Tag Team Tech Archives

Tag Team Tech: Wrestling with Teens and Technology by Linda W. Braun, Sarah Ludwig, and Joyce Kazman Valenza. A library educator/public librarian and a school librarian take turns following technology issues with teens. (In every issue; in e-voya only as of August 2005.)

Article Index:

Braun: Social Networking + Librarians = Web-Based Homework Help for Teens

June 2010

Braun: Snack-Size Blogging

December 2007

Valenza: Wrestling with Teens and Technology: Evolving the Virtual School Library and Deconstructing the Essentials

April 2010

Valenza: Booktalking 2.0

October 2007

Braun: A Decade of Teens, Libraries, and Technology

February 2010

Braun: Avatars and Beyond: Building Virtual Communities with Teen Libraries

August 2007

Braun: Real-Time Search Revolution

December 2009

Braun: Networked Elections

June 2007

Valenza: High School Seniors and Social Networking

October 2009

Valenza: “Open the Door and Let ‘Em In”

April 2007

Braun: I Wish I’d Said

August 2009

Braun: Laptop Lounging: Creating Comfortable, Well-Equipped Technology Space

February 2007

December 2011 Braun: Social Networking Would Have Made Me Smarter

June 2009

Braun: Information Delivery to Your Desktop

December 2006

October 2011 Valenza: A Letter to My Seniors

April 2009

Valenza: You Know You’re a Twenty-First Century Teacher-Librarian If…

October 2006

10 Alternatives to the Traditional Slide Show

10 August 2011

Braun: The Air That They Breathe

February 2009

Braun: Keeping Secrets

August 2006

Team Building with Video Projects

June 2011

Braun: Using Technology to Market Teen Library Programs & Services: Is a Web Site the Answer?

December 2008

Braun: Seeing Is Believing: Teens and Online Video

June 2006

Valenza: My Perpetual Pursuit of the Perfect Pathfinder Platform

April 2011

Valenza: Reading 2.0: Getting the Gears to Work in Harmony

October 2008

Valenza: They Might be Gurus: Teen Information-Seeking Behavior

April 2006

Ludwig: I Am Not a Computer Whiz

February 2011

Braun: Networked Elections

August 2008

Braun: A Torrent of Free Downloads, or Who Cares If It’s Legal

February 2006

Braun: Bullying: Is Technology to Blame?

December 2010

Braun: Are You Ready for Your Close-Up?

June 2008

Braun: The Making of My Own Café

December 2005

Valenza: Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians

October 2010

Valenza: Kids and Information Spaces: On the Stickiness of Widgets

April 2008

Valenza: Something Wiki This Way Comes

October 2005

Braun: Embeddable Information: QR Codes and Libraries

August 2010

Braun: How Do You Keep Up?

February 2008

Braun: Playing Keep Up with Emerging Technologies

August 2005

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Manifesto for 21st Century Librarians

By Joyce Kasman Valenza

October 2010

A couple of summers back a young school librarian, fresh out of library school, asked a very honest question at one of our state retreats:

We’re all doing different stuff. The other school librarians I know are not doing what I am doing. Some maintain Web sites and blogs; others do not. Some have seriously retooled; others have not. In the 21st century, what does a school librarian do?

Well into the 21st century, it is clear that the concept of modern teacher librarian practice is not clear. There is no textbook for what effective practice looks like in continually morphing information and communication landscapes.

What I know for sure is that if the Joyce who graduated from library school in 1976 (and again with a school specialty in 1988), heck, if the Joyce from the 2007/2008 school year, were to visit my library today, she would be stunned by the differences in my/our practice.

In the past few years many of us have re-imagined school library for learners using the array of new tools and abilities in front of us today.

And in my humble opinion some aspects of emerging practice are nonnegotiable.

You know you are a 21st century school librarian if . . .

Reading

? You consider new ways to promote reading. You are piloting/supplying learners with downloadable audio books, Playaways, Kindles, iPads, Nooks.

? You share ebook apps with students for their iPhones, droids, and iPads and other mobile devices (Check out Gale’s AccessMyLibrary, School Edition)

? You market, and your students share, books using social networking tools like Shelfari, Good Reads, or LibraryThing.

? Your students blog or tweet or network in some way about what they are reading

? Your desktop screensavers promote great reads, not Dell or Apple or HP.

? You link to available free ebook collections using such tools as Google Books, International Children’s Digital Library (See ebook pathfinder.)

? You review and promote books in your own blogs and wikis and other websites. (Also Reading2.0 and BookLeads Wiki for book promotion ideas)

? You embed ebooks on your websites to encourage reading and support learning

? You work together with learners to create and share digital booktalks or book trailers.

Information Landscape

? You know that searching various areas of the Web requires a variety of search tools. You are the information expert in your building. You are the search expert in your building. You share an every growing and shifting array of search tools that reach into blogs and wikis and Twitter and images and media and scholarly content.

? You open your students to evolving strategies for collecting and evaluating information. You teach about tags, and hashtags, and feeds, and real-time searches and sources, as well as the traditional database approaches you learned way back in library school.

? You organize the Web for learners. You have the skills to create a blog or website or wiki or portal of some other type to pull together resources to meet the specific information needs of your learning community.

? You make sure your learners and teachers can (physically & intellectually) access developmentally and curricularly databases, portals, websites, blogs, videos, and other media.

? Your presence reflects your personal voice. It includes your advice and your instruction, as well as your links. You make learning an engaging and colorful hybrid experience.

? You think of your web presence as a knowledge management tool for your entire school. It includes student-produced instruction and archived (celebrated) student work, handouts, policies, and collaboratively built pathfinders to support learning and research in all learning arenas. (Checkout Pathfinder Swap for examples.)

? You help learners put together their own personal information portals and Knowledge Building Centers to support their research and learning, using widgets, embedded media, and personal information portals like iGoogle, PageFlakes ,and NetVibes and wikis and Google Sites.

? You intervene in the research process online while respecting young people’s need for privacy.

? You work with learners to exploit push information technologies like RSS feeds and tags and saved databases and search engine searches relevant to their information needs.

? Your own feeds are rich with learning content, evidence of your networking. You embed dynamic widgets (including your own database widgets) wherever students live, work, and play.

? You integrate dynamic interactive features in your library’s website–Google calendars, RSS feeds, delicious bookmarks, Flickr photo galleries, online presentations, blogs, surveys, polls, as ways to interact with and teach students.

Communication and publishing and storytelling

? You know that communication is the end-product of research and you teach learners how to communicate and participate creatively and engagingly. You consider new interactive and engaging communication tools for student projects.

? Include and collaborate with your learners. You let them in. You fill your physical and virtual space with student work, student contributions—their video productions, their original music, their art.

? Know and celebrate that students can now publish their written work digitally. (See these pathfinders: Digital Publishing, Digital Storytelling)

Collection Development

? You expand your notion of collection.

? You no longer strive for the standard catalog, long-tail, just-in-case approach. In tight times, with shared catalogs and easy online purchasing, a just-in-time approach is far more effective. You build your own collection collaboratively, with an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the available collections around you.

? Collection should include: ebooks, audiobooks, open source software, streaming media, flash drives, digital video cameras, laptops, tripods, RSS feeds, and much more! And we should seek effective, federated approaches to ensure these diverse formats and platforms are equally and seamlessly accessible.

? You involve your community in collection building using interactive polls and web-based suggestion forms.

? You understand that library is not just a place to get stuff, it is a place to make stuff, collaborate on and share stuff. Not a grocery store, but a kitchen!

? Your collection–on- and offline–includes student work. You use digital publishing tools to help students share and celebrate their written and artistic work.

Facilities, your physical space

? You know your physical space is about books and way more than books. Your space is a libratory. You welcome, and create space for, media production—podcasting, video production, storytelling–producing and presenting.

? You welcome and host telecommunications events and group gathering for planning and research and social networking.

? You cope with ubiquity. No, you learn to love it. Ubiquity changes everything. In one-to-one schools, students may visit the library less frequently. In such environments, in all modern, truly relevant environments, library must also be ubiquitous. Library MUST be everywhere. Librarians must teach everywhere, in and outside of the library.

? You realize you will often have to partner and teach in classroom teachers’ classrooms. One-to-one classrooms change your teaching logistics. You teach virtually. You are available across the school via email and chat.

? You know that laptops can actually walk back to the library for its space and additional resources in all formats.

Access , Equity, Advocacy

? You are concerned about a new digital divide: those who can effectively find quality information in all media formats, and those who cannot.

? You are concerned about a new digital divide: those who have access to the new tools for creation and publishing and those who do not.

? You consider just-in-time, just-for-me learning as your responsibility and are proud that you own real estate your students’ desktops and mobile devices 24/7.

? You grapple with issues of equity. You provide open source alternatives to students and teachers who need them. You lend flash sticks and laptops and cameras and . . . You ensure your students can easily get to the stuff they most need by using kid-friendly terms and by creating pathfinders.

? You ensure that all students have access to readings appropriate for their differentiated needs and offer books in a variety of formats.

? You know that one-to-one classrooms will change your teaching logistics. You realize you will often have to partner and teach in classroom teachers’ classrooms. You will teach virtually. You will be available across and outside the school via email and chat.

? You don’t stop at “no.” You fight for the rights of students to have and use the tools they need. This is an equity issue. Access to the new tools is an intellectual freedom issue.

Audience and collaboration

? You recognize that the work your students create has audience and that they may share newly constructed knowledge globally on powerful networks,. You help them see that they have the potential to make social, cultural, and political impact.

? You recognize that learners may share their ideas and participate in dialogs beyond the walls of the library or classroom.

? You exploit the cloud as a strategy for student collaboration, sharing and publishing.

? You share with students their responsibilities for participating in social networks.

? You see teleconferencing tools like Skype as ways to open your library to authors, experts, book discussion, debates, and more. Consider starting by examining Skype an Author Network.

? You use new tools for collaboration. Your students create together, They synthesize information, enhance their writing through peer review and negotiate content in blogs and wikis and using tools like GoogleDocs, Flickr, Voicethread, Animoto and a variety of other writing or mind mapping and storytelling tools.

? You help students create their own networks for learning and extracurricular activities.

Copyright, Copyleft and Information Ethics

? You teach students to care about their own digital footprints–and monitor them using people search tools.

? You encourage students to develop academic–NOT invisible–digital footprints.

? You teach students about norms for appropriate behavior in wikis and blogs.

? You model respect for intellectual property in a world of shift and change. You encourage and guide documentation for media in all formats.

? You lead students to Web-based citation generators and note-taking tools to guide them in these efforts.

? You recognize and lead students and teachers to the growing number of copyright-friendly or copyleft portals.

? You understand Creative Commons licensing and you are spreading its gospel.

? You encourage learners to apply Creative Commons licenses to their own creations.

? You are revising and expanding your notion of Fair Use in line with the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media LiteracyEducation .

? You say “yes” a lot more. You know that in their creative remixes and mash-ups, students may use the copyrighted works of others in their own work without asking permission under certain conditions. You are discussing transformativeness with students and faculty. (See The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy and Fair use and transformativeness: It may shake your world)

? You use a tool for reasoning whether a proposed use is Fair Use. (Tool for reasoning Fair Use.pdf)

You ask students to ask these two questions when they are using the copyrighted work of others in their own media:

1. Did the unlicensed use transform the material taken from the copyrighted work by using it for a different purpose than that of the original, or did it just repeat the work for the same intent and value as the original?

2. Was the material taken appropriate in kind and amount, considering the nature of the copyrighted work and of the use?

(From the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education)

New Technology Tools

? You consider iPods and iPhones and iPads learning tools and storage devices and reference sources. You know that when you interrupt a student she might be in the middle of a chapter, recording a podcast, transferring data, taking audio notes. You establish classroom or library academic guidelines and norms for their use during the school day.

? You know this is only the beginning of social networking. Students will get to their Facebook accounts through proxy servers and their mobile devices despite any efforts to block them. You plan educationally meaningful ways to incorporate student excitement (and your own) for social networking. You establish classroom or library academic guidelines and norms for their use during the school day.

? You consider your role as info-technology scout. You look to make “learning sense” of the authentic new information and communication tools used in business and academics. You figure out how to use them thoughtfully and you help classroom teachers use them with their classes.

Professional Development and Professionalism

? You seek professional development that will help you grow even if it is not offered by your school district. Even if you don’t get PD credit. You can’t “clock” these hours.

? You build your own personal/professional learning network using social networking tools

? You guide your teacher colleagues in setting up their own professional learning networks.

? You read both edtech journals and edtech blogs, not just the print literature of our own profession.

? You follow selected educators,experts, authors, etc. with microblogging apps like Twitter

? You use Twitter to mine realtime chat about your professional interests. You use hashtags like #tlchat and #edchat

? You learn by visiting the webcast archives of conferences you cannot attend. (For instance, ISTE)

? You share your new knowledge with others using social bookmarking tools like Delicious and Diigo.

? You set up feed readers to push the blog of experts and educators you respect to you on a regular basis.

? You join a Ning or other social network for instance:

? Classroom20NingTeacherLibrarianNing

? English Companion

? NCTE Conference Ning

? ISTE Ning

? Future of Education

? You are contributing to the development of a new brand for our profession. When your students move on to the next library, they are going to expect visionary service and instruction and caring, helpful relationships.

Teaching and Learning and Reference

? You are figuring out how to be present for your learners and teachers 24/7, at the point of the information, research, or communication need. Ubiquity changes everything. With computers in every classroom and every home, heck with computers in every pocket, how are you going to share your wisdom and collaborate?

? You understand that learning can (and should) be playful.

? You understand that learning should be authentic.

? You understand that learning can be multi-modal, media-rich, customized to the needs of individual learners.

? You know the potential new technologies offer for interaction–learners as both information consumers and producers. You understand that in this world learners have the power to create and share knowledge.

? You are concerned that, when it matters, your students move beyond information satisficing. They make solid information decisions.

? You are concerned that students learn to evaluate, to triangulate information in all media formats. We must guide them in an increasingly complex world, to make information decisions, to evaluate all their information choices, including books, blogs, wikis, streamed media, whatever comes next.

? You are concerned and excited about what you can do that Google or Wikipedia cannot. What customized services and instruction will you offer that will not be outsourced to Bangalore?

? You continually share new understandings of searching, and evaluation, and analysis and synthesis, and digital citizenship, and communication, integrating and modeling our new standards, dispositions and common beliefs.

? You understand that exploration and freedom are key to engaging students in a virtual environment to promote independent learning.

? You know the potential new technologies offer for interaction–learners as both information consumers and creative information producers.

? You ensure that the library provides an independent learning environment that connects students and teachers in a social, digital, community.

Into the Future (acknowledging the best of the past)

? You unpack the good stuff you carried from your 20th century trunk. Rigor, and inquiry, and high expectations, and information and media fluency matter no matter what the medium. So do excitement, engagement, and enthusiasm.

? You lead. And you look ahead for what is coming down the road. You continually scan the landscape. As the information and communication landscapes continue to shift, do you know where you are going? You plan for change. Not for yourself, not just for the library, but for the building, for your learners.

? You see the big picture and let others see you seeing it. It’s about learning and teaching. It’s about engagement. If you are seen only as the one who closes up for inventory, as the book chaser, and NOT as the CIO, the inventor, the creative force, you won’t be seen as a big picture person.

? You continue to retool and learn.

? You represent our brand (who the teacher-librarian is) as a 21st century information professional. What does the information professional look like today? Ten years from today? If you do not develop strong vision, your vision will be usurped by the visions of others. You will not be able to lead from the center.

? You enjoy what you do and let others know it. It’s always better when you do what you love. (If you don’t love this new library world, find something else to do.)

? You continue to consider and revise your vision and feed it with imagination. Think outside the box. Heck, there is no box!

This modest “manifesto” describes my idea what today’s practice ought to look like. In a blog post, a little while back I pondered the flip side of that young librarian’s question.

What modern practice looks like also has a lot to do with what it doesn’t look like.

Here’s a list of things I believe teacher librarians should unlearn:

1. That the little things really matter to those we serve and teach. (For instance, whether or not we decide to shelve Mc and Mac together.)

2. That you should annually close a library for inventory.

3. That Boolean logic is the best search strategy since sliced bread.

4. That Wikipedia is bad, or less-than-good, in almost every context.

5. That databases are the only online sources with value and credibility.

6. That having a web presence, no–that having a really good and really useful web presence–is optional.

7. That someone else is exclusively or ultimately responsible for learning relating to information and communication and search technologies.

8. That the price initially quoted is the price you have to pay.

9. That vendors’ have the final say.

10. That issues relating to Fair Use are generally going to be answered with the word no.

11. That no really means no or will continue to mean no when it comes to issues relating to access to the information and communication tools of today and intellectual freedom.

12. That intellectual freedom is a phrase connected to books alone.

13. That libraries should be quiet.

14. That libraries should be tidy.

15. That a library’s effectiveness and impact should be measured by the number of books it circulates.

16. That your stakeholders automatically will know what you contribute to your school or your community’s culture.

17. That a library is merely a place to get stuff.

18. That your collection should be just-in-case rather than just-in-time.

19. That someone else is responsible for your professional development.

20. That ubiquity won’t change your practice profoundly.

21. That your library is bounded by its walls.

22. That your library is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

23. That there is a box. (to think outside)

Joyce Kasman Valenza loves her work as the librarian at Springfield Township High School (PA)!

For ten years, she was the techlife@school columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Joyce is the author of Power Tools, Power Research Tools and Power Tools Recharged for ALA Editions. (PowerTools Remixed is currently in progress.) She currently blogs for School Library Journal. Her NeverendingSearch Blog (now on the SLJ Web site) won an Edublogs Award for 2005, was nominated in 2008, and won again in 2009. She was awarded the AASL/Highsmith research grant in 2005. Her Virtual Library won the IASL School Library Web Page of the Year Award for 2001. She has won her state’s PSLA Outstanding Program (2005) and Outstanding Contributor (2009) Awards. Joyce is active in ALA, AASL, YALSA, and ISTE and contributes to Classroom Connect, VOYA, Technology and Learning, and School Library Journal. Joyce speaks nationally and internationally about issues relating to libraries and thoughtful use of educational technology. She earned her doctoral degree in Information Science from the University of North Texas in August, 2007.

Resumé

Full C.V.

Contact Joyce at joyce_valenza@sdst.org

Creative Commons License

Manifesto for 21st Century school Librarians by VOYA Magazine, E L Kurdyla Publishing; Joyce Kasman Valenza, author is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at publisher@voya.com.

Embeddable Information: QR Codes and Libraries

Linda Braun
August 2010
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Several months ago I had the following conversation with Lis Pardi, a recent graduate of Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science:

LWB: Hi Lis, how is the job hunt going?
LP: It’s okay. I think I’ve found a great way to get my resume out to potential employers.
LWB: Really, what are you doing?
LP: It’s on my business card, here take one.
LWB: What?
LP: Look at the back of the card, there’s a barcode on it. You can scan it with your iPhone and when you do you’ll get a link to my resume.
LWB: That is so cool; tell me more.
What she told me, was about QR codes and StickyBits, an application that enables someone to link a barcode to all kinds of information, so that when the code is scanned, by a cell phone or smartphone, it leads to a specific piece of content. (You can access Pardi’s resume using the barcode below.)

Say That Again, What Are You Talking About?

SearchEngine Land provides this succinct, helpful description of QR codes:
“QR is short for Quick Response (they can be read quickly by a cell phone). They are used to take a piece of information from a transitory media and put it in to your cell phone.”

How Do I Create Them?

It is actually pretty easy to generate a barcode at a number of Web sites and link them with your chosen content. You can then copy the barcode image generated on the site and add it to documents or Web pages for scanning by a cell phone or a smartphone.

There are also phone applications that you can use–for example, Sticky Bits–to create a code, which you can print yourself, or you can purchase sticky barcodes to put on almost anything.
As the librarian you might put Sticky Bits barcodes in books. Then you could link the barcode with a review of the book or perhaps a list of read-alikes related to the author or the specific title. Or, let teens in your book advisory group link barcodes with reading lists or reviews.

With Sticky Bits, it’s actually possible to continue to link information to the code even after it’s first created. Anytime someone scans a Sticky Bits code, he or she is asked if they would like to add a bit of information. That means, continuing with the book example, successive teen readers could link their own reviews to the barcode associated with a particular book. Over time this could be an easy way to gather multiple reviews for a variety of titles in the library.

What Does it Take to Read Them?

As noted above, QR codes are designed to be read by cell phones and smartphones that have a camera. Along with the camera, the device used also needs to be able to use an application that can interpret the code and provide the associated information. While it’s common for people to think QR codes are only readable on smartphones, that’s actually not the case. Many newer cell phones are able to read and display QR code information, including certain models from Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, and other manufacturers.

The codes don’t have to be added to physical objects. For example, scannable codes are included in this column. You could add codes to a blog or Web site. Consider a QR code associated with items in your library catalog. A teen might find a QR code next to Stephanie Meyer’s name, scan it, and find more titles like those that Meyer’s writes. The teen might do this at home or school and then bring the list on their phone to the library and look through the stacks for various titles.

What Are Some Other Ideas?

  • Karyn Silvernan, librarian at the Elisabeth Irwin School in New York City, is currently working on a project that will help freshmen at the school learn more about the neighborhood. The idea is that students visit neighborhood businesses as a part of a group during freshman orientation, find a barcode at the business, scan it to learn about the business, and to also find out where to head to next on the neighborhood tour. Karyn said about the project, “The intent is to also include trivia—e.g., this coffee shop is where the Arts Department like to get their lunchtime coffee–that ties the QR codes and information to our greater community. A sense of community is a big part of what we want to come from this.”
  • In July, the Boston Globe launched a summer game using the Scvngr application. This game includes locating and scanning QR codes around the city in order to collect and log information. In a library or school setting you might use QR codes in an activity where students collect information about the building, the librarians and/or faculty, and other resources that will be useful to them over the course of their educational experience.
  • Create literary QR adventures with teens. Why not take a popular book and link QR codes to a map of the area in which the book takes place? As students get to the part of the book associated with a QR code, they scan the code on a map and find out more about the location.
  • Place a code at the end of a shelving unit that when scanned provides more information about the materials within the section.
  • If the library hosts student art displays, paste a code next to each piece of student art so that viewers can read or even hear what students have to say about their own works of art. Or, if there is an information sheet about the art in the show, include codes on the sheet so viewers can scan it and read more, or watch a video with more about the students and their art.
  • In a school library setting, work with teachers to connect materials in the collection to particular curriculum areas. For example, a code on the bottom of an assignment sheet could include a list of Web, database, and print resources students can use when working on a specific project. If the assignment is on the teacher’s Web site, the code could be included on the Web page and still be scannable by students who can then carry the resource list on their phone. That way students don’t have to carry around a piece of paper with resources, they can carry the resources in their pocket on devices they rarely leave home without–their phones.
  • Use QR codes as a way to provide incentives for visiting the library. Have teens scan a code on the library blog or Web site. The code might contain a coupon for free photocopies, a discount on fines, or extra time on computers. Teens bring their phones and coupons into the library to receive their incentives.

It’s likely that if you and the teens with whom you work set your minds to it, you’ll come up with a lot of useful ways to integrate QR codes into the work that you do. Highly portable, efficient, and easy-to-use, QR codes are definitely worth a try.

Resources for more information:

To get started, take a look at the following websites in order to find software for your cell phone or smartphone so you can read and create codes.

QR Code Readers
http://www.mobile-barcodes.com/qr-code-software/

Scvngr
http://scvngr.com

StickyBits
http://stickybits.com
Scan the code below for more information on the topic.

Linda W. Braun is the immediate Past President of YALSA and works as a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians and Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and other educational institutions. She also teaches for Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her latest book is Risky Business: Taking and Managing Risks in Library Services for Teens (ALA, 2010). Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.

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Linda Braun

June 2010

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In fall 2007, the three library systems in New York City (Brooklyn Public, The New York Public, and Queens) had a question: How were students using the web for homework? The librarians knew that the city’s homework help Web site wasn’t receiving a lot of student traffic, and they wondered why that was, and where students were turning instead. To get some answers, the librarians held a series of focus groups in libraries across NYC’s five boroughs. Approximately ninety 10- to 18- year-olds participated.

Focus Groups

The results of the focus groups were not surprising. The librarians discovered:

  • Students didn’t use the library’s HomeworkNYC Web site, and even if informed about the site in class, the library, or saw it as a computer’s home screen, it wasn’t something they chose to use. Why? Because it was a much more complicated endeavor to search for information using the HomeworkNYC Web site rather than Google or Wikipedia.
  • Google and Wikipedia were the two most common resources students used for their homework needs. Even though they knew other tools were available, the students said that they found Google and Wikipedia easy to use, and felt that they knew how to use them well enough to be able to do the work required.
  • If a teacher provided URLs for homework resources on the Web for students to use, the students were very likely to use those resources in their research, and they would use them over resources provided on library Web pages. Why? Because the students trusted the teacher to know exactly what was required for a specific assignment. While a school or public librarian might know good resources generally, the teacher knew exactly where the information that would lead to a good grade lived on the Web.
  • While students would use Web-based resources that teachers provided, they also said that not enough teachers were providing online connections. The students wished that their teachers were more familiar and comfortable with the Web and understood how students used online tools—including web 2.0 tools—for homework and for leisure pursuits.
  • The tweens and teens spent a good amount of time on social networks and were frequent users of the applications available in those networks. When asked if they would use homework help applications within the online spaces they frequented, a majority answered, “yes.”

What to Do?

After completing the focus groups the librarians in New York City looked at the data and concluded, if they wanted to support student homework needs via the Web, the site filled with subject oriented links and links to databases, as they were providing, was not the answer. They realized the best way to support student’s homework needs within a public library environment was to:

  • Develop a series of applications that tweens and teens could use straight from Facebook, MySpace, IGoogle, and their desktops. Since students frequented social networks and stated that they would use library-sponsored apps within their social networks, the librarians realized this was a way to reach students where they spend time on the Web.
  • Re-purpose the current HomeworkNYC Web site, a site that is geared to students to help them find homework related database content and Web sites, to be a resource for parents, teachers, and librarians to use to learn about the positive implications of technology in the lives of tweens and teens.
  • Ramp up outreach to schools and libraries in order to provide support and education to teachers and librarians as they worked to integrate technology into their work with youth.

These three goals have come together in an IMLS funded grant project that is using the information gathered two and a half years ago to create an entirely new framework for Web-based homework support from New York City’s three public library systems. Funding for the HomeworkNYC Apps project was awarded in the spring of 2008 and the project started in earnest in the fall of that year.

An Outreach Specialist was hired in the spring of 2009 and app development and the re-working of the HomeworkNYC Web presence began at the same time. The project team discovered that developing apps for dynamic social networking platforms would be challenging. For example, if during the app development process, a network like Facebook changed how apps work on the site, that can have unintended consequences for the work in progress. Consequently, app development took longer than was originally expected.

A Suite of Apps

The apps developed or in development, are representative of the feedback received from students in 2007. The first suite of apps, which launched in beta in late May, were tested by teens in New York City and their feedback was used to upgrade the suite and, if upgrades weren’t possible at the time, teen’s ideas were recorded for implementation into a future phase of the apps. One important piece of feedback teens provided in an early stage of testing related to the use of the word apps. The project team originally called the apps widgets, and teens stated that they didn’t know what widgets were. When asked what terminology the project should be using, the teens unanimously agreed that apps was the correct term to use.
The current three apps suite is made up of:

  • SearchIt: which provides the ability to search Google from within a user’s social network. The difference between this search and a traditional Google search is a recommendation engine that is enhanced by input from teachers and librarians in New York City. This engine makes it possible for educators to add related search terms as suggestions to a Google search in order to help students succeed in their research. For example, if a student types in the search “President” a list of suggestions is generated that includes the names of presidents as well as related search terms and phrases.
  • AttendIt: makes it possible for teens to search for New York City library events within their social network. A student types in a type of program or the name of a branch library, selects a New York City borough, and clicks “Go.” Once a list of events is generated, a teen is able to select an event of interest and then “share” it on his or her Facebook newsfeed, or to a variety of other social networking sites.
  • ListIt: is a way for users to create lists of favorite materials—books, movies, games, CDs, and so on—and share them with their friends on their social networks. Teens are able to create multiple lists and update them as desired. The lists can be school related or made up completely of leisure reading, viewing, and listening materials.

The team wanted to help guarantee that teen users of the apps were aware of the privacy and safety implications of their use in social network environments. In order to accomplish this, the project team worked closely with library legal counsel, and Internet privacy and ethics expert Michael Zimmer, to create content that provides teens with privacy information. This content is available both on each apps information page and on the new HomeworkNYC Web site.

A Re-Envisioned HomeworkNYC

The re-envisioned HomeworkNYC Web site also launched in beta in late May. Now teachers, librarians, and parents can learn how to support student homework needs in a social network, Web 2.0, and technology-rich environment.

The Web site is built on the WordPress platform which allows for easy updating of content. As the site grows it will be host to a variety of downloadable materials that parents, teachers, and librarians can use with students to support their homework needs. It will also include an array of screencasts that show how to use the apps and also show how to use a variety of technology tools in teaching and learning.

Connecting with Schools

A key partner in this project is the New York City Department of Education. The project outreach specialist has visited schools and libraries in each of New York City’s five boroughs informing teachers and librarians about the apps project, how technology can be used to support teaching and learning, and in many cases making sure that teachers have library cards.

What’s Next?

There are two more apps to build for this project. They are:

  • AskIt: For students who would like to have 24/7 reference help from within their social networking space. When developed, AskIt will provide access to New York City Ask a Librarian services and the New York City Dial-a-Teacher program. Dial-a-Teacher is a service through which students can connect with teachers online in order to access homework help during select after-school hours.
  • ProjectIt: Will be a project management app to help students organize the multiple steps required in order to successfully complete homework projects. Teens using the ProjectIt app will be able to select a project, insert project activities, add resources and steps, and share the project timeline with classmates, teachers, and friends via their social networks.

These two apps were suggested in the project focus groups and they will be developed with that feedback in mind.

In late June the sponsoring libraries are hosting a kickoff event—a panel discussion featuring danah boyd, a social media researcher and Harvard, Berkman Center Fellow, plus a group of librarians, technology experts, and educators.

The outreach specialist has a busy schedule ahead as she continues to connect with teachers and librarians and evangelizes about the benefits of the apps and HomeworkNYC.

Feedback from teen users of the apps will be regularly sought. A feedback button is available on all of the apps. Comments received via this mechanism will be monitored closely. As the new apps are launched, and new features are added to existing apps, teens will again take part in focus groups in order to provide first-hand feedback about what works and what doesn’t.

Even though the HomeworkNYC Apps project started long ago, in 2007, there is no doubt that providing homework support to teens where they congregate online will be much more successful than what was previously available. And, who knows, in another three years, all these homework connections could very well be available primarily via the small device teens carry in their back pockets. The HomeworkNYC apps are a first step to that near future.

HomweorkNYC http://homeworknycbeta.org/
AttendIt http://apps.Facebook.com/homeworknycevents
ListIt http://apps.Facebook.com/homeworknyclist
SearchIt http://apps.Facebook.com/homeworknycsearch

Linda W. Braun is the newly installed YALSA President and works as a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians and Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and other educational institutions. She also teaches for Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her latest book is Teens, Technology, and Literacy: Or, Why Bad Grammar Isn’t Always Bad (Libraries Unlimited, 2007/VOYA October 2007). Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.

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Joyce Kasman Valenza

April 2010

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When the Web began, it quickly occurred to me that my service, as well as my instruction, could be more effective and better scaled if our library had two front doors. So, with the help of a few student volunteers, I launched a first primitive virtual library back in 1996. That original html site underwent major revisions over the years, but recently, although it was heavily used, for me, it just wasn’t working. That second front door wasn’t opening wide enough. It didn’t allow for a truly open flow of traffic.

Over the past couple of years, I grew tired of the limits an html site represented to me. I grew tired of ftping. The site I maintained did not offer the flexibility or the interactivity that defines the Read/Write Web, Web 2.0, 3.0. (Whatever!) Our site was so 90s. It needed to be liberated! The door needed to open in more than one direction.

So, in September, I launched a completely new site, a site that now allows me to combine all the cool apps I continue to discover into a far more creative, effective whole, helping me to achieve my goal of ensuring that our learners are effective users (and producers) of ideas and information. (Note that I feel strongly about adding the word producers to American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) long-standing mission statement. To use is not enough, but that is a story for another article.)

The goals for my own virtual shift were:

1. to create a more interactive presence
2. to be able to easily create instruction and collaborate with colleagues and learners
3. to be able to easily archive and celebrate student work, student art, student life
4. to create an interface I could easily edit and update without having to ftp—to be able to move the furniture around whenever the spirit on need hit me
5. to model the use of a variety of new communication tools for learners and teachers
6. to let learners and teachers in!
7. to allow me and my students to explore, play with, learn, and grow with new information tools


Our Virtual Library is now a mashup of a variety of tools.
Logistically, it embraces two critical 2.0 concepts:

1. Most of the growing number of available apps play super-well together. It’s all a kind of jigsaw puzzle. And, in this particular puzzle, all the pieces want to want to fit themselves into each other. And so, as I will later illustrate by a little tour, the completed puzzle can morph in a myriad of beautiful ways. There is no one right configuration. You can create anything with your pieces. This is called a mashup. Learning needs and local relevance should drive the choices.
2. A number of handy-dandy parking lots not only allow you to park your media, they also give you the lovely gift of embeded code, so that you can park your media anywhere else for free. These parking lots are called the cloud. We tend to park our media in spaces like SlideShare and a variety of Nings and video portals like TeacherTube and Youtube, to grab that code.

Though I generally resist sharing our site as a model—it is still very much a messy work in progress—I do think it may be valuable to deconstruct the building elements behind our second door.
In creating our own Virtual Library, I chose the following pieces:

Wikispaces for Teachers is my current basic building platform. For me and many of my colleagues, wikis are as ubiquitous and elemental as pencils. I chose to use a wiki over a blog for my main canvas because I wanted a stable front page for my interface, one that wasn’t continually superceded by newer content. Wikispaces for Teachers is free and ad-free for K-12 purposes. We use wikis as a platform for access to our pathfinders and databases. Our students create research wikis to store their work, media, reflections, sources, and to document their research journeys.

I used Glogster for our dynamic image map and for our new search posters. (See our new Google Search Options poster. It has replaced the tri-fold for student poster projects and is used by students to create indexes for multipage wikis.

PollDaddy hosts our genre polls. You may want to choose any of a number other equally effective polling tools. In fact, I am using Google Forms for our Current Awareness service, and for our Materials Suggestion form, as well as our Academic Integrity survey.

I used a Google Docs template to create our newsletters.
I used Google Sites for my resume and some of my students use it to build their research projects and their knowledge.
I used Picnik to create that little snapshot logo in the left corner of the wiki. But we also play with other image editors, Image Generators, Avatar Makers, and Concept Mapping Tools.
My student volunteer, Caroline, created our genre posters using Wordle.
To create our database widgets, I used these pages:

TOURING EFFECTIVE PRACTICE

I am not alone in my excitement over new mash-up and publishing opportunities, as well as new apps for learning.

SchoolLibraryWebsites is a collection of self-nominated exemplars of effective practice. The goal is to celebrate effective examples of Web-based practice in all their variety. As you examine the lists of sites, you’ll discover that, though there may be fifty ways to leave your lover, there are likely a zillion different new ways to mashup a school library Web site. Take a look at New Tools Workshop, my page on Assorted Widgets for some of the many building block options.

I thought I’d share several of my personal favorite examples from the SchoolLibraryWebsites portal. I hope you won’t mind me mixing a couple of younger sites in this piece aimed at a YA audience.

THE TOUR

On the high school level:


St. Andrew’s Episcopal Upper School Library
For Barb Jansen, librarian at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Upper School Library in Austin, the major purpose of her online presence is to support student learning. The site provides learners with multiple points of access to information sources and collaborations with their peers. The St. Andrew’s Library site offers guidelines for oral presentations, a Web site evaluation guide, a directory of free reference and content-area Web sites, tools that can aid students in each step of the information search process, the school’s acceptable use and materials selection policy, and assignment organizers. Barb is especially concerned that her students have ready access to the school’s subscription databases on one web or wiki page “to help promote the use of the accurate and authoritative premium content available through those services.” (http://library.sasaustin.org/onlineServices.php)

To further facilitate access, Barb advises librarians to,contact the technical support departments of each publisher to IP authenticate access from school and create a common login from home. Removing the barriers of logging in at school and remembering the long list of login/password combinations from home goes a long way to promote use.” Additionally, she advises librarians to categorize the databases under appropriate subjects and to offer a list of information types for each.

Like me, Barb, is a big fan of building with wikis. She uses them to collaborate with teachers and students and provide one-stop shopping for assignments. Barb advises:
“Building a wiki together allows for teachers to add content and the teacher-librarian to add the strategies and resources that students will use to satisfy requirements and show and evaluate their results. After collaborating with the teacher, build the wiki and ask the teacher to add the task and any other section he or she is creating (or offer to do it for her!). The resource pages serve as the outline for your instruction and a reference for students when they work independently. Essential pages for each wiki include an introduction to the topic; the task; resources (online—Web sites and subscription databases—and on-shelf resources from your library’s collection); strategies for accessing and citing sources; showing the results; and evaluation—both self evaluation and the rubric you and the teacher will use for assessing the students’ efforts.” See a variety of examples here: http://library.sasaustin.org/integratedAssignments.php.


Unquiet Library: Creekview High School

Buffy J. Hamilton, aka the Unquiet Librarian, maintains the Unquiet Library for Creekview High School (GA), where, she says, “we use a variety of mediums to connect with our learning community and to stream information for research to our students. From our primary Web site [constructed using Google Sites] students can access our diverse menu of places where our library lives on the web. Our social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Flickr, Slideshare, and our blog, allow us to provide many free and/or inexpensive entry points of access to library information and services to students, teachers, administrators, and parents.” Buffy is a big fan of LibGuides, a subscription-based service, for creating web based information portals or research pathfinders for collaboratively created research projects with students. “With LibGuides, we can easily embed a wide range of content, including database widgets, videos, RSS feeds from our favorite information sources, instructional handouts, and other content-based widgets.”

Dr. Charles Best Secondary School Library
Judith Comfort, teacher-librarian at the Dr. Charles Best Secondary School Library in Coquitlam, BC, says that her library’s blog-based site is “not so much a virtual place, as an evolving expression of everything that takes place within my daily professional practice.” She explains her choice of platform, “Choosing to start with easy-peasy blogging software (because I knew nothing about HTML) turned out to be the luckiest decision I ever made, for two reasons. Not having a learning curve allowed me to jump right in and also the spirit of a constantly changing front page, stuck. Every technological improvement has enhanced what I can do: embedding books and videos, feeding the latest news, and linking database articles to assignments. My rule of thumb is that my site must cater to the very specific needs of my students and teachers. No boring lists of links, no matter how tempting the source. Specific to general, is the rule.”

Judith publishes nearly everything on her elegant library site: collaborative lessons, workshops, pamphlets, etc. And the answer to the question How do you have the time?—“The time it takes is easily compensated by time saved not moving paper around.”

She is rightly and especially proud of the site’s online instructional offerings. As just one example, Judith points to a collaborative teaching unit on The Chrysalids in the Twenty-first Century, in which students examined fourteen themes in the book by analyzing fear-based societies in fourteen different embedded videos. Media literacy expertise is an increasingly critical strand of Judith’s practice and her professional development offerings. The workshop she designed for social studies teachers quickly became a resource for participants, and one that she frequently reuses. “Consider also this media literacy lesson which takes kids right into the world of the advertisers who place products.” Judith is also justly proud of her News for the Classroom page which gathers wide variety of feeds for content area learning. “My goal–increased accessibility.”


Newton North High School

At Newton North High School, library teacher Kevin McGrath, hosts a truly interactive learning commons. He explains, “What we’re most proud of are the student voices. We are fast becoming the go-to place for students to post information about their projects, clubs, and interests. Last week a student on the Close-Up trip to Washington, DC posted his Twitter feed on the library Web site. Another student who started a non-profit foundation to end the child sex trade is using the library Web site to promote her cause. Projects resulting from the ‘Earth, Labs and Literature’ class have their work on display both in the learning commons and on the Web site. We are always looking for ways for students to ‘own’ the Web site. Over 600 students have personal accounts on our site, which allows them to access passwords and submit content.”

Kevin calls librarian Donna Johns the “guru for booktalking and readers advisory”. “Her Twitter feed and booktalk blog are continually updated and referred to by students and staff.” The Newton North online library schedule allows staff “to share details of visits to the learning commons amongst staff and serves as a starting point for lesson planning and collaboration.” Kevin is also a major proponent of pathfinders, especially those that can be “edited on the fly and instantly published on the front page as needed by classes. It is through the context of the library’s pathfinders that students learn the value of subscription materials. We call the Web site the textbook for our program!”


Troy High School Library (soon to be http://www.ilovelibraries.com)
Built on a wiki, Marie Slim’s Troy Library site, features a Wordle title linking to the mission statement from Information Power; the library’s Google Calendar; a Flickr widget, a LibraryThing widget; Polldaddy polls, a Twitter feed; a Clustrmaps widget, and a widget that counts down the days till the end of school. Marie is especially proud of the content on the site’s navigation bar:

  • Book Trailers— Student projects using Microsoft MovieMaker.
  • Cybersafety—with a Cybersafety Movie embedded and many other productions using Xtranormal, Blabberize, and GoAnimate.
  • Library Experience—linking to her past Library Experience Students wikis.
  • MLA Works Cited—with a GoAnimate movie.

Westlake High School Library
Carolyn Foote’s WHS library site is blog-based. She explains her platform choice in the School Library Journal article, Looking to ramp up your library Web site? Try a blog. Carolyn recently made the conversion to a blog “to create a more user friendly, interactive space for students. I have links to research projects, new books, etc., but then I can always have some dynamic information on the front page, including polls, book review buttons, etc.” For her pathfinders, she prefers wikis, but Carolyn says, “I heard David Loertscher speak and I am now trying out the idea of making the wiki more of a Learning Commons. I invited students to use the discussion tab of the wiki to contribute their own links for the pathfinder.” And she recently created both a Facebook and Twitter presence for WHS Library.

Says Carolyn, “I think it’s really important to create a web presence where students can easily find information. First off, it extends your services beyond the school day—to times when students are doing homework and research. Secondly, it publicizes what you do so that parents and administrators are aware of the services you are offering. It needs to have a brand or identity that students recognize as yours.”

On the middle school level:



Murray Hill Middle School
Gwyneth Jones began her tech career by creating an electronic portfolio with Netscape Composer in 1997. The site since morphed into “a beautiful iWeb site hosting pages for her academic and professional development links.” Eight years since that initial effort, inspired by a presentation about library blogs at the 2005 American Association of School Librarians Pittsburgh conference, Gwyneth slowly developed the lively and engaging Murray Hill Middle School Library Media Blog which she describes as “a great way to communicate with the kids and my community.” She claims that her first wiki really changed her life. “No more did I have to fetch or ftp my code to an outside server. It meant immediate gratification and the ability to create and adjust web pages on the fly for kids, teachers, and the community. I made a lot of mistakes early on and it took me a while to go transparent and create my own professional blog, I still need to brand myself and my program, but I really think it’s vital to have a web presence out there for my kids and for my career.”

For younger students:



Herricks Virtual Library Media Center
Karen Kliegman says that her district’s combined school library site was inspired by hearing David Loertscher speak about the virtual learning commons concept at the National Educational Computing Conference last July. “The idea resonated with me and I decided to pull together our three elementary school librarians the following month with the goal of getting rid of our individual library sites and creating one common site. This site would be a virtual learning space in which we would begin to build a knowledge community that spanned across our district and reach all members of our community.”

As a Google Certified Teacher, Karen felt confident that Google Sites would work as a platform that inspired collaboration and that it would allow for the easy embedding of files, schedules, surveys, videos, and announcements.

Karen organized the Virtual Library Information and Technology Center sites into five sections: Student Space, Teacher Space, Parent Space, Librarian Space, and the Virtual Learning Commons. She describes the goal of this site as twofold: 1) To serve as a portal to information, reading promotion, and Web 2.0 resources and 2) to serve as a Virtual Knowledge Center, in which we showcase librarian/classroom/special area collaborative projects being worked on at our three elementary schools.

So far, the response to the site has been overwhelmingly positive. “Our students use it frequently, especially for research tools and resources. The homepage excites them; I use Wix and change it up every month. Each of the school librarians promotes the site in their own library to teachers and parents.”

Karen is particularly proud that the Virtual Media Center promotes sharing, “modeling collaboration across the district. We have just started working on our project yearbook, where we are highlighting project-based learning across the three district elementary libraries.”


D. L. “Dusty” Dickens Elementary School Library Media Center

Christina Bentheim maintains the D. L. “Dusty” Dickens Elementary School Library Media Center. Christina describes the school’s previous site asa simple HTML page with pixelated graphics and outdated information, buried deep into the abyss of cyberspace with an extraordinarily long URL. My challenge—in addition to changing the overall image of the library—was to put together a comprehensive site that students, teachers, and other school library professionals would want to bookmark because of its simplicity and overall usefulness.”

Christina’s hidden talents are evident in her site building. “Before I became a teacher and subsequently a school librarian, I worked in a boutique marketing and public relations firm for Hewlett-Packard. As I set out to design the Dickens LMC Web site, I put my previous experience to use thinking about user interface, content, and most importantly—access. I knew from previewing other school library Web sites that I wanted to have more information than less, and that it had to be fresh, current, and inviting. Among my initial steps were creating a brand—the Dickens LMC—and mapping out what information I needed to get out to my audience. Because I am a self-proclaimed Web 2.0 junkie, my Web tools were the first to be implemented. Once I had my Web 2.0 widgets in place, I plunked in the other elements such as the Reading Corner (full-length books can be read online), access to district- and school-purchased databases, FAQs, links for all members of our school community, and so on.”

As a building platform, Christina opted to use the premium version of PBwiki, PBworks. “With the premium membership ($100/year), I have more customization options than I could ever ask for allowing me to easily change everything from the background image to removing the wiki interface completely so that it is just like a regular Web site.” The current home page flash introduction was created using the Wix site. “It’s more engaging and kid-friendly!” She recently integrated a Meebo bar at the bottom of each page for easy sharing and to create “a stickier interface.” Library computer stations display an installed Conduit toolbar which provides quick and easy access to Christina’s blog, the Dickens LMC orientation for new teachers, the catalog, and materials request forms, as well as direct access to databases and other links.

Her 800 elementary students especially like it when Christina posts new photo slideshows. “They look for themselves, of course!” Her biggest challenge has been getting staff to use this site as “a home base resource for ed tech tools, as well as for access to articles and information of interest and relevance.” She works to integrate the site into her formal all-staff professional development Tech Tuesday and Web 2.0 Wednesday sessions. “My previous marketing experience comes in handy all of the time because I find I am constantly striving to create needs for various components of my program to various individuals . . . .” Christina is proudest of her teacher resources and general links sections, as well as the integration of Web 2.0 tools throughout the site. “Access to information is one of the main tenets of my program at the Dickens LMC, and I feel that the Web site provides a sound foundation for access to information of use to all stakeholders of the Dickens community.” Plans for next year? “I plan change up the design a bit and incorporate more of a flash interface throughout. I also want to open up the wiki side more so that students and teachers can create their own information portals for research and other projects.”


USS McKillop Library

Doug Valentine is the lieutenant of the media-rich Starship McKillop Web site. Doug explains his platform choices and his whimsical, thematic design: “I decided to use Glogster as a platform for my Web page last school year. Since I do a lot of video related projects, it seemed like an ideal place to showcase the work visually, and to pull together the videos I had on TeacherTube and Schooltube.” When Doug’s principal announced a Star Trek theme for the school year, he began assembling a web of Glogster pages along the lines of a Starship Database. “I created and found graphics that I could use to frame my videos, sounds, and animations, and began customizing the pages to put it together. Although it is still far from complete, I think our Web site demonstrates the possibilities Glogster has as a visual learning and communication tool.” Doug uses one of the pages to display morning announcements. “In keeping with our theme, they are shot from the bridge of our Starship McKillop. Mounting them on this page facilitates communication with the parents and the speed and flexibility of Glogster allows me to change the videos daily so that they see the announcements the same day as the students.” The main page features an autoplay video from Lt. Valentine directing students on navigation strategies.

One of Doug’s most popular pages features animated book reviews. His Hot Dog Book Reviews now have national audience. “Lately I have been averaging about five to ten emails a week asking me for details on how to do the book reviews. Glogster works perfectly as a platform to collect these videos in one place. The students do not appear live, but instead are represented by an animated drawing that delivers the review. I use music, sound effects, and other animated objects and backgrounds to add to the overall effect. The students love making them and seeing their creations online.”

Doug describes response to the site as overwhelming and he is proud that the site has inspired his students as content. “I’m proud of the way the technology has been embraced by the teachers and the fact that our entire campus is becoming aware of how to act in front of a camera as more and more students participate. I’m also very proud to hear from others who have seen the work so far and have enough interest to track me down and ask me questions. I feel like I might be inspiring others to jump in and give it a try on their campus.”

BACK TO THOSE DOORS

It is my hope that this menu of ideas for second front doors will also inspire many folks to jump in and create. Today, there is no excuse. Every school library must have a Web presence. Every teacher librarian needs door-building skills. Our sites represent us as information and communication professionals and teachers with serious technological chops. Their absence creates a huge information and communications void for our buildings, for our learners. So many of the new building tools are free. The learning curve is tiny. We get to redefine what library looks like both off- and online. Learners deserve access to the information and communication tools of their time on a just-in-time, just-for-me basis. It may look different depending on who you are, where you work, and who you serve. But the bottom line is that you can build it. The bottom line is that you must.

MORE RESOURCES ON SCHOOL LIBRARY WEB PRESENCE

Joyce Kasman Valenza is the librarian at Springfield Township High School in Erdenheim, Pennsylvania. Her techlife@school column appears weekly in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Find her Web site at http://mciu.org/~spjvweb. Her latest book is Power Tools Recharged: 125+ Essential Forms and Presentations for Your School Library Information Program (ALA Editions, 2004).
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Linda W. Braun
February 2010
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In the year 2000, I could not begin to imagine all the technology possibilities that would become available to me in my work with and for teens in the forthcoming decade, and I bet that you couldn’t either. Think back to the beginning of the new millennium, when perhaps you

  • sent e-mails
  • surfed the Web
  • IMd or chatted with friends
  • used dial-up
  • accessed encyclopedias and research resources using CD-ROMs
  • took part in online classes using a course management system like Blackboard or WebCT
  • watched video cassettes on your TV

I had no clue that within the next decade I would be

  • blogging
  • tweeting
  • producing video on my computer and uploading it in the blink of an eye to a public Web site
  • streaming presentations on a computer
  • using Google Docs to collaborate on projects
  • teaching classes using a wiki
  • watching full episodes of old television shows via a little black box connected to my set
  • carrying a little device in my pocket on which I can read books, listen to music, watch TV and movies, play games with friends, read my e-mail, and surf the Web
  • taking part in phone calls over my computer
  • having a wireless home network
  • and doing ever-so much more

In some libraries in 2000, there was still a lot of discussion about whether teens (or any customer for that matter) should be allowed to send and receive e-mail via library computers. There was the sense that because the library was not a post office branch, e-mail shouldn’t be an activity allowed on library computers.

Today limiting access to e-mail in the library seems ridiculous. Not only is it not technologically plausible to keep teens from e-mail in that way, but today’s teens also use e-mail to communicate with each other and family. They e-mail as a way to work on homework, do research, and get feedback from teachers. It’s a tool that is used as much for academic purposes as for personal communication, and as such, blocking it in the library ends up blocking access to academic work and resources.

The idea of librarians thinking that e-mail would be nothing more than making an electronic visit to the post office is a perfect example of why it’s important for teen librarians to see the big picture. It is important to look at the positive implications of technology in libraries and for teens over the past ten years in order to be productive risk-takers for the next ten.

Wikipedia

The domain names for Wikipedia.com and Wikipedia.org were not registered until January 2000, implying that when the new millennium began, household knowledge of the online, crowd-sourced encyclopedia was little more than a glimmer in the founder’s eyes and far from an everyday reality for anyone, including teens. And although some readers might not think of Wikipedia as an acceptable tool for teens to use in research, I’d like to suggest that for many years, it has been a great resource for locating information about current events, doing preliminary research in order to uncover terms and phrases to use in database searches, and an excellent tool for teaching evaluation skills. But on January 1, 2000, it was not something we were even thinking about.

Dial-Up

In 2000, dial-up connections to the Internetmade it very difficult for librarians and teens to participate in some of the more cutting-edge technology experiences. In a direct message to me via Twitter on January 4, 2010, Maureen Ambrosino, Youth Services Consultant for the Central Massachusetts Regional Library System, wrote, “I used WebCT for library school classes via dial-up at home. I couldn’t access the audio files at home because no fiber network.” Although some libraries today still use dial-up, the majority has high-speed Internet access of some kind. This advance allows teens and librarians to upload and download video and use tools such as Animoto—which was founded in 2006—for producing high-quality movies and VoiceThread—which launched in spring 2007—for creating collaborative presentations.

These tools are at the heart of getting the word out about library programs and services to teens and community members. They are also tools that support effective teaching of media literacy skills, including how to tell a story using multimedia.

Skype

In the summer of 2003, a public beta of Skype became available. Before that time, having experts and authors come into the library or classroom was a very expensive proposition. But with Skype, it is possible for a teen librarian to contact and invite a favorite teen author for a virtual visit. Skype has now been available for more than six years, and although it has taken awhile, the tide has turned, and many librarians are using the free software to connect teens with people who interest them.

Flip Video

A first version of the Flip video camera did not debut until less than four years ago in spring 2006. A boon to library programming, today teens in libraries use low-cost, Flip video cameras (and similar products) to create library video tours and tutorials, film book trailers, and more. Keep in mind that the first camera in a cell phone appeared in 2002, and although libraries might not be using cell phone cameras with teens for programming, teens delight in the ability to record the world around them.

Social Networking

The mid-2000s brought social networking to libraries and teens. In 2005, I was working on a project with the Southeast Massachusetts Library System to develop a Web site for area teens. The Web development company working with us surveyed teens in early 2005 to find out how they were using technology. Many of the teens talked to the researchers about a site called MySpace. None of the adults working on the project had heard of it, but that fact would change very soon. Still librarians continue to struggle with integrating Facebook, MySpace, and other social networking tools into library programs and services.

In some ways, however, this integration is like the e-mail example discussed above. It is used in a multitude of contexts, including social, academic, and informational. Furthermore, social networking is not something we can keep teens from using in libraries, even if we wanted to—many teens know how to get around the applications that restrict access. It is also a useful way to publicize events, integrate catalog searching, discuss books, and more. It is how to reach teens where they are and get the word out about the programs and services libraries have to offer.

iPhone

I was one of the people who stood outside in a line (way out in the country, so I was actually second out of only about one hundred people) in June 2007, for the first version of the iPhone. I stood in that line because I was so excited at the prospect of owning a single device where I could read e-mail, Web surf, listen to music, text, tweet, and talk on the phone.

The iPhone demonstrated to the world that people love the ease of having everything in one place. Have you noticed how all smartphones after the iPhone have a similar look and user interface? Teens also like this similarity of design and like to use smartphones to listen to music, text with their friends, check e-mail, and surf the Web. For libraries, it is an opportunity to think about how to provide services via these devices. Some libraries already do so with Text-a-Librarian services, Web sites, and catalogs optimized for handheld devices, and smartphone applications for searching the catalog or databases.

Twitter

A list of technology from the past decade and its impact on teens and libraries would not be complete without the addition of the 2009 favorite, Twitter. The first Twitter message was posted in March 2006 by one of the company’s founders. In the early days, Twitter was just about letting people know what the tweeter was up to—making dinner, going to the movies, out with friends. But as more and more people began using the service, it morphed into a platform for everything from writing stories to exchanging links to gathering professional information. For this article, I actually asked my Twitter followers for their remembrances of technology use in 2000.

Some libraries are using Twitter as a way to answer teen reference questions and others are using it to promote event information to teens. Sarah Couri at The New York Public Library tweets during teen advisory group meetings, a useful way to let other librarians and teens know what’s going on at the library. The real-time publishing format of Twitter is the key to its success. For librarians serving teens, that real-time aspect ties into the typical teenage love of instant gratification and the ability to access information while on the street, in a car, hanging out at a friends’ house, and so on.

Now What

Of course, it is impossible to mention all of the technologies we have seen arrive during the past ten years—you’ve probably been thinking, “What about Youtube, blogs, and wireless networking?” and similarly it is impossible to know with certainty what the next ten years may bring. The most important thing for librarians serving teens to realize from the past and recognize for the future is that snap judgments are not a good idea. It is important to think about the big picture. Can you even imagine continuing to view e-mail as just for business people and Twitter as just a way to tell people what you had for dinner?
Resources Mentioned

Animoto. http://www.animoto.com.
Flip Video Camera. http://theflip.com.
Facebook. http://www.Facebook.com.
iPhone. http://www.iphone.com.
History of Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Wikipedia.
MySpace. http://www.MySpace.com.
The New York Public Library Teen Central Twitter. http://Twitter.com/tnCntrl.
Skype. http://www.skype.com.
Twitter. http://www.Twitter.com.
Voice Thread. http://www.voicethread.com.

What do librarians on Twitter remember about their technology use in 2000? On January 4, 2010, I asked, “Who remembers what technology u used in 2000? Were u doing much more than e-mail, Web surfing, IMing?” Below is a sampling of responses. (Note: The original styling in order to fit within Twitter’s 140 character limit is maintained. Some tweeters’ responses were sent in multiple Twitter posts.)
@biblia_: “Voicemail, dvd players, remote control”
@gcasseroti: “i had an AIM & email w aol & used my dial-up connection regularly. Had (huge) cell, but dont remember texting w any1.”
@hbraum: powerpoint, dreamweaver, pagemaker, imovie, ibook, photoshop, email (mostly desktop software, no interaction on websites)
@itsjustkate: “i worked in campus computer store and was lab liaison for geo dept – all mac. learned to use camera attached to microscope. Cell phone could call, i didn’t know anyone to text, but i think it could. i couldn’t get reception inside college buildings and someone once called campus police on me bc they couldn’t see my phone and thought i was talking to myself outside at night.”
@lazygal: “Using CDROMs (eg, Natn’l Geo), databases, Walkman (audiobooks)”
@paulhanna: “Jeez, I don’t even think I had a cell phone in 2000. It was just email and Internet message boards. I remember using Wikipedia in early 2000s & finding it generally useless. Now it’s the top hit on most Ggl searches.”
@pollyalida: “2000 tech bought 1st digi camera w/ floppy disks 4 kids architecture/history grant was still using dial-up 4 home office cnx, zip drives 4 backup and lots of floppy disks 4 students in classes.
@stewartfritz: “Napster and other primitive P2P apps were around then, not that I was using any of them… :) online/LAN games too- we were doing Unreal Tournament in 2000 for sure. In 2000, I was working @ Midway Games in Chicago- so I was lucky enough to have a fast T1 line :) at home it was dial-up, tho.”

Linda W. Braun is the current YALSA President and works as a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians & Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and other educational institutions. She also teaches for Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her latest book is Teens, Technology, and Literacy: Or, Why Bad Grammar Isn’t Always Bad (Libraries Unlimited, 2007/VOYA October 2007). Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.
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Linda Braun
December 2009
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Headline, October 21, 2009: HUGE: Microsoft Inks Deals with Twitter and Facebook to Put Status Updates in Bing.

Headline, October 21, 2009: BREAKING: Google Announces Search Deal with Twitter.

These recent headlines from the Mashable Web site point toward an important trend in Web searching. Called “real-time search,” it is the ability to find content the moment it is posted. For example, a Facebook user updates her status with information about a concert she is attending. The next minute, someone doing a search on Bing for information about the artist performing at the concert will pull up that Facebook status message. Or a Twitter user in Colorado posts that he can see the infamous balloon-without-the-boy-in-it flying overhead. The next minute, a researcher on Google will find that tweet as a part of his research on that news event.

With the tens of thousands of people using Facebook and Twitter, the amount of real-time information available is massive. It was only a matter of time until search engine providers such as Bing and Google would see the value of making this information easily available via their Web sites.

Real-Time Search and Information Literacy

The availability of real-time search is certainly going to have ramifications for information and information literacy skills when it comes to teen use of the Web. Consider the searches a teen might perform on Google or Bing:

  • After reading a book that he finds compelling, a teen goes to Google to see what he can find about the author. Integrated into the results are Twitter posts from readers with their thoughts about the author’s books, along with posts by the actual author and reviewers in popular newspapers and journals.
  • A teen has to complete a research paper on the American health care system. Along with finding links to information on the White House Web site and in magazines such as Time and Newsweek, she sees links to posts on Twitter from ordinary people stating their opinions about the topic and links to information they’ve discovered on the Web.

Considering these two examples, it should be clear that there are several levels of evaluation a teen needs to undertake when looking at real-time results in determining the best information for his or her purposes. The teen researching an author would need to ask, “Who do I believe? Should I value the author’s opinions on her own book and what she says about her writing over those of a reviewer in a well-respected magazine or newspaper? What about the fans of the author’s work? How can I tell whether a fan is a friend of the author or a real fan who loves the author’s writing?”

The teen who finds information on Twitter about American health care might ask, “What are the qualifications of this person tweeting about the topic? Does he or she have a background that makes the opinion more valuable or accurate than someone else?” She might think, “I can evaluate the quality of links to the various published resources, but how do I know about the credentials of people who are writing their own personal opinions on the topic?”

In some ways, it should become easier to help teens understand the importance of evaluating sources of content once real-time search becomes a regular part of all Web-based searches because never before has it been so easy to check-up on the person posting the content. Every Facebook user and every Twitter user has a profile. Click on the username or profile picture and learn about the person. Of course, if profile information isn’t there, that person can’t be evaluated. But if profile information is there, a teen can ask, “Does this person have the qualifications I think are important in order to be posting on this topic? And does this profile look real? How can I tell?” (Because teens know what goes into creating a profile from their experiences with tools like Facebook and MySpace, they can be very savvy about the validity of profile content.) It’s no longer a matter of searching out a Web or e-mail address. The information is either available or not by means of that profile click.

Real-Time Search and Access

In order to teach how to evaluate real-time content from social networks, schools and public libraries need to allow access to the Web sites linked to in a Google or Bing results list. If access to Facebook, Twitter, and other similar sites is blocked, then how can librarians give teens the full experience and training they need in order to be wise users of these tools?

Real-time search doesn’t just bring up the importance of information literacy and access to social networks in schools. It also highlights the need for librarians not to get stuck figuring out which technologies teens do or don’t use in their daily lives. Getting to Know Real-Time Technologies

Over the past several months there has been a lot of debate in the technology, library, and education worlds about teen use of Twitter. Many say that teens don’t tweet. Others say that they do. When it comes to real-time search, whether or not teens tweet isn’t really important. What is important is that teens will be accessing Twitter content via their favorite search engine, even if they don’t tweet themselves. No longer can librarians say that they don’t need to learn about Twitter or Facebook—or any other social network that uses real-time updates—because teens don’t use them.

You may say, “But real-time search isn’t new. Twitter search has been available for many months.” True. But what is new is the integration of this search into other popular tools that teens use constantly, which now makes it imperative for all teen librarians to become a part of the real-time revolution.

Resources

Bing. http://www.bing.com.
Facebook. http://www.Facebook.com.
Google. http://www.Google.com.
Ostrow, Adam. BREAKING: Google Announces Search Deal with Twitter. [Weblog entry.] Mashable, October 21, 2009. http://mashable.com/2009/10/21/Google-Twitter-search-deal (Accessed November 12, 2009).
_____. HUGE: Microsoft Inks Deals with Twitter and Facebook to Put Status Updates in Bing. [Weblog entry.] Mashable, October 21, 2009. http://mashable.com/2009/10/21/bing-Facebook-Twitter (Accessed November 12, 2009).
Twitter. http://www.Twitter.com.

Linda W. Braun is the newly installed YALSA President and works as a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians & Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and other educational institutions. She also teaches for Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her latest book is Teens, Technology, and Literacy: Or, Why Bad Grammar Isn’t Always Bad (Libraries Unlimited, 2007/VOYA October 2007). Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.
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Joyce Valenza
October 2009
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At the end of the 2008–2009 school year, I worked with fellow researchers Denise E. Agosto of Drexel University and June Abbas of the University of Oklahoma to explore how high school seniors, who had been using social networking tools for years, actually networked. Although we’ve yet to write up the formal research, I’d like to share just a little of what we discovered.

We conducted six focus groups with seniors at our small high school, located slightly outside Philadelphia city limits. Our school population is comprised of 837 middle- to upper-middleclass students, 89 percent of whom plan to move on to higher education. Technology is highly prevalent in our school and in most of our students’ homes. We interviewed a total of 45 teens, 34 boys and 11 girls. All students were eighteen years old. Although we should avoid generalizing the results of a study this limited, during these interviews, several interesting themes emerged that might help us better understand the young people we serve and teach.

They live double lives online

Our seniors prefer to keep their school and personal online lives separate, using different platforms depending on their audience. Although they weren’t especially fond of e-mail, the students acknowledged the need to keep at least two e-mail addresses: one for communication with teachers, colleges, and employers; another for “fun,” that is, for maintaining contact with their friends and for receiving Facebook feeds and alerts.
Students prefer texting to talking with friends because “it’s the quickest.” E-mail felt “less personal.” When you use e-mail, “others can’t see your profile.” Their official e-mail, which is used forschool and other professional matters, includes their real names and not the cute or provocative screen names they might choose for social purposes. They want to show adults a more professional side than the fun side they show their online friends.

ON RELATIONSHIPS

Students rely (deeply!) on Facebook for information on romantic relationships. Several teens reported that they had met their current boyfriend or girlfriend via MySpace or Facebook. They described positives and negatives regarding online flirting. Online flirting is easier because it involves less risk or reduces the embarrassment of rejection. But reduced conversational cues can make online flirting more confusing and less clear than flirting in person.

The students were emphatic about their expectations that any relationship changes be promptly announced and updated. Among the comments, we heard, “If it’s not on Facebook, they’re not a real item”; “Are they really going out if they’re not ready to acknowledge it [on Facebook]?”; and “It’s not really over until you break up on Facebook.”

Although I first thought it a negative term, all of our students recognized “Facebook stalking” as using Facebook to get a first impression of someone without them knowing about it. Everyone does it.

ONLINE MIGRATIONS

This particular group of high school seniors was nearly universal in their preference for Facebook over MySpace. All groups described a “big shift from MySpace to Facebook” with a “wave of people transferring over.”

Part of the problem had to do with design. We asked why. Facebook is “not a complete eyesore like MySpace was.” MySpace became “too busy,” “overwhelming.” They preferred a simpler layout. Students noted that “it’s much less work to design and update your profile on Facebook.” MySpace’s frequent system updates required users to continually relearn the system.

Students perceived that MySpace was less private: “the information there is very public.” On MySpace, most friend requests come from strangers. Facebook is “more secure” and “a Web site like Facebook or MySpace can only survive if it has a reputation as being safe.” The general consensus was that MySpace lost this reputation and it subsequently lost its users.

One young man shared that his mother made him delete his MySpace profile and added, “I think Facebook is just much more secure just because I feel like MySpace is kinda open with your business. It is hard to make your account private unless you say your age is, like, fourteen. But on Facebook I can still say my age is eighteen and have a private Facebook. So people who aren’t my ‘friends’ don’t message me or contact me. I feel more secure. Only certain people can see it.”

Interestingly one African American young woman shared that she continues to use MySpace. Our predominantly white students’ description of the MySpace to Facebook migration resonated with danah boyd’s [sic] recent study on social media and race, class, and socioeconomic stratification:
It wasn’t just anyone who left MySpace to go to Facebook. In fact, if we want to get to the crux of what unfolded, we might as well face an uncomfortable reality. . . . What happened was modern day “white flight.” Whites were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. The educated were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. Those from wealthier backgrounds were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. Those from the suburbs were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. Those who deserted MySpace did so by “choice” but their decision to do so was wrapped up in their connections to others, in their belief that a more peaceful, quiet, less-public space would be more idyllic.

HOW OUR GROUPS MEASURED UP

Group 1: 10 teens (3 boys, 7 girls)
Group 2: 7 teens (6 boys, 1 girl)
Group 3: 11 teens (10 boys, 1 girl)
Group 4: 5 teens (4 boys, 1 girl)
Group 5: 6 teens (5 boys, 1 girl)
Group 6: 6 teens (6 boys)

NO HOME PHONE!

All students agreed that landlines are not for them. The home phone belongs to the adults who live there. Students use their cell phones, and they text—constantly.

“I don’t like talking on the phone. I’m a texting person. It’s to the point.” One boy said that he only resorts to calling if the person he is trying to contact doesn’t answer his text messages. Cell phones have advantages over landlines according to one young woman, “’Cause on cell phones you can save numbers, and it is just easier to click on their name than actually typing it in and remembering.”

Another young man shared that he preferred texting to phoning, saying, “I really don’t like talking on the phone that much. I mean I can like talk on the phone for a nice short conversation. But texting I can do all day. And I do actually.”

The house phone is not private like their cell phones. Teens worry that parents or siblings might pick up an extension and hear a private conversation. The house phone is so unappealing that the students won’t even answer it. “I’ll literally sit next to it and let it ring,” one boy noted. “I’ll wait for someone to walk past me and answer it.” Why? “Because it’s never for me.”

Other comments included “No one that I would want or need to talk to ever calls my house phone so I don’t answer it” and “If they don’t have my cell phone number, I don’t want to talk to them.”

One male teen felt socially forced into having a cell phone, saying, “I didn’t get a cell phone until this school year. So for a while, if anybody wanted to talk to me or hang out, they would have to call my house phone. And so apparently people are afraid of calling other people’s house phones. I wouldn’t get as many calls as with a cell phone.”

Another shared his frustration from the other side, remarking, “I think a big change like back in the day, when you were kids, you would live a couple blocks from your friends and then go to see them. Nowadays, I have a friend who doesn’t have a cell phone and you have no idea how to get in touch with him. It is frustrating when people are not on the same technology level you are.”

Two boys shared a slightly different take, valuing the quality of actually talking, commenting, “I think the most convenient way to talk to your friends and family is Facebook because you can talk to multiple people at once and see how they are doing. But I think the best way to communicate with people is through the phone because it shows you actually care. I guess.”

“I am a fan of Facebook. I have looked up a bunch of old friends on Facebook and seen them again, and I am a better fan of talking in person than talking on the phone because it messes up my voice. I don’t like it how it is digitized. It is better talking to someone face to face.”

On Multitasking—They are Always Connected

Each student happily described his or her own personal multitasking strategies. One theme prevailed across the groups: Facebook is on all night long. Students often text and use Facebook at the same time. One boy described his routine at home, saying, “I am talking and texting on the cell phone.” Texting is the best method to communicate because it’s quick and allows him to multitask while communicating. As for his desktop, “I usually have five tabs open at once.”

One young man described a typical evening. He has music on while checking Facebook and sports scores, while watching videos on Youtube, texting, and e-mailing, often all at once. He also plays games and does homework while simultaneously listening to music and engaging in the other activities previously listed.

Another boy added, “I am always connected to my girlfriend and to a small group of friends. I like to watch TV while texting with friends.” Yet another teen shared that he uses Twitter, Gmail, and reads The
New York Times
Web site while he does his homework.

In one group, the young women added shopping to the multitasking list, saying they buy shoes, clothes, Pandora, and iTunes. Another boy nodded in agreement as his friend shared, “I don’t understand it at all, but people go on it 24/7. It is a window. Just close it.”

Why Multitask?

“We’re bored.” The word bored was used by students in each focus group. Music is a constant behind all the other online behaviors. “You can do anything with music on.” The only exceptions were a couple of students who noted that when they are reading, they turn their music off.

The group agreed that the quality of their work, especially their homework, would be improved if they stopped multitasking. But then they would probably be bored.

They also spoke of multitasking during school hours. During class they text and check out Facebook, mostly passing information about what’s going on in school. One boy shared: “I text all day, even in school; I can text in class without disrupting the class.” Another apologetically put it this way when I asked about texting during class, saying, “Yeah, even in school, I have to admit. But, like, in school you don’t have to interrupt a class with a conversation, but if you have something important to talk about or something that needs to get done, you can text without interrupting your teacher or whole class. I mean, unless you get caught.”

Rules for Friendship?

Social networking creates slightly different rules for and categories of friendship. Students noted that Facebook friendships are often fleeting. Students can be friends on Facebook, even if they are not friends offline.

Several students related, “Some kids in school will friend you on Facebook but ignore you in person.” The teens clearly differentiate between “real friends” and “Facebook friends.” Students often hear each other describe a type of casual connection as “just a Facebook friend.”

One young woman shared “a girl friend requested me, and I couldn’t see her profile so I wasn’t sure about the name, but I accepted her. But then I found out I never met this girl before in my life so I just deleted her as a friend. I don’t think she has a reason to be my friend.”

These teens said that they don’t really use Facebook to make new friends; they use it more to strengthen their existing friendships. They recognize a clear communications dichotomy. Facebook may be used for both new and old friends or distant acquaintances; texting is for current friends, close friends.

In one of our focus groups, the following statements were met with universal agreement: “The people you text are your real friends. The people on Facebook are Facebook friends. And the people you text are the people you hang out with.”

Several students reported that they say no to friend requests from strangers. The groups generally agreed that they only friend people they know, preferably—although not exclusively—people they talk with face-to-face. “If I haven’t seen you before, I’m not going to be your Facebook friend.” “People who, like, find [me], and I don’t know them, then I say no,” shared one young man. “Even from this school, freshmen. All the people I have as friends I have met before and hang out [with them].”

Some students quickly reach critical mass in terms of the number of Facebook friends they can or want to manage. They begin to block or drop friends because “you get to know them a little more than you want to.”

One boy reported that he planned “to clean out his Facebook closet” and pare down his friend list to only people he knows reasonably well in the off-line world, both for privacy and “annoyance reasons.” Several students admitted they were simply tired of getting status updates on people they didn’t really know.

They Text All the Time

One boy summed it up for many, remarking, “You’re always connected to everyone. Everyone always has their phones on. Texting is an almost constant activity.”

These students are always connected via texts. They repeatedly used the words “addicted,” “habit,” and “routine” to describe their online communication behaviors. In fact, one student continued to check her Facebook updates during our focus group interviews. Another girl related that her parents have imposed a time limit to reduce her texting use.

Others related that they have been on Facebook every day for the last year or two. It’s “something to do with your spare time.” One young man sends more than twenty or thirty text messages a day with a small group of close friends—five or six people. In fact, the number thirty came up several times in our conversations about texting volume.

Students send and receive more text messages and communicate with a broader group of friends during the weekends than they do during the school week. Much of the students’ weekend communication is related to social plans with a larger group of friends. One boy related that Facebook and MySpace were less reliable for making specific social plans. Texting and calling are better for nailing down essential weekend details.

Another boy confessed to spending only about ten minutes a day actively using Facebook, but according to his phone bills, he sends and receives more than one thousand text messages each month.

Among the students’ other comments relating to texting were “It lets us do two things at once”; “I prefer texting because it’s the easiest”; “I honestly don’t know why I don’t call people”; and “You have to be at a computer to use e-mail, but you can text just with a phone.”

The Why of Texting

Texting is clearly the communication tool of choice. Why? Text conversations can go on “anywhere, at any time.” Dialogue can go on for days, beyond when one person hangs up. One student shared, “You can do clever things with words,” like wordplays and humorous spellings. Text messages can last. “You can keep them forever” and “have a record of the communication.” The medium enables information archiving, which might have both advantages and disadvantages.

Several students shared that texting is “more fun than a phone call.” You cannot have long pauses in a spoken conversation. “A phone call is a lot of pressure.”

Textiquette

Students discussed a few issues relating to polite texting behavior. Most agreed that they were not offended if people send text messages while talking to them face-to-face. That is, as long as the texter is able to keep the verbal conversation fluid. But they expressed concern. If they don’t know the topic of the text messages, they worry that the person might be gossiping about them while standing right in front of them.

Not all teens excuse friends who text habitually:
Boy: People text all of the time, while they walk. They don’t look at me.
Valenza: Do you find that insulting?
Boy: I find that rude. I was talking on the phone and heard a punching noise, and they said, “I was texting.”

On Adults

Nearly all of the students expressed some degree of uneasiness about adults seeing their personal online content. We asked the groups whether they would friend teachers on Facebook. Most agreed that would be “creepy.” Most did not particularly like the idea of a teacher seeing their profile. And what about friending parents? The consensus was no. “It adds another layer of connectivity that you don’t need.” One young man responded, “There is always the occasional parent who will friend request you, and I always kind of don’t want to do that because I have pictures that are probably inappropriate for, like, somebody like that. I don’t know. I think I just don’t trust a lot of older parents and stuff.”

What about next year, in college?

Boy 1: I think if you are friend with, like, a professor, they can see all your pictures.
Valenza: So?
Boy 1: It goes back to the parents thing.
Valenza: But aren’t there levels of privacy you are adding to your Facebook account?
Boy 1: Definitely.
Valenza: So you could set it up so your professor wouldn’t be able . . .
Boy 2: You can customize it . . .
Boy 3: You can’t pick individuals to not see your pictures . . .
Group: Yeah, you can.
Valenza: So your decision-making process centers around adults.
Boy 4: It is the amount of influence they have on your future.

Valenza: Share a little bit about that.
Boy 5: Well, I am friends with one of my parent’s friends on Facebook. I feel comfortable with her; I don’t hide anything from her. But, like, one of my aunts has different values from my family’s. So in my pictures, even if I am not doing anything bad, I don’t want to portray my friends like that. I type in her name and don’t let her see this album. I don’t want to show my friends as bad kids.

For some, the issues with adults have to do with their perceived lack of ability. According to one student, “My parents are ‘technologically challenged,’ so I call them. For my friends, I text and use Facebook.” The students believed that there were generational differences relating to social networking. “We’re more willing to open up and share about our lives [than older generations].” They also noted that those various family members who were networking online had different preferences in terms of network choices. “My mom’s family uses MySpace; Dad’s family uses Facebook.”

Real-life Projects

Their use of social networks is not only social. Our students discovered some very practical applications for their networks. For instance, last spring our senior girls organized a Springfield Don’t Copy My Prom Dress Facebook group. They reported that the group effectively achieved its goal. Dress duplication was largely avoided, but the girls were disappointed that it wasn’t universally successful—at least one student did not pay attention to the group.

The students also use Facebook to plan events and keep up with members of their sports teams and other extra-curricular groups. Several shared that they use Facebook to plan their senior week vacations. No one else but the people in the group could see those plans being made. They appreciated the fact that this group was secure.

Although many students expressed a reluctance about communicating with the adults in their lives through their social networks, others reported finding Facebook a convenient tool for inviting family members to graduation parties and reunions. “I mean, a lot of older people now are using Facebook, grown-ups or middle age or whatever have Facebook pages, and you can get in touch with your aunt easier than you can through a phone call.”

Getting Ready for College

“It made me more excited about going there.” To these seniors, Facebook was an essential tool for preparing their next year in college. After they made their big decisions, students used Facebook to connect with other freshmen. In each group, several students reported finding their college roommates through Facebook. They searched groups set up for their selected college’s Class of 2013 and sought fellow freshmen who shared their interests, especially interests in music. One of the serious soccer players used Facebook to create a list of incoming freshman who were planning to play soccer at his college. He used the list to select one to room with, someone he happened to know from years ago. Students whose roommates were to be selected by their universities also planned to use Facebook [page] to prepare for next September. “When I find out who my roommate is, the first thing I’m going to do is look him up on Facebook.”

This type of college experience appears to be shared by siblings according to one student, who said, “Well, my sister forced me to get a Facebook because she wanted me to be prepared for college ’cause her roommates, how they got a room, was through Facebook. She made new friends and connected with other people at Temple so she could go to parties, so she could get around campus, so she always had somebody with her that she knew and could count on. She wanted me in that format.”

Most of our students plan to use Facebook to find friends while at college and to stay in touch with their high school friends who will now be spread across the country. One teen joined a Facebook group for students with his major and noted that it provided helpful advice on how to prepare for college. Another connected with a group of incoming freshmen and met with them in person at a local mall. He noted that the mall gatherers wanted to ensure they’d have a group of friends in place when school began.

One of the boys used Youtube to check out the research going on at the colleges he was interested in attending and also noted, “Facebook can show you what the professors and the programs are like.”

On Schooly-kind of Networks, Like Blogs, Wikis, and Nings

Many of you know that I work with our teachers to integrate 2.0 applications into learning activities. I asked the students how they perceived our academic experiences. I was disappointed to discover that the students perceived the tools we introduced as school stuff. They felt there would be little transfer of those tools to their lives outside school. Wikis and Nings and blogs are not used for their own purposes; they only use them when they are required to for school. Although students seemed especially proud to report this information, they nevertheless admitted that they regularly used a wiki for the soccer team and a few other school activities.
Boy 1: Well, I have never used a wiki for sports personally, but the experiences I have had with the wikis at school, for some reason drove me nuts. I didn’t care for stuff online. I wanted it handed to me. I didn’t want my teacher to say, “Oh, I posted it on the wiki tonight.” What if the wiki doesn’t work? I like it the old-fashioned way.
Valenza: You like your social life online but your school life on paper?
Boy 2: I think it is a weak excuse for a teacher to get more out of you. I think school is school. Teachers shouldn’t say check the wiki for more work tonight. But you gave me the work in school. Why do I need to go on and do more work?
Boy 3: Mr. ____ had us do wikis in his class. When I got on, it was really high tech, but he never updated it. He would say go on the wikispace, but nothing would be on there. Free pass, no work. But I found out how broad it was. I went exploring because I didn’t have anything better to do. I found all these causes, cool groups for art. I joined and got so many good ideas from people doing artwork and inspired me in my artwork.

Another group responded against our wiki projects but realized they actually enjoyed one:
Valenza: Why do you guys hate wiki spaces?
Girl: I think it is like an educated version of MySpace.
Boy 1: We are not familiar with it; it is not as fun.
Boy 2: I feel like its lame information.
Boy1: The Hamlet one was okay.

For a group of students so seriously connected, we were surprised to hear that they would prefer to collaborate face-to-face on homework as opposed to using the shared Web-based strategies we promoted with their classes.

Social/Political Activism

We asked the students about uses other than social. For instance, did they use networking sites for political activism? About half the students in the groups we hosted joined Facebook groups associated with causes or issues, but generally the teens doubted that such groups would have any true impact. “I don’t feel like much is going to come out of it.” The students reported no interaction with any of the other group members; involvement goes no further than signing up. Here are excerpts from one conversation on activism:

Boy 1: Like you can get stuff like prevent the mass genocide in Sudan. Or prevention of AIDS, or be safe.
Valenza: Do you think it is important that these kinds of things represent you? Are you involved in any kind of way?
Boy 1: I don’t know if it represents me. That is a hard question.
Valenza: But you feel something about these particular causes?
Boy 1: Yeah, because I think it is terrible about the genocide in Sudan.
Boy 2: I personally don’t like the groups that say, if a million people join then this will happen. I am not gullible. I don’t think this [tactic] will work. I would not put my credit number on the Internet.
Valenza: Are there sites that ask you to do that?
Boy 2: Some ask you to, I don’t know. I have never actually joined one [of those]. I am in one because I feel strongly about fighting for a cure for diabetes. So I mostly focus on that. Some are kind of out there. I don’t think much will come out of it.
Boy 3: I am in a group, Let Artists Live. It says that censorship on art is really bad, and we should break free of what people want from us. And it shows really raw art. I think it is really cool.
Boy 4: You can also become a fan of some stuff. I am fan of, like, the [University of Southern California]. But in a group about preventing poverty. I don’t know why I joined it, it was just there when I joined.

Privacy/Security/Overload

Many of our teens expressed concerns about loss of privacy. One participant complained that “too much personal business is put online.” One girl related that she only accepts friend invitations from people she recognizes. “You really are letting them in to a lot of personal things, [so it’s a security risk to friend strangers].”

A young man shared that he used to use MySpace. When he began receiving multiple messages from people he didn’t know, he felt uncomfortable and shut down his account. Another shared that someone hacked his MySpace page with a racist posting. “I got rid of my MySpace right there.” He still uses his account, but only to find music. He no longer maintains his personal page.

The artist in one of our groups discussed his reluctance to post his original art online. “Then, anyone can use it.” He wasn’t sure he wanted to risk losing control of his own intellectual property.

Students in our groups were clearly concerned about their digital footprints and the permanence of their online behavior. They expressed specific worries that pictures of themselves engaged in negative behaviors might be online. One boy said he tries to limit both his wild behavior and any negative pictures taken of him to reduce the likelihood that potentially damaging images will appear online and be permanently documented. The general consensus was “anything digital . . . sticks around.”

Some of our students admitted that they regularly experience overload. One young man shared, “Sometimes it gets annoying, and I will stop using Facebook for a while to get relief. But then I start up again.” Another described the issue as “a matter of over-communication and it’s intimidating.” Yet another added, “There’s too much inter-connectivity. Overall, it’s just become too much.”

Even though most of the students are really good at it, one or two admitted that texting can be “too much work, physically difficult.” Another young man shared, “I am not a fan of texting, I am not that coordinated; my phone has small buttons.”

ON GENDER

We asked the groups about any possible gender differences in social networking behaviors. Students generally agreed that girls text more. One girl suggested that the reason is because “We have so many more questions.”

Heads shook in agreement as the groups suggested more differences: Girls take more pictures than boys; girls post more pictures and create more photo albums; girls use more emoticons; girls hold longer conversations.

CONCERNS

Students were surprisingly open in voicing their concerns about their own behaviors. They expressed a degree of technology pushback, acknowledging a certain sadness or nostalgia because their involvement in social networking forced a level of reduction in their face-to-face social contact. They noted that this personal distance is also a direct result of their preference for texting over phoning.

One said that technology use can “take time away from hanging out with your friends.” Time spent with technology replaces more personal forms of socializing. A boy revealed that he used to have Facebook and MySpace accounts but no longer uses them because they are not physically active enough. He would rather be doing physical things. “I really have to be up doing something. I can’t be sitting all day. I have to be active. So I just pick up the phone, talk. I gotta hear ya. I can’t just read words.”

In another group, two boys described their frustration with technology:

Boy 1: Just knowing a lot of people—trying to stay in touch with them is a chore. I would rather know a couple people that I keep in touch with and say hi.
Boy 2: Well, I know a lot of people, and I am never on the computer. Just call me.
Valenza: So what kind of things do you do instead?
Boy 2: Hang out with friends. Drive around. Church during the week. School. Couple more weeks left. Job.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE

If our Springfield students are any barometer of communication preferences, phones are clearly not preferred tools for communication. These students are a little afraid of traditional phoning. They are awkward with voice conversations and fearful that others might be listening in.

It appears that any library services focused on phone and chat might not actually find teens where they comfortably live. Should we concentrate on texting our reference and readers’ advisory efforts? Would an entrée into texting cross the beams and potentially invade what teens generally consider their own space?

So, should we, as school and public librarians cross those beams? I think we have to be careful not to intrude, but it is important to find some way to support students where they live. My students live on Facebook and they text continually. But our students’ discussion about pushback suggests that these young people may enjoy face-to-face breaks from keyboard time.

For students like mine, a Facebook presence may be important. If they are truly facing information overload, perhaps we can help them out by making it unnecessary to visit several different interfaces for their library or school-type work. We might create a more seamless experience if we share widgets for our students’ Facebook pages, so they could more easily access library services and the databases students need, for instance, widgets for JSTOR (an online digital storage space for academic journals).

The fact that several students expressedserious concerns about privacy issues and the type of digital footprint they are leaving implies a need for more instruction and guidance. This year, I’ve introduced people search engines to our college search sessions and discussed strategies for leaving positive digital footprints.

At the very least, our focus groups point to the value of occasionally taking a social networking temperature check. There is a need to discover where young people currently live and how they prefer to communicate, a need to ask questions, listen, and better understand the shifting communication landscapes of the young people we teach and serve.

RESOURCES

Agosto, Denise E., et al. “High School Seniors and Social Networking Tools.” Presented by Joyce Valenza at the Annual Conference of the American Library Association, July 2009. http://www.slideshare.net/joycevalenza/socialnetworkinghighschoolseniors. (Accessed September 24, 2009).
boyd, danah [sic]. “The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online.” Personal Democracy Forum, presented June 30, 2009. http://www.danah.org/papers/talks/PDF2009.html. (Accessed September 24, 2009).

Joyce Kasman Valenza is the librarian at Springfield Township High School in Erdenheim, Pennsylvania, and her video series, Internet Searching Skills, was a 1999 YALSA Selected Video for Young Adults. Her newest book is Super Searchers Go to School (Information Today, 2005). Valenza’s Virtual Library won the IASL School Library Web Page of the Year Award for 2001, and her blog won the Edublog Award for 2005. An active member of several professional organizations, she speaks regularly about issues relating to libraries and thoughtful use of educational technology. She recently earned a doctoral degree in Information Science at the University of North Texas.
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Linda W. Braun

August 2009

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Doesn’t it make you crazy? You finish a conversation with someone, go on your way, start doing something else, and then think, Why didn’t I say . . . ? It happens to everyone. For me, it often happens after I have left a presentation where audience members have recited to me the reasons why they cannot implement a technology program or service for teens that I’ve just mentioned. I’m going to indulge myself here, and put in print some of those “I wish I’d said . . .” replies. Thanks for indulging me.

YA Librarian: If I blog and start to get a lot of comments and questions from teens, there’s no way I’ll have time to respond and keep up.
LWB: If your blog is popular with teens, it means that you have created something successful. Why wouldn’t you want to provide a service teens want? Aren’t there other services—maybe even a summer reading program or a face-to-face event—that are not as successful as your blog might be? Why not use the time currently spent on planning, promoting, and hosting those fading programs to manage your blog and connect with teens via the services that will attract their attention in 2009 and beyond.

YA Librarian: I can’t be in all the online spaces at once. I can’t blog, tweet, and be on Facebook and MySpace simultaneously. It’s too difficult to choose because I don’t know what will stick, so I’ve decided to not use any of them.
LWB: Imagine if you used the same logic with your book collection: there are so many authors whose books teens like to read, but over time teens will be reading different authors. Do you then say, “I’m not going to buy books?” You wouldn’t stop purchasing books, so why would you feel that way about technology? With your print collection you try to meet—even anticipate—the reading interests of a variety of teens. It should be no different when you want to connect with teens using technology.

YA Librarian: If I start tweeting or using Facebook, someone might post something inappropriate. I think it’s better to not take that chance so that I won’t have to deal with all the complaints and hassles that might follow.
LWB: I bet that everyday in your library there is a chance that a teenager might call someone a name, an adult might make a nasty comment about someone else, or a child might say something inappropriate to another child or even an adult. Bad behavior is not reserved solely for technology-based activities. Exactly like in the physical library, there might be bad behavior displayed in the online world. And like the physical library, it is important to have policies and procedures in place so that if someone comments, tweets, or messages inappropriately, you are ready to handle it. Don’t forget that the majority of library users do not abuse the physical space and environment, so it is likely that a majority of teens you communicate with via technology will not abuse those spaces either.

YA Librarian: Teens in my library don’t use Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, iGoogle, Youtube, Flickr, or other social networking tools.
LWB: How do you know? Far too often we make assumptions about teens (or anyone for that matter) that are not necessarily accurate. If you want to get an honest picture, I’d also suggest asking more than merely the teens you regularly see in the library. What about the teens who don’t come to the library but might be able to use your programs and services? Might they use MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Google, and others?

YA Librarian: My director (or principal, or superintendent, or trustees) won’t let me.
LWB: Have they said so? Or are you too scared to bring it up so you haven’t talked to them about it, and you simply have “a sense” that they will say no? Or have you asked about integrating technology into teen programs and services without informing the administration about why it’s necessary? A library school professor I know always talks about making sure, when working with management, to bring administrators a solution rather than a problem. Have you done that? Have you talked to your director and said, “You know, we are having a difficult time getting teens into our programs, but if we start to sponsor book discussion programs using Twitter, I think that will help. We’ll reach our regular audience and teens we do not usually reach, plus we’ll be able to find new opportunities to invite teens into the library to check out books, attend face-to-face programs, and meet the YA librarians hosting the online book discussion.” If you take no for an answer, you aren’t really serving the teens; you are serving the library administration.

YA Librarian: Facebook and MySpace are places that teens use; if I start to use them, then I’m invading their personal space. I shouldn’t do that. We need to leave teens something that is entirely their own.

LWB: It’s true that teens like to have their own spaces. But there are also plenty of times that teens and adults share the same space. Adults go see the Star Trek and Twilight movies. Teens do, too. Just because adults are in the movie theatre does not prevent teens from being there as well. The trick is in the way the space is used. Adults don’t try to take over the movie theatre. Instead they and teens cohabitate one space, each generation enjoying it on its own yet also perhaps laughing at the same joke or getting frightened during the same horrifying scene. In light of this shared experience, a library should cohabitate with teens on  Facebook, for example, but not take it over. A Facebook library fan site is a place to promote and host library programs and services. A Facebook widget is a tool teens use on their own Facebook pages. The library is not taking over the teen’s Facebook page; it is simply providing a connection opportunity for the teen within a resource that she already uses.

As I read through my responses, I realized that there were a few central themes in my list of the things I wish I had said:

• Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to talk to teens about ways to connect with them via technology programs and services. Don’t be afraid to talk to the administration about the reasons why technology programs and services are important for a teen population. Don’t be afraid to try something new. If it doesn’t work, you’ve learned something and can use what you’ve learned in revising the service or developing a new one.
• Seek similarities to traditional ways of doing things. If you are thinking about integrating technology-based programs and services but are hesitating, consider how you would implement a new service if it were book based. Where there are similarities, use them to help you begin providing what amounts to be a twenty-first-century version of a traditional teen library service.
• Don’t sell yourself short. As a YA Librarian, you often focus on the innovative—new authors, new formats, new genres. See technology merely as the latest new offering.

Linda W. Braun is the newly installed YALSA President and works as a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians and Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and other educational institutions. She also teaches for Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her latest book is Teens, Technology, and Literacy: Or, Why Bad Grammar Isn’t Always Bad (Libraries Unlimited, 2007/VOYA October 2007). Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.
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Linda Braun
June 2009

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I was not a great student. I didn’t like school very much. I wasn’t very interested in most of what we were supposed to learn. I was bored a lot of the time. I could take a math test and do fairly well at the moment of the test, but if anyone asked me a question about algebra, geometry, or trigonometry once the test was over, I was at a loss.

Why am I telling you this? Because the K–12 educational process of which I was a part didn’t work perfectly for me. Yet I have a gut feeling that if Web 2.0 technologies had been available in the classrooms I frequented as a student, I would have had a much better school experience.

I frequently think about my experience as a student but especially when I read headlines claiming that social networking makes students stupid. Those headlines drive me a little wild because I know, not only from my own experience but also from that of teens with whom I spend time, that such claims are not true. The headlines and the reports those headlines highlight often state or imply that the situation is black and white—Facebook makes you stupid, not using Facebook makes you smart—and the grays in between cannot be considered.

Ohio State and Ohio Dominican researchers found that because of social networking, college students do poorly in their academics. The report, presented in mid-April, stated that because they spend a lot of time uploading, reading, and interacting with content via Web 2.0 technologies, college students do not devote the time they should to their studies. Well, duh—anything that takes attention away from a student’s studies is likely to make those studies suffer.

I’d like to suggest that the problem is not that social networking sites like Facebook—any more than keggers, or dances, or Wii—are taking students away from academics, but that adults need to do a better job of helping students learn how to manage their time. I’d also like to suggest that if learning was a more modern experience that integrated Web 2.0 tools effectively, then students would find their school work more interesting and it would be more likely to command their time and attention.

Time Management

It’s not really fair to expect that when someone moves from childhood to adolescence they automatically know how to manage their time appropriately. Time management is a learned skill. All too often, adults simply assume that teens know how to balance their academic, informational, and recreational schedules just because they are no longer children.

But of course, it isn’t true. As the Search Institute’s theory of Developmental Assets® for adolescents states, teens need boundaries and expectations. They need to have discussions with adults about time management and about setting boundaries for time spent hanging out online versus doing schoolwork-related activities online. If teens aren’t given the chance to talk about how to balance their time online then at least some teens will get off track.

Integrating 2.0 Technology

Although it is important to help teens learn how to manage their time effectively, it is also vital to realize that using technology and working on academics do not have to be mutually exclusive. There are plenty of ways that 2.0 technology can be integrated effectively into the learning experience. Thinking back on my own schooling, I can see that Web 2.0 could have helped me by:

  • Providing me with opportunities to become a better writer because I would have been writing all the time on my own—on Facebook walls, blogs, music sites, etc. Teachers might have cultivated my ability to write for different audiences by giving me the chance to write on subject-specific blogs, wikis, and review sites. They might have helped me to care more about my writing by making what I wrote a global experience via informal Web publishing.
  • Giving me the chance to express my ideas in formats other than the written word. I could have made a movie or Voice Thread about the themes in a book we read in English Literature. I could have produced a podcast to compare how historical events related to the events of the current day. If I had felt uncomfortable putting my thoughts in writing or speaking up in class on a particular topic, I could have produced a visual picture of what I was thinking and what I understood
  • Helping me to speak up in class without actually having to raise my hand and make a comment. I rarely added to classroom discussion. But if I had been able to take part in a backchannel conversation via a class chatroom or Twitter feed, I would have been more likely to participate.

You can probably think of similar examples of how Web 2.0 could have improved your learning and how it could improve teens’ learning in today’s schools and libraries. Although reports will continue to surface that blame technology for learning failures in many classrooms around the world, if we librarians open our minds, we can help educators open theirs and understand that Facebook, Twitter, Google, IM, Wikipedia, MySpace, etc. are not the enemy of learning.

Resources

The Ohio State University Research News. “Study Finds Link Between Facebook Use and Lower Grades.” Research Communications, Ohio State University, 2009. http://research news.osu.edu/archive/Facebookusers.htm.

Linda W. Braun is a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians & Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and other educational institutions. She also teaches for Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her latest book is Teens, Technology, and Literacy: Or, Why Bad Grammar Isn’t Always Bad (Libraries Unlimited, 2007/VOYA October 2007). Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.
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Joyce Kasman Valenza
April 2009
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Each spring, I watch another graduating class leave me for college and assorted other new worlds. Secretly I wish I could go along with each of my seniors to Penn State or James Madison or Temple. (I really do.) But short of that, I’d settle for being able to send my best advice—a letter to stick in the pockets of their gowns at graduation. It would include my top ten tips for moving to the college information and communications landscapes, for searching smart, and for using information powerfully.

The graduation experience always brings to mind that weekend I took the training wheels off both my own childrens’ bikes. They were determined to ride those two-wheelers like big kids for the first time. I was a little nervous. They’d been falling and getting up a lot. The moment came when all that practice paid off, though. With a little push, and some you-can-do-it shouts, they successfully flew down the road, balancing on their very own.

I wondered, as my seniors lose their research training wheels, what should they take along with them to balance and fly straight through even bumpier information and communication challenges? Will the students I sent into the world as supposedly information fluent distinguish themselves from other freshmen without similar skills? What would my you-can-do-it shouts of advice for them sound like?

On Words

Think about words. When you search, enter the most important words first. Use nouns first when searching for documents. Try adjectives when you are searching for images. When you are working on visual presentations, adjective searching often results in powerful, evocative stuff.

Imagine your dream document. What words would the author definitely include? And remember spelling counts. Some search engines, Google for instance, will make spelling suggestions, but when you are unsure, it’s best to check.

Word choice matters. You don’t know what you don’t know in a new or unfamiliar discipline. Your limited vocabulary is certain to restrict your results. You need context, a basic level of understanding. Mine your best results and the best documents you find for new words, phrases, names, and organizations. Be on the lookout for synonyms and related terms. Listen to how experts—including your professors—describe a topic.

Subject headings help. Use the subject headings that appear in library databases to discover new vocabulary, to better understand broader and narrower concepts, and to discover related topics. When you use subject headings, you take advantage of the work the database does to group things and organize knowledge. Some search engines—clustering and semantic search tools—also offer subject heading or tagging help. So in addition to Google, try Clusty (http://clusty.com), Cuil (http://www.cuil.com), Grokker (http://live.grokker.com), or Hakia (http://hakia.com).

AND is your friend. Search engines like Google and some databases assume an automatic AND. They are “AND agnostic.” But many databases worship AND as a Boolean operator. It is a cue that ensures all those words and phrases you enter in your search box appear in your results.

Because you are not always able to determine how a database treats AND, it is better to be safe and use it as a word between words and phrases. By the way, Google does like little plus signs for those little “noise” words it ordinarily ignores (+to+be+or+not+to+be). And when unwanted words thwart your Google search (for instance “football” for a search on “eagles”), consider using the minus (-) sign.

Quotation marks make very good friends too. In both search engines and databases, they keep together words that want to be together. Use them when you are searching phrases—two or more words together in the very same order as they appear in your dream documents. Names, songs, book titles, and true phrases like “genetic engineering” and “bed and breakfast” are best searched as phrases. So are quotable lines like “to be or not to be.”

On Strategies

Exploit your killer resources! Once you’ve found the greatest article in the universe, cannibalize it. Examine the works cited. Whom did the author cite? Are the cited articles relevant to your research? Do the names of certain authors appear over and over again in the literature of the field? Are those authors worth searching?

Use the advanced search screens. Advanced search screens often allow you to better focus your research. In databases, you may choose to filter by date range, publication title, or document length. You can easily combine or eliminate words. One of my favorite advanced strategies is to search Google by file type, for example “.doc” and “.pdf” files. Searching this way can result in longer documents—sometimes valuable reports and ebooks. Searching by domain allows you to find only “.gov” or “.edu” sites.

Are you searching in the right place? Think bigger than Google. Think bigger than Wikipedia. Pick your databases with skill. You became real comfortable with our high school databases. Think beyond those databases you knew and loved. Those databases were your research training wheels. You will find their look-alike older brothers and sisters on your college library’s Web site. This may seem obvious, but if your research involves history, all those news and current events databases are not likely to help.

Your university databases cover more journals, more magazines, more newspapers, more reference tools—more sources. They have more full-text. They are often more specialized. You will also find a variety of databases devoted to the knowledge and literature of your major and the other disciplines you elect to study. Use them first!

For many of your projects, your instructors will expect you to find scholarly content. Know how to find the scholarly stuff. You may choose to begin with Google Scholar (http://scholar.Google.com), but you will more likely find the full-text you need in the university databases. JSTOR is usually a good choice with its mostly scholarly content. In the other databases, remember you can filter for the scholarly stuff. Look for the “easy” button. It will be labeled scholarly, peer reviewed, or academic.

Be energetic about documentation. You learned about crediting sources in your high school research, regardless of the medium your own research product took. Your professors will expect similar diligence, whether it is in a familiar format or one that is new to you. Follow your instructor’s style sheet or the style recommended by the university even if is not explicitly required. Show yourself as a scholar. Demonstrate that you understand information ethics. Be proud of the research you conducted. Lead your reader back to these sources.

On the Newer Stuff

Search smart—PUSH. Don’t work so hard when it’s unnecessary. These days you don’t always need to “pull” or search for information; you can have the specific information “pushed” to you.

When you are searching a database, you may be able to have your searches continually updated by setting them up as e-mail alerts or RSS feeds. You won’t have to keep checking the database for new content. Instead the database will come to you when new information pertinent to your search appears. Google Alerts (http://www.Google.com/alerts) explores blogs, news, the Web, video, and more, pushing new content directly to your e-mail.

RSS feeds also come in the form of blogs and news sources. Look for feeds that match your research needs or your interests. An economics major might want regular feeds to sections of the Wall Street Journal or The Economist. An art major might want to regularly see the Arts section of The New York Times. Set these up as gadgets on an iGoogle page (http://Google.com/ig) or set up your feeds in a reader or feed aggregator like Google Reader (http://www.Google.com/reader).

Look beyond articles. When you search, search for blog posts as well as Web documents and articles. Most of the major search tools offer a blog search like Google Blog Search (http://blogsearch.Google.com). Also check out Technorati (http://technorati.com), Bloglines (http://bloglines.com), or Blog Pulse (http://blogpulse.com). Blogs are primary sources. They often provide breaking news in a particular field and may be written by experts or firsthand observers who are in a position to forecast and identify trends. Blog content can also be more timely than content that goes through the formal publishing process.

You may also choose to search for experts to follow on the highly popular microblogging tool, Twitter. To search Twitter, use search tools like TweetScan (http://tweetscan.com) or Search Twitter (http://search.Twitter.com) or Twellow (http://www.twellow.com).

It is important that your search go beyond text to include media as well. Wikipedia is only one way to get started. When I begin my own research, I often look for video and slideshows to help me better understand that new topic. I use Youtube (http://Youtube.com) and Google Video (http://video.Google.com) of course, but I also look at SlideShare (http://slideshare.net), Academic Earth (http://www.academicearth.org), TED (http://www.ted.com) and UChannel (http://uc.princeton.edu). Remember our media search pathfinder for more ideas (http://streamingvideo.wikispaces.com).

Appreciate the gifts of Creative Commons and the Open Source movement. And speaking of finding media, use Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org) search tools when you produce and remix images, sound, and video. Creative Commons licenses allow creators to change copyright terms for their work from the default assumption of “all rights reserved” to a variety of “some rights reserved” options. People who contribute to the Commons want to share their work with you, as long as you attribute. Using Creative Commons resources demonstrates your respect for intellectual property, as well as your recognition of a more open information landscape and the need for content users to build on prior knowledge.

The Creative Commons movement is great and growing. By the time you graduate from college, it should cover a huge amount of the creative material on the Web. Consider assigning a Creative Commons license to the work you create. You can also go back to our Copyright-Friendly Pathfinder (http://copyrightfriendly.wikispaces.com) for more background and a growing list of media portals.

On Final Thoughts

You’ll notice that this letter is more about getting information than using information. The using part would require a much longer letter. But as long as we’re talking about getting information, as a college student and curious learner, I hope you will do more than what the researchers call “satificing,” a cross between satisfying and sufficing. I want you to use your skills to find quality. I want you to go farther than many of your peers will. I want you to search for quality, relevance, currency, and credibility. I want you to find excellence, display excellence, and distinguish yourself from other freshmen.

And here’s one more bonus tip, perhaps the most important one of all: You are not alone.

It is not uncool to ask for help. You will find librarians everywhere. (Sniff). You will find one to take my place. You will likely find virtual reference on your campus. But please also get up and take a walk. If you make it to the library, librarians will help you. Build a relationship like the one you had here. You may find that your university has several libraries. The librarians who work in these libraries have specialties in your majors. They know about stuff you need to know about and how to get the stuff you most need.

And guess what? I am still here. I love getting e-mail. I want to hear about your issues as well as your successes.

Keep in touch.

Wishing you happiness and information success,
Your high school librarian,

Joyce
Joyce Kasman Valenza is the librarian at Springfield Township High School in Erdenheim, Pennsylvania, and her video series, Internet Searching Skills, was a 1999 YALSA Selected Video for Young Adults. Her newest book is Super Searchers Go to School (Information Today, 2005). Valenza’s Virtual Library won the IASL School Library Web Page of the Year Award for 2001, and her blog won the Edublog Award for 2005. An active member of several professional organizations, she speaks regularly about issues relating to libraries and thoughtful use of educational technology. She recently earned a doctoral degree in Information Science at the University of North Texas.
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Linda Braun
February 2009
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Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about Don Tapscott’s latest book, Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World. A follow-up to Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation, the new book looks at how those who have spent their entire lives surrounded by technology are hanging the world. In his introduction to Grown Up Digital, Tapscott writes, “In this book you’ll learn that the Net Generation has arrived. And while there are many concerns, overall the kids are more than alright. The story that emerges from the research is an inspiring one, and it should bring us all great hope. As the first global generation ever, the Net Geners are smarter, quicker, and more tolerant of diversity than their predecessors.

“They want to customize things, make them their own. They’re natural collaborators, who enjoy a conversation not a lecture. They’ll scrutinize you and your organization. They insist on integrity. They want to have fun, even at work and at school. Speed is normal. Innovation is a part of life.”

Tapscott goes on to describe how technology is as much a part of young people’s lives as is a toaster or refrigerator. It is not something exotic but a condition that they accept as much as they accept the air that they breathe. What Tapscott writes in Grown Up Digital about the omnipresence of technology in teens’ lives confirms for me that the ways young adult librarians are educated and think about technology need to change. No longer can teen librarians live in a world in which using technology for library programs and services is an add-on as opposed to a core feature. No longer can library schools that educate teen librarians ignore technology as a part of teens’ informational, educational, and entertainment experiences.

It’s time to move beyond the “Oh my gosh, what am I going to do about teens and technology” attitude and begin thinking, “Let’s use technology as much as we can to reach teens in their digital world.” What I am suggesting requires more than being able to say, “We have a Web site for teens,” or “We have a Facebook Fan site that teens can join.”

Although these ways of connecting with teens are both valid, in reality they are not enough when we are faced with a population that “breathes” technology.

What should we do? As one of the headings in the introduction to Grown Up Digital suggests, we should be “conquering fear with knowledge.” Conquering fear requires gaining knowledge by actually using the same technology teens use. Making judgments about technology without trying it out for oneself is analogous to a library customer asking to have a book removed from a collection without having read it. If we professionals working with teens do not learn about the technology used regularly by the audience we serve, then we are making decisions on a shaky foundation and can only be weak advocates, at best, for the needs of teens.

Even an already busy schedule needs to include time for evaluating various digital technologies and considering how they can be used with teens. It can be accomplished by reading posts on at least one technology blog every day. It could include listening to a technology podcast every day or sitting down at a computer daily to try out a new site or tool. It should always mean talking with teens often about how they use technology—what they like and do not like about various technologies—and what the library might do to help them have a more rewarding technology experience.

Remember, though, that if you are talking with teens about technology and they do not see you as knowledgeable about the subject, they will be unlikely to respond substantively. In any event, do not assume that because teens do not volunteer ideas, needs, or desires right away that they do not need or want anything in this area. They may have never thought of the library in this context so they will require some help getting started.

Start things off by explaining some ways—beyond the catalog, the databases, and the library Web site—in which the library connects with teens via technology. Such interaction can provide a jumping-off point for a conversation.

There surely will be barriers to overcome. Time, money, and staffing are only three. But if technology is just like the air that teens breathe, how can librarians not be concerned with the supply and quality of that technology? After all, librarians are experts at overcoming barriers when it comes to traditional programs and services. Teen librarians regularly find ways to “make it work”—even with staff, time, and money limitations. At this point, familiarity with technology must be included in teen librarians’ can-do attitude to become totally effective.

It is not only those who work in libraries who need to step up and accept technology as an integral part of teen programs and services.

Library school educators also need to move into the twenty-first century and provide their students with a professional outlook that includes real-world technology. Library school students need to learn about blogs, wikis, podcasts, video, social networking, and more as a part of basic youth services.

It is no longer okay to offer a syllabus for a teen literature class that does not cover blogs, Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook. Teen programming classes need to look at how technology can be used to reach teens outside of the library. Otherwise, how can librarians be considered prepared to work with today’s teens?

It may not be possible to wake up tomorrow, flip a switch, and have technology effectively integrated into every aspect of library services to teens and into every library school teen services syllabus. But it is possible to anticipate the dawn on which adults who serve teens who live and breathe in a world of technology will act accordingly.

WORKS CITED

Tapscott, Don. Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation. McGraw-Hill, 1999, ©1997. 336p. $14.95 Trade pb. 978-0-07-134798-3. Index. Illus. Biblio.
Tapscott, Don. Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World. McGraw-Hill, 2008. 384p. $27.95. 978-0-07-150863-6. Index. Illus. Biblio.

Young Adult Library Services Association Vice President/President-Elect Linda W. Braun is a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians & Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and other educational institutions. She also teaches for Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her latest book is Teens, Technology, and Literacy: Or, Why Bad Grammar Isn’t Always Bad (Libraries Unlimited, 2007/VOYA October 2007). Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.
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Linda W. Braun
December 2008
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A vast array of technology options are available to get the word out about your library’s teen programs and services, and to connect teens to authors and books. These seemingly unlimited possibilities can be overwhelming. You may be wondering: Should I use a traditional library Web site? Should I use Facebook and/or MySpace? Should I use a blog or Twitter? Should I use Youtube? Or, should I use a combination of tools in order to inform teens about what the library offers? There is no easy answer, but there are systematic ways of thinking that will help you successfully acquaint teens to your library. Following are some tips and ideas.

The Static Nature of a Library Web Site

Whenever I talk with teens about their use of a library Web site, they always say the same thing: “I only use the Web site to find out if something I’m looking for is in the library catalog.” They sometimes add, “And once in a while, I look to see what programs are going on.” This response is in part due to the fact that many teens still think of the library as all about materials, and haven’t realized that there’s more to what a library can offer. It’s also because library Web sites tend to be extremely static and don’t give teens the interactive, collaborative, and creative opportunities of which Web 2.0 technologies are capable. For example, few library Web sites allow users to easily upload videos, collaborate on articles and lists, create content, message friends, etc. In turn, the library Web site functions best for teens as a catalog.

From Static to Dynamic

If you resolve that the library Web site does function primarily as a catalog for teens, then you can take advantage of Web 2.0 tools to handle the rest of your outreach to teens. In a recent post titled “The Amazing Power of Facebook” on the Young Adult Library Services Association’s (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), blog, Sarah Ludwig talked about some of the features she’s using. Ludwig wrote on November 19, 2008:

“The great thing about FB [Facebook] fan pages is that they really can be portals for a ton of information and content about your library. You can post photos and videos, list upcoming events (which you can blast out to all of your “friends,” and get them to RSVP to), post news items, and list basic information, including a link to your library’s Web site and your e-mail address and IM username. You can send messages to all of your fans with the click of a button, too.”

Last night, when I put up a poll on our library Web site, I posted a link to the poll as my status update, which everyone on my “friends” list can see, and lo and behold, some of them actually clicked the link and answered the poll $MD one of them even left a comment on it. I’ve also already gotten a message from one girl who wanted to see if she could create art for the teen room, and several teens [who] are interested in joining my TAB. Others have told me how excited they are for the new library to open. Hooray! Social networking works!”

In this section of her post, Ludwig discusses a variety of ways to get information to teens via Facebook, including direct messaging (sending messages to specific people), status updates (telling “friends” what you are up to), and events-postings that include RSVP and commenting features. Comments can be submitted in a multitude of ways on Facebook including on photos, on events (as just mentioned), and on a user’s Facebook “wall.” (Imagine a graffiti wall on every person’s page where text, images, video, etc. can be posted.) With these tools you are not only supplying information to teens but you are also giving teens a chance to give information back to you. In this way, Facebook moves past the static to the dynamic, allowing users to read, as well as post and comment, either one-to-one or within the larger group.

Ludwig is using Facebook in place of a traditional library Web site to give information to teens. She is also marketing library programs and services in the virtual place where teens can already be found. Teens are not at the library Web site every day, but many hang out on Facebook.

Taking the Next Step: Going Viral

The library Web site works as a catalog; Facebook works as a broader information portal and communications tool; but if you really want your library to be on the minds of teens, you have to go viral. Translation: Create content that gets so much word-of-mouth buzz that teens are flocking to it. In the Youtube world, going viral often means a video getting millions of hits; however, in the library world, going viral might mean getting a hundred or so teens to watch (or read) the content you’ve posted, and then spread the word.

The viral content you post might range from teen produced book trailers and book reviews, to an advertisement for an upcoming program or event, to teens interviewing each other or their favorite authors.
Going viral doesn’t mean posting your video or content in one place and hoping word-of-mouth spreads. One important aspect of the viral phenomenon is spreading your posts to other sites. For example, if you post video book trailers on your Facebook page, you want others to embed that same video on their Facebook page, blog, Web site, and so on. Viral isn’t only about getting hits, it’s about making the content available to people so they can post it where they want, when they want.

If you want to go viral with your marketing of library programs, services, and collections, you need to use Web 2.0 tools to create content in ways that can easily be posted in many different places. Youtube is perfect for this task. A video that you post on Youtube automatically includes code, so visitors can put that same video within his or her own Web presence. Youtube isn’t the only way to go viral, though.

There Are Also Widgets

A widget is a small piece of code that can be added to a Web site, blog, Facebook or MySpace page to provide users with an interactive, continuously updating link to your content. For example, it’s possible to provide a widget that shows your recent Twitter updates. Anyone using the widget sees the updates without having to go directly to Twitter to find out what’s new. The Twitter widget could give teens the chance to see your updates about programs, books, and such while they are hanging out on Facebook or MySpace.

Several libraries have created library catalog widgets that teens can integrate into their own MySpace, Facebook, blogs, or Web sites. For example, a teen can use a library catalog widget while on MySpace to search the catalog and then be redirected to her library’s catalog to find out more about the item of interest. Sometimes the widget works completely within the social networking space $MD a teen searches in Facebook for example, and also sees the results within Facebook. No matter which form a library’s widget takes, making sure the catalog is available where teens hang out on the Web helps you to make connections between teens, authors, and books.

Being A Part of the Experience

It’s important for a library to stay within a teen’s continuum of technology use. The only likely way to be in that continuum is to start using Web 2.0 tools to provide information about and market the library. If you find out where the teens with whom you work hang out on the Web, you’ll have a good idea where your library should have a presence.

Don’t forget that not only do teens use Web 2.0 tools, but so do many authors. For example, Sarah Dessen, Sara Zarr, Coe Booth, and Robin Benway are all active Twitter users. Helping teens connect to a favorite author via that author’s social networking presence is something you can make happen if you are familiar with a variety of Web 2.0 tools and how they are used.

Remember, you might need to use more than one of the tools available in order to connect with the full range of your community’s teens. It’s up to you to experiment and determine the range of static, dynamic, viral, and embeddable tools.

Resources

Facebook
MySpace
Twitter
Twitter Coe Booth
Twitter Robin Benway
Twitter Sara Zarr
Twitter Sarah Dessen
Youtube
YALSA Blog Post. “The Amazing Power of Facebook”

Young Adult Library Services Association Vice President/President-Elect Linda W. Braun is a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians & Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and other educational institutions. She also teaches for Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her latest book is Teens, Technology, and Literacy: Or, Why Bad Grammar Isn’t Always Bad (Libraries Unlimited, 2007/VOYA October 2007). Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.

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Joyce Kasman Valenza

October 2008

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For years, I’ve been focusing on technology integration and improving student research. In the back of my mind, I knew that my focus had been a little off. I lost something along the way. Back in July at the National Educating Computing Conference (NECC), I experienced a serious epiphany.

It was there that I met Anita Beaman, who presented the Reading 2.0 portion of our Library 2.5 Remix panel. As I listened to her, I realized that over the years, I somehow lost my reading focus. I recognized that I had been ignoring a significant part of my own practice. I needed to connect the “technology thing” to the “reading thing.”

Beaman showed me the way. Actually she showed me the many ways I could combine my passion for technology in learning with my *(only slightly lost) passion for promoting reading. She and her colleague, elementary school media specialist Amy Oberts, have been working to discover the intersection between students’ reading interests and their lives online. They call the wonderful wiki they’ve created Reading 2.0 (http://readingtech.wikispaces.com).

MEET ANITA BEAMAN

Beaman is the high school librarian at University High School, a laboratory school with a challenging academic environment that serves as a model facility for the teacher candidates at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. She also teaches classes in ISU’s post-baccalaureate school library program, which provides courses for classroom teachers to obtain their school library endorsements. She described what the Reading 2.0 concept means to her: “I started thinking about this concept when I discovered great young adult author blogs by Sarah Dessen, Meg Cabot, and others. I love YA lit, and I started reading their blogs regularly. When a new book came out, I realized my reading experience was a little different because I felt as if I knew the author personally from reading her blog. I began wondering how I could share this personal reading experience with my students, and I thought about how it was changing things for the authors and how they communicated with their readers.”

The result was an article for the American Association of School Librarians’ journal, Knowledge Quest (http://www.ala.org/ala/aasl/aaslpubsandjournals/kqweb/kqarchives/volume35/KQW35_1Beaman.pdf). Beaman joined forces with her graduate students to present their Reading 2.0 ideas for their state library association conference. The positive response fueled their work at school.

“My greatest challenge is getting this stuff out to the kids,” says Beaman, who after completely renovating a physical library, is now trying to remodel the library program. “I’ve been at my current school for only two years, and there was absolutely no culture of reading there when I started. I’ve spent two years building the collection, and now I’m focusing on activities to get the teens reading. It’s a college-prep high school with a rigorous academic schedule, and sometimes it’s difficult to get the teachers and students to see the value of reading just for pleasure. It’s all about college prep and reading the classics. When they do have a few minutes free, the teens want to veg out online with their friends and not read. So combining the two—reading and technology—seems like the logical way to create readers. I’m hoping to do a whole lot more starting this year. I think we’re finally ready for it.”

Beaman echoes my own issues as a high school librarian. We get so caught up in teaching effective research and information skills that we find ourselves unintentionally letting go of another mission, likely the same goal that brought us into this field in the first place. Beaman notes, “A 2.0 librarian can’t afford to put all her eggs in one basket.”

Although the use of technology is often associated with teaching research skills and information literacy, Beaman and Oberts both believe that we can combine our missions—to integrate technology thoughtfully, to develop information literacy, and to promote the love of reading.

STRATEGIES

Beaman introduced a very low-tech strategy that had the NECC audience furiously taking notes. First she proved that teens still like to read by describing the reading phenomenon that surrounds Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga. Beaman helps her Edward and Bella fans to continue their experience beyond the pages through little labels affixed in the back of books. If a student checks out Twilight, she discovers a small map to help her expand the reading journey.

Beaman and Oberts include a Word document of their low-tech reading labels on the wiki. Labels include authors’ official sites, playlists for listening while reading, fan-fiction sites, trailers and videos, online chats, and discussion sites. The Meyer label reads: Beaman advocates the use of social bookmarking to extend the pages. She maintains Del.icio.us links relating to great reads and popular authors for teens on the University Library Web site at http://del.icio.us/uhighlibrary. She also recommends the use of LibraryThing (http://librarything.com) for promoting books.
Beaman discussed trends as well, predicting that reading devices like the Kindle might soon play a larger role in our practice. She envisions more opportunities online for creativity and for collaborative writing with authors.

The Reading 2.0 wiki shares pictures of how the librarians offer audiobook Playaways to students. Oberts notes, “We position the Playaway case alongside the print selection. We ask students to check out both items as a means of ‘retraining’ their stereotypes. . . .Why should a child have to choose between a book and technology? Can’t they enjoy both? I’d like to think the Reading 2.0 mindset takes the either/or notion and reframes it to be a meshing of the two.”

ENTER AMY OBERTS

Oberts had been a classroom teacher for eleven years in fourth, sixth, and eighth grades and is relatively new to the library world. After recently finishing her Information Specialist courses, Oberts now works at Oakland Elementary in Bloomington, Illinois. As someone new to our field, Amy’s observations are fresh and suggest that we might rethink K–12 practices. Amy landed into a fixed schedule situation, teaching twenty-three classes a week during teachers’ prep times. Her instruction includes introductions to library technology and information literacy as well as exposing learners to literature, authors, and genre studies.

Oberts noticed that for the younger grades, the fallback in the classroom was to read aloud. For these students, technology seemed to be limited to drill-and-kill learning games, so it was largely reserved for the upper grades.

Oberts met Beaman when she took a course in the Information Specialist program at Illinois State. “When I met Anita, she was interested in how I was using technology to promote reading rather than to compete with reading,” said Oberts. The conversation provoked Oberts to rethink her program and the way she used technology with young people. “Formerly the emphasis was on either promoting literature or on using technology rather than having the two work together as gears.” It was then that the two began building the Reading 2.0 wiki.

While they were working, “we kept discussing how to harness technology to excite and empower students’ literary development,” recalls Oberts. She sees Reading 1.0 as a competition between reading activities and technology. Reading 2.0 is when the two work together as gears.

Oberts drew a model to represent what she saw and what she thinks we should see in our schools: One of Oberts’s favorite reading/technology intersections is creating interactive booktalks using SmartBoards (or other interactive white boards). She includes sample lessons and booktalks on the Reading 2.0 wiki (http://readingtech.wikispaces.com/SMART%E2%84%A2+Connections). The software and notebook tools are free to download even if you don’t have the equipment.

Among the activities Oberts describes is inviting students to come up to the board to manipulate parts of the book. She suggests bringing up one of the many Lookybook (http://www.lookybook.com) e-books, reading it as a group, and then asking younger students to identify parts of the book—spine, author, illustrator, award seals. Older students might also annotate the e-book as they flip through its pages.

For older students, we discussed how they might use Smartboards to guide class booktalks. They might drive the illustrations that Oberts includes in her prepared booktalks (using slideshow software like PowerPoint), deciding where to start and proceed, describing images they bring up and possibly magnify for details, and predicting events.

Such slides don’t necessarily have to include images from the book. Learners might easily find illustrations and create the booktalks themselves. We chatted about the possibility of having learners use the board and their own selected images to create book improvs for themselves and their classmates, spontaneously expanding talk on a story or book.

Oberts is a big fan of creating book-related screensavers. “They are super easy to make with a collection of JPEG files. The teachers and I have screensavers representing the twenty nominees for our state book awards. We shout out ideas, spontaneous booktalks, as images pop up on student screens.

Sometimes we share the emotions that each book evokes. In our lab, thirty computers face the students. Why should we be showing them Windows logos?”

Oberts has her students create book commercials or teasers like those featured on Bookwink (http://bookwink.com). “But our kids have to immerse themselves into being characters, writing scripts, and gathering and sequencing associated images.” Students e-mail the whole package to Oberts, who works with them to produce a video using Adobe’s Visual Communicator. She likes this software because it allows the user to layer video over video and to use green screens, actually placing students in scenes.

“I can’t believe how many readers will make selections based on what they see in these one-minute commercials! Before I couldn’t get most of these books to move at all. Their covers aren’t flashy. They appear dated.” She noted that even with a sleeper kind of new book, for instance Elise Borache’s Shakespeare’s Secret (Henry Holt, 2005/VOYA August 2005), “once the kids did a green screen video, I couldn’t keep the book in the library. I had a hold list a mile long.”

Oberts also uses Microsoft’s free Photo Story software (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=92755126-a008-49b3-b3f4-6f33852af9c1&DisplayLang=en) for book commercials, and we chatted about her possible use of VoiceThread (http://voicethread.com) and other digital storytelling tools in the coming year to further promote those sleepers.

Like Beaman, Oberts works to pair quality print selections with interactive Web sites connected to the selection’s content or created by the author or publisher. “For example, I enjoy reading Jon Scieszka’s first book from Trucktown, Smash! Crash! (Simon & Schuster, 2008) and then challenging students to virtually explore the setting at http://www.behindthepulse.com/trucktown.

With older students, it has been effective to have them explore Jon’s wacky site (http://www.jsworldwide.com), as well as Lane Smith’s Web site (http://www.lanesmithbooks.com) as hooks to introduce their works. It all goes back to that ‘gear diagram.’

Somehow the learner has to be able to connect and engage with related print and technical tools.”

One of Oberts’s big worries was getting students interested in nonfiction. “We began to create Photo Stories about significant people from different cultures who made a difference. Although we never suggested it, the kids began asking for books about these people.” She never recommended the biographies; she simply asked them to find information, images, and use their voices. “We were shocked by how much time they spent in the stacks. I guarantee those books had an inch of dust on them.Watching the clamoring was neat.”

The technology project fueled the stack action.

GETTING THE GEARS TO MOVE TOGETHER

Neither we nor our learners need to choose between technology and reading. The two can work in harmony.

Beaman says, “There are too many great ways to combine both!

As librarians, educators, and readers, we must not only accept that technology is here to stay but also embrace that fact. I think we have begun to do so in research/info lit, but we are still holding out when it comes to reading. Our ideas of what someone’s reading experience should be like need to change with the times and technology if we want to keep teen readers interested.”

“I’ve never said it out loud before,” said Oberts, “but I hear a lot of librarians talk about how students are migrating to technology and away from books. I often hear colleagues complaining that today’s students are spending too much time immersed in the virtual world. I now see it as my mission to take the tools toward which students naturally gravitate and use them to promote literacy. By taking the time to learn and speak their language, I help build a bridge between their virtual world and the physical library.”

A couple of weeks ago, I reflected in my NeverEndingSearch blog (http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/blog/1340000334.html), “Over the years I’d turned into ResearchGirl. And for years, ResearchGirl was far more powerful than ReadingGirl. ReadingGirl is beginning to emerge, and she is planning to use a 2.0 toolbelt.”

I invite you to help me edit, grow, and beautify our ReadingResources wiki (http://bookleads.wikispaces.com). Please add pages. Please share your best ideas. Anita and Amy also invite you to contribute to Reading 2.0, where you will find instructions for the activities mentioned in this piece.

Together we can get those gears smoothly moving.

Joyce Kasman Valenza is the librarian at Springfield Township High School in Erdenheim, Pennsylvania, and her video series, Internet Searching Skills, was a 1999 YALSA Selected Video for Young Adults. Her newest book is Super Searchers Go to School (Information Today, 2005). Valenza’s Virtual Library won the IASL School Library Web Page of the Year Award for 2001, and her blog won the Edublog Award for 2005. An active member of several professional organizations, she speaks regularly about issues relating to libraries and thoughtful use of educational technology. She recently earned a doctoral degree in Information Science at the University of North Texas.
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: An Update

Linda Braun
August 2008
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When an earlier version of this column was originally published on e-voya in the June 2007 Tag Team Tech column (http://pdfs.voya.com/VO/YA2/VOYA200706tag_team_tech.pdf), the primary process for the presidential elections had not yet started and the number of candidates was much greater. Now in the heart of the presidential campaign, only two major candidates remain. Because the field of contenders has dwindled, it makes sense to take another look at the role of technology in the election and how the candidates are connecting with the public using a variety of Web-based tools.

In this updated column, you’ll learn about some of the technologies being used in the election, with one more added to those of the original column, and how you and the teens with whom you work can use these technologies to connect with the candidates and learn about what each has to say. Let’s begin with some ways in which technology is being used by the campaign organizations.

OFFICIAL CAMPAIGN WEB SITES

Both John McCain and Barack Obama sponsor Web sites filled with information about where they stand on various issues, details about their families, and ways to connect with them and their supporters. Both candidates have integrated social networking components on their official campaign sites. For example, on the John McCain Web site, you’ll find McCain Space. On the Barack Obama site, you’ll find MyBo. Each provides a method for joining a candidate’s site and connecting with others who are interested in Obama or McCain.

Google Elections Video Search

With this brand new tool from Google, you can type in a term or phrase and find videos of the candidates talking about that topic. For example, type “education” into the search box and the results list will show a variety of video clips in which Barack Obama and John McCain have used that word. The clips are cued up to right before the candidate says the searched-for term. The clips are from Youtube only, so some occurrences are not included. But, even with Youtube videos, the range of what’s available is impressive.

Facebook

Search for either presidential candidate’s name on Facebook and you’ll not only find John McCain and Barack Obama pages, you’ll also find applications linking to the candidates that can be added to a personal Facebook page. For example, there is an application that will embed a quote of the day from a candidate into a Facebook page.

MySpace

You will find both Barack Obama and John McCain on MySpace. Their MySpace pages are fairly traditional, including candidate information, a friends space, videos, and an array of images.

Twitter

There is no official John McCain Twitter account; however, if you search for John McCain at Twitter, you’ll find that one of the accounts to which you can subscribe is a news feed about McCain. Barack Obama has an official Twitter account. Subscribe to it for regular updates on what the candidate is doing and thinking. (It’s likely that this information is posted by Obama staff and not by Obama himself.) As with John McCain, you also can subscribe to a Barack Obama news update service through Twitter. Fake Barack Obama sites and fake John McCain sites also reside on Twitter. But because each account title includes the word “fake,” it is easy to discern the real from the pretenders.

Flickr

Search for either John McCain or Barack Obama on Flickr, and you will find photos taken by people who have attended an event at which a candidate has made an appearance. Images show the candidates in both formal and informal situations, and include artwork related to the candidates, posters, signs, and more.

Wikipedia

The Wikipedia pages for Barack Obama and John McCain are constantly under revision. Each page contains the candidate’s biographical details as well as many citations and links to useful resources. It’s important to note that each candidate’s Wikipedia page is locked so that only registered Wikipedia users can update content.

TechPresident

TechPresident continues to be a good way to find out how each presidential candidate uses social networking technology. Regular blog posts on the site discuss the candidate’s use of various technologies and how that use is affecting the campaign. The site also includes charts and data on the number of people following candidates via social-networking sites, along with the number of candidate-related videos, images, etc., available on sites like Flickr and Youtube.

This list represents merely a sampling of the ways in which technology is being used in the current presidential campaign. Information about the candidates is also available on national media outlet sites as well as on blogs,Web sites, and other sources. It would be impossible to list every way to find out about a candidate on the Web. If you Google either name, you’ll see the many resources that are returned, and you’ll know what I mean.

WHAT ABOUT TEENS?

No matter how many access points to candidate information there are, your question might be, “What does this mean to the teens with whom I work?” One of the best things about these technologies is that they give teens research experience, an opportunity to discuss the validity and accuracy of information, and a sense of the power of social networking, which can lead to discussions about how to be safe and smart online. Use these ideas for linking technology and teens during the upcoming elections.

  • Teens can go to Wikipedia to gather information about each candidate. While on the Wikipedia site, you might point out that the articles about McCain and Obama are locked and have a discussion with teens about reasons why. You could point out each article’s history section and have a conversation about the changes being made to the pages on a regular basis. By showing teens the discussion pages connected to each candidate’s home page, you give them a chance to find out what a variety of people are saying about the information provided in the candidate’s articles. Finally the list of citations and resources at the bottom of each entry is a good way for teens to find more information and to consider how these citations are another way to evaluate the content of the article.
  • A visit to a candidate’s official campaign Web site is a great wayfor teens to begin thinking about how the presentation of information has an impact on the way that information is received. Without even reading the information on each of the sites, teens might think about what their initial impressions are and why the site affects them this way. You might ask teens to consider what message each candidate is sending simply by the way they present their home pages.
  • Google’s Video Elections Search gives teens the ability to see the candidates in action and not only those times that the candidate’s campaign has vetted. These videos show the candidates in large and small venues and in formal and informal situations. The video format appeals to many teens, and hearing something straight from a candidate’s mouth is often clearer than reading the same words on a Web site or printed page.
  • Even though it is easy to determine that Fake Barack Obama and Fake John McCain are not the real thing, these Twitter accounts provide a jumping-off point for talking with teens about how to tell whether or not someone is “real” on sites such as Facebook and MySpace.
  • Becoming a “friend” of John McCain or Barack Obama on Facebook and MySpace gives teens the chance to become a part of the election process in a new way. Friending one of the candidates gives teens the ability to leave comments on his social-networking profile page and provides opportunities for connecting with others who support—or don’t support—him.

Adding a Facebook application to a teen’s personal Facebook page gives her the chance to show the world something about her values and beliefs.

Speaking of values and beliefs, it’s important to mention that access to the variety of Web-based information available on both presidential candidates is not only worthwhile from an information-seeking perspective, but it is also a valuable tool that gives teens the chance to gain skills that will help them in the adult world. For example, by reading about the candidates and connecting with others via candidate social-networking sites, teens get a chance to consider their own personal standards and develop a set of values and beliefs that they can take with them into adulthood. Similarly it is likely that teens who participate in a campaign by leaving a comment on a Flickr photo, adding an application to a Facebook page, or explaining a point of view on a Wikipedia discussion page will feel that they have helped to make a difference. That feeling can help teens gain confidence that can be carried into adulthood.

DON’T FORGET

The Web-based tools and resources available provide unprecedented access to the candidates and to information about what each man running for president thinks and believes. Give teens the chance to be a part of the process by showing them what’s available and enabling them to connect with the candidates and their supporters via the wide-array of social networking tools available.

RESOURCES IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE

Barack Obama Campaign Site http://www.barackobama.com.
John McCain Campaign Site http://www.johnmccain.com.
Google Elections Video Search http://Googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/07/in-their-own-wordspolitical-videos.html.
John McCain Facebook http://www.Facebook.com/johnmccain.
Barack Obama Facebook http://www.Facebook.com/barackobama.
Barack Obama MySpace http://www.MySpace.com/barackobama.
John McCain MySpace http://www.MySpace.com/johnmccain.
McCain News Twitter http://Twitter.com/McCainNews.
Obama News Twitter http://Twitter.com/ObamaNews.
Barack Obama Twitter http://Twitter.com/BarackObama.
Fake John McCain Twitter http://Twitter.com/fakejohnmccain.
Fake Barack Obama Twitter http://Twitter.com/fakebarackobama.
John McCain on Flickr http://www.Flickr.com/search/?q=john%20mccain&w=all&s=int.
Barack Obama on Flickr http://www.Flickr.com/search/?s=int&q=barack+obama&m=text.
John McCain Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_mccain.
Barack Obama Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barack_obama.
TechPresident http://www.techpresident.com.

Young Adult Library Services Association Vice President/President-Elect Linda W. Braun is a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians & Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and other educational institutions. She also teaches for Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her latest book is Teens, Technology, and Literacy: Or, Why Bad Grammar Isn’t Always Bad (Libraries Unlimited, 2007/VOYA October 2007). Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.
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Linda Braun
June 2008
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Would you imagine that video production for the Web is easy and affordable? If you had asked me that question a few months ago, I would have said no. Recently the situation has changed, and now Web-based video production is something that almost anyone can do easily and affordably—including librarians and teens.

THE FLIP VIDEO CAMERA

What changed? For one thing, the Flip Video has improved its video quality, hardware size, and ease of use. The Flip is a lightweight and inexpensive camera that takes good quality images and makes recording and editing easy. One of the best things about the Flip is the built-in USB connector. After shooting video you simply flip the switch on the side of the camera and out pops the connector. When you plug the connector into your computer, the camera’s Flip software makes it possible to edit the movies you’ve shot right on the camera without installing anything on your computer. You can turn any frame from a movie into a still picture. You can also select multiple video files from the camera, and the software will turn them into one movie.

Imagine if you circulated Flip Video cameras to teens. They could create a variety of library content for the Web. The library might sponsor a Flip Video contest for which teens use the cameras to produce advertisements for teen library programs and services. Or you might work with teens to record teen advisory board programs and meetings as a way to advertise your available young adult services.

What if teens produced a monthly videocast? For example, teens in an advisory group can record a monthly news and events videocast about what’s going on in the library, including reviews of materials and information about activities the teen advisory group is sponsoring. Once you have the cameras in hand, you and your teens may find that the possibilities for using the Flip are endless.

THEN WHAT

Once the videos are produced and edited, the next question might be how to distribute them. Of course, there is Youtube, but there are also many other hosting venues that make it easy to upload your videos, convert them into the appropriate format, and get them out to the world. One easy-to-use Web site, which provides a variety of options for your video content, is Blip.tv.

It’s quick and easy to set up a Blip.tv account and start uploading video content. One of the good things about Blip is that the service accepts a variety of formats so you don’t have to worry about video conversion. You can upload the edited file as is and Blip.tv will convert it to their preferred Flash format for you.

Once the video is on Blip.tv, the site gives you good options to alert people that you have posted. You can easily email the video URL. You can also set up an RSS feed, embed the video on Web pages and blogs, and set up an automatic cross-posting on various sites of interest to you. For example, what if several of the teens in your community have MySpace pages, blogs, Twitter accounts, and such? You can set up your Blip.tv account to post on those sites when you upload new video content.

Wouldn’t that be a great way to get the word out and market your programs and services to teens? This cross-posting feature answers a question that teen librarians often ask: How do I decide what service to use to get the word out about what I’m doing?

CAN I GO LIVE?

Using a Flip Video camera and Blip.tv are for recording content so that people can view something after the fact. But what if you wanted to stream live events at the library? It’s actually pretty easy to do using a service such as Ustream.tv.

To use Ustream.tv you need to have a Webcam. Many new computers come with these cameras built in. If you don’t already have one, there is a wide-range from which to choose. You might have your teens research Webcams and make a recommendation to you about which to purchase for live streaming. (That would be a great way to teach research skills.)

Once you have a Webcam in hand, the next step is to sign up for a Ustream.tv account. With that account, you can pretty much start broadcasting live. Simply log in and click the Broadcast Now link, m making your audio and video content available to viewers. You can also choose the Record Now link to make a recording of your broadcast; this feature will enable teens to watch it again after the live stream is over, and allow later viewing of the video for teens who were unable to watch live.

While you are broadcasting live, you can open up a chat line in Ustream.tv. This means your viewers can ask questions and make comments in real time with you and your teens. Imagine if the teens at your library streamed a monthly book discussion group. You could involve teens from your community who don’t usually come to the library.

You might wonder how you can let people know that you and the teens in your library are streaming live on Ustream.tv. As with Blip.tv, Ustream.tv makes it really easy to update viewers about your video programming. You can e-mail your broadcast URL to contacts and let them know that you’ll be streaming live at a particular day and time. You can embed your stream onto a wide-array of Web sites and blogs so that anytime someone visits one of those sites; they will see your stream.

Whenever I think about the possibilities of Ustream.tv for teen library services, I also think of the many ways it can connect teens to people around the world. The teens in your library could set up a Ustream broadcast with teens in another state or another country to undertake book discussions, live interviews, popular culture conversations, and more.

Ustream.tv is also a useful tool for professional development. Perhaps you want to provide training to library staff on a particular aspect of teen services but can’t afford to have a trainer come to your library. Why not use Ustream.tv? The Public Library of Charlotte Mecklenberg County (PLCMC) recently tried this tactic in a staff training session on teens and music. Joseph Wilk spoke to PLCMC staff from his library in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, using Ustream.tv as the video distribution mechanism. Although they experienced some technical difficulties with the broadcast, it proved to be a practical way to bring a speaker to the library.

WHAT IF I’M NOT QUITE READY FOR FULL-FLEDGED VIDEO?

Broadcasting live with Ustream or uploading videos to the Web might not be something you are quite ready to take on. You don’t have to let that stop you from producing video content for the Web. That’s because there are services like Animoto that give you a chance to turn still images into professional looking music videos. After you sign up for an Animoto account, simply upload a set of images, select music from the Animoto library, and press the Create Video button. Animoto will turn your still images into a music video.

As with the other services discussed in this column, Animoto provides a host of ways to publicize your videos. You can e-mail a link, embed into blogs and social networking sites, upload to Youtube, and download to your own computer. Animoto says it will soon be possible to create a video for an iPod or burn the video onto a DVD.

The technology behind Animoto is pretty impressive. It looks at the music you’ve selected and the number of images you’ve provided and creates a unique video with pacing and special effects based on your choices. Any video can be remixed multiple times, which means that by changing the music selection, the video will look different from what was previously produced.

The possibilities for Animoto are myriad. Think if teens took images of a library event and each created an Animoto video using the music that they thought worked best. With different music selections, each video would be entirely different. Or what if teens in the library produced Animoto videos of events that were then used in a presentation to highlight the high-quality programs and services going on at the library? The music video could be the perfect way to let community members know why teen services are important and how teens are an integral part of the community. Animoto also makes it possible to upload your own music for a production. If you have teen musicians in your community, you could use their music instead of Animoto’s.

TEEN PARTICIPATION AND MARKETING

If you take advantage of some of the easy-to-use video tools currently available, you’ll probably find that giving the community a close-up view of the library and teen services via video is also a good way to involve teens in programs and services.

Teens can discover the ins and outs of video production and streaming and will learn how to evaluate media within real-life contexts. They can also consider how to best market the video and in the process talk about topics related to Web safety. Teens who may never walk into the library could be interested in producing video content and getting their productions noticed on the Web.

Ultimately Web-based video production gives you and the teens with whom you work opportunities to publicize the library and teens. Adults who don’t have a clue about how the library serves teens might see one of your videos on Youtube, Blip.tv, a blog, etc. These community members who don’t understand the importance of library teen services will get a chance to find out why teens need to be served. Your teen library videos could help convince the community that the library is a valuable agency using current technologies to meet the needs of its customers.

RESOURCES

Animoto. http://www.animoto.com.
Blip.tv. http://www.blip.tv.
Flip Video. http://www.theflip.com.
Professional Development—Teens & Music. http://yalsa.ala.org/blog/2008/05/14/professional-development-teens-and-music.
Ustream.tv. http://www.ustream.tv.

Linda W. Braun is a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians & Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and other educational institutions. She also teaches for Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her latest book is Teens, Technology, and Literacy: Or, Why Bad Grammar Isn’t Always Bad (Libraries Unlimited, 2007/VOYA October 2007). Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.
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Joyce Kasman Valenza
April 2008
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I want my students to use our virtual library. I want them to discover our pathfinders, our databases, our online lessons.

But recently I made an important (if undocumented by research) discovery about people and information spaces.

People like to live in spaces (online and off) that they build, decorate, and make their own. My physical library is filled with student art and student work. My Springfield Township High School Virtual Library also contains a lot of student- generated content. It grows with student suggestions and advice. But in reality, neither space is completely student-owned.

And so I began to question my approach regarding where I wanted my students to begin their information searches.

For most students—and most people—Google is an information starting point. I spent years encouraging learners to begin in other places. But I now recognize that everyone’s favorite starting point and its alter ego, iGoogle, can lead students to far more than they imagined. In fact, it can lead them back to library resources. Furthermore it can teach them how to push, rather than pull information.

We can help students use this starting point in bigger, richer, smarter ways. Tools like iGoogle, combined with an assortment of widgets or gadgets, offer learners the ability to build, decorate, and customize their own information spaces.

What is a widget? What is push?

Wigdets (also called gadgets in the world of iGoogle) are miniapplications displaying Web content that can be easily inserted onto a variety of Web spaces. Widgets are designed to be embedded in blogs, wikis, Nings, some browsers, and some search spaces. They are free. And they give Web searchers superpowers.

Several months ago, I introduced the iGoogle interface for two reasons—as a strategy for helping our seniors organize their time and their projects and as a way to introduce the value of push technology, a strategy students can use to make information they need find them.

We held iGoogle construction sessions with several classes. Most were amazed

• that they could customize Google, a space they live on;
• that they could program a search tool to work for them; and
• that they could create their own personal (and pretty) information spaces.

This widget/gadget/personal portal building was the most popular activity of the semester. It was sticky! Students spent their down-time improving (dare I say “pimping”) their homepages. They changed themes; they added dictionaries and thesauruses, as well as sudoku, PacMan, and some virtual fish. They returned to show me discoveries and additional enhancements.

While I focused my teaching efforts on the gadgets of iGoogle, other very worthy widget options include Netvibe’s more than 100,000 feeds and widgets (http://www.netvibes.com), Yahoo’s growing widget collection, ( http://widgets.yahoo.com), and Pageflakes’s browser-based alternative (http://www.pageflakes.com). Pageflakes offers a model Teacher Edition page (http://teacher.pageflakes.com).

Why did the widgets stick?

I expected students to be happy with the information structure I designed for them with our Virtual Library, and often they were. But iGoogle put them in control.

To some degree, young people already organize personal information spaces through their Facebook and MySpace pages, but those sites seldom seem to move beyond students’ social needs. Nevertheless the concept of portal building wasn’t foreign.

Throughout their school careers, we’ve suggested that students organize their notebooks and backpacks, keep an agenda, and maintain to-do lists. This time it was fun. It was personal. It was pretty. Gratification was immediate.

Among the first gadgets we suggested were those traditional but now more interactive to-do lists, calendars, calculators, sticky notes, and basic references—dictionaries, thesauruses, etc. Students and their teachers saw immediate personal value in these tools.

We then demonstrated the use of Google Reader to set up RSS feeds relevant to research or content-area classes or personal interests.

We showed how to use Google Notebook as a notecard tool. And we strongly suggested that their notebooks (or their sticky notes) include prominent links to the Virtual Library, databases they use everyday, relevant pathfinders, and their teachers’ homepages. Students might also access these links as widgets from their own or their teachers’ existing bookmarking services. For instance, a del.icio.us gadget can be set up for any del.icio.us user’s bookmarks. The gadget can be programmed to display selected tags and sorted by date or name of link.

We discovered online stopwatches as a way to time presentations and countdown tools to keep track of project deadlines. The quote of the day, joke of the day, and image of the day options were plentiful and popular.

Sometimes we didn’t know exactly what we were looking for in our subject area tabs.We discovered the wonderful serendipity of the “I’m feeling lucky” button. Entering a subject in the search box of a new tab and clicking on that button, presented a wealth of useful and unexpected discoveries.

Learners have different needs, different abilities, and different interests. iGoogle’s gadgets seemed to have something for everyone.

We demonstrated the potential for making individual tabs for various classes, projects, or personal interests.

For students taking science this semester, we suggested these widgets: a periodic table, a hangman game for chemical elements, the search box from the National Science Digital Library, NPR: Science Friday, Discovery News Top Stories, a feed for Scientific American, Science Classroom, The New York Times Science, How Stuff Works, and NASA’s Image of the Day.

For French, we suggested Audio Word of the Day, the RSS feed from Le Monde, France Video Map, Go Radio (French), a French dictionary, the Eiffel Tower Webcam, Flickr France photos, Napoleon Bonaparte’s Quotes, and LanguageSpeaker’s Spoken Translations.

For our Global Studies classes, we suggested news feeds from the various regions of the world, Time’s Top World News Stories, BBC News World Edition, The New York Times Middle East, International Herald Tribune’s various regional sections, and Flags and Facts.

We encouraged art students to consider a tab that might include Art of the Day, The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Exhibit Podcasts, Oil Painting of the Day, Our Earth as Art, What’s New (Philadelphia Museum of Art), The New York Times Art and Design Feed, and Fractal of the Day.

Our students have separate lives outside of school and spend much of that time online. It wasn’t long before students discovered iGoogle’s impressive array of game gadgets. We suggested that they set up a separate tab for puzzles and games. And we suggested that they might include some games, like that chemical element hangman, in their subject area tabs.

Since our early construction experiences, iGoogle dramatically increased its themes (http://www.Google.com/ig/directory?hl=en&type=themes), or opening banners, from the limited original number of six or so. Now we have many pages of themes from which to select. Students can use themes to decorate and distinguish the tabs they create for their various classes or extracurricular interests.

My own art page has a Chinese woodcut theme. My science tab has a planetary theme. My international tab features a globe theme.

The students loved decorating and exploring how widgets can make online life easier, more interesting, and prettier. But I was basking in the information skills they were learning unintentionally—the best way—through play.

Instructional widgets or gadgets help students organize their information worlds. As information managers, students can be in control, able to determine which information tools are most relevant to their needs and when. They are able to position and prioritize their resources and their tools for productivity. Information is growing far too big to be managed with any one-box search.Widgets illustrate the interactive potential for twenty-first-century portals and how far we have moved from a standard 1990s random, one-box search approach. Widgets allow learners to select and organize multiple specialized boxes, and they help demonstrate the potential of push strategies to simplify information access. Students no longer have to visit twenty different Web tools or search boxes when their resources can be selectively pushed to one portal.

What Are the Issues?

iGoogle requires students to sign up for a Gmail or an iGoogle account. Doing so was no problem for my high school students, but it might pose a dilemma in schools that do not allow or promote student e-mail or registrations of any sort. Also, as with Google’s search engine results, not all gadget results are school-appropriate, for example the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model of the Day. Teachers may need to open discussions regarding student selections and guide students away from the slightly icky or commercial stuff.

Recently one of my gadgets, attached to a newly defunct Web site, hijacked my homepage. Whenever I visited iGoogle, I was instantly transported to the site for the company that hosted the gadget. Once I figured out how to remove the offending gadget, I was back in business. Downloads can be a bit risky, but the benefits clearly outweigh those risks.

We discovered it was important to sell teachers on widgets first.

We first demonstrated iGoogle at a faculty meeting and many teachers were instantly sold on it as both a personal and professional organizational tool. Teachers loved setting up Google Readers for news feeds relevant to the subjects they taught. They took immediately to the to-do lists, notebooks, and countdown tools. Some used it to set up shared Google calendars and as an easy way to reach the Gmail and RSS feeds to which most already subscribed.

What’s next for widgets?

We can do far more to help students create their own personally important and attractive information spaces to support their work as learners. I want more widgets. I want widgets or gadgets that lead learners to more information sources—the fun, the serious, the light, and the scholarly. Brave folks will be able to follow Google’s instructions for creating their own gadgets, but I do not have the courage or the talent. Google offers a tools page for developers at http://code.Google.com/apis/gadgets/index.html that includes built-in Java-script libraries.

Nevertheless I believe we can and need to widgetize all our information resources a lá iGoogle or Pageflakes or Netvibes or Yahoo Widgets. Why should library resources be less convenient to access than the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model of the Month?

I want a widget for our catalog, and I want a widget for each of our databases. A number of libraries now organize their own virtual libraries around widgets. They add LibraryThing widgets to promote new titles, recommendations, and specific collections. Dublin City Public Library in Dublin, Ireland, (http://www.pageflakes.com/dublincitypubliclibraries) uses the browser Pageflakes to create a dynamic widget-driven site.
Widgets present the library’s calendar, photographs, podcast lectures, and press releases and solicit user feedback.

The Unquiet Library at Creekview High School in Canton, Georgia, offers photographs; RSS feeds to local newspapers; a tag map for their del.icio.us links; a lava lamp; a search box for Google Books, Google Scholar, and Google News Archive; and a LibraryThing widget on its Pageflakes homepage, http://www.pageflakes.com/theunquietlibrary.

I want learners to think about the databases that make the most sense to their current information needs. I want them to be able to pull those databases into their own information spaces as widgets.

For instance, a student starting an upper-level English class in January should be able to drag literary criticism and other database widgets (Gale’s Literature Resource Center, JSTOR, Bloom’s Literary Reference, EBSCO’s Literary Reference, etc.) onto his own page for the spring semester. She should be able to skootch these IP or password authenticated widgets to the top of her page when an assignment is pressing and skootch them down when one is not. I want the vendors to know of this need. I want widgets to be a feature included in my subscription costs. I want them to create these widgets for us.

For more information, see this wonderful new book: Williams, Robin T., and David V. Loertscher. In Command! Kids and Teens Build and Manage Their Own Information Spaces and Learn to Manage Themselves. Hi Willow/LMC Source, 2007. 90p. $25 pb. 978-1-933170-36-0.

[Author’s Note: H Songhai, a media literacy teacher at Hope Charter School in Philadelphia, offers a presentation on widgets as an instructional strategy in his Songhai Concepts blog at http://songhaiconcepts.blogspot.com/search/label/iGoogle.]

Joyce Kasman Valenza is the librarian at Springfield Township High School in Erdenheim, PA, and her video series, Internet Searching Skills, was a 1999 YALSA Selected Video for Young Adults. Her newest book is Super Searchers Go to School (Information Today, 2005). Valenza’s Virtual Library won the IASL School Library Web Page of the Year Award for 2001, and her blog won the Edublog Award for 2005. An active member of several professional organizations, she speaks regularly about issues relating to libraries and thoughtful use of educational technology. She recently earned a doctoral degree in Information Science at the University of North Texas.
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Linda W. Braun

February 2008

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Every time I lead a discussion on technology in libraries, at least two or three people come up to me at the end to ask, “How do you keep up?” The following alphabetically ordered resources make up my answer:

Ars Technica
http://www.arstechnica.com
In this blog written by several different technology authors, each post analyzes or reports on something important in the technology world. Ars Technica is often where I first learn about tech laws discussed by Congress and the release of new industry reports on topics such as gaming, technology in education, and Internet-use statistics.

Buzz Out Loud
http://bol.cnet.com
Hosted by C|NET staff members Tom Merritt, Molly Wood, and Jason Howell, this Monday through Friday podcast focuses on tech news of the day. The three hosts use humor to inform listeners of new products, technologies, and legal issues that are worth thinking about. Frequently when I listen to Buzz Out Loud, I find myself thinking, “That’s something I need to let librarians know about.”

GigaOm
http://www.revision3.com/gigaom
Don’t be deterred by the fact that the GigaOm podcast focuses on funding and the business end of technology. Watching this weekly videocast, co-hosted by Om Malik and Joyce Kim, is a great way to learn about the inside workings of Web 2.0 companies. This information can help generate ideas about the way you might organize and manage some happenings in your library and help you to talk about the world of Web 2.0 to administrators and colleagues.

Mashable
http://www.mashable.com
Like Ars Technica, the Mashable blog (written by a variety of technology authors) reports on the latest news in technology. Even more useful from a teen librarian perspective, however, is the information that Mashable publishes regularly related to new tools and Web sites. For example, Mashable might tell you first about a new application for Facebook or a new music socialnetworking tool.

The New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com
Every day I make sure to pay attention to the business, education, and technology RSS feeds from The New York Times. This news gives me a good idea of the topics that library customers—and librarians—will
be talking about. The New York Times is my local newspaper, but paying attention to yours, particularly its education and technology news, is a good way to be aware of what your customers know or will want to know.

TV Guide Talk
http://www.tvguide.com
No it isn’t technology oriented, but TV Guide Talk is an entertaining way to keep up with the world of television and movies in order to know what might interest teens. The weekly podcast is also a place to get ideas for your collections, programs, and services.

Twitter
http://www.Twitter.com
In my last Tag Team Tech column, I discussed the power of Twitter as an information-gathering tool. When used for subscribing to RSS feeds to find out when new information is posted in blogs, Twitter is a good way to learn from professional resources and friends the useful information being uncovered for professional life.

WebbAlert
http://www.webbalert.com
Morgan Webb presents this five-minute, Monday through Friday videocast that focuses on the technology news of the day. As with Buzz Out Loud, WebbAlert is a useful resource for learning about what’s up-and-coming and what’s already here. If you prefer watching over listening or if you have only five minutes a day to spare, check out WebbAlert to keep up with the world of tech.

Ypulse
http://www.ypulse.com
Anastasia Goodstein’s blog is a one-stop shop for learning about media industry news and to gather ideas on the impact that new media has on teens’ lives. If you want to keep up with teen-specific television, music, business trends, laws, and more, Ypulse is the place to go. The daily posts aggregate some of the most interesting or useful media news.

You might notice that the list doesn’t include any library-oriented journals, podcasts, or blogs. Of course, I spend time looking at library-focused writing on the Web and in print—as you are by reading this article. But because librarians must read and think about what’s going on outside the world of libraries and then relate that to what needs to be done to serve teens effectively, I think it’s important to focus on those materials that are not library specific.

I’m lucky. My job gives me the opportunity to stay on top of these resources on a regular basis. If you think it’s going to be difficult to get started, it might work best for you to pick one or two blogs or podcasts with which to begin. Maybe you can divvy up the above list among your colleagues. Each of you can commit to checking two resources and then exchange the useful information that is found.

No matter what, if you really want to keep up, you have to simply say to yourself, “I’m going to do it.” Ultimately not having time is not an option. In order to support teens effectively, librarians need to pay attention to what’s going on in their teen world. These resources should help you do that.

Start small and expand as you get more comfortable integrating non-library materials into your reading, listening, and viewing. It’s likely you’ll discover that library and non-library resources actually fit together seamlessly to provide all the information you need. Who knows, not long after you’ve taken the plunge and made a concerted effort to read outside the field, you might find a colleague asking,“How do you keep up?”

RESOURCES

Ars Technica. http://www.arstechnica.com.
Buzz Out Loud. http://bol.cnet.com.
GigaOm. http://www.revision3.com/gigaom.
Mashable. http://www.mashable.com.
The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com.
TV Guide Talk. http://www.tvguide.com.
Twitter. http://www.Twitter.com.
Webb Alert. http://www.webbalert.com.
Ypulse. http://www.ypulse.com.

Linda W. Braun is a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians & Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and other educational institutions. She also teaches for Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her latest book is Teens, Technology, and Literacy: Or, Why Bad Grammar Isn’t Always Bad (Libraries Unlimited, 2007/VOYA October 2007). Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.
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Linda W. Braun

April 2007

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Have you ever thought that you would like to blog but just do not have the energy to regularly write hundreds of words? Do you find it difficult to keep up with your favorite blogs because you do not have time to read long posts? If you answered yes to either question, then microblogs or tumblelogs are for you.

Microblogs are just what you’d think—short blog posts. Most microblog messages are limited to a specified number of characters. Twitter (http://www.Twitter.com) is one of the most widely used Web-based services for microblogging. At Twitter.com you set up an account, find other users with whom you want to chat, and add them as your “friends.” You then start posting messages via the Twitter service, which your friends can view with their Twitter readers either online, with a special Twitter software program, or via text messaging on a cell phone.

Tumblelogs are short blog posts that usually include more than text—photos, videos, and such. You use TumblrWeb-based software (http://www.tumblr.com) to set up a tumblelog. On the Tumblr Web site, you sign up for an account and then start posting snippets of information for visitors. An actual tumblelog looks similar to a traditional blog. The difference is that the posts are intentionally short and media intensive.That’s the basic idea of microblogs and tumblelogs, but there is more to know.

TWITTER, THE KILLER MICROBLOG SERVICE

Twitter launched in March 2006, but it wasn’t until six months later that it really started to take off with the general public. On the front page of the Twitter Web site, one simple question appears, “What are you doing?” That’s the basis of Twitter, members posting information about their lives for others to read. I realize that to some it sounds more than a little self-involved. As a matter of fact, whenever I talk to librarians about Twitter, I’m inevitably asked, “But why would anyone want to know what I’m doing at any given moment?”

The answer is that although some people write about what they are having for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (along with other mundane bits of information about their daily lives), many others write interesting posts—of 140 characters or less—that inform Twitter friends of notable articles, question particular topics, and share epiphanies about world events. In other words, for many, microblogging is about information exchange and not navel-gazing.

Consider these examples:

• “@trmite thanks for that link it’s perfect 4 some web 2.0y workshops I’m doing.” I sent this message to a Twitter friend, TRMite, after she posted a link to the Web site Go2Web2.0. (To send a message to a particular person in Twitter you use the @ character followed by that person’s Twitter username.) I did not know about the site before TRMite posted it and it is a perfect resource for some of the work I am doing.
• “Why municipal wifi isn’t happening like we would like http://tinyurl.com/ynmxqy.” I sent this message to my Twitter friends about an article I read. I know that several people who read my Twitter posts are interested in this topic so they would want to read this article.
• “@mkeagle for the callout—once it’s on the timeline u can drag at the end to make shorter longer.” I sent this tweet (the name for a Twitter message) to a student who wrote me a tweet with a question about using a piece of software for a class assignment. She posted her question and within minutes I was able to answer her. Her classmates could see this exchange, so they now had the answer as well.
• “I just read this on the Crave blog—a Hello Kitty ATM—http://tinyurl.com/yrex2t.” I am always reading blogs about interesting technology gadgets. I know many librarians that have a love/hate relationship with Hello Kitty, and I knew those that read my Twitter posts would get a kick out of this link.
• “I’d been waiting for the vampire for years when he walked into the bar.” This post is from TwitterLit, a Twitter user who tweets the first line of a book at least once a day. Each tweet includes a link to Amazon (http://www.amazon.com) so readers can easily find out about the book.

For librarians working with teens, this style of information exchange gives us another format for connecting and educating. Imagine if your Twitter friends included teens from your community. Imagine if your Twitter friends were other librarians and teachers in your community. Twitter could become a primary way to communicate with each other. For example, teens might ask questions about library programs and services, and you can post about new materials, programs, and useful resources. Teachers might post about upcoming assignments, and then you can post about resources that support the curriculum.

Twitter is also used as a data-gathering tool. One feature of the service is that you can track topics of interest. For example, I send a tweet to Twitter that says “track teens.” The Twitter software knows that I want to see all of the Twitter posts—from anyone on Twitter—that include the word “teens.” By doing that, I get an excellent overview of teen-related information that people are thinking and saying. Imagine how your awareness and effectiveness might improve if you tracked a topic of interest to members of your community, including teens.

Twitter is not the only microblogging service available. Pownce (http://www.pownce.com) and Jaiku (http://www.jaiku.com) are two others. Currently, though, Twitter is the microblogging service that many librarians are using. Because there is already a large library community on Twitter, it is a good place to start microblogging.

TUMBLELOGS FOR SHORT VISUAL POSTING—AND MORE

Erin Downey Howerton, the School Liaison for Johnson County Library in Overland Park, Kansas, wrote about Tumblr, “I am showing it around our library and calling it the ‘gateway drug’ of blogging.”
Setting up a Tumblr blog is similar to setting up a traditional blog—you create an account and select a design for your tumblelog. The difference is in the posting. Once a tumblelog is set up, the blogger is provided with a form to fill out, which has a list of options for posting—text, photo, quote, chat, link, audio, video.

• The photo posting form includes a section for uploading a photo and a textbox for adding a caption.
• The form for posting a quote includes a textbox for the quote and a textbox for the quote citation.
• The form for a video post allows for uploading a video, embedding a video from Youtube ( http://www.Youtube.com), or linking to a video from another source.
Although each posting form has an option for adding more content than what is initially suggested, it is clear from the defaults that the idea is not to write a lot but simply to get your words out there quickly for others to read. What are some applications for tumblelogs in teen services?
• Notetaking: The quote feature in Tumblr is useful for teens completing a research project. Teens can copy and paste (or paraphrase) text into the quote form on Tumblr. Because Tumblr includes a citation field in quote posts, this is a great way to remind students to cite their resources.
• Event Sharing: Being able to quickly upload videos and photos to Tumblr makes it a perfect tool for teens to advertise and highlight library programs in which they are involved. TAG meetings, room decoration programs, author visits, and such, are all events that could be captured and tumblelogged by teens.
• Field Trips: Educate teachers about tumblelogs so any photos taken during class field trips can be uploaded to the tumblelog. Teens could write captions for the field trip pictures.
• General Communication: Aren’t there times when you do not want to go through a big ordeal to get the word out about a library program or service? You could use the tumblelog to easily and succinctly post the announcement.

Once you start thinking about it, it is likely you’ll come up with many more uses for tumblelogs in your work with teens.

NOW WHAT?

At a recent New York Public Library Web 2.0 workshop, Brook Berry, Coordinator of Technology Training at the Library, said, “Not every tool we talk about is going to be right for your needs and purposes. However, you need to know about what’s out there in order to make good decisions about what and when to use specific tools with your customers.” This definitely holds true for the world of blogging.

You might be wondering how to decide which blog tool to use.You might even wonder if you should use more than one blogging service in order to serve teens effectively. To help make your decisions, keep these facts in mind:

• Microblogging is very good for instantaneous communication. If you want to ask a question of a group and get an immediate answer, or if you want to publish information at a particular moment, microblogs work really well.
• Microblogging is a way for you to keep up on the needs and interests of a specific group of people. Teachers, teens, colleagues, and others fall into this category. Although some people make their microblogging posts public to everyone, within the library world it is fairly common to keep posts private so that only those who are considered friends are able to read what has been written.
• Tumblelogs can help you get co-workers, colleagues, and teens familiar with the idea of blogging. Tumblelogs are less intimidating than traditional blogs since there is no expectation that the posts are going to be complete entries on a particular topic.
• Tumblelogs provide a way to keep track of snippets of information in one place. If you are looking for an easy-to-use format for organizing images, videos, and notes, tumblelogs are perfect.
Teens who are constantly working with snippets will find tumblelogs a great holding place. Teachers who want to alert their students to short bits of information on a regular basis will definitely appreciate the features of something like Tumblr.

If you’ve been staying away from blogging because you thought the whole idea was just too overwhelming, microblogs and tumblelogs might be just the thing. Give one, or both, a try. You may find that you are a blogger after all.

RESOURCES

Erin Downey Howerton’s Tumblelog. http://edh.tumblr.com.
Go2Web2.0. http://www.go2Web20.net.
Jaiku. http://www.jaiku.com.
Pownce. http://www.pownce.com.
Tumblr. http://www.tumblr.com.
Twitter. http://www.Twitter.com.
TwitterLit. http://www.Twitter.com/Twitterlit.

Linda W. Braun is a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians & Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and other educational institutions. She also teaches for Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her latest book is Teens, Technology, and Literacy; Or Why Bad Grammar Isn’t Always Bad (Libraries Unlimited, 2006). Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.
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Joyce Kasman Valenza

October 2007

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No question. I could be a better booktalker. I don’t read fast enough. I forget plots and characters. I never have enough copies to meet the needs and interests of the 850 teens who pass through my library doors. When I do prepare for a day of formal booktalking, my more aggressive readers grab the titles, and everyone else winds up frustrated on a waiting list. It just never works for me.

I needed booktalk support. Booktalk rehab. I craved intervention.

Recently I realized that I didn’t need to do it all myself. I could enhance my booktalking events with the excellent work of others.

Happily, Web 2.0 rescued me.

These days, we can all share, enhance, and ease the booktalking load through the magic of streamed m media. And we can involve learners in creating and sharing with us. We no longer have to compose them all from scratch, and we can easily scale them out to our school and library communities. Once we find the online booktalks that best meet the needs of our readers, we can link to them in our OPACs and reading lists and pathfinders. We can incorporate them in our own talks with students. We can use them as models for new student projects.

Online booktalks seem to come in two flavors these days. There’s the traditional talk simply migrated to podcast or audio format. And there’s the more elaborate movie trailer-style book promotion.

BOOKTALKS IN PODCAST AND VODCAST FORMAT

Bookwink’s mission is “to inspire kids to read. Through podcasting and Web video, we hope to connect kids in Grades 3 through 8 with books that will make them excited about reading.”

Selected as an Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), Great Web Site, Bookwink talks are thematic, approximately three minutes in length, and updated monthly. The site also features read-alike suggestions. Books are searchable by subject, grade level, author, or title.

Sonja Cole, a former middle school librarian with a Rutgers library degree, is Bookwink’s host and booktalker. She left her library to follow another passion. “I loved my ten years of school library work,” said Cole, “but I felt I could be doing more, . . . reaching beyond my 300 kids.What if my booktalks could get kids all over the world excited about reading?” Cole had been creating and presenting traditional booktalks for years when she began reading and thinking about Web 2.0 applications. Her friend Paul Kim asked her to seriously consider the “video thing.” Kim, now Cole’s business partner, manages the technology and functions as Bookwink’s art director and producer.

The technology is relatively simple. Normally Cole uses iMovie on her Mac and sets up a video camera in her dining room.

Archived Bookwink themes include: volcanoes, mythology, love, the nineteenth century, sharks, World War II, and witches.

Cole has experienced a “wonderful, gratifying response” to Bookwink. Librarians write to tell her that once students see the Bookwink booktalks, titles “fly off the shelves.” Cole is also excited about the potential for other teachers and librarians to create their own videos about books. She sees it as a creative performance outlet for learners, and she’s heard from several teachers who have already used Bookwink as a model for student work. Cole would like Bookwink to become a video booktalk portal, and she invites teachers and librarians to create videos.

Longtime booktalk expert and middle school librarian Nancy Keane recently added podcasts to her popular Booktalks Quick and Simple site. Keane adds them at a furious pace of one every day. You can choose to visit the site or keep up with the additions by having an RSS subscription.

She began by adding audiobook clips to her Web site with permission from Listening Library. Her next big step was preparing audio-enhanced PowerPoint presentations of the state book award titles for her own school. She now provides these booktalks as podcasts for all of New Hampshire. Take a look at her podcasts of New Hampshire’s Great Stone Face Award as well as the Isinglass Teen Awards.

Keane uses podcast booktalks in her own middle school program. She collects the booktalk titles on iPods and checks out those iPods to students. Her middle school students love this type of book promotion. “People often ask if they can copy my booktalks onto disks and iPods,” says Keane. “I say, absolutely, as long as they’re not making money on my efforts.”

I asked Keane why her podcast booktalks are so popular. “I would rather hear someone talk about a book than read a description,” she says. And she notes that her own talks have grown in quality. “I started out bland, [and] then I began adding more emotion . . . I want people to understand how I feel about a book. You can do that far better in a podcast than in print.”

A class of students from Moorestown, New Jersey, wrote to Keane to thank her for her podcasts: “We are really enjoying listening to them. We are using your book talks to help us put together our summer reading list. . . [and] as a guide to help us present our own.”

Keane is hooked on podcasting for its impact and for its economy. She uses Audacity to record and WordPad for scriptwriting. “They fit in my price range—free.” Keane registered her podcasts with iTunes.
Like Cole, Keane believes that other librarians should be rethinking booktalks in terms of media. When she started the site in 1995, her vision was to “share information and not reinvent the wheel. I was hoping to develop a resource for sharing, hoping others would contribute. These don’t all have to be in my voice.”

She believes that this kind of library activity is critical. “It bothers me when librarians say ‘I just don’t have time.’ To be relevant, to be seen as vital, we have to be seen as technology, curriculum, and community leaders.”

Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust broadcasts appear regularly on Seattle’s Channel 21. No matter which coast you live on, you can visit the archive of discussions and author interviews or subscribe to her RSS feed. Pearl’s Puget Sound Public Radio reviews are archived as MP3s each Monday. She covers most genres, fiction and nonfiction. Her mostly adult reviews will serve young adults well too. Don’t miss the wealth of resources on Pearl’s Book Lust Wiki.

Here is a sampling of other book-related podcasts:

• Orange County Library System (Florida) shares an array of podcast booktalks, stories, and programming highlights.
• New York Times Book Review editor, Sam Tanenhaus, shares his conversations with authors, editors, critics, and senior editor Dwight Garner at the NYT Book Review Podcast archive.

Among the online booktalks are a growing number of student-created presentations:

• The Pike School Library (Andover, Massachusetts) (http://www.pikeschool.org/home/library/readcorner) presents its Readers Circle Booktalks.
• Hopkinton High/Middle Schools (New Hampshire) offer podcasts of their state award books for teens.
• The Runkle School in Brookline, Massachusetts, features Book Reviews podcasts created by elementary and middle school readers.

Publishers also podcast. Simon and Schuster offers weekly SimonSays Pulse Podcasts and BookVideosTV features which offer “the story behind the story.” Among the adult book podcasts included are a number of great young adult reads. A recent Pulse podcast featured a chat with Kate Brian, author of The Princess and the Pauper, Megan Meade’s Guide to the McGowan Boys, and Inner Circle, the latest installment of her Private series.

Scholastic shares a wonderful menu of print booktalks, as well as podcasts presented by three Harry Potter experts.

The blog-based Penguin Podcast presents weekly interviews and “riveting book excerpts from the most exciting authors around” of Penguin group titles featuring both adult and teen book authors.
HarperCollins offers the HarperPerennial Podcast “a show about the life of books,” which features an eclectic variety of author interviews.

BOOKTALKS ON VIDEO

The more heavily video-based book promotions or teasers are also known as video book trailers, vidlit, or digital video booktalks. (Note: Several of these terms are now registered trademarks, making it difficult to label these efforts. The term book trailer, for instance, is registered to Circle of Seven Productions.)

These video products offer engaging new strategies for librarians to introduce titles, and they offer authors and publishers new vehicles to announce and sell books. The videos also represent new types of projects for students, not only to display their creativity and love for reading but also to provide opportunities to contribute to the book promotion efforts of their school or public libraries. They are not difficult to produce.
Faithful readers who also know how to use such free or inexpensive production tools as iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, GarageBand, VoiceThread, or Final Cut will enjoy and try to emulate the video booktalks mentioned below. You might need to remind your student producers to use copyright-friendly images, sound, and video. You could up the level of creativity by asking them to create their own. Post your efforts on your own site or share them on Youtube or TeacherTube, or GoogleVideo.

Vidlit exists in both commercial and noncommercial flavors. Let’s begin with some noncommercial examples. The University of Central Florida (UCF) offers Digital Booktalk. The site and the talks are the result of “collaborative efforts between UCF’s Educational Technology Program in the College of Education and the Digital Media Division in the College of Arts and Humanities and is based on research as to how prospective readers select, read, and complete books.”

Larry Bedenbaugh, Coordinator of Information Services for the Florida Literacy and Reading Excellence (FLaRE) Center, presents video booktalks as an activity for his undergraduate technology education students. He is convinced that these projects are “more effective than the paper-and-pencil . . . book reports. Can students capture the heart of the book and ‘sell’ it? Asking a student to put together a one-minute (or so) effective digital story about a book ties in with a variety of ‘ twenty-first-century literacies’. I especially like giving a voice to those students who struggle with the more traditional form of writing.”

The UCF titles range from reading-list classics to hot new favorites. Among the productions currently posted are: 1984, Dracula, Drive By, Esperanza Rising, Fahrenheit 451, Fat Kid Rules the World, Gospel According to Larry, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Lord of the Flies, Monster, My Sister’s Keeper, Nickel and Dimed, and Twilight.

The Tucson-Pima Public Library Teen Summer Reading Program produced Teen Trailers as part of its “That’s My Take” project. Last year’s Tucson-Pima titles were: Cut, The Stranger, House of the Scorpion, and Hangman’s Curse.

Tuscon-Pima librarian Matt Landon promises that this year’s eight new videos will be online soon. The new tiles include Catcher in the Rye, Cirque du Freak, Dreamland, Fat Kid Rules the World, My Sister’s Keeper, The Giver, The Indwelling, Twilight, and Vampire Kisses.

In describing the exciting teen-centered project, which ran February through July and engaged more than one hundred teens and adults, Landon said, “It allowed librarians to work closely with local film professionals to mentor youth over an extended period of time. Nine teenage writer/directors each worked with a producer/mentor from Pan Left Productions to write a script, recruit actors, and direct and edit a film. The sound, lighting, and camera crew from Access Tucson were primarily youth under the age of twenty-one who were studying and honing their craft. Also, as many as ten youth actors were involved in each production.
Equipment and locations were provided by [more than] twelve local businesses, libraries, and community organizations; equipment provided included costumes, musical instruments, a luxury car, and a tarantula with two trained handlers.”

Landon is extremely proud of these youth-directed productions and the people involved, saying, “Everyone was committed to working professionally to make the highest quality films possible. The librarians and filmmakers pushed the teens to excel while also turning over control of the creative process. The authority and creativity of the teen writer/directors was encouraged in each step of the process, and the large number of caring and committed adults helped them get the most from the experience.“

He notes, “All aspects of the productions were controlled by teens and the resulting films reflect their creative visions. The youth involved are justifiably proud of their films, but only the time spent with the large number of involved adult mentors enabled them to grow into their roles and responsibilities as directors and to make the most of their creativity.”

Although UCF and Tucson-Pima are student and community-based projects, other vidlit projects are clearly aimed at promoting book purchases.

KidVidLit is designed for parents and youth to view together. According to the site, “Each episode of KidVidLit is designed to whet the appetite of young readers in the same way a movie trailer makes the viewer want to see a movie. The aim is to jump-start young readers. A chapter, a summary, or a few pages of a young reader’s book comes to life with sound, music, and slide-show animation. . . . It makes the child want to finish the story by reading the book and using his or her own imagination.”

Among the titles currently featured are Meg Cabot’s works and Bone by Jeff Smith. Adult and young adult book trailers are featured on VidLit. Some of the YA titles are The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson, and Making It Out Alive Only the Strong! 4 Tales of High School Survival by Mark Grashow.

Book Standard’s 2006 Teen Book Video Awards posted the three winners of last year’s contest, which asked young adult producers to promote popular titles. Among the impressive live-action productions are promotions for Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty, and Meg Rosoff ’s How I Live Now. These serve as great models for future student films. The site currently solicits new student and school participation.

The 2006 Picture Book Video Awards, features David Wiesner’s Caldecott winner, Flotsam.

HarperCollins Canada features thirteen new book trailers, most adult and some appropriate for young adults, along with book and author information. Among the titles are Saving Planet Earth by Tony Juniper, Run by Ann Patchett, The Bad Beginning and The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket, and The Children of H?rin by J. R. R. Tolkien (recreated by Christopher Tolkien).

My own students produced promotional videos for Anthem, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Catcher in the Rye to inspire greater interest in our required readings. We plan to move a bit further through that book list in the coming school year.

For even more online booktalk fodder and examples, search the growing number of student and teacher efforts popping up on Youtube and TeacherTube.

RESOURCES

BookLust. http://www.seattlechannel.org/BookLust.
Book Standard’s Picture Book Video Awards. http://www.thebookstandard.com/bookstandard/events/picture_book_video/index.jsp.
Book Standard’s Teen Book Video Awards. http://www.thebookstandard.com/bookstandard/events/teen_book_video/index.jsp.
Booktalks Quick and Simple. Podcasts: http://nancykeane.com/rss.html.
Audiobooks. http://nancykeane.com/booktalks/audiobook.htm.
Bookwinks. http://www.bookwink.com.
Circle of Seven Productions. http://cosproductions.com.
Great Stone Face Award. http://www.nancykeane.com/booktalks/nh_2007.htm.
HarperCollins Canada Book Trailers. http://www.harpercollins.ca/trailers.
The Harper Perennial Podcast. http://harperperennial.libsyn.com.
Hopkinton High/Middle Schools Isinglass Teen Read Award Booktalks. http://www.hopkintonschools.org/hhs/library/podcast.html.
Isinglass Teen Awards. http://nancykeane.booktalks/nhisinglass_2008.htm.
KidVidLit. http://www.kidvidlit.com/main.
Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust Wiki. http://booklust.wetpaint.com.
New York Times Book Review Podcast. http://www.nytimes.com/ref/books/books-podcast-archive.html.
Orange County Public Library Podcasts. http://oclspodcast.libsyn.com.
The Penguin Podcast. http://us.penguingroup.com/static/html/podcast/index.html.
Pike School Library Readers Circle Booktalks. http://web.mac.com/pikeschool/iWeb/library/Readers%20Circle%20Booktalks/Readers%20Circle%20Booktalks.html.
Pike School Library Read Corner. http://www.pikeschool.org/home/library/readcorner.
Puget Sound Public Radio Reviews. http://www.kuow.org/programs/thebeat_books.asp.
The Runkle School Book Review Podcasts. http://www.runkle.org/Podcasts/index.html.
Scholastic Books Booktalks. http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/tradebooks/booktalks.htm.
Scholastic Harry Potter Podcasts. http://www.scholastic.com/harrypotter/multimedia/podcast.htm.
SimonSays BookVideosTV. http://www.simonsays.com.
SimonSays Pulse Podcasts. http://www.simonsays.com/rss/audio_podcast.xml.
Tuscon-Pima Public Library Teen Trailers. http://www.tppl.org/teenzone/trailers/.
University of Central Florida Digital Booktalk. http://www.digitalbooktalk.com/.
VidLit. http://www.vidlit.com.

Joyce Kasman Valenza is the librarian at Springfield Township High School in Erdenheim, Pennsylvania, and her video series, Internet Searching Skills, was a 1999 YALSA Selected Video for Young Adults. Her newest book is Super Searchers Go to School (Information Today, 2005). Valenza’s Virtual Library won the IASL School Library Web Page of the Year Award for 2001, and her blog won the Edublog Award for 2005. An active member of several professional organizations, she speaks regularly about issues relating to libraries and thoughtful use of educational technology and recently earned a doctoral degree in Information Science at the University of North Texas.
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Linda W. Braun

August 2007

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During the American Library Association Conference in Washington, D.C., in June 2007, I sat down with Kelly Czarnecki to talk about virtual environments such as Second Life and Teen Second Life, in libraries in general and with teens in particular. Czarnecki is an educational technology librarian at the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County in North Carolina and the manager of the Teen Second Life Library Project, “a pilot program exploring the creation of teen library services in a virtual world,” according to its Web site. (See http://plcmc. org/teens/secondlife.asp.) The following is a transcript of our conversation.

LWB: What’s the simplest way of explaining what Second Life is to those who don’t know?
KC: It’s an incredible communications tool. I like to break it down and think about it as just that. We use communications tools all the time—the telephone, Skype, a Web site. It’s another way of connecting with others but it is so much more interactive than a phone call. It’s communications in a world that teens and others get to create on their own.

LWB: What should a librarian serving teens who is brand new to virtual environments do to get started learning about these worlds?
KC: First, librarians might want to learn why they should care about virtual environments. A good place to find that answer is in an article that appeared online in EDUCAUSE CONNECT, 7 Things You Should Know About Virtual Worlds (see “More Resources” at the end of this article). Librarians who already have an understanding of why they should care, and who want to know about virtual worlds other than Second Life might visit a virtual-world travel agency such as Synthravels, and visit other online worlds. (See list of “Virtual Worlds to Investigate” at the end of this article.) Next, get comfortable with what an avatar is—a participant’s online form in a virtual world. Create an avatar and introduce yourself via your avatar on your Web site. (Try these sites to create an avatar: Mii Editor and Yahoo! Avatars in the resources section.) Let teens know that you use the avatar whom you create to represent yourself in virtual worlds. To experience what a virtual world is like, librarians might also want to go to the Second Life site and sign up for an account. Start with personal hobbies and find out what is happening in Second Life related to those hobbies. Also discover what educators are doing in Second Life by either joining the Second Life Educators mailing list or visiting Infoisland (from the Second Life Library Project). Infoisland has eleven islands to visit where you talk to people and see what they are doing. The mailing lists are a good way to put yourself out there. You might write, “Hey, I’m a librarian and I’m trying to figure out what to do with this world. Any ideas?” Among thousands of people on the mailing lists, chances are that someone will have ideas for you about how to get started. The community is really helpful. You shouldn’t feel as if you have to be perfect and know everything when you visit a virtual world for the first time. I have paid attention to John Beck’s book, Got Game: How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping Business Forever (Harvard, 2004). When librarians realize that virtual worlds such as Teen Second Life are places where “real world” valuable skills like those that Beck discusses—including teamwork, taking risks, and creative play—can occur, then it’s worth finding out how adults’ and librarians’ presence in such environments can foster and cultivate these skills.

LWB: What should we say to librarians—particularly librarians who work with teens—to help them understand why they should pay attention to virtual environments?
KC: Gartner, Inc., a technology and research advisory company, predicted in April 2007 that 80 percent of active Internet users will have a “Second Life” (but not necessarily one in Second Life) by 2011. That prediction is supported by the number of virtual worlds being launched in the U.S. and in many other countries. Not only in terms of the future of the Internet but also for future libraries and librarians, we need to ask ourselves if teens have the tools to navigate these spaces. We need to think about whether or not parents and caregivers understand why teens are part of these communities and what they are doing in these spaces. We need to focus on how we as librarians can mediate and add to these experiences and help them to be positive. Many of these worlds have direct connections to online gaming experiences in which teens are already involved. Why not find ways to get into those environments where teens already are, as a library, and see what we can do there? More and more companies are creating space in these environments; these spaces are becoming service points. Why not have the library offer services there as well?

LWB: What are some ways that libraries can get started bringing Second Life or other virtual environments to their customers?
KC: Start with some of the customers’ interests. For example, librarians present genealogy programs in Second Life. Perhaps marketing such programs in the library will help patrons to understand these communities. Find out what is going on in other virtual worlds, such as contests, concerts, and other events. Consider connecting virtual programs to the popular programs that you already provide inside the library. For example, if you have a successful anime club, let teens know about Gaia Online and the creative writing community around it, which will give teens another outlet to express their art and interests. Performing music for an audience might already be part of an open mic night at your library. Find out how to stream audio into Teen Second Life and then you will make it possible for teens across the world to hear a group from your library performing.

LWB: What should we be doing for and with teens when it comes to virtual worlds including Second Life?
KC: We need to be in the virtual worlds to understand the kind of literacy (visual, cultural, etc.) that exists in these environments. We need to build programs off of the events in these worlds. We need to explore the kinds of interactivity that can be accomplished more successfully in virtual worlds than in real life. Often people ask how we bring teens back through virtual environments to our physical space at the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County. I have seen a natural interaction in which teens bring what’s going on in virtual environments to their community. Teens and librarians can exchange knowledge about virtual worlds. For example, when I woke up one morning, I received this Skype message: “Kelly! I created a poster of your library! We won 4th place!” It came from a teen in the U.K. who is an active participant in Teen Second Life. He was inspired to do a class project about my real-life library because I let him know about it when we talk in Teen Second Life. These worlds provide incredible teaching and learning opportunities. No longer are adults standing up in the front of a room to lecture. The virtual environment changes the power dynamics. In virtual worlds, there is no more sitting behind the desk for librarians. We must have conversation with teens, up close and “in your face,” when we meet in these environments. Sometimes if we’re not comfortable with that kind of interaction in real life, this virtual environment can help us feel more comfortable when asking teens questions.

LWB: If a librarian wants to talk to teens about virtual worlds, what kinds of questions should she ask?
KC: At your library, pay attention when you see teens in virtual worlds. Ask them to tell you about the environment that they are visiting. There are commonalities in the way things work in virtual worlds, and you learn the skills to use from one community to another. In the future, avatars will probably be able to travel from one world to another; if you’re a healer in World of Warcraft, for example, you can drop in on Second Life as the same persona. In my experience, teens are willing to invite you into their world to tell you about it and to “friend” you. Teens want to show it to you. It is their world but they like it when adults try to learn to be a part of it.

LWB: I know that you have thought a lot about how virtual environments support the Search Institute’s forty developmental assets. (See http://www.search-institute.org/assets.) Tell me about that.
KC: Well, avatar building has a lot to do with positive identity—including the ability to construct and reconstruct the self through virtual physical appearance. Teens are empowered in virtual worlds through opportunities to be entrepreneurs and to make money by creating and selling products. Teens develop social competencies by building other adult relationships, encountering positive peer influence, and working with people of different backgrounds.

LWB: Do you see teens changing how their avatars look on a regular basis?
KC: Yes and no, some do and some don’t. Teens can create their own hair and clothing whenever they want. They can change every day. Many teens ask for feedback on how their avatar looks. They ask each other for hairstyles (some teens design hair) such as dreadlocks. Some teens take on the opposite gender from the one that they have in real life. The more refined that virtual worlds become, the more teens and adults will probably identify with their avatars and develop them as a way to explore real-life issues.

LWB: Any final words?
KC: I think of the programs that libraries are already doing—fashion shows, cosplays, and so on. Why not start looking at how we can connect what teens are doing in virtual environments with what already goes on in the library? All it takes is getting started and a bit of magic. It doesn’t have to make sense all at once. Suspend your belief about what is possible and give up the idea that you have to be the adult in control. Put on some wings and fly.

What do teens do in Teen Second Life?

• They build places and things. At the Teen Second Life Library, a new Town Hall just went up. The teens are now thinking about how it’s going to be furnished and what it needs to include. There will, of course, be couches and chairs and there might be entertainment venues such as a jazz club. The teens do all the building.
• They script places and things. For example, a teen might want a clock to make sound or give someone the ability to lie down when on a couch. Making those things happen is all in the scripting that teens do themselves.
• They learn about technology, books, people, and more. Recently there was a machinima weekend in Teen Second Life, in which teens learned how to create movies made from screenshots of video games and then showed off their work.
• They hang out with friends. Teen Second Life gives teens a chance simply to talk with friends about various topics such as politics, food, and clothing. It’s a place to be with others and be a part of a group.

A VIRTUAL WORLD GLOSSARY

Avatar: A virtual representation of yourself. In Second Life, Teen Second Life, and many other virtual (and not virtual) games and environments, participants create an avatar whom others see in place of the physical person.
Cosplay: Combines the words “costume” and “role-play” to describe dressing as characters from anime, manga, and other role-playing environments.
Friend: In the virtual world, a friend is someone to whom you give permission to connect with you in some way online. For example, by being friends in the Second Life world, Kelly and Linda can see each other “in world.”
In world: Refers to being logged into Second Life or Teen Second Life.
Machinima: Movies made from screenshots of video games.
Mii: Avatars specifically created as part of the Nintendo Wii gaming system.
Skype: A software program that allows users to make voice calls via their computer instead of the phone.
World ofWarcraft (MMPORPG): A massively multi-player online role-playing game in which players use an avatar to take part in quests.

RESOURCES

Virtual Worlds to Investigate

Gaia Online http://www.gaiaonline.com
Habbo Hotel http://www.habbo.com/hotel
Meez http://www.meez.com/home.dm
MTV’s Virtual World http://www.vmtv.com/help.html
Music Lounge http://www.themusiclounge.com/faces/pages/index.xhtml
Second Life http://www.secondlife.com
Synthravels http://www.synthravels.com
Teen Library in Teen Second Life http://plcmc.org/teens/secondlife.asp
Teen Second Life http://teen.secondlife.com
There http://www.there.com
Whyville http://www.whyville.net
Zwinky http://tinyurl.com/yb229b

More Resources

Gartner Research http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=503861
Infoisland http://www.infoisland.org
Mii Editor http://miieditor.com
Second Life Educators Work with Teens Mailing List https://lists.secondlife.com/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/educatorsandteens
7 Things You Should Know About Virtual Worlds http://connect.educause.edu/library/abstract/7ThingsYouShouldKnow/39392
The New Literacy http://content.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=263
Yahoo! Avatars http://tinyurl.com/3856g4

Linda W. Braun is a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians & Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and other educational institutions. She also teaches for Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her latest book is Teens, Technology, and Literacy; Or Why Bad Grammar Isn’t Always Bad (Libraries Unlimited, 2006). Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.
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Linda W. Braun

June 2007

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Do you know which:

• Republican presidential candidate has the most MySpace friends?
• Democrat presidential candidate receives the most Youtube views?
• candidates running for president use Twitter?
• 2008 presidential candidate is most often written about on blogs?

All answers appear within this article or via the web sites listed at the end. These aren’t trick questions. All the 2008 presidential candidates are using social networking sites to link with their constituents. In the 2004 presidential campaign, Howard Dean was a leader in realizing the influence of the Web as a campaign tool. Now all candidates for the 2008 election are embracing social networking as a powerful way to connect with supporters and potential supporters.

POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS BUILD ASSETS FOR TEENS

Of course, not all teens can vote, but working on campaigns and learning about the political process is a way for them to take steps toward acquiring developmental assets as set out by the Search Institute (http://www.search-institute.org). For example, teens might build the following assets:

• Empowerment: By being part of a candidate’s social networking presence via a comment on a blog, a profile link on a MySpace or Facebook page, or a photostream addition on Flickr.
• Social Competencies: By writing comments on blogs, posting messages and bulletins on MySpace, participating in an election chat session, or finding the best ways to interact with others to get a point across.
• Positive Values: By analyzing what others are saying about candidates on blogs and talking with peers, teachers, librarians, and other adults about views on candidate positions.
• Constructive Use of Time: By logging onto the candidates’ social networking sites and asking questions about their positions, or by keeping track of what’s happening with a candidate on TechPrez or PrezVid.
• Commitment to Learning: By learning what the candidates are all about, and by comparing what’s available directly from the candidates’ social networking resources to information presented through the filter of popular media’s news sources.
• Boundaries and Expectations: By determining what is appropriate to post as a comment or message on a candidate’s social networking site.
• Positive Identity: By connecting directly with candidates via their social networking sites and analyzing their own beliefs in relation to candidates’ positions.
• Support: By learning how a candidate’s positions on issues that relate to their own lives—education, the environment, and so on—will have an impact on their future.

CAMPAIGNS COME ALIVE IN SOCIAL NETWORKS

These newly adopted campaign tools demonstrate the value that social networking can have in teens’ lives, and also give librarians opportunities to help teens become part of the political process. Before discussing how to use the various technologies with teens in the library, I’ll provide a brief rundown of how social networking sites are currently being used in the presidential campaign.

Flickr

On this photo-sharing site, many people post images of candidates at public events. Search for a 2008 presidential candidate’s name on Flickr, and you’ll find an array of candid and non-candid photos of the candidate working crowds, speaking to groups, and so on. Because these photos are not taken by professional photographers, they present a view of the candidates that one normally doesn’t see in popular media or on official Web sites.

MySpace Impact

Here teens can find spaces for many of the current presidential candidates. Each candidate’s space includes blog entries, videos, information on positions, and lots of comments from friends. Interestingly, I found that one candidate, Rudy Giuliani, keeps his space private. The only way that a MySpace user can learn about Giuliani’s stand on issues is by becoming a “friend” of Giuliani.

techPresident

This site offers a great way to keep up on how presidential candidates are using social networking as part of their campaigns. Daily blog postings report on what’s happening in presidential campaigns in the social networking arena. The site includes useful analysis of how candidates are harnessing technology to connect with supporters. Charts, graphs, and tags demonstrate a candidate’s use of and popularity in various social networking sites. For example, techPresident provides statistics on the number of friends that each candidate currently has in MySpace.

PrezVid

Use this blog to keep track of how candidates and the general public are using Youtube to campaign and inform. Its “About” section says that Prezvid tracks “the 2008 election through the eyes of Youtube.” As with Flickr, mentioned above, the amateur videos on Youtube are not those usually seen on major news networks. In the blog postings printed along with links to the Youtube videos, readers of PrezVid can learn a bit about the news behind the video as well as get the Prezvid blogger’s take on what’s happening in the election as a result of technologies such as Youtube.

Twitter

Although John Edwards and Barack Obama are currently the only candidates using Twitter, this tool can inform supporters of the latest news and events in a candidate’s life. In this “global community,” according to its opening page, participants answer “one simple question: What are you doing?” Regularly posted short messages tell people identified as “friends” or “followers” what Edwards and Obama are doing. Twitter messages, known as Tweets, reach followers wherever they go—on the Web, in IM, and via text messaging. For example, as a “follower” of both candidates, I get regular Tweets from each (probably written by staffers) on the Web and on my phone that let me know what each candidate is thinking or where one or the other is speaking.

CAMPAIGNS COME ALIVE FOR TEENS IN LIBRARIES

Keeping in mind this brief overview of how social networking is being used by the candidates, consider the following examples of how the library might integrate presidential candidate social networking into programs and services:

• If your library has a MySpace presence, friend each of the candidates. Then, when a primary or caucus is being held in your state—or a nearby state—place each of the candidates on your “top friends” list.
• Post a MySpace bulletin that invites teens to view the candidates’ MySpace pages. Ask teen participants to comment on your library’s MySpace about what they learned regarding the candidates through these pages.
• Flickr photos and Youtube videos present great opportunities for teens to analyze the images that they regularly see in the media and compare them to images of the same events taken by nonprofessionals. Highlight Flickr candidate photostreams on your library’s MySpace and Web pages. Ask teens to post comments about the messages that the photos send to the voting public.
• For a library podcast, interview teens about how teen use of social networking compares to the way presidential candidates are using the technology.
• The charts, graphs, and raw numbers available on techPresident provide opportunities for discussion about statistics and how numbers work. Ask a math teacher to help students consider what the numbers really say about the popularity of a presidential candidate. For example, do polling numbers report agreement with a candidate’s positions, or do they merely reflect name recognition?
• Work with teens to plan a library program about the use of social networking in politics—an excellent chance for teens to talk to adults about the role of social networking in their lives. As teens plan the program, they would consider why the candidates are using these technologies to connect with voters. They would also think about whether the use of these technologies by politicians is an effective way to connect with the younger voting public—and soon-to-be-voting public—or other groups.

The use of social networking by presidential candidates presents the electorate, including teens, with an entirely new way to be part of the political process. As the election draws near, it’s the perfect time for libraries to lead the way.

RESOURCES MENTIONED

Flickr http://www.Flickr.com
MySpace Impact http://impact.MySpace.com
PrezVid http://prezvid.com
techPresident http://www.techpresident.com
Twitter http://www.Twitter.com
Youtube http://www.Youtube.com

Linda W. Braun is a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians & Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and other educational institutions. She also teaches for Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her latest book is Teens, Technology, and Literacy; Or Why Bad Grammar Isn’t Always Bad (Libraries Unlimited, 2006). Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.
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Joyce Kasman Valenza

April 2007

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Someone’s knocking at the door
Somebody’s ringing the bell
Someone’s knocking at the door
Somebody’s ringing the bell
Do me a favor, open the door and let ’em in

—Paul McCartney

After ten years of maintaining a school library Web site of which I was pretty proud, it struck me that it is time to rethink ownership.

Here’s what I know: Teens who create or collaborate on online spaces are more likely to feel welcome living on them. I see that on my students’ MySpace, Facebook, and Flickr accounts. It makes great sense in a world where learners are used to creating and not merely consuming Web content, as documented by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, “Teen Content Creators and Consumers” (http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/166/report_display.asp). Way back in 2005, the report concluded: American teenagers today are utilizing the interactive capabilities of the Internet as they create and share their own media creations. Fully half of all teens and 57 percent of teens who use the Internet could be considered Content Creators. They have created a blog or Webpage, posted original artwork, photography, stories, or videos online or remixed online content into their own new creations.

So what happens when you open the door and let them in? It’s clearly time to open the school library doors. Opportunities are ripe. On the most basic level, librarians can easily create galleries of student art/work or document library activities using tools like Flickr (http://www.Flickr.com). I asked several students to collaborate in creating a school clip art gallery (http://www.Flickr.com/photos/springfieldtownship). Our curator, Steve, is getting our yearbook photographers to contribute their shots. We have yet to attribute credit and assign labels, but Steve tells me that he’s on top of it. Chris, our Art Gallery curator (http://www.Flickr.com/photos/45367058@N00), plans to add many more examples of student work, improve the shots I took, and encourage artist reflection as time nears for our spring art show.
You can view a steadily growing archive of videos in our new SpringfieldVideoBlog (http://springfieldvideo.edublogs.org). This work is a collaboration involving the library, classroom teachers, and our video production teacher.

Our students contribute to the learning culture by creating their own learning objects through streamed video or podcasts. We now have a grammar and an information literacy series. Students are also working with me to create book trailers for our reading list titles.

Teachers pull these videos up for just-in-time instruction. I use them regularly. And as I wander, I see students viewing their own videos here in the library. Some pull them up just to show their friends.

Students (mostly Ben) recently wrote and produced our new orientation video (http://springfieldvideo.edublogs.org/taxonomy/tags/information-skills/orientation). The library site also now regularly hosts our  latest Springfield broadcast news production. Last month’s show (http://spring fieldvideo.edublogs.org/taxonomy/tags/springfield-news) was particularly filled with honesty and humor. Much more video is coming. The students are working on seven more productions for our grammar series. And I am learning how to convert them to Flash. (They’ll open far more quickly once I get that straight.)

Podcasts are coming, too. Martin posted one on Open Source that we need to tighten a bit. He is also helping me to put my own podcasts together for the site.

We are moving our senior seminar projects to blogs to encourage reflection and make peer and faculty interventions more transparent. You can view examples of our curricular blogs and wikis on our online lessons  page (http://mciu.org/~spjvweb/jvles.html). I am beginning to migrate our pathfinders from html to wiki form to encourage student participation. I want to include student discoveries and suggestions for resources.

I am inspired by the discoveries I make as I visit other school library Web sites. Northfield Mount Hermon’s Reading Room blog (http://nmhlibrary.typepad.com) is all about student users and reaches way beyond  student research needs to celebrate the whole learner, the whole TEEN. It celebrates and includes its student musicians, its student poets, its workers, its readers, and its lounge lizards.

Pam Allan, Associate Director of Academic and Library Resources at Northfield Mount Hermon, says of the student involvement, “Some of it was intentional; some of it was discovery. It’s a continuing experiment. We  knew our library’s Web site had a different mission and audience from the larger school’s Web site.”

Northfield’s traditional site (http://www.nmhschool.org/nmhlibrary/index.php) is clearly effective but fairly serious and curricular. Allan notes that the library’s mission is to serve students and help them with their  research. “We spent a lot of time creating a professional Web site that the school could be proud of, but something was missing, something that would reflect the atmosphere of our library. It’s a kid-centered library.  There’s a lot of work going on. There’s also a lot of fun going on.”

The Reading Room blog (http://nmhlibrary.typepad.com) is clearly a student-centered, friendly space. Allan likes its dual purpose. She sees her work, off- and online, as a kind of guerilla activity. “Isn’t it the nature of  librarians to think of learning as fun? Mixing humor and fun with research is what we’re all about in the library on the Web site.”

Allan started with her Lounge Lizards (http://nmhlibrary.typepad.com/the_reading_room/lounge_lizard_archives/index.html), the regulars who show up every day. “The library is their home base. We started  taking pictures of them and getting quotes. Then I handed the camera to our student workers, who liked doing it. And they got different kinds of quotes. Now the students do it all. They download the photos; they get  the blog entry ready as a draft. I just post it.”Allan notes that the Lounge Lizard area has become so popular that kids now just come in and say,“Hey, I’ve never been Lounge Lizard of the Week!”

Northfield’s Acoustic Friday (http://nmhlibrary.typepad.com/the_reading_room/acoustic_fridays/index.html) started a couple years ago. Allan noticed students sitting outside the library with their guitars—“just  some low-key musicians playing for their friends.” When the weather got cold, she looked for a good time to let them in. “We close at five on Fridays and so we decided to invite them to play during the quiet time  between four and five.” Allan promoted these events on the Web site. The school’s Webmaster asked about recording them. Now students film and record Acoustic Friday performances and the Webmaster posts them  as podcasts.

Posts in Northfield’s blog feature student reviews of books, CDs, and DVDs. Sometimes the students read the books. Sometimes Allan just asks students “to go to the new books rack and try to find the book they’d most  like to read if they had the time.We advertise these reviews through e-mail. We want the students to say, ‘Look at what so-and-so is reading or wants to read.’ Students may be more likely to check out what another kid is reading.”

Northfield posts photos and profiles of its Library Workjob Crew (http://nmhlibrary.typepad.com/photos/library_workjob_0506/index. html). “We ask them to say something they’d like the school to know about  them or their work in the library.” The site includes student art exhibits as well as winning entries from its yearly poetry contest, a blog-promoted event.Winners of the library’s “very silly”Hoggers in Literature  Diorama Contest (http://nmhlibrary.typepad.com/the_reading_room/contest/index.html) are also featured.

Allan plans to increase student participation. Northfield students are currently involved in helping her to create an online research tutorial. She is planning a student column on the blog and she hopes to post images  of an upcoming ALA-inspired contest. Keep an eye on the Reading Room blog for the results of Northfield’s Pimp Your Bookcart Contest.

At the Runkle School in Brookline,Massachusetts, librarian Teresa Gallo-Toth and Educational Technology Specialist Elizabeth B. Davis collaborate with classroom teachers to post student book review podcasts  (http://www.runkle.org/Podcasts/index.html). Right now, you can listen to book reviews by second, seventh, and eighth graders. But Gallo-Toth and Davis plan to engage the entire K–8 school. Davis says, “The first  graders are almost done, and third graders are starting soon. I am hoping that this will become a resource for students looking for a good book. Eventually we want to accept podcasts from other students and  teachers—not just at our school—and post them to our site.”

In New York state, Greece Athena Media Center’s Web site (http://www.greece.k12.ny.us/ath/library) features student book reviews and ratings on its supplementary Athena Blogs! (http://www.greece.k12.ny.us/ath/library/blogs/index.htm). At University Laboratory High School (Uni) in Urbana, Illinois, students participate in a long-running Book Discussion Forum (https://www.uni.uiuc.edu/bbs/viewforum.php?f=5).  Uni librarian Frances Jacobson Harris fills her own Gargoyles Loose in the Library blog (http://www.uni.uiuc.edu/library/blog/index.html) with images of and stories about her students. Naples High School Media  Center in Florida also features images of learners as well as student poems, photos, and art (http://www.collier.k12.fl.us/nhs/lmc). Lawrence High School Library in Kansas has a site (http://library.lhs.usd497.org/home.html ) filled with posters featuring students and photos of student events. The LHS blog (http://lawrencehighschoollibrary .blogspot.com) posts student reviews.

So where does all this school library door opening fit in with larger educational trends? Despite moves to prevent student access to social networking tools (the Deleting Online Predators Act or DOPA, for instance),  other evidence endorses trends towards engaging learners  in interactive online space. SchoolSpan, an organization specializing in school public relations, recently proposed a national rubric for school sites, “Building  locks to Electronic Communication” (http://fetc.jssinc.com/release-exh/SchoolSpanRubricFETC.pdf). The rubric values contributions from faculty and students, images of students, and the inclusion of  student work. The instrument’s description of an exemplary site concludes with this statement: “The community-at-large feels empowered as active stakeholders . . . the site reflects that ongoing communication  objective.”

All this interaction makes great sense in a Web 2.0 world. It puts front and center the kind of learning highlighted in the recently released NETS Refreshed (National Educational Technology Standards) draft  (http://www.iste.org/Template.cfm?Section=NETS_Refresh_Forum_Meetings&Template=/ContentManagement/Content Display.cfm&ContentID=16084&MicrositeID=0). The revised technology standards encourage learning based on Creativity and Innovation; Communication and Collaboration; Research and Information Retrieval; Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making; and Digital Citizenship.

Should we lock learners and their creativity out of the very spaces where they spend the largest part of their days? I think it’s time to open our doors and let ’em in.

Joyce Kasman Valenza is the librarian at Springfield Township High School in Erdenheim, Pennsylvania, and is also writing her doctoral dissertation. Find her Web site at http://mciu.org/~spjvweb. Her latest book is Power Tools Recharged: 125+ Essential Forms and Presentations for Your School Library Information Program (ALA Editions, 2004).
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Linda W. Braun

February 2007

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Recently I visited several dozen libraries in New York State to see what was up with their teen services. Not surprisingly, the level of service for teens among these libraries varied, along with the level of technology available to teens. Even those libraries with a fully staffed, separate teen space that covered an impressive  square footage didn’t provide technology options beyond desktop computers tethered to special furniture.

This experience got me thinking: What would be the perfect technology and technology space for teens in the library? As I reflected, I also asked librarians who work with teens what their dream would be for teen technology in their libraries. We came up with the features that follow.

Wireless Internet access

In my neighborhood, Starbucks, McDonald’s, and parks—places heavily used by teens—all have wireless Internet access. Why is wireless important for teen-friendly spaces? Because it means that teens can access Internet content by using the technology that manyof them already have. It means that they can use wireless-enabled phones, gaming systems, and other devices to hook into the Net. It means that they don’t have to use the library’s technology to get what they want when they want it in the library. No more signing up to usethe computers. No more time limits. No more dealing with library rules about downloading, viewing, and listening. It’s the teen’s own hardware and software, so he or she can use it in any way desired. When teens have their own wirelessly connected technology in the library, the space becomes more flexible, turning into an Information Commons for research and socialization.

Laptops

If teens don’t have their own laptops to access the Net wirelessly, then  they should be able to use the library’s laptops. With laptops for teens, the library space opens up in ways that might not have been previously imaginable. For example, if your teen space currently has big desktop computers with large monitors and boxes, they can’t be moved to a comfortable location. With laptops, teens can sit where they want and make themselves at home.

Flexible and comfortable furniture

A few months ago, I visited the Memorial Sloan Kettering CancerCenter Library in New York City to see what they had done to create a successful technology space. One of my favorite features was the comfortable lounge chairs strategically placed throughout the small facility. What made those chairs particularly appealing was their foldout desks, which meant that library customers could use the chairs in a formal or informal way—with laptops on their laps or on pullout desks.

Collaborative furniture

When asked about her dreams for technology in a library space,Sarah Kline Morgan at the Cheshire Public Library in Connecticut responded, “Have the computers positioned with enough spacebetween to allow for group use.” One of my favorite collaborative spaces for technology-based work is at Mt. Holyoke College in theirInformation Commons. In this space are semi-oval tables with threeor four chairs around them. At the straight side of each table is a large-screen monitor. At the rounded end is a keyboard. Several students can sit at the table comfortably, show and discuss their work on the large screen, and move the keyboard around so that no one student must do all the typing. When I brought a group of teens to the Information Commons, they ran to sit at the collaborative workstations—even though they weren’t visiting the library to get work done. They wanted to look at the computer screen together,  show each other cool stuff, and talk about it. It was a perfect chance for informal collaboration.

Outlets

A library director recently complained to me that her customers came to the library expecting to be able to recharge their devices. Iwas surprised that she didn’t think that recharging was a service that the library should willingly provide to the community. Although wireless means that teens can connect to the Internet without a cable, it doesn’t mean that their technology doesn’t need to be periodically recharged. Don’t be stingy with the electricity or outlets in your teenspace.Make sure that teens can plug in all their devices—laptops, cell  phones, and so on. Invest in power strips and extension cords if you must. You might even want to purchase a recharging station with ports for all different types of devices. (Hammacher Schlemmer  currently carries such a station for $24.95—it recharges three devices at once.)

Multimedia software and hardware

All the librarians with whom I discussed technology spaces mentioned the importance of giving teens access to technology for creating multimedia projects, including podcasts, movies, and photo albums. According to Stephanie Iser, a librarian with the Kansas City Public Library, “At least one Macintosh should be purchased for . . .the creation of videos,music, and animation. Although these types of activities can take place on PCs, the Macintosh software is more user friendly and allows for teens to focus on the media project rather than be bogged down with the details of figuring out a program.” At the Public Library of Charlotte Mecklenberg in North Carolina, teens record audio in the library’s podcasting booth. (See a picture of the booth in On Air at the Library: Teens Sound Off Through Podcasting by James Murdock, VOYA December 2006, page 403.) Teens in Charlotte Mecklenberg can also create animation in the library’sstudio,which is set up for digital moviemaking.

If MACs with the iLife suite of products for creating multimediaare not available for teens in your library, your computers should beloaded with other content-creation software. These products include Photoshop (or Photoshop Elements, the lighter version), an HTML coding tool such as Dreamweaver, an audio-editing product such as Audacity, and a moviemaking tool such as Adobe Premiere Elements.Because content creation is a huge part of teen lives, it’s a necessarypart of high-quality service.

Not only should a library provide the hardware and software forteens to create their own content, it should also provide teens with theability to download photos and other media from their cell phones orother devices to library computers. In that way, teens can use the library’s software to manipulate content created outside the library.

Peripherals: color printers, digital cameras (still and video), and scanners

Most libraries have printers, but are color printers available for teens? Morgan and Iser say that having color printers would be beneficial;Stephanie has heard teens ask for color prints of the documents they need. Although color printers and their ink cost more than blackand-white printing (but not as much as they used to), part of the costcan be defrayed by charging for color prints.

Many teens love to take photos. Having a digital camera (video or still) is key. Images from the camera can be downloaded to library or  personal computers and manipulated using the hardware and software provided. At the Public Library of Charlotte Mecklenberg,teens are able to upload photos from the library’s digital camera for use in Web-page-building classes. Don’t forget that you can also offer classes on filmmaking with the library’s digital video camera. Teens love to upload their work to Youtube.

At this point, scanners might seem like an old technology, but theyshouldn’t be ignored. Perhaps a teen has photo prints from when heor she was younger, and would like to create a photo album online.The library comes to the rescue with the scanner, the computerhardware, and software.

Gaming consoles

Whether it’s Xbox 360, Playstation 2 or 3, the Nintendo Wii, or someother platform, the technology to which teens have access in thelibrary should include a gaming console, along with games andperipherals. Gaming is an important part of many teen lives, enjoyedin groups and individually. It promotes learning, teamwork, criticalthinking, and problem solving—all kinds of growth that the librarywants to support.

Large-screen TV

A large-screen TV can be used to show commercial movies as well asto project games and display media projects developed by teens.

Staff who know how to use the technology

It’s not fair to teens or library staff to provide all this great technologywithout making sure that the staff has an understanding of what it isand how it works.Without this knowledge, both teens and staff willbecome frustrated.When obtaining technology for teens, keep librarystaff informed throughout selection, purchasing, and setup processes,about why the library is making the technology available for teensand what it will be. Talk to the teens, asking them to help educate and train staff about the technology. Be sure to be proactive instead ofreactive when it comes to this kind of staff development.

Technology just for teens

Face it—sharing is sometimes difficult. When a library doesn’t haveenough technology to go around, it can be hard for everyone—teens,adults, and children—to share.Whenever possible, having computersand other devices just for teens makes things easier. Do what you canto obtain teen-only technology for your library.

TAKE THE FIRST STEP

Of course it’s not possible to have the perfect teen space instantly,with the perfect complement of technology. Yet it’s important to startsomewhere. Look at these suggestions and think about what you canactually make happen in your library. If cost is a factor, look forfunding from outside sources. Don’t just focus on the tried-and-truelibrary grant funders. What businesses or organizations in yourcommunity have a technology focus? Perhaps they can help you toget your teen technology up and running.The first step that you take in providing technology to teens isimportant. It will show teens, your colleagues, and the communitythat you respect the role that technology plays in teen lives. Ask theteens in your community what technologies they would like to see inthe library. Talk to them about the best way to implement thetechnology so that it meets their needs as well as the needs of thelibrary. Work with the teens on ground rules, policies, or guidelinesthat the library must develop for new and existing teen technology. Getting teens involved in the process will improve your chances ofsuccess with them and with the community at large.

RESOURCES MENTIONED

Adobe Premiere Elements http://www.adobe.com/products/premiereel.

Audacity http://audacity.sourceforge.net.

Dreamweaver http://www.adobe.com/products/dreamweaver.

iLife http://www.apple.com/ilife.

Recharging Station Hammacher Schlemmer http://www.hammacher.com/publish/72388.asp?promo=ho_communication.

Linda W. Braun is a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians & Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and other educational institutions. She also teaches for Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her latest book is Teens, Technology, and Literacy; Or Why Bad Grammar Isn’t Always Bad (Libraries Unlimited, 2006). Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.
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Linda W. Braun

December 2006

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A few weeks ago, I led a workshop at which the librarians in attendance repeatedly complained about their inability to keep up with information on trends in libraries and in technology. They said that they needed someone else to filter out what was unimportant, select the information worthy of their attention, and send it their way. Again and again, they claimed that they didn’t have time to keep up with trends and ideas. When I finally couldn’t take it anymore, I said, “You are all adults. You need to take responsibility for keeping up with information that is important to you in your professional life. I know that information is sent to you regularly by national, regional, and state agencies, and you are not paying attention. So get over it and take charge.”

KEEPING UP WITH RSS FEEDS

After my little rant, I explained how using technology, specifically RSS (Really Simple Syndication), can help librarians keep up. Technology-driven RSS tools save time in our information-gathering process. Ultimately  I demonstrated how RSS changed my life through the way that I collect information—and it could change their lives, too. I included RSS in my August 2005 Tag Team Tech column, Playing Keep Up with Emerging  Technologies. Since then, RSS has gained in popularity, yet it still isn’t widely used by librarians. I’m not sure why, because using RSS is easy. Here’s what it takes:

• An RSS reader in which you subscribe to and read RSS feeds. (The feed is the file that keeps track of information on a Web site and knows when something new should go out to subscribers.) One simple and easy-to-use  SS reader is Bloglines, in which you set up an account, add feeds, and start reading. Because Bloglines is Web-based, it doesn’t matter what computer you use. You can always access your feeds by going to  the Bloglines Web site and logging in.

• The address of the feed to which you want to subscribe. You can find this address by clicking on the RSS, Subscribe, or XML link on a blog or Web site. Copy the URL of the page that opens when you click that link, and  hen paste that URL into a feed reader such as Bloglines.

Once you are subscribed to an RSS feed, whenever new information appears on the blog or Web site of that feed, the headline with its content shows up in the feed reader. A click on the headline opens the entire  article.You don’t need to visit the blog or site to see if something new is posted. The information comes directly to your feed reader. That’s one time-saver right there.

Here’s another time-saver: It’s possible to create a very organized and specific information world with RSS feed subscriptions. For example, I subscribe to RSS feeds for the topics that are most important to me in my  professional and personal life. I subscribe to the Ypulse feed to keep up with what’s going on in teen media. I  subscribe to the Young Adult Library Services Association’s (YALSA) Teen Tech Week wiki feed to find out  when something new about social networking or Teen Tech Week (debuting March 4 to 10, 2007) is posted. I subscribe to the Engadget feed to find out what’s going on with technology gadgets. No longer must I go  hunting for this information, which comes to me regularly. I don’t worry about not knowing when something happens about which I should be aware. Because I subscribe to feeds that cover my needs and interests, I   feel comfortable that I’ll know what’s new and what’s news.

PODCAST SUBSCRIPTIONS

Subscribing to text feeds isn’t the only way to keep up. Podcasts—audio files downloaded onto computers—also are distributed through RSS as another powerful tool for finding out what’s going on in libraries,  technology, and the world. You can use Bloglines to subscribe to and listen to podcasts. Or you can use iTunes or Juice to subscribe to podcasts, download them to your computer, and transfer them to a portable  media device such as an iPod. The tool that you use for subscribing to podcasts is called a podcatcher.

Featuring the same information-source benefits as text-based RSS, podcasts have an additional advantage. If you have a portable media device, it’s possible to listen to podcasts away from the computer and while  doing other activities. For example, I listen to podcasts while walking to and riding on the subway. I listen while driving to teach a class in Boston. I listen while doing dishes and making the bed. In other words, I can  gather information through podcasts at odd and not so odd times in the day.

Podcasts come in a variety of up-to-the-minute topics that have the same keep-up value as text-based RSS feeds. A podcast such as net @ night is perfect for keeping up with new technologies and technology news.  Distributing the Future helps me think about trends in technology and their impact on the world at large. Podcasts for Teachers gives me a chance to learn about technology within an educational context.

VIDEO PODCASTS

Subscribing to media isn’t just about audio anymore. For some time now, video podcasts (sometimes called VLOGs, vidcasts, or vodcasts) have been available for subscription, via a podcatcher, and are downloadable  to a computer or portable media device. These video podcasts come in a variety of genres and are a great way to keep up. As with text, video requires sitting still to watch. I certainly can’t watch video podcasts while  driving or making the bed, but I can watch them while on the subway or when waiting for a meeting or movie to start.

Cranky Geeks is a video podcast that focuses on technology news. MacBreak is perfect for learning about tools and software for a computer. Hope Is Emo provides a humorous look at teens who are part of the Emo  culture.

YOUR OWN WORLD OF INFORMATION

RSS feeds, podcasts, and video casts really have changed my life. I rely on my little world of information that keeps me up-to-date in the areas that are important to me. If I need to keep track of something new, I find a  feed (text, audio, or video) and subscribe to it.When I no longer must pay attention to a topic, I delete its feeds from my reader and podcatcher. My information world grows and changes; I’m secure in knowing that I have what I need when I need it.

You too can keep up with the news, trends, and technologies that are important for librarians working with teens. Start by getting a Bloglines account and subscribing to the feeds and podcasts listed in this article.  Then check with others to discover and explore what they subscribe to. Ask the teens with whom you work what their favorite subscriptions are. And start looking for the subscribe links on the Web sites and blogs that  you regularly visit.

Technology can help you organize and manage information gathering. It can save time. All you have to do is use it. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you what’s hot and what’s not. Go out and take care of yourself.

RESOURCES MENTIONED

Bloglines http://www.bloglines.com
Cranky Geeks http://www.crankygeeks.com
Cranky Geeks Video Podcast Feed http://rssnewsapps.ziffdavis.com/audioblogs/crankygeeks/cg.audio.xml
Distributing the Future http://www.oreillynet.com/future
Distributing the Future Podcast Feed http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/feed/37?format=rss2
Engadget http://www.engadget.com
Engadget Feed http://www.engadget.com/rss.xml
Hope Is Emo http://www.hopeisemo.com
Hope Is Emo Video Podcast Feed http://feeds.feedburner.com/HopeIsEmo
iTunes http://www.itunes.com
Juice http://juicereceiver.sourceforge.net
MacBreak http://www.twit.tv/MB
MacBreak Video Podcast Feed http://macbreakipod.libsyn.com/rss
net @ night http://natn.tv
net @ night Podcast Feed http://leoville.tv/podcasts/itn.xml
Podcast for Teachers http://podcastforteachers.com
Podcast for Teachers Podcast Feed http://www.podcastforteachers.org/feed.xml
Teen Tech Week Wiki http://teentechweek.wikispaces.com
Teen Tech Week Wiki Feed http://teentechweek.wikispaces.com/space/xmla?v=rss_2_0
YPulse http://www.ypulse.com
YPulse Feed http://ypulse.com/index.xml

Linda W. Braun is a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians & Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and other educational institutions. She also teaches for Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her latest book is Teens, Technology, and Literacy; Or Why Bad Grammar Isn’t Always Bad (Libraries Unlimited, 2006). Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.
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Joyce Kazman Valenza

October 2006

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At our state leadership conference this summer, the theme was paradigm shift. The goal was to think outside the box to build a new strategic plan for school libraries in our state. Early in the meeting, a librarian in her twenties asked a question about change. Her honest voice continues to resonate with me. Here is the essence of her question: I am recently out of library school, and from what I can see, we’re all
doing different stuff. The other school librarians I know are not doing what I am doing. Some don’t even know about the state databases. Some maintain Web sites and blogs; others do not. Some have seriously retooled; others have not. What should we be planning for? What does a twenty-first-century librarian look like? How do we know what we are really supposed to be doing now?

This young librarian’s question got me thinking about how incredibly dramatic the change has been since I first got out of library school in 1976, and then when I had to do that Masters over again for my educational credential in 1988.Yet the changes occurring between 1976 and 1988, when the personal computer and automation were becoming ubiquitous in libraries, had nothing on the changes that we have seen in the last two years.

My reflection continued. Within a couple days of our state conference, David Warlick raised the question of library obsolescence in his blog. Colleague Kathy Schrock turned me on to a provocative document, The Future of Libraries: Beginning the Great Transformation (http://www.davinciinstitute.com/page.php?ID=120), by Thomas Frey, Executive Director of the Da Vinci Institute. He identifies ten key trends that “give clear insight into the rapidly changing technologies and equally fast-changing mindset of library patrons.”

Much of what I am reading these days urges me to consider libraries and change. The public library blogs—Jenny Levine’s Shifted Librarian (http://www.theshiftedlibrarian.com), Stephen Abrams’s Stephen’s Lighthouse (http://stephenslighthouse.sirsi.com), and Michael Stephens’s Tame the Web (http://tametheweb.com), to name just a few—reflect on the changes now labeled Library 2.0.

My personal vision is very clear. In school libraries, we can do a lot more for learners.We have a unique opportunity to offer customized, 24/7, just-in-time, relevant, and authentic service and instruction—but only if we retool. It is not an option but an urgent need. Teacherlibrarians cannot expect to assume a leadership role in information technology and instruction, and we cannot claim any credibility with students, faculty, or administrators, if we do not recognize and thoughtfully exploit the paradigm shift of the past two years.

I began the following list as a blog post and it just kept growing. I welcome your comments and additions.

You know you’re a twen ty-first-century teacher-librarian if . . .

1. You ensure that your learners and teachers can access developmentally appropriate and relevant databases, portals, and Web sites. If teacher-librarians don’t work toward this goal, we will contribute to the  development of an information underclass. You are considering federated search solutions for organizing these growing resources.

2. You organize the Web for learners. You create signage and guides for new additions to your “collection.” You are investigating the role of informal tagging and folksonomies in helping users to access materials. You  have the skills to create a blog or a Web site to pull together resources to meet the information needs of your learning community. You consider moving your pathfinders to blogs and wikis, opening them to students  and teachers for collaboration and comments.

3. You think outside the box about the concept of “collection.” Your collection and your students’ best resources might now include e-books, audiobooks, blogs, open-source software, streaming media, wikibooks,  and much more! You create guides and search tools for these resources.

4. You are thinking about the interactive services that you might provide online. You are planning to post your materials suggestion forms, book reviews, and calendar online.

5. You partner with classroom teachers to consider new interactive, collaborative, and engaging communication tools for student projects. You think Web 2.0 for learners. You know the potential that new  technologies offer learners as both information consumers and producers. You are exploring the pedagogical uses of digital storytelling, wikis, podcasts, streaming video, and student-produced learning objects as  possibilities beyond paper and PowerPoint. You continually think about the best possible communication tool for a particular project and how you might use the new tools for teaching, practicing, and reflecting on information fluency.

6. You consider just-in-time, just-for-me, blended learning your responsibility and are proud that you own the real estate of one desktop window on your students’ home computers, 24/7. You are planning learner- centered, learnerempowered landscapes and are becoming the knowledge-management center of your school. You collect and share the learning tools that your community is most likely to need and you post them in  the most effective possible media formats.

7. After reading Tom Friedman’s The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2006), the bible for twenty-first-century change, you wonder what exactly it is you do that might  be better done by Google or by Bob or Tiffany in Bangalore. You plan and implement customized services that will not, cannot be outsourced to Bangalore.

8. You consider your role as info-technology scout.  You look to make “learning sense” of the authentic new information and communication tools used in business and academics. You figure out how to use them   thoughtfully and you help classroom teachers use them with their classes. You invite learners to help you in this exploration.

9. You consider ways to bring experts, scholars, authors, and other classrooms into your library and your school using telecommunication tools like Skype and Internet2. You seek partnerships with local universities  to help you establish connections.

10. You grapple with issues of equity. You provide open-source software alternatives and Web-based applications to students and teachers who need them. (Here’s a starter list: http://mciu.org/~spjvweb/opensource.html.) You lend flash sticks and laptops and cameras and whatever else it takes to achieve digital equity.

11. You consider new ways to promote reading. You are exploring downloadable audiobooks. You are investigating lending iPods for e-books. You (and your students) are creating digital booktalks. (See examples  here: http://mciu.org/~spjvweb/movietrailers.html.) Your literature circles meet with other classrooms around the country or world through telecommunications.

12. You are rethinking the concept of library space. “Library” may become less book space and more creative-production and experience-sharing space. You respond to the increasing need for group creative- production space—iMovie, podcasting, blogging. You recognize “library” as group planning/collaborating space, “library” as performance and presentation space, “library” as event-central for telecommunications  and remote author/expert visits, while “library” continues as study/reading/gathering space.

13. You model respect for intellectual property in a world of shift and change. You share examples for documenting new types of media. You insist on appropriate documentation for media in all formats and recognize  he growing number of copyright-friendly p ortals. (Here’s a starter list from our Web site: http://mciu.org/~spjvweb/cfimages.html.) You understand the new, flexible protections and freedoms made  possible by  Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org) licensing, and use its resources to find copyright-friendly video, audio, images, and more. You point to tools like Get Creative, a video describing the  White Stripes’ approach to sharing their music without intermediaries (http://mirrors.creativecommons.org/ getcreative), to help explain the new licensing concepts to learners, educators, and content creators.

14. You know that now is only the beginning of social networking. Students will get to their MySpace accounts through proxy servers despite any efforts to block them. You plan educationally meaningful ways to incorporate student excitement (and your own) for social networking.

15. You recognize your iPod as way more than a tool for exercising to music or passing time by listening to music. (Contributed by Catherine Nelson, Northside Elementary School of the Arts, Rock Hill, South Carolina.)

16. You read both edtech journals and edtech blogs, not just the print literature of our own profession. Blogs publish professional news and new strategies before they can travel through the traditional publishing   process; they are essential strategies for keeping up as a professional.

17. You seek professional development that will help you grow even if you cannot get official credit for that growth. Learning happens between annual conferences. You attend conferences without traveling—by    viewing and listening to keynotes online. You use tools like David Warlick’s Hitchhikr to visit conferences that you cannot physically attend.

18. You do not take “no” for an answer when a network administrator or technology director refuses to support a pedagogically sound activity. You seek a way to get to “yes” if learners will benefit.

19. You are flexible and recognize that your growth as a professional cannot stop and that you may learn from unexpected others.You ask your students to help you master additional skills. You engage learners in  helping to create learning materials. (Our students began  creating learning objects to share with fellow learners this year. Seehttp://mciu.org/~spjvweb/infoskillsvideo.html.Much more to come.)

20. Even if you are a digital immigrant, you learn the language of digital natives AND you consider what you want to unpack from the trunk that you carried from the old world. Rigor and information fluency matter,  no matter the medium. So do excitement, engagement, and enthusiasm.

Joyce Kasman Valenza is the librarian at Springfield Township High School in Erdenheim, Pennsylvania, and is also writing her doctoral dissertation. Find her Web site at http://mciu.org/~spjvweb. Her latest  book is Power Tools Recharged: 125+ Essential Forms and Presentations for Your School Library Information Program (ALA Editions, 2004).
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Keeping Secrets

Linda W. Braun

August 2006

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When I started to think about writing a column on how—and if—teens keep personal information private  in a social networking world, I was certain that because of the integration of Web-based networks in teens’ lives,  concepts of privacy are changing. It seemed to me that if teens are online talking with friends and posting information about themselves, they obviously do not have the same sense of privacy as I—and other adults—do. Yet by the time I put together my research for this column, I realized that my initial assumptions might not be correct.

My change of mind started when I had an IM (Instant Message) session with Shelby, a fifteen-year-old girl I know. When I asked Shelby what privacy meant to her, it was difficult for her to explain. But when we  chatted, I found out that she was pretty savvy about the world of online privacy. Shelby told me that she doesn’t sign up for a site unless it has a privacy policy, and she thinks that teens should keep their spaces on My Space private.

Shelby’s comments reminded me of the testimony of Chris Kelly, Facebook’s Vice-President of Corporate Development and Chief Privacy Officer, at the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) hearings in July before a  Congressional Committee. Kelly discussed Facebook’s methods for keeping user information private and for keeping users safe. “We put power in our users’ hands to make choices about how they reveal information,” he said. “The ‘My Privacy’ tab on every  navigation bar throughout the site allows users to make detailed choices about who can see particular pieces of information about them, including their contact information and photos.”

Facebook gives users choices. Shelby knows she has those choices. Teens need to learn about making good choices. The options that online social networks provide are good tools for helping teens learn how to make  smart decisions about what to keep private, what not to keep private, and why privacy is important.

I asked Shelby if she was unique among her friends when it comes to keeping her privacy online. She said “yes” and “no.” Some of Shelby’s friends are sensible when it comes to using online sites and keeping personal  information confidential. Some are less cautious.

This state of affairs isn’t so different from anything else that teens (and adults) deal with in the day-to-day world. Some are more sharp than others about what’s right, smart, and safe—and what’s not. I also asked  Shelby if she and her friends ever talk about the topic of online privacy.With her closest friends, she will broach the topic, but she doesn’t discuss it with more casual friends. Here’s an example of Shelby being smart  about her own privacy. Only those with whom she feels really comfortable get to know her inner thoughts about privacy and social networking.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (2006) has three entries in its definition of privacy:

1 a : the quality or state of being apart from company or observation : SECLUSION b : freedom from unauthorized intrusion; “one’s right to privacy”
2 archaic : a place of seclusion
3 a : SECRECY b : a private matter : SECRET

When people talk about privacy in today’s world of the Internet, the third definition is the one, I think, that most comes to mind. Our first thought is the ability and/or desire to keep things secret. That’s what Shelby is  up to when she does or doesn’t talk with friends about the personal information that is or isn’t posted online. It’s hard to imagine teens keeping things private in the world of My Space and blogs. But as Shelby let me  know, they are. So what do teens keep secret? Once again, it depends. Anyone who has been on My Space knows that some teens only give a pseudonym and don’t show any realistic pictures of themselves. Others put  everything out there for the world to see. Again, some teens are being smart and some are not—just like adults.

Listening to testimony at the DOPA hearings from Amanda Lenhart of the Pew Internet in American Life Project, I found more insight on how teens are making decisions about posting personal information online.  Lenhart talked about middle school students who had recently been a part of focus groups sponsored  by the Pew Project. In these groups, teenage girls in particular articulated their knowledge and concerns about  online safety. “Time and again, these teens detailed their concerns about online predators and the steps they took to keep themselves safe,” Lenhart said. “Other times, the teens in our groups said they would post false  ges on their sites. Often they would say they were younger than they actually were because privacy protections at some social  network sites are stronger for younger users. Finally these teens told us that they  are more aware now of the dangers of posting information in their profiles that might help lurkers find them.” Lenhart’s testimony prompted these thoughts:

• First, I was reminded once more that teens are smarter than we give them credit for being. They often know what it takes to keep safe. (They don’t always take the steps that they should for safety, but they do know  what’s required—just like adults.)

• Second, teens use safety techniques that adults might not have considered. For example, I’m always talking to preteens about not being able to sign up for Web sites until they are thirteen, because it’s a way to keep  them safe while online. But I have not talked to teens about posing as younger than they really are. As far as I know, teens came up with that idea—and it’s pretty smart.We don’t want to teach teens to lie, but within the  online privacy and safety context, it’s not a bad method for staying safe.

• Third, I was reminded of my chat with Shelby.When I asked her if teachers or others in school ever talked to her about privacy online, she said, “Never.” But the teens in Lenhart’s project are more aware of dangers  related to giving out personal  information. That awareness might be coming from school, family, or friends, but in any case, it’s good to know that teens are learning how to protect their personal information online. Recently I had the opportunity to hear a district attorney for a New York county talk to a group of librarians about what the teens with whom she works know about how to maintain privacy online. She mentioned that  teens often post information that they think is innocuous on a site such as My Space, without realizing that it might provide a dangerous opening for someone else. Yet Lenhart’s testimony offers hope that teens are  learning that nothing online is innocuous and that it’s important to think carefully about what one reveals to the world.

Shelby and the teens in the Pew Project are some of the first to spend their entire teen years in anonline, socially networked world. They are learning about online privacy with the rest of us.

Future teens will have the benefit of learning through the experiences of contemporary teens and adults. I’m no longer so certain that our definitions of privacy will change as a result of online social networking.  Instead I think that we are just learning what it means to be private in an online world. Once we educate ourselves, privacy will mean much the same as it does today. Of course, you can check back with me in about  twenty years.

RESOURCES MENTIONED

Deleting Online Predators Act Hearings http://energycommerce.house.gov/108/Hearings/07112006hearing1974/hearing.htm
Facebook http://www.Facebook.com
Merriam-Webster Dictionary http://www.m-w.com
My Space http://www.MySpace.com
Pew Internet in American Life Project http://www.pewinternet.or

Linda W. Braun is a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians & Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and  other educational institutions. She also teaches for Lesley University and Simmons College. Her latest book   is Technically Involved: Technology-Based Youth Participation Activities for Your Library (ALA Edit ions,  2003.) Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.
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Linda W. Braun

June 2006

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Recently I overheard someone ask, “Who needs TV anymore when you have Youtube?” Since the question was raised, I have been checking in with teens to discover their take on watching video on the Web and/or a  computer. No surprise—teens are very much into Youtube and similar services.When I mentioned Youtube in passing to a group of teens in a public library, they gave me a list of at least fifteen Youtube videos that they said I had to watch.

What is Youtube? It’s a Web site where anyone can upload their homemade videos for others to view. For a long time, it has been possible to use Web-based photo-sharing services—Flickr is currently one of the most  popular. Now Youtube makes it very easy to share video content via the Web.

Homemade content isn’t all that’s available on the site. A visitor can type in the name of an anime character and find clips from that anime, or type the name of an independent band to access videos of performances  by that band. It’s sometimes possible to type in a Saturday Night Live actor’s name and find a recent skit in which he or she appeared (until NBC realizes that the skit is available on Youtube and sends a take-down  order to the site).

Teens tell me that they are excited by the ability to search Youtube for people, movies, books, and other topics in which they are interested. They love the instant access, and they love finding that others around the  world hold their same interests. Teens in Idaho, New York, and Nevada all might find the same Youtube video humorous.

In his Your Tube, Whose Dime? article, Dan Frommer wrote: “The Web lets users watch whatever they want, whenever they want to watch it. So what do they want to see? A homemade video of two boys lip-synching  along to the Pokémon television theme song. Internet  video site Youtube has streamed the video more than 9.5 million times in the last four months, making it the site’s most-watched movie. Startup of the moment Youtube, which garnered 12.9 million unique visitors in March, doesn’t care what viewers watch, as long as they keep tuning in. . . . Internet optimists predict that online video, long-rumored to be the next big thing,  is finally taking off” (Forbes Magazine,April 28, 2006).

It does seem that this prediction has come true. Youtube is where you and I and anyone else can upload and/or watch videos online. But it’s only one of the options available for accessing video content via the Web.  Almost every week, another media company announces that they are gearing up to offer access to content via download. Either talking about or already providing access to downloadable video content are AOL, CBS,  NBC, Disney, Fox, Comedy Central, and  others. You can download an episode of a TV show or the show’s entire season.You can download a movie or the music video from the movie. Soon you’ll be able to download a  TV show’s episode even before it airs on the network.

Why does it matter that teens have access to downloadable video  from a variety of sources? Not only does it reflect a style of viewing that is instantaneous, but it also gives teens access to content exactly when they  want it. For example, a girl is sitting at home without much to do. She might pick up a book to read, but she’s not really in the mood. She might turn on the TV, but there’s nothing of interest to watch. Then she  remembers that her friends told her about some great new music videos on Youtube. Oh, and there’s that new TV series she has missed because it airs during her cross-country practice. She turns to her computer,  clicks a few keys, and finds hours of viewing available, all for free.

It’s instantaneous and available whenever the mood strikes. But wait, there’s another technology that takes a slightly different approach yet still fits this seeing-is-believing discussion. Slingbox is a device that you  hook up to your television and Internet connection.  When you are away from home—perhaps visiting family in another part of the country, on a class trip to Paris, or just hanging out at a  friend’s house—you turn on   your computer and watch what’s on  your TV at your house via your computer in that remote location. You’re watching what you want to watch, no matter where you are—instantaneous,when you want,where you want.

As technologies like Youtube and Slingbox take the idea of time shifting to an entirely different level, it definitely is time to consider seriously how teens expect to have content delivered. Is your library providing  teens service when they want it and how they want it? I’m always thinking about that question when I talk to librarians. Recently while I was facilitating a focus group on library services, one participant articulated  something that I had been worrying about. “Patrons tell us what they want and how they want it delivered,” she said, “but all too often librarians say to themselves, that’s very nice but we know better, so we are going  to deliver it our way.” That’s a pretty  frightening attitude within our profession, and I fear it might be all too accurate in some libraries.

If teens like watching video that’s available via the Youtube site, maybe your library should consider whether or not Youtube is a delivery mechanism that might work for you. (Search Youtube for library or libraries  and you might be surprised by the number of results.) Could your library upload videos about the library to the site? Better yet, could your library have teens create videos about the library for upload to the site? Is it  possible to help local independent  musicians put videos on Youtube? Can the school and public library work together to find methods for placing student projects on Youtube?

Perhaps video delivery isn’t in the cards for your library. What other types of content access do you provide that is anywhere and anytime? How much of what’s available is geared to teen recreational interests? I  know that teens can use databases any time. I know that there are audiobooks and video available for download via library catalog-based Web sites. But how do those reflect what teens are really looking for on sites  such as Youtube, iTunes, and others?

Video on demand via download is no longer the wave of the future. Teens expect that the content they need and want will be available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. What is your library doing to meet  those expectations as they relate to homework and recreational needs?

RESOURCES MENTIONED

Flickr http://www.Flickr.com
iTunes http://www.apple.com/itunes
Slingbox http://www.slingmedia.com
Youtube http://www.Youtube.com
Your Tube,Whose Dime? article http://www.forbes.com/home/intelligentinfrastructure/2006/04/27/video-Youtube-MySpace_cx_df_0428video.html

Linda W. Braun is a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians & Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and other    educational institutions. She also teaches for Lesley University and Simmons College. Her latest book is Technically Involved: Technology-Based Youth Participation Activities for Your Library (ALA Editions, 2003.) Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.
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April 2006

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After a couple of doctoral study, I am discovering that all the hunches I reached observing young adults and their searching behaviors are documented in nearly 20 years of research.  It is possible to sort the issues relating to young adult information-seeking behavior into four large buckets. Let’s call these buckets, the cognitive, the affective, the social, and the physical.  If we are going to better prepare students as effective adult information seekers and users, we need more comprehensive understandings of how students connect with information.  We need to address the issues in all four of our buckets.

But first, are they gurus?

The popular media attributes near guru status to young adults in terms of their familiarity and sophistication with technology.  In Growing Up Digital, Donald Tapscott describes a generation lap, in which children are authorities, lapping adults in all areas involving technology.

(Tapscott, 1997)  Mark Prensky tells us today’s student has had “far more experience at processing information more quickly than its predecessors, and is therefore better at it.” (Prensky, 1998).

Our own literature documents students’ feelings of confusion and frustration and less-than-effective approaches to using information technologies.  It reveals troubling data relating to students’ searching capabilities, their abilities to navigate the Web to find the resources they need for school research, the energy they put into their work, and their understandings of search environments, despite common feelings of self-efficacy.

In the cognitive bucket:

Despite their feelings of self-efficacy and the heavily-promoted information literacy thrust in our school libraries, young information seekers do not appear to have sophisticated skills or understandings needed to navigate complex information environments and to evaluate the information they find.  Students don’t think like librarians. Research points to their limited understandings of the way information is organized, the way results are returned, and differences in search interfaces.  Subject content knowledge, information skills, conceptions of how to determine relevance, strategies for identifying useful keywords, and forming queries, are among the significant cognitive variables in student information seeking. (Neuman, 1995; Chen, 2003; Bilal & Kirby, 2002; Fidel, et al, 1999; Nahl & Harada, 1996).

Students are not planners (Shenton & Dixon, 2004; Bilal, 2002; Large, Beheshti, & Moukdad, 1999; Watson, 1998). Rather than developing queries and identifying promising keywords and synonyms in advance, students assume that search engines will understand the sentences and questions they enter in search boxes in natural language style.  While this strategy may serve students adequately in Google, it may not be the optimum approach and it won’t translate well to all interfaces. Researchers (Nahl & Harada, 1996; Hirsh, 1997; Chen, 2003) observe that students tend to repeat flawed strategies over again in different search tools, with little or no knowledge of search syntax. Their searches often consist of very few words—sometimes only one word. Neuman’s (1995) study of expert librarians identified this lack of planning as a significant issue.

Pitts (1995) explored four major learning strands high school students incorporate during information seeking: content knowledge, information seeking and use, life skills–decision making, problem solving, taking responsibility, planning, etc.–and production. When students encountered difficulties using one strand they were likely to overcome the problem using skills from another strand.  But without support, weakness of one or more of the strands impedes a student’s effectiveness, his or her ability to construct new learning.

Students have trouble naming their information needs (Brown, 1995; Shenton &  Dixon 2004; Large & Beheshti, 2000). Researchers point to the inability of searchers of all ages to use the appropriate terminology in an area of knowledge or to predict vocabulary, synonyms, and category patterns used in search interfaces.

Several researchers comment on students’ apparent lack concern for or ability to discern the quality of their sources, noting that students spent more time searching and little time analyzing and evaluating what they have on the screen. Chen (2003) notes that students spent little time evaluating what they had on the screen, apparently not being able to distinguish wheat from chaff. Schacter et al. (1998) find that fifth and sixth grade students blindly trust what they find on the Web.

Freshman college students favor commercial searches engines over academic databases. According to the Pew study The Internet Goes to College: How Students are Living in the Future with Today’s Technology, “Although academic resources are offered online, it may be that students have not been taught, or have not yet figured out, how to locate these resources.”  The OCLC report Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources (2005) notes that 84% of the respondents use search engines to begin information search. With only 1% beginning searches on library Web site. 90% satisfied with their most recent search using a search engine.   “Books” are seen as the library brand. Libraries are not seen as a starting point for access to electronic resources.

Griffiths and Brophy (2005) observed that college students’ use of academic resources was low and that they had little awareness of alternative information seeking methods beyond their favorite search engine. Students had difficulty locating information.  Their use of search engines affects their perceptions and expectations of other electronic resources.

According to Weiler (2005) our students are predominantly visual learners.  They come to the table at various levels of cognitive development and prefer to learn through discussion and hands-on more than lecture.  This is a generation concerned about saving time, open to instruction only if it helps them save time.

Educational psychologists discuss the role of schema, mental structures or diagrams for understanding, in learning.  Information science research notes that most students lack the schema necessary for understanding information organization and the types of information available (Agosto, 2002).

In the affective bucket (about attitudes and emotions):

Carol Kuhlthau’s body of work tells us that searching is not just an intellectual activity.  Students bring their emotions–confusion, uncertainty, optimism, doubt, frustration, and confidence–to the information search process. Kalbach (2003) invokes the work of Kuhlthau in an examination of the affective nature of information seeking on the Web, which he labels, “an emotional experience.”  He observes that feelings of confusion and uncertainty usually trump feelings of enthusiasm and optimism. Kalbach concludes that reducing uncertainty and complexity can improve the information-seeking experience for users.  Our understanding of affective concerns is critical when we consider developing web search interfaces.

Students experience the frustration of information overload both within individual sites and with the Web as a whole.  They avoid text-intensive sites in favor of sites with bullets and graphic content.  In her theoretical decision-making model, Denise Agosto (2002) refers to this phenomenon as textual overload and refers to students’ frustration with their overwhelming choice of websites as outcome overload.  Fitzgerald (2001) noted high school students’ confusion when faced with multiple databases, searching issues, and difficulty assessing relevance.

Melissa Gross (2001) notes that in the older grades, students trend away from self-generated to imposed queries. Does that affect motivation in information seeking? The trend continues through middle and high school. Bilal (2002) found that students were more successful in self-generated than they were in imposed tasks. Though the seventh graders’ behaviors varied by task and by success level, Bilal attributes greater success in the self-generated tasks to student familiarity with and interest in the topic and the fact that the students involved in these choices had opportunities to modify the task if they could not find relevant information.  Bilal, as well as Hirsh (1999), Garland (1995), Pitts (1995), and Small (1999), revealed students showed greater levels of motivation and challenge when they played a role in selecting the topic and task.

A number of researchers point to the importance of confidence, although, they are quick to note, that students tend to overestimate their information problem-solving abilities. Motivation is related to confidence.  Students appear to show greater levels of motivation, challenge, and success when the topic and the task are self-generated, when they are both familiar with and interested in their inquiry.  Though students tend to overestimate their self-efficacy (Waldman, 2003), confidence tends also contributes to effective performance by sustaining motivation and decreasing anxiety.  When students lack confidence, they have trouble recovering from breakdowns, or problems they encounter searching.

The Digital Disconnect (Levin et al., 2002) concludes that even Internet-savvy students experience frustrations: finding quality information on the Internet, sorting through the overwhelming number of results returned by general purpose search engines, attempting to read and understand materials beyond their cognitive levels, ignoring commercial advertisements, and being unable to access trusted sources because they are fee-based.

Most people, most teens included, stop at good enough. While librarians would like to believe otherwise, in the face of info-glut, non-librarians are not always motivated to continue their searching beyond good enough to find the best stuff out there. Satisficing, a term coined by Herbert Simon (1955) and frequently used in information science research, is selecting or stopping at results that are good enough to suit a searcher’s purposes, though those results are not necessarily optimal–a blend of sufficing and satisfying. Satisficing resonates with Zipf’s (1949) frequently cited Principle of Least Effort, the view that, all other things being equal, human behavior tends to follow a path of minimum effort.  OCLC’s Environmental Scan: Pattern Recognition (De Rosa, Dempsey, & Wilson, 2003) points to changes among all information consumers.  In terms of service, users want to be self-sufficient. In terms of satisfaction, information consumers are largely satisfied with the quality of the information they find, even though information professionals might not deem those choices satisfactory. And users, especially young users, prefer collaborative, seemless environments.  Their academic, social, creative, and entertainment arenas merge online, in nomadic, multitasked landscapes.  They don’t see the buckets like we do.  The concept of leaving a favorite search tool and going to a scholarly database for this task and a Web portal for another is antithetical to the way they prefer to work and play.

In the socio-cultural bucket:

Constructivist theory views learning as a social activity and researchers note that information seeking is both a social and an academic event. Studies in young adult information seeking note that students are most successful with the when needed intervention of adults, when they can discuss their progress and problems with others who can support gaps in their searching and content knowledge.  In the largely independent, often isolated world of Internet searching, such interventions, in the forms of coaching, modeling, and feedback do not always occur.

Kuhlthau (1999), Ryder & Wilson (1996), and others recognize the potential for scaffolding and coaching in virtual libraries.  Kuhlthau stresses the importance of online intervention during student periods of uncertainty. Kuhlthau’s zones of intervention are times when the user needs help to move ahead and the librarian participates as collaborator and coach.  Researchers also note the importance of peers as collaborators.  Team approaches and conversations are critical strategies that allow students to brainstorm, reflect, discuss their ideas, and allow mediators to question and guide.  Librarians and classroom teachers need to design these process interventions into projects, to guide students as they construct meaning and seek understanding.  Such critical interventions can happen effectively both off- and online.

Among the social barriers students face as they seek information are the lack of encouragement by others, confusion about their teachers’ expectations, and (sting!) the perceived unhelpfulness of librarians.  The Pew study, The Digital Disconnect: The widening gap between the Internet savvy students and their schools. (Levin et al., 2002) suggests a kind of slacker culture, where students believe they know far more about technology than their teachers and are proud to admit they use the Internet as a way to “complete their schoolwork as quickly and painlessly as possible, with minimal effort and minimal engagement.” Many of the students interviewed view their education as anus versus them game, with the Web offering strategies for getting by with the least possible work.

In the physical bucket:

The Internet removes many of the physical barriers to information seeking and it may create others. Riel (1998) noted the potential for customized “just-in-time” learning and the growing need for skilled educators to manage online learning environments.  The search process no longer has to involve getting up, going to the library, visiting shelves, or physically browsing through indexes or tables of contents. High school students appreciate the speed and the physical advantages of the Web over books—all you need do is “type in words and click” (Chen, 2003). But teens also note constraints in terms of time and limited resources. Students’ are frustrated with institutional barriers that prevent them from using resources–school schedules, limited equipment, filters, librarians, and other users who get in their way.

Discomfort, boredom and time restraints influence information seeking. Students react negatively to the physical discomfort of excessive Web use–sore bones, headaches, wrist pain, and eyestrain (Agosto, 2002). Though students generally acknowledge the value of the Web as a means of reducing the physical exertion, they describe the time constraints they face completing school projects, constraints that force them to consider only a few sites before making their selections.  Time constraints are both imposed, as when there is a deadline for a school project, and self generated–when the goal is to find, and click, and print as quickly as possible.

Yet two more buckets:

We have much work to do.  Viewing the research in a big picture approach, it is clear that the work of the 21st youth services librarian must also fall into buckets—two big ones.  While we continue to work to make users smarter, we also need to work toward making systems smarter, better able to understand and meet the needs of our students.  I am convinced.  It’s not about teaching alone.  Yes, we need to teach both implicitly and explicitly, but we need to apply our growing understandings to create new and improved learning landscapes.  Where learners can work and play with intervention and independence.

As for making users smarter . . .

As an educator and a librarian, I cannot accept that good enough is good enough for the learners I touch. I want learners to know that sometimes good enough does work, but that some information tasks require greater energy, greater knowledge, greater thought.  Our math department does not give up with the teaching of simple functions; it moves students through algebra, trig, and it moves some on to calculus.  While students may continue to use that mathematical knowledge and training into their adult lives, I suspect our curriculum has longer legs.

Despite the major information literacy thrust in our school libraries, we must find better, more scalable strategies to ensure that students become competent information seekers and users before they leave our high schools. We must work to remove both intellectual and physical barriers. We must teach explicitly; we must motivate; we must design projects that challenge learners in meaningful ways; we must change attitudes; we must encourage and support students through their confusion and frustration. Online and offline, we must find ways to intervene in ways that respect young people’s existing knowledge.  We must collaborate to create research challenges that allow students choice, projects that are authentic and that motivate learning. We can use the authentic tools of the Web 2.0 environment.  Wikis can support students’ group projects.  Blogs can support student journaling and reflection.  Videoconferencing and webcasting can bring the experts in and allow students to interact in powerful new ways.

We must also lead by example, demonstrating solid and forward-looking practice as we guide. We must help teachers and parents understand, deliver, and assess these skills, as well.  We can hold secondary students accountable for process learning, as much as we hold them accountable for all content area learning—like algebra and physics.  Educators and librarians can work together to change student attitudes about cognitive authority and accuracy, about what good enough looks like.  We can evaluate works cited lists.  We can move learners beyond satisficing to scholarship.

As for making systems smarter. . .

Eliza Dresang (2005) notes the “meta-analyses of the research on youth information-seeking behavior and use of digital materials tend to focus largely on the deficiencies and need for improvement rather than ferreting out the potential of new and exciting ways of knowing in a digital age.”  She suggests that researchers and professionals need more positive perspectives. Dresang urges professionals to examine Digital Age Principles of Interactivity: the similar literacies needed for hypertextual media and handheld text; Connectivity—the importance of collaborative information behavior, online communities; and Access: the breaking of old information barriers

Young information seekers are most successful when they are interacting with systems designed for them, when they have effective system feedbacks and graphic visualizations. As we watch young users interact with interfaces, both those we develop and those we pay others to develop, we need to evaluate their supports. Are those interfaces customized to address the specific learning issues of the groups of teens we serve? Are they engaging? Attractive? Cool? Do they offer context-sensitive support and instruction, as well as compensations for vocabulary, spelling, and knowledge gaps?  Do these interfaces support teens as they develop schema to make better sense of their information options and the information landscape?   What can we do to fix them?  How can we lobby others to improve them?  Can we help to make these resources as easy to use as Google?  Can we make them student destinations?

How can we be there for just-in-time, just-for-me learning experiences? I know that my own online presence scales my guidance and instruction, and makes it available to students on weekends and evenings and even when they are sitting five feet away.  Can we offer independence while we offer as-needed intervention?  Can we be available to students beyond our walls and beyond our hours?  Our students live online; they need their libraries online. They need their librarians online. For today’s learners libraries must be hybrid experiences. Face-to-face lessons learned must be reinforced with online supports.

They may not be gurus.

Serious examinations of young adults as they seek information appear to be in stark opposition to the assessments of popular media and, perhaps, to young people’s assessments of their own efficacy. Students whose are otherwise referred to as savvy, are in our own literature referred to as naïve, amateur, and incompetent.  It is natural for students to face challenges finding information. They confront a trillion-page Web, a Web created primarily for adults, a Web largely devoid of professional indexing, devoid of search standardization.  It is natural for users of any age to be baffled by the multiplicity of choices offered by the free Web, online databases, portals, and the millions of pages that comprise what we call the Invisible Web. We can better prepare young people for more efficient and effective experiences on that landscape. And we can we make Web and its resources a friendlier landscape even for its natives.

References

Agosto, D. E. (2002). Bounded rationality and satisficing in young people’s web-based decision making. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 53(1), 16-27.

Bilal, D. (2002). Children’s use of the Yahooligans! Web search engine. II. Cognitive and physical behaviors on research tasks. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 52(2), 118-136.

Bilal, D. (2002). Children’s use of the Yahooligans! Web search engine. III. Cognitive and physical behaviors on fully self-generated search tasks. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 53(13), 1170-1183.

Bilal, D. & Kirby, J. (2002). Differences and similarities in information seeking children and adults as Web users. Information Processing and Management, 38(5), 649-670.

Brown, M. E. (1995). “By any other name: Accounting for failure in the naming of subject categories.” Library & Information Science Research 17(4): 347-385.

Chen, Shu-Hsien L. (2003). Searching the Online Catalog and the World Wide Web. Journal of Educational Media & Library Sciences, 41(1); 29-43.

De Rosa, C., Dempsey, L., & Wilson, A. (2003). 2003 OCLC Environmental Scan: Pattern recognition. Retrieved October 1, 2004 from http://www.oclc.org/membership/escan/introduction/default.htm.

Dresang, E.T. (2005). The information-seeking behavior of youth in the digital environment. Library Trends, 54(2), 178-196.

Fidel, R., Davies, R. K., Douglass, M. H., Holder, J. K., Hopkins, C. J., Kushner, E. J., et al. (1999). A visit to the information mall: Web searching behavior of high school students. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 50(1), 24-37.

Gross, M. (2001). Imposed information seeking in public libraries and school library media centers: A common behaviour? Information Research, 6(2). Record no. 100.  Retrieved

Hirsh, S. G. (1997). How do children find information on different types of tasks? Children’s use of the Science Library Catalog. Library Trends, 45(4), 725-746.

Hirsh, S. G. (1999). Children’s relevance criteria and information seeking on electronic resources. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 50(14), 1265-1283..

Jones, S., & Madden, M. (2002). The Internet Goes to College: How students are living in the future with today’s technology: Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved September 20, 2004 from http://www.pewinternet.org/report_display.asp?r=71

Kalbach, J. (2003). “I’m feeling lucky”: The role of emotions in seeking information on the Web. Retrieved September 29, 2004 from http://home.earthlink.net/~searchworkshop/docs/JKalbach_Emotions-InformationSeeking-Web_short21.pdf.

Kuhlthau, C. C. (1985) A process approach to library skills instruction: An Investigation into the design of the library research process.” School Library Media Quarterly 13, 35-40

Kuhlthau, C. C. (1988). Perceptions of the information search process in libraries: A study of changes from high school through college. Information Processing & Management, 24 (4), 419-427.

Kuhlthau, C. C. (1989). The information search process of high-, middle-, and low-achieving high school seniors. School Library Media Quarterly, 17, 244-226.

Kuhlthau, C. C. (1991). Inside the search process: Information seeking from the user’s perspective. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 42(5), 361-371.

Kuhlthau, C. C. (1994). Students and the information search process: Zones of intervention for librarians. Advances in Librarianship, 18. 57-72.

Kuhlthau, C. C. (1997). Learning in digital libraries: An information search process approach. Library Trends, 45(4), 708-724.

Large, A, and Beheshti, J. (2000). “The Web as a classroom resource: reactions from users.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science 51(12): 1069-1080

Large, A., Beheshti, J. & Moukdad, H. (1999). Information-seeking on the Web: Navigational skills of grade-six primary school students. In Proceedings of the 62nd ASIS Annual Meeting, Washington, DC. Medford: Information Today, 84-97.

Levin, D., Arafeh, S., Lenhart, A., & Rainie, L. (2002). The digital disconnect: The widening gap between internet-savvy students and their schools. Pew Internet & American Life Project Retrieved Sept. 30, 2004, from http://207.21.232.103/PPF/r/67/report_display.asp.

Nahl, D., & Harada, V. H. (1996). Composing Boolean search statements:  Self-confidence, concept analysis, search logic, and errors. School Library Media Quarterly, 24(4), 199-207.

Neuman, D. (1995). High school students’ use of databases: Results of a national delphia study. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 46(4), 284-298.

Pitts, J. M. (1994). Personal understandings and mental models of information: A qualitative study of factors associated with the information seeking and use of adolescents., Florida State University, Tallahassee.

Prensky, M. (1998). Twich speed: Keeping up with young workers. Retrieved on October 15, 2004 from http://www.twitchspeed.com/site/article.html.

Shenton, A. K., & Dixon, P. (2004). Issues arising from youngsters’ information-seeking behavior. Library & Information Science Research, 26(3), 177-200.

Simon, H. A. (1955). A behavioral model of rational choice. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 69, 99-118.

Small, R.V. (1999). An exploration of motivational strategies used by library media specialists during library and information skills instruction. Retrieved September 9, 2004 from http://www.ala.org/ala/aasl/aaslpubsandjournals/slmrb/slmrcontents/volume21999/vol2small.htm.

Tapscott, D. (1997). Growing up digital: The rise of the net generation. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Waldman, M. (2003). Freshmen’s use of library electronic resources and self-efficacy. Infomation Research, 8(2), Record no. 150.  Retrieved October 4, 2004 from http://informationr.net/ir/8-2/paper150.html.

Zipf, G.K. (1949). Human behavior and the principle of least effort. Cambridge, MA: Addison-Wesley.

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A Torrent of Free Downloads, or Who Cares If It’s Legal

Linda W. Braun

February 2006

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I have to admit that lately I’ve been struggling with the idea of copyright. Well, not the idea exactly, but the model we use to protect intellectual property. Here’s why: The ease with which it’s possible to access content for download means that I don’t have to think ahead about the episodes of Gilmore Girls that I’ll miss. If I miss a show, I can find it on a BitTorrent site such as The Pirate Bay. I’ll be able to download a copy that someone else digitally recorded and then watch it when I have the time.

Over the past couple of decades I have talked to librarians and teachers and have written books and articles about helping teens understand the importance of copyright. So if I struggle with concepts of right and  wrong in the copyright arena, imagine what it must be like for many others—including teens.

A recent report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that teens believe that it’s unrealistic to ask people not to download content, even when it’s illegal, because it is so easy to do. The report states,  “About half of them [teens surveyed] think free downloading and file-sharing copyrighted content without permission is generally wrong, yet roughly the same number say they do not care about the copyright on the music files that they download.”

What does this response mean to librarians and content creators? It means that we need to rethink how we provide access to materials and reconsider what intellectual property law should look like. I’m not suggesting  that all content should be free for the taking. But if the current model is broken, we need to fix it.

Before mentioning more about new models, I must explain what BitTorrent is and what it does. BitTorrent is the name of a protocol that allows uploading and downloading of content across computers. It is also the name of a piece of software used for the uploading and downloading of content. If I download BitTorrent software, I can use it to access the media files that I download from sites such as The Pirate Bay. And when I   have BitTorrent open on my computer, other people can grab the files that I already have and upload them to their computers.

Readers might wonder why such practices aren’t illegal. Some BitTorrent sites have indeed been shut down. Yet at the same time, the inventor of the protocol recently made a deal with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which wants to use the BitTorrent protocol as a way to make content available. The software’s inventor isn’t promoting its illegal use. He is trying to find legal uses for it. That’s why he’s not in trouble. The inventor’s intent was not to allow  for criminal activity. People use BitTorrent to illegally supply and access content. But that is the users’ doing, not the inventor’s.

So is it human nature to steal? I don’t think so. It is a part of human nature to look for the easiest possible way to have wants and needs met. Did iTunes sell a million dollars worth of video in just under three weeks  because it was new and cool? To some  degree, yes, but sales also were high because the content was easy to access. No need to get up and go to the video store. No need to  wait for the disc to arrive in the mail. The  content just sits there waiting on the computer screen, after a relatively quick download. If it’s human nature to gravitate to what’s easy rather than what’s legal, how do librarians help teenagers stay within legal  boundaries while also helping them to access the content they want and need? I don’t have the answer. (That’s why I’m struggling.) But I do have some thoughts:

• Talk to teens about how they access music, movies, TV shows, and other content for personal use. Find out why they use those methods. Make sure not to be judgmental and don’t have preconceptions when you talk  to them. Simply ask about the how and why. A recent Distributing the Future podcast included a recording of a portion of a teen panel discussion at the Portable Media Convention. Whenever teens on the panel were   asked how they accessed entertainment content, they answered, “I Torrent It.” Are the teens with whom you work getting their media this way?

•Talk to teens about what a successful copyright model would look like. Find out if they would be willing to pay for any of the content that they might currently and illegally get for free. Last fall, on his podcast, The  Daily Source Code, Adam Curry discussed new models for copyright. He suggested placing a very small fee on all content that can be downloaded via the Internet—as little as fifty cents. His thinking is that people steal content because it’s the only way to get it easily, and that we all would be willing to pay a small fee for that ease of access. Do teens think that such a payment is fair? There’s only one way to find out—ask them.

• Think about teen development within the context of content delivery. Research shows that teens don’t think they should have to pay for music that they download, yet they are more than willing to spend money on cell phone ring tones. Why? Is it because ring tones are connected to a teen’s personal identity, and therefore teens are more willing to spend money on an item that enables them to tell the world who they are? The search for personal identity is certainly an important part of growing up. So too is an understanding of boundaries and what others can appropriately expect from teens. In that case, is it possible for librarians to think of copyright and content delivery within the context of helping teens understand who they are and why there are boundaries? How can librarians set up content-delivery boundaries that make sense for teens living in a BitTorrent world?

• How does quality and consistency fit into a new model? On the This Week in Tech (TWiT) podcast for January 9, 2006, panelists discussed how they use iTunes over BitTorrent for some downloading because they are assured that content quality will be high and also that quality will be consistent from download to download. iTunes is no longer the only venue for downloading music and video. Do teens think that it’s worth paying a small fee for quality and consistency? Are they willing to download content that they won’t own from a library site if they know the quality will be good? The answers to those questions are important to know.

• What if the penalty for illegal access to content was a small fine? Could the model that we promote be analogous to a parking or speeding ticket? Would that have an impact on teen downloading of content illegally?  Ask teens what they think. The only real answer that I have is to be open to new ways of doing things. Learn about the technologies that teens—and adults—use to access content legally and illegally. Don’t simply stick by the tried and true way because that’s how we’ve always done it. Librarians working with teens should be at the forefront of discussions about copyright issues as they relate to content delivery. Teens deserve to have us sticking up for their needs and working to find ways to make it possible to access content without breaking the law. You don’t have to illegally download content yourself (I have kept myself from BitTorrenting Gilmore Girls even though it’s difficult), but you do have to be willing to explore new options that make sense in the early twenty-first century.

WEB RESOURCES

BitTorrent http://www.bittorrent.com
Daily Source Code http://www.dailysourcecode.com
Distributing the Future Podcasts on O’Reilly Network http://www.oreillynet.com/future
Pew Internet & American Life Project, Family, Friends, & Community Report on “Teen Content Creators and Consumers” http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/166/report_display.asp
The Pirate Bay http://thepiratebay.org
This Week in Tech (TWiT) http://thisweekintech.com

Linda W. Braun is a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians & Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and other
educational institutions. She also teaches for Lesley University and Simmons College. Her latest book is Technically Involved: Technology-Based Youth Participation Activities for Your Library (ALA Editions, 2003.) Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.

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Linda W. Braun

December 2005

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This is the story of a regional library system that decided to go to the aid of member libraries in order to serve teens better. It’s a story in which teens had input into a Web design process. It’s a story in which sometimes tough decisions had to be made. It’s the story of My Own Café.

More than two years ago, the Southeast Massachusetts Regional Library System (SEMLS) realized that member libraries did not have the financial or staff resources to create Web spaces that meet the needs of teens. They looked at sites such as Bolt and Alloy and knew that there was no ay that their libraries could develop anything of that caliber. They also knew that libraries must create strong Web presences for teens in order to guarantee successful access and use of information resources.

SEMLS decided to apply for a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant to obtain funding for a library teen portal. The portal would be designed by a professional design firm and the content of the site would be determined by a group of teen and librarian advisors.

Funding for the project came through in the fall of 2004. I was hired as project manager. In the winter of 2005, at the first meeting of teen and librarian advisors, everyone talked about all the things that they wanted to have in a portal. Their wish list formed the foundation for both the hiring of a professional design firm and the content of the site. Included in the wish list was everything from personal blog space to online polls, from instant messaging (IM) to a place to trade prom dresses.

It was clear that teens wanted a site where they could communicate with others who lived nearby. Acknowledging that they could communicate with teens around the world via e-mail, chat, instant messaging, and so on, the teens also said that they wished they had a way to talk with teens online in communities in southeastern Massachusetts. They realized that it was easier to talk online to someone in a faraway town than to
someone in the town next door.

At this early meeting, teens made it clear that they wanted to be involved in the maintenance of the site through moderation of discussion boards, adding different pieces of content, and so on. Several mentioned
that they already were responsible for moderating discussion forums on other sites.

Because teen participation was a key aspect of this project, SEMLS knew that they needed to involve teens from the advisory group in the hiring of the professional design firm that would create the look, feel, and
technology of the site.

Along with sending out Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to design companies, SEMLS invited interested firms to attend an informational session. Only one teen was able to attend this meeting, but she participated fully in
asking questions of the designers. She also answered their questions about what she thought the site should do and be. This teen representative felt very comfortable with Pixel Bridge, Inc., the firm that was hired. She was certain that she could work with them and they could work with her.

SURVEYING LOCAL TEENS’ INTERNET USE

After Pixel Bridge started on the project, SEMLS involved more teens. An online survey about use of the library and the Internet was completed by more than 300 high school students in the area. In most cases, these teens submitted surveys after hearing about it from their school librarians. The survey was an excellent way to check assumptions about teens held by the designers and SEMLS. Its interesting findings include:

• When asked what they most frequently use the Internet for, 45.8 percent of the respondents answered that they talk to others using e-mail, chat, IM, etc. The next highest response was 27 percent of the teens who said they use the ’Net for entertainment purposes such as playing games and listening to music.

• Favorite Web sites included Live Journal; My Space; and sites related to specific sports (and teams), TV shows, and movies.

• When asked what they would like to see on a library Web site, teens chose downloadable music, instant messaging, games, local information, and college information as most highly desirable.

TOUGH DECISIONS

The next sets of decisions that SEMLS and its advisors had to make were far from simple. Sometimes SEMLS accepted items that the teens said were necessary. Sometimes that just wasn’t possible. Decisions had to be made about the logo, the name, the look and feel, and site registration. For example:

The site name: During a brainstorming session with advisors, a list of possible site names was generated. SEMLS invited teens to vote for their favorite names on its Web site. Unfortunately a clear winner never emerged, but there was a sense of consensus around one name, My Own Café. When SEMLS discovered that the domain was available, the name was sealed, the domain was purchased, and My Own Café was born.

The logo design: The designers submitted several logo options for the site. The librarian advisors all gravitated to one set of choices; the teens preferred another. SEMLS decided to go with the teen choice, a logo with interlocking shapes and the site name in a popular shade of green. It was a smart move. The site’s logo works perfectly. Teens knew what made the best design choice for the audience and purpose of the site, and SEMLS listened.

Access to the site: This decision was one of the toughest. From the start, SEMLS wanted teens to register for the site so they could connect easily to catalogs and databases. Their overarching concept was that if a teen enters a library card number to register for My Own Café, during future logins that teen is automatically authenticated for use of local and state library resources. Around this goal, policy questions had to be addressed. Should a teen be able to register for the site even if she doesn’t have a library card? If she is required to have a library card number in order to register, but doesn’t have one, will this requirement turn that teen away from the site forever? Exactly what parts of the site—beyond the databases—would require login? These questions were extremely difficult to answer. They forced the project team to go over the purpose and audience for the site again and again. Also important to consider was the impact of the registration decision on librarians working with teens who would be using and administering the site. SEMLS needed to make sure that once the site was available, librarians would feel comfortable advertising it to teens and working with teens on maintaining the content. After many discussions, SEMLS decided to require all teens to enter a library card number as part of the registration process. For teens who don’t have cards, the registration form includes a link to information about how to get a library card.

Teen safety: The team working on My Own Café, along with librarians who heard about the project, wondered repeatedly about teen safety. They were concerned as to whether or not the communications technologies implemented at the site would leave teens open to dangerous situations. Teens can post book and music reviews and local bands can submit music to the site so that other teens can download it. When a teen registers, she can upload an avatar—which can be a personal photo. All these features made librarians nervous about teen safety. They wondered about the implications of uploading personal images and downloading music from independent musicians. At one virtual meeting with the teen advisors, SEMLS addressed the question of safety. Well aware of the issues, the teens offered useful suggestions for how to handle such concerns. The teens were clear about what constitutes appropriate behavior and even suggested the incorporation of safety tips on the site. SEMLS integrated teens’ safety suggestions into My Own Café.

Site content: Teens said that they would like the site to incorporate an incredible number of fun, cool, interesting, and useful features. All their ideas were presented to Pixel Bridge. Everyone quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be possible to include everything from the teen advisors’ wish list. There wasn’t enough money. There wasn’t enough time. The technology doesn’t exist for some of the big ideas. Ultimately the teens
understood that content decisions had to be made. They also knew that SEMLS had listened to what they had to say and was able to incorporate many of their ideas into the site. And there is the possibility of a second phase in the project, when some of the teens’ recommendations might be reconsidered.

THE TRUE TEST OF SUCCESS

The project worked out in much the way that SEMLS intended, although it was more difficult in some instances than expected. A professionally designed site for teens now exists in southeastern Massachusetts. It provides access to library resources as well as cool stuff. SEMLS expects that the downloadable music from local musicians along with entertainment, sports, and news feeds will be highlights of the site. The music and feeds provide a way that My Own Café can be constantly changing without anyone having to create new content.

A major goal of the project was to involve teens in the process. Although teen participation wasn’t as high as the library system had hoped, teens were a key part of some major decisions and continue to be involved in the project.

The true test of success came when the teen who was most involved in the site’s development recently saw My Own Café at a training session about its administrative features, which teens and librarians will use to update and maintain site content. She had been vocal about the types of content that the site should include and what its look and feel should be. When she gave the site a positive review, all the planners cheered their success.

Like teens (or librarians) with local library cards, VOYA readers who use the login below at http://www.myowncafe.org can read and submit reviews, download music, and try out this professionally designed site in which teens have a voice and an influence.
User name: voya
Password: myoc

Sites Mentioned

Alloy http://www.alloy.com
Bolt http://www.bolt.com
Live Journal http://www.livejournal.com
My Own Café http://www.myowncafe.org
My Space http://www.MySpace.com
Pixel Bridge Inc http://www.pixelbridge.com

Linda W. Braun is a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians & Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and othereducational institutions. She also teaches for Lesley University and Simmons College. Her latest book is Technically Involved: Technology-Based Youth Participation Activities for Your Library (ALA Editions, 2003.) Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.
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Joyce Kasman Valenza

October 2005

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The Wiki Prayer
May I be granted the serenity to accept the pages I should not edit, the courage to edit the pages I should, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Lately I’ve been wondering about wikis and their place in student research and their potential as vehicles for student writing. Wiki refers to the online collaboration model that allows a community of users to freely create, add, and edit Web site content using their browsers. The word derives from the Hawaiian term wiki wiki, meaning “quick” or “super-fast.” Several Web sources note that wiki is also an acronym for “what I know is.”


Wikipedia (http://wikipedia.org) has existed as a free communitybased, online encyclopedia since 2001. Not only is it the most popular wiki around, but it is also the fastest growing encyclopedia on the Web, adding articles at a rate of about 3,000 a day.

Appearing on the result lists of several major search engines, Wikipedia content is becoming more available to a worldwide audience. Other major projects include Wiktionary, an open-content dictionary, and Wikibooks, an open-content textbook and manual project.

Wikipedia is not a traditional encyclopedia. No well-known, reliable publisher solicits experts to write its articles. Maintained in true open-source spirit, Wikipedia is developed, written, and corrected by volunteer editors from around the world—editors who range in experience from casual visitors to hobbyists to scholars. For many of them, contribution is a way of life. They generously spend hours each day creating content and correcting commas.

Yet no supervising editorial expert organizes or vets the content of this reference work. Pages change rapidly as volunteer editors negotiate and sometimes argue the content and its accuracy. Hence the accuracy of articles depends on the knowledge and conscientiousness of the particular community of authors who notice (or fail to notice) and correct mistaken entries, and also at what point in the process an entry is viewed. Although anyone can contribute to Wikipedia, the project sets rules for etiquette and dispute resolution, for avoiding bias, and for respecting copyright.

I love the collaborative nature of this and other wiki projects. I love that the project is multilingual. I find the chaos and argument behind the editing scenes fascinating. I admire the new ways in which wikis allow communities, businesses, and organizations of all sorts to refine and share information resources. Students who choose to use Wikipedia’s free content, however, have many choices. They have online access to excellent databases and traditional subscription encyclopedias—Grolier, Americana, and World Book—brands that we rely on for authority. Should those brands be overlooked? Where does Wikipedia fit in the student research toolkit?

Wikipedia creates interesting challenges for students and teachers. Its founder and director, Jimmy Wales, sees his project as “an excellent teaching opportunity.” Wales believes that the site is an extraordinary resource for student use, “as long as they are educated in critical thinking to understand what an encyclopedia is or is not.” He feels that “students should only use encyclopedias like Britannica or Wikipedia as a starting point for research—to gain background knowledge—but should turn to more direct sources after that.”

I questioned Wales about the quality of Wikipedia’s content. “I think that the average quality of entries in Wikipedia is equivalent in many areas to the average quality of entries in Britannica,” he said, “but because we are young and because of our open editing process, any given entry might be incomplete or inaccurate at any point in time. Critical analysis is a must!” Wales suggests that students examine an article’s edit history. “It’s a radical kind of transparency that you don’t find in other resources; you can see the discussions.”

That’s a bit of a problem. Can students really get enough information from an edit history to determine the level of contribution for each collaborator? A large number of contributors prefer to remain anonymous, listed only by IP address, a casual screen name, or links to irrelevant personal information. Evaluating an entry’s edit history is a challenge for most adults. It seems a nearly impossible task for the average ninth grader.

“Should a person who is doing research have to look at a long edit list to determine reliability?” asks Tom Paneles, Director of Corporate Communications at Britannica, who expressed serious concerns regarding the value of the open source model in online reference. “Application software is different from knowledge and information. If an application doesn’t work, you must look for the source of the bad code. Information, on the other hand, can be wrong, and it might sit in an article forever. Having a lot of people who don’t know what they are doing edit an encyclopedia is not all that helpful. And is a reference work that simply spreads without limits necessarily good?”

Wales counters, “Encyclopedia articles are essentially a blend of collected knowledge and that is an area in which Wikipedia shines.” He also proudly points to the project’s multilingual capacity and its extensive network of hyperlinks. He notes the copyright-friendliness of the project. Teachers are free to take articles from Wikipedia and adapt them to meet the needs of their classroom environment. “Everything that we do is placed under a free license,” said Wales. Most importantly, “People find Wikipedia useful. In fact, in some areas, the only encyclopedia material that exists is in Wikipedia.”

Wikipedia is timely; I look to it for Internet- and technology-related articles as well as material relating to popular culture and current events. For some topics, it is indeed the only place where information is seriously being gathered. For more stable areas of knowledge, I generally follow my Wikipedia searches with surveys of reference, journal, and newspaper databases.

Wikipedia does a fine job describing the programming language that I studied in a graduate course last semester, an area about which my subscription encyclopedias were utterly unaware.

Although I wouldn’t necessarily cite them in my research, I also have examined the particularly up-to-date article on Marburg virus, with its handy links to World Health Organization (WHO) data, as well as the especially comprehensive coverage of the July 7 London bombings, complete with multiple graphics, profiles of the bombers, and a wealth of relevant links. Wikipedia also offers comprehensive information for anyone researching the Twinkie or the phenomena of McMansions.

On the other hand, although the article on Shakespeare appears to be lengthy and impressive, its contributors and sources are not the Shakespearean scholars whom teachers expect students to read. Among many unidentified others, the Singing Badger is a frequent editor, who humbly describes himself as “wise and all knowing” and is renowned for his karaoke rendition of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” By contrast, Grolier Online’s Americana article on Shakespeare is signed by Hallett Smith, a noted scholar of Elizabethan studies who is author and editor of several books on Shakespeare, and it includes a long list of similarly traditional sources. World Book Online’s article on Shakespeare is not only authoritative—signed by Frank W. Wadsworth, Professor Emeritus, State University of New York, Purchase—it is also rich in engaging media, impressively organized, and written appropriately for its younger audience.

Bottom line? In my own slightly stodgy wiki prayer, regular and substantial Wikipedia contributors would be listed in edit histories with their real names and credentials, and perhaps a note regarding their potential for bias. It is not likely to happen. It is a fact that Wikipedia is an incredibly popular free source of Web reference, bringing into the classroom wonderful opportunities for discussions involving teachers and librarians and students.

Information formats are evolving. In the face of information glut, we are faced with new decisions about the very nature of knowledge and authority. When does it make sense to use Wikipedia, other wiki projects, and blogs as information sources? When might it be best to use other sources? What do your teachers expect in terms of authority in a bibliography? How do the edit histories reflect the quality of the articles?

STUDENT WIKIS?

What about using the wiki model for student projects? Wikis are perhaps best used as a tool for writing, especially when the project involves collaborative authoring. Their major advantage over the paper notebook—or even the blog—is that wikis prepare students to write collaboratively in an authentic networked environment. No one student hogs the disk for the master draft. Everyone gets to contribute and edit. Teachers can easily pop in to comment or to monitor progress and see the various contributions. Wikis allow students to present their work in an authentic way which is increasingly used by business and academia.

Wikis can be used to draft a collaborative document such as a simulated peace treaty or proposed legislation. Students might create an improved and hyperlinked chapter for an American history textbook. They might compile vocabulary words into a wikidictionary or collect general classroom knowledge in a wikitextbook. Wikis are good vehicles for classes engaged in peer-reviewed projects; they function as archived portfolios for classes serious about the writing process.

Wikis need not be limited to the enrollment of one class. They can be collaboratively built by classes across the country or the world, or they can be cross-age collaborations across a school district. Beyond student projects, wikis in schools can support meeting or inservice planning. Professionals can use them for contributing agenda items and linked resources before an event, as notetaking devices during a meeting, and as continuous planning tools following a meeting.

Wiki use has some downsides. Wikis are by nature a bit chaotic and are vulnerable to hacking. They might inspire editing quarrels as groups negotiate content. Yet most wiki users note that the group itself works effectively to keep the content stable.

Democracy is lovely. So is scholarship. Wikis are wonderful tools. They have their place in student research alongside quality online reference products. Students need to know how and when to use and create both. Librarians also must fund and guide students to high-quality online reference sources that offer easy-to-discern authority—and we must make them as easy to get to as a wiki! And finally, we must open new discussions with students and teachers about the nature and authority of knowledge to help students judge when to wiki and when not to wiki.

WIKIS IN EDUCATION—RESOURCES

Projects

Wikipedia (http://wikipedia.org).
Wiktionary (http://en.wiktionary.org).
Wikibooks (http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Main_Page). An open-content textbook and manual project.

Wiki Software

Seed Wiki (http://www.seedwiki.com).
List of Wiki Software (http://en.Wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wiki_software).

About Wikis in Education

Dodge, Bernie. Blogs and Wikis as WebQuest Tasks. The WebQuest Page, San Diego State University, June 25, 2004. http://webquest.sdsu.edu/necc2004/blogs-and-wikis.htm.
Lamb, Brian. What’s a Wiki? Tap Into the Quickest, Easiest Way to Publish on the Web. e-Strategy Update, The University of British Columbia, January 21, 2004. http://www.e-strategy.ubc.ca/news/update0401/040121-wiki.html.
Lamb, Brian. Wide Open Spaces: Wikis, Ready or Not. Educause Review, September/October 2004. http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0452.pdf.
My Brilliant Failure: Wikis in the Classroom (A Constructivist Teacher’s Cautionary Tale). Heather’s Blog, Kairosnews, May 21, 2004. http://kairosnews.org/node/3794.

Joyce Kasman Valenza is the librarian at Springfield Township High School in Erdenheim, Pennsylvania. Her techlife@school column appears weekly in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Find her Web site at http://mciu.org/~spjvweb. Her latest book is Power Tools Recharged: 125+ Essential Forms and Presentations for Your School Library Information Program (ALA Editions, 2004).

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Linda W. Braun

August 2005

When asked by several different library institutions to provide workshops on emerging technologies, I was hesitant. Would the attendees be open to the possibilities? Would the librarians be so far behind that already emerged technologies were considered as emerging?

I discovered little reason for hesitation. In one workshop, I asked a group of one hundred young adult librarians how many had ever chatted, e-mailed, text messaged, or blogged. A majority of hands went up. I was pleased—by knowing how technologies work, they were ready to consider how teen services and technologies fit together. Following is a sampling of emerging technologies with suggestions for their use in libraries with teens.

TEXT MESSAGING

Using phones to ask and answer questions in the library is not new. But using cell phones to text message a librarian is. With text messaging, librarians use an old technology in a new way. Google and Yahoo! provide local information, such as addresses and phone numbers, via text message. Google also answers simple reference questions such as the population of the U.S. or the definition of a word. Think about the number of teens you know who have cell phones. How many of them already send text messages? It’s a typical form of communication for many teens. Why shouldn’t we work with it in libraries? Couldn’t we have teens text message us with simple questions about materials in the collection? Couldn’t we text message teens with information on upcoming programs or let them know a reserve is available?

The cost of a text message and the need to minimize the number of characters (each message can be no more than 160 characters) must be considered. Libraries can tackle both issues. Some cell phone plans include a small fee for unlimited text messaging. New software helps librarians send text messages without worrying about the number of characters—Altarama is one vendor. The software is an SMS (Simple Message System) service that sends a text message to an e-mail address. When the librarian receiving the message responds via e-mail to a cell phone, the software divides the response into separate messages, each within character limitations.

RSS AND PODCASTING

RSS stands for rich site survey or really simple syndication. It allows information to be delivered to a computer automatically. The user decides which information to have delivered and when. (The delivery is called a feed and the software that delivers the information is called a feed reader.) Feeds are easy to find; if you search on Google for a topic and add RSS to your search terms, a feed on that topic is likely to appear. I subscribe to feeds about technology and celebrity news as well as feeds from the New York Times, NetFlix, and other sources.

Podcasts are audio feeds, also delivered through a feed reader. The podcast is actually an audio file (called an enclosure) that is downloaded to a computer. A search on Google for a topic, followed by the word podcast, delivers many results. Paris Hilton podcast a countdown to the opening of The House of Wax, and many musicians podcast to get their music out to the world. What makes podcasting exciting is that a listener can easily transfer the audio file to a digital device (such as an iPod) and take it wherever she goes. With their release of iTunes 4.9, Apple makes it even easier to download and
transfer podcasts.

Library catalog software is starting to integrate feeds; teens will be able to subscribe to feeds about new materials. The library might set up a feed for teen events. On the podcast front, teens could create audio book reviews. They might send out a weekly podcast about library events, or create podcasts about using library resources. Library events for teens could be recorded and turned into podcasts.

SKYPE

Skype brings Internet telephony to the world in a simple-to-use (and free) package. Once Skype is downloaded to a computer, the user creates a buddy list, as in instant messaging (IM). When the list is set up, she can see when buddies are online. What makes Skype different from IM? Instead of using text to communicate, Skype buddies talk to each other using a computer microphone and speakers. (Skype does make it possible to talk to others who don’t have the software on a computer; one calls from computer to phone and pays a very small fee.) The software also allows for “conference calling”; up to five people can talk to each other via Skype at the same time.

Your library’s teen advisory group (TAG) could meet via Skype, or talk to members of a TAG in another part of the country. Skype could provide a way for teens to talk to an author or receive answers to reference questions. Broadband Internet access is key to a good connection, and a microphone and speakers must be available. If those requirements are barriers to use, don’t give up on Skype or the technology. It might be just what you need when the time is right.

TAGGING/FOLKSONOMIES

There’s a new world of keywords, subject headings, and categorization being created by users of Web sites such as Flickr and del.icio.us. It’s a world in which anyone can “tag” content and then make those tags available via a Web site search. For example, on Flickr, people can upload photos and describe them with oneword tags; then others who visit the site can search the tags to find photos. On del.icio.us, which calls itself “a social bookmarks manager,” the process works the same way; instead of tagging photos, users tag Web content to share with others. For example, I might find a great article on podcasting that I want to bring to the attention of others. I add the link to my del.icio.us account and tag it with one-word descriptors such as podcast, audio, enclosures, and so on. Anyone who looks at any of my tags on del.icio.us will see a link to the article.

Why does tagging matter to you? There are a few reasons. First, it means that the teens with whom you work could be categorizing and describing content themselves. As they think about the best way to describe pictures or text in single words, you get a chance to make a direct connection to subject headings and keywords in library catalogs and databases. Of course such tags are not as colloquial as those created in Flickr and del.icio.us, but working with teens and tagging offers a great jumping-off point for talking about those topics.

Second, many more programs will using tagging. For example, Live Journal, a popular blog program with teens, recently added tagging to their features.

Third, the ability to tag content will change searching expectations. If teens can create their own tags for content on Web sites like Flickr, del.icio.us, and Live Journal, and search using tag-like language, they will expect to do the same in other venues and formats. The natural language search takes on a whole new meaning within the tagging context.

By the way, the “scientific” term for tagging is folksonomy.

WIKIS

Wikipedia defines wiki as “a Web application that allows users to add content, as on an Internet forum, but also allows anyone to edit the content. The term Wiki, [which can be spelled with either an upper case or lower case ‘w’], also refers to the collaborative software used to create such a Web site.”

You might have heard of Wikipedia, the communal encyclopedia that gives anyone the opportunity to add and edit content. You might be concerned about the fact that such an encyclopedia exists. Yet wikis are a great technology to use with teens so they can create and edit content on topics in which they are interested. Imagine a group of teens creating a music wiki for the library with content about musicians, songs, styles, and so on. In the process they would have the opportunity to express their interests; hone their reading, writing, and editing skills; revise others’ content by updating and adding new information; and make it possible for other members of the community to read about their interests. Free services such as JotSpot offer the chance to create a wiki easily.

CREATIVE COMMONS

There’s a fairly new form of copyright around, and Creative Commons is it. This copyright allows producers of content to define how their work is copyrighted, providing flexible options for the creator of the content and those wanting to use it. A visit to the Creative Commons Web site reveals many pieces of art, music, text, and other creations that currently use this form of copyright. It gives librarians and educators an easy way to make use of content in their programs, services, lessons, and classrooms.

You can search Creative Commons with teens to find music to add to their podcasts or Web sites, or images for blogs and school reports. You could also add a Creative Commons copyright to all types of works that you or your teens create and publish.

Text messaging, RSS, podcasting, Skype, tagging, wikis, and Creative Commons copyright are just small slices of recently emerged and emerging technologies. Don’t wait to check them out. The more you know about what’s new, almost new, and just around the corner, the better able you will be to select the tools that fit best into your teen services. Watch this space for future news on recently emerged and emerging technologies.

RESOURCES

Altarama (http://www.altarama.com). This vendor brings SMS to the library for text messaging.
Bloglines (http://www.bloglines.com). This Web-based RSS reader delivers information.
Creative Commons (http://www.creativecommons.org). Discover how to add this type of copyright to your own works—or works by your teens.
del.icio.us (http://del.icio.us). Search for good content on others’ tagged topics or share your own Web collection.
Flickr (http://www.Flickr.com). Type in tags to search the directory of photos, or upload and tag your own photos.
Google SMS (http://www.Google.com/sms). Ask Google a question as a text message and get an answer the same way.
Ipodder (http://www.ipodder.org). Software for downloading podcasts.
iTunes (http://www.itunes.com). Find and subscribe to podcasts.
JotSpot (http://www.jotspot.com). Create your own wiki, for free.
Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki (http://www.libsuccess.org/index.php?title=Main_Page). Read about best wiki practices, add your own, or edit something that already exists.
Live Journal (http://www.livejournal.com). This blogging service, popular with teens, now includes tagging.
Podcast Alley (http://www.podcastalley.com). Find podcasts on an array of topics.
RSS for Educators (http://www.weblogg-ed.com/rss_for_ed). Here’s everything you need to know to start using RSS to deliver information automatically.
Skype (http://www.skype.com). This Internet telephony software allows you to talk to others via your computer.
Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org). In this communal encyclopedia, anyone can add or edit content.
Yahoo! SMS (http://local.yahoo.com). Get local information sent to a cell phone via text message.

Linda W. Braun is a New York City-based educational technology consultant with LEO: Librarians & Educators Online. She provides training, consulting, and project management for schools, libraries, and other educational institutions. She also teaches for Lesley University and Simmons College. Her latest book is Technically Involved: Technology-Based Youth Participation Activities for Your Library (ALA Editions, 2003.) Contact her at lbraun@leonline.com.

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  1. [...] Braun, Linda W. “Playing Keep Up with Emergent Technologies.” VOYA. Aug. 2005. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. http://www.voyamagazine.com/2010/03/30tag-team-tech-archives. [...]

  2. [...] Braun, Linda W. “Playing Keep Up with Emergent Technologies.” VOYA. Aug. 2005. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. http://www.voyamagazine.com/2010/03/30tag-team-tech-archives. [...]

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