and connected learning resources on YALSA’s wiki!
We are only one week away from discussing connected learning at the ALA Annual YALSA President’s Program, A Burning Need to Know: How Passion Connects to Learning. One thing about this event that grabs me is the word â€œpassionâ€, something I strive to foster in the teens that come to our library. We hope to give them a voice, and a place to share their passions and interests with each other through anime clubs, cosplay groups, book discussions and more.
This summer, we are featuring a series of fandom events for teens. Some programs focus on a specific fandom, some celebrate all fandoms from Doctor Who to photography. If you love it, we want to help you dive deeper into it. As I prepared for these programs I encountered the challenge of at the intersection of fandom and fair use.
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Connected Learning is a phrase for something teen librarians have known about for a long time and for something that is probably already happening in our libraries. Our libraries may be supporting or leading an interest-based program, but it’s even more likely that teens are pursuing their passions in the library right this second by playing Minecraft on the computers, watching videos on YouTube, or doing something else of their own choosing in the library’s space.
When we notice what they’re doing, we have a few choices.
- Leave them alone
- Create a library-sponsored club or program in which teens can pursue their passions
Leaving them completely alone doesn’t support the kind of relationships we need to be successful in working with teens, what if we didn’t create a program right away?
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Last week the Metropolitan Museum of Art’ revealed the renovation work on its fashion galleries, reopening them to the public. Michelle Obama remarked about the important role galleries like this play in the fashion world. Showing everyone that fashion isn’t just for the elite, or only worn on the runway.
Fashion is something we all interact with every day, but many of us overlook the complicated skills needed to work in the industry. Journalism pieces like Planet Money’s T-Shirt Project have shed light on what it involves to take a drawing and turn it into a piece of clothing. Michelle Obama also commented on the variety of tools a designer needs to have at their fingertips. “It’s a career that involves, science, engineering, accounting, marketing and so much more. Maybe they’ll learn about the math behind Charles James’s designs. And they’ll think to themselves, maybe I should pay closer attention in geometry,” she said speaking to students. This’ is another perfect example of connected learning, providing opportunities to learn new skills while diving into a passion for fashion.
Our teen cosplay club printed this crown with our 3D printer to go with a costume.
The Johnson County Library has been encouraging teens to show their style since 2008 with our first teen fashion show (pictured above). Since then we have branched into a cosplay club that meets regularly to design, sew, critique and wear costumes from their favorite books, movies and TV shows. The cosplay club is a great example of connected learning’ happening naturally and quietly at the library. Club members are required to make a project plan for each costume, set goals and deadlines, define budgets, and critique designs and help other member learn new skills (like 3D printing). The club has made appearances at local conventions in group costumes (most recently the Sailor ‘ Avengers) and continues to encourage members to grow and improve. Not all of these teens will become fashion designers but the skills they have learned to budget, plan and collaborate will serve them well in whatever career they choose. The Library is happy to provide a place for them to explore their passions.
If you want to find out more about connected learning please start with the wonderful posts’ on the YALSA Blog, starting with’ this one. Don’t forget to mark your calendars to attend the YALSA President’s Program,’ A Burning Need to Know: How Passion Connects to Learning,’ Monday, June 30, ‘ 1-3 pm.
Over the past two weeks, the YALSA President’s Program task force has been meeting with connected learning coaches who will facilitate discussions in Las Vegas to discuss their experience with and use of connected learning ideas. The diversity of these discussions cemented the feeling that connected learning comes in all shapes and sizes and we can’t wait to hear from you at our program at ALA Annual.
As we dove into discussion with the coaches a few themes kept recurring and we wanted to share them with you. Connected learning is already happening in many libraries, some just don’t have that term in their vocabulary to label what they are already doing. Libraries are poised to be the place where passion-directed learning happens. Already a community hub, we can help connect teens with the resources, mentors and spaces that will help them follow their passions. Now that we know what connected learning is and can see it already happening in our libraries, we can begin to foster it with intention.
As we begin to plan programs, services and classes with connected learning in mind, we have to stay flexible. Self-directed and passion-based learning is difficult to direct without derailing the learners enthusiasm. This is an easier goal for public libraries, who likely do not have to prove the learning happening at their programs, and can let the process take as long as it needs to. Schools face the challenge of identified outcomes to every class or program, but there are some great examples of librarians using the concepts of connected learning to add additional value to their testable outcomes.
Connected learning is happening in all types of libraries, as evidenced by the diversity of our coaches. At A Burning Need to Know: How Passion Connects to Learning‘ they will help participants identify connected learning already happening in their environments, and as a group we will discuss ways to level up what we are already doing. There are small things we can do to bring big rewards to our teens.
If you want to find out more about connected learning please start with the wonderful posts’ on the YALSA Blog, starting with this one. Don’t forget to mark your calendars to attend the YALSA President’s Program,’ A Burning Need to Know: How Passion Connects to Learning, Monday, June 30, ‘ 1-3 pm.
I met this week with regional colleagues about summer reading and summer learning. Many libraries continue to offer a Summer Reading Program, while other communities are launching Summer Learning Programs or highlighting their library’s summer efforts under a broader umbrella of summer learning.
Youth services librarians are a passionate bunch and this conversation was no different. Some individuals feel strongly that it continues to be the library’s primary role to promote reading and encourage reading â€“ specifically for pleasure â€“ during the summer months when students aren’t in school. Others saw reading as only one of the ways their libraries are supporting learning during the summerâ€”also offering hands-on programs, interest-based groups, and volunteer and paid employment opportunities.
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Chicago Public Libraries and Mayor Rahm Emanuel are on board to expand their connected learning project, YOUmedia. A grant from the MacArthur Foundation and a contribution from the mayor will allow the Chicago Public Library to expand the program into five new locations as well as offering pop-up labs for teens at branches around the metro-area.
Projects and spaces like YOUmedia allow teens to learn at their own pace, emphasizing mentors, one-on-one teaching opportunities and self-guided exploration. The library gives them the tools and allows teens to delve deeper into their passions and share what they have learned with their peers. And now with the support of the MacArthur Foundation and the mayor, this program will be able to help even more teens.
Not all of us have 2.5 million dollars to spend on connected learning spaces but we can all incorporate the ideas of passion-directed learning into our libraries. If you are interested in learning more about how people are already using connected learning concepts, or want to share how connected learning plays a role in your library, mark your calendars for the’ YALSA President’s Program,’ A Burning Need to Know: How Passion Connects to Learning, at ALA Annual this summer.
Learn more about YOUmedia in the video below.
Welcome to 1999. â€œGenie in a Bottleâ€ and â€œHit Me Baby One More Timeâ€ are playing on the radio. At the hormone riddled age of 15, I sit in my eye-achingly yellow bedroom. The walls are covered with bookshelves and posters. A small room, there isn’t much space for furniture. A twin bed sits on the floor in the corner (beds without frames are so much cooler) and small dresser sits next to desk made from an old door set atop two filing cabinets. Riding the new broadband wave (no more tying up the phone line) I surf the web on my hand-me-down laptop newly upgraded to Windows 98. What do I surf for, what draws me to the growing online community…anime.
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