April 15, 2014

Teen Tech Week 2014: Computer Tear Downs, Skyping, and Raspberry Pis

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Teen tech week pic

Tech activities at the Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa, FL.

Maker spaces, robot construction, and computer tear-downs will figure prominently in librarians’ Teen Tech Week lineups this year, taking place from March 9 through 15.

Sponsored by the Young Adult Library Service Association (YALSA), Teen Tech Week, promoting a 2014 “DIY @ your Library” theme, is attracting Twitter dialogue at #TTW14, with librarians also sharing their project ideas on Pinterest and elsewhere.

Along with other librarians, Diana Rendina, media specialist at Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa, FL, plans to bring hands-on learning to kids both in her library and online. Stations in the school’s media center will offer projects from taking apart phones to using the pieces for sculptures, while also suggesting virtual activities such as building a Minecraft library and designing with the online Lego-building platform, Build with Chrome, on the media center’s online page.

Teen Tech Week falls squarely in the middle of her sixth to eighth-graders’ spring break. So Rendina plans to run her events the week before—and leave the digital projects online so students can participate from home over vacation.

“We’ll have tutorials on how to take screenshots and they can email them to me,” she says. “For Minecraft, we’ll publish the pictures on the media center blog and the winner will get a $10 Amazon gift card.”

Jessica Young looks online for ideas throughout the year. “I love Pinterest because it’s so visual and I find tons of ideas,” say Young, assistant youth services librarian at the Johnston (IA) Public Library. “I also bring my Teen Advisory Board ideas from Pinterest. When I show them things visually it sparks ideas from them.”

Young is celebrating Teen Tech Week at her branch with a one-day DIY YouTube party, a suggestion from the 20 or so sixth to 12th graders who come monthly to the library for teen board meetings. Patrons will send links to their favorite videos, which will be screened, with a contest for different favorites.

The Oskaloosa (IA) Public Library is integrating online tools into its first Teen Tech Week event as well, with a Skype chat with John Corey Whaley, author of Where Things Come Back (2011), winner of the 2012 Printz Award, and Noggin (2014, both S & S). The library is trying to incorporate more social media efforts into their programming, says William Ottens, the library’s director.

But students will mostly take part in maker space activities inside the library, including a Tech Take Apart night where teens can take apart old Dell PCs and a laptop—and use the parts the next night to construct robots with wires and hot glue. Ottens believes that libraries play a core role in exposing students to experiences they may not be able to get at school or at home.

“Some of them may be interested in becoming computer scientists,” he says. “And they may not have the opportunity at home to take apart a computer.”

Rather than disassembling computers, Karen Jensen is hoping her students will use them to build. Teens will get to program a Raspberry Pi to run a remote-control Lego at the Betty Warmack Branch Library in Grand Prairie, TX, where Jensen is a youth services librarian.

This is Jensen’s third year holding Teen Tech Week, and she put this year’s program together fairly teen tech week2inexpensively by using some special project money to purchase equipment, she says. Jensen posted some of her ideas on her blog, Teen Librarian’s Toolbox.

Rendina agrees that it doesn’t take a lot of money to entice students to engage with technology and crafting, which supports creative thinking and innovation in young patrons. Even though her school has a STEM magnet program, not every student gets to participate in every class offered on campus. The library can fill in those blanks.

“The library is open access, and everyone can come in here,” she says. “Also, I like having things that are not attached to a grade. It gives the students more freedom to experiment and not worry if they mess up.”

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Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business and technology, and is the recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism. She can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.

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