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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Technology, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. WANTED: ONE TECHNICAL GEEK by Penny Dolan



It’s the start of the new academic year. 
It's a time for change. 

September is the month when lots of teenagers in the UK move on, leaving home for college or gap years or other adventures.

The growing-up may have felt, at times, like very long years, so rejoice now that change has arrived at last

 
Rejoice, for a moment, in what you’re losing.   All those late arrivals and sudden slam-door exits, the too-much too-loud music or grunts-plus-earphones; the washing machine full of dirty clothes; the presence of unknown bodies sleeping on living room floors and sofas; the big screens and small screens constantly flickering with fascinating stuff, and more.

Aha! Soon you’ll be nostalgic for bathrooms stacked with more grooming products than can be daubed on one person in a lifetime, Even so, it will also feel very good to reclaim some of the space that you knew was once there. 

However, before it’s too late, be aware of what you will be losing too. Especially  if you’re a freelance loner working from home. The person who is probably your most valuable technical resource is leaving. Not only will all that precious and vital energy disappear - and no, I'm not joking! - but so will all their random knowledge, skills and fluency with all things technical. 


From the moment that door closes, you will be relying on your own knowledge - and how does that stand up right now, all by itself? 

I have no precious teen tech around right now. I have no handy geek or wizard who can help me with the latest social media trends, no person who can explain how to do the things I want to do, or the thing I don't know I should know about.


I don’t sit there bleating (even if this post may seem so.)
I ask, I enquire, I go to the on-line videos and follow the simple steps. I google for answers, try things out and solve problems.  


But, but, but . . . so often I find a gap where an essential bit of information should be.




Yes, the screen can show me “this” but what about the “that” that goes with it? The missing link that takes such hours to discover, the reason behind x or y? I 'd really like to borrow a socialised techno-wise human being for a week or three, please. Aaagh!


Maybe you are lucky? Maybe you are young yourself or you work outside home and have easy access, not only to training but to the casual wisdom of facts being passed on and gadgets explained.

If not, be warned.
If you work at your writing at home, alone, from now on you’ll be battling with new media and new work at the same time, and there's not many hours to go round.  

Be nice to your nerds while you’ve got them. Today is the first of September. You’ve got about two weeks to download all they know.


Penny Dolan

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2. YALSAblog Tweets of the Week – August 29, 2014

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between August 29 and September 4 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.

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3. The unfinished fable of the sparrows

Owls and robots. Nature and computers. It might seem like these two things don’t belong in the same place, but The Unfinished Fable of the Sparrows (in an extract from Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence) sheds light on a particular problem: what if we used our highly capable brains to build machines that surpassed our general intelligence?

It was the nest-building season, but after days of long hard work, the sparrows sat in the evening glow, relaxing and chirping away.

“We are all so small and weak. Imagine how easy life would be if we had an owl who could help us build our nests!”

“Yes!” said another. “And we could use it to look after our elderly and our young.”

“It could give us advice and keep an eye out for the neighborhood cat,” added a third.

Then Pastus, the elder-bird, spoke: “Let us send out scouts in all directions and try to find an abandoned owlet somewhere, or maybe an egg. A crow chick might also do, or a baby weasel. This could be the best thing that ever happened to us, at least since the opening of the Pavilion of Unlimited Grain in yonder backyard.”

The flock was exhilarated, and sparrows everywhere started chirping at the top of their lungs.

Only Scronkfinkle, a one-eyed sparrow with a fretful temperament, was unconvinced of the wisdom of the endeavor. Quoth he: “This will surely be our undoing. Should we not give some thought to the art of owl-domestication and owl-taming first, before we bring such a creature into our midst?”

Replied Pastus: “Taming an owl sounds like an exceedingly difficult thing to do. It will be difficult enough to find an owl egg. So let us start there. After we have succeeded in raising an owl, then we can think about taking on this other challenge.”

“There is a flaw in that plan!” squeaked Scronkfinkle; but his protests were in vain as the flock had already lifted off to start implementing the directives set out by Pastus.

Just two or three sparrows remained behind. Together they began to try to work out how owls might be tamed or domesticated. They soon realized that Pastus had been right: this was an exceedingly difficult challenge, especially in the absence of an actual owl to practice on. Nevertheless they pressed on as best they could, constantly fearing that the flock might return with an owl egg before a solution to the control problem had been found.

Headline image credit: Chestnut Sparrow by Lip Kee. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

The post The unfinished fable of the sparrows appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. Ethics of social networking in social work

Facebook celebrated its tenth anniversary in February. It has over 1.2 billion active users — equating to one user for every seven people worldwide. This social networking phenomenon has not only given our society a new way of sharing information with others; it’s changed the way we think about “liking” and “friending.” Actually, “friending” was not even considered a proper word until Facebook popularized its use. Traditionally, a friend is not just a person one knows, but a person with whom one shares personal affection, connection, trust, and familiarity. Under Facebook-speak, friending is simply the act of attaching a person to a contact list on the social networking website. One does not have to like, trust, or even know people in order to friend them. The purpose of friending is to connect people interested in sharing information. Some people friend only “traditional friends.” Others friend people on Facebook who are “mere acquaintances,” business associates, and even people with whom they have no prior relationship. On Facebook, “liking” is supposed to indicate that the person enjoys or is partial to the story, photo, or other content that someone has posted on Facebook. One does not have to be a friend to like someone’s content, and one may also like content on other websites.

Unbeknown to many Facebook users is how Facebook and other websites gather and use information about people’s friending and liking behaviors. For instance, the data gathered by Facebook is used to help determine which advertisements a particular user sees. Although Facebook does have some privacy protection features, many people do not use them, meaning that they are sharing private information with anyone who has access to the Internet. Even if a person tries to restrict information to “friends,” there are no provisions to ensure that the friends to not share the information with others, posting information in publically accessible places or simply sharing information in a good, old-fashioned manner – oral gossip. So, given what we know (and perhaps don’t know) about liking and friending, should social workers like their clients, encourage clients to like them, or friend their clients?

When considering the use of online social networking, social workers need to consider their ethical duties with respect to their primary commitment to clients, their duty to maintain appropriate professional boundaries, and their duty to protect confidential client information (NASW, Code of Ethics, 2008, Standards 1.01, 1.06, and 1.07). Allow me to begin with the actual situation that instigated my thinking about these issues. Recently, I saw a social worker’s Facebook page advertising her services. She encouraged potential clients to become friends and to like her. She offered a 10% discount in counseling fees for clients who liked her. What could possibly be a problem with providing clients with this sort of discount? The worker was providing clients with a benefit, and all they had to do was like her… they didn’t even have to become her friend.

In terms of 1.01, the social worker should ask herself whether she was acting in a way that promoted client interests, or whether she was primarily promoting her own interests. If her decision to offer discounts was purely a decision to promote profits (her interests), then she may be taking advantage (perhaps unintentionally) of her clients. If her clients were receiving benefits that outweighed the costs and risks, then she may be in a better position to justify the requests for friends and likes.

Woman in home office with computer and paperwork frowning. © monkeybusinessimages via iStockphoto.
Woman in home office with computer and paperwork frowning. © monkeybusinessimages via iStockphoto.

With regard to maintaining appropriate boundaries, the worker should ask how clients perceive her requests for friends and likes. Do clients understand that the requests are in the context of maintaining a professional relationship, or might terms such as friending and liking blur the distinctions between professional and social relationships? If she truly wants to know whether clients value her services (as opposed to like), perhaps she should use a more valid and reliable measurement of client satisfaction or worker effectiveness. There are no Likert-type scales when it comes to liking on Facebook. You can only “like” or “do nothing.”

Confidentiality presents perhaps the most difficult issues when it comes to liking and friending. When a client likes a social worker who specializes in gambling addiction, for instance, does the client know that he may start receiving advertisements for gambling treatment services… or perhaps for casinos, gambling websites, or racetracks? Who knows what other businesses might be harvesting online information about the client. “OMG!” Further, does the client realize that the client’s Facebook friends will know the client likes the social worker? Although the client is not explicitly stating he is a client, others may draw this conclusion – and remember, these “others” are not necessarily restricted to the client’s trusted confidantes. They may include co-workers, neighbors, future employers, or others who may not hold the client’s best interests to heart.

One could say it’s a matter of consent – the worker is not forcing the client to like her, so liking is really an expression of the client’s free will. All sorts of businesses offer perks to people who like or friend them. Shouldn’t clients be allowed to pursue a discount as long as they know the risks? Hmmm… do they know the actual risks? Do they know that what seems like an innocuous act – liking – may have severe consequences one day? Consider, is it truly an expression of free will if the worker is using a financial incentive – particularly if clients have very limited income and means to pay for services? Further, young children and people with dementia or other mental conditions may not have the capacity to understand the risks and make truly informed choices.

Digital natives (people born into the digital age) might say these are the ramblings of an old curmudgeon (ok, they probably woudn’t use the term curmudgeon). When considering the ethicality of social work behaviors, we need to consider context. The context of Facebook, for instance, includes a culture where sharing seems to be valued much more than privacy. Many digital natives share intimate details of their life without grave concerns about their confidentiality. They have not experienced negative repercussions from posting details about their intimate relationships, break-ups, triumphs, challenges, and even embarrassments. They may not view liking a social worker’s website any riskier than liking their favorite ice cream parlor. So, to a large segment of Facebook users, is this whole issue much ado about nothing?

In the context of Internet risks, there are far more severe concerns than social workers asking clients to like them on Facebook. Graver Internet risks include cyber-bulling, identity theft, and hacking into national defense, financial institutions, and other important systems that are vulnerable to cyber-terrorism. Still, social workers should be cautious about asking clients to like them… on Facebook or otherwise.
The Internet offers social workers many different approaches to communicating with clients. Online communication should not be feared. On the other hand, social workers should consider all potential risks and benefits before making use of a particular online communication strategy. Social work and many other helping professions are still grappling with the ethicality of various online communication strategies with clients. What is hugely popular now – including Facebook – may continue to grow in popularity. However, with time and experience, significant risks may be exposed. Some technologies may lose popularity, and others may take their place.

Headline image credit: Internet icons and symbols. Public domain via Pixabay.

The post Ethics of social networking in social work appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. Back to School: CIPA Policy Brief

This summer, ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy and Office for Intellectual Freedom released a policy brief marking a decade of school and public libraries limiting patrons’ access to online information due to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

Titled Fencing Out Knowledge: Impacts of the Children’s Internet Protection Act 10 Years Later, the report advocates an action plan to reduce the nationwide, negative impacts of CIPA. I found it well worth a read, and you will too if you wish to understand the progressive possibilities surrounding CIPA at your library and at libraries across America.

IMG_1383

Since 2003, those schools and public libraries that accept federal funding to purchase internet access have been required by CIPA to use filtering software on all of their internet-enabled computers. This filtering software must block access to images classified as “obscene,” “child pornography,” or “harmful to minors.” Any adult wishing to access material blocked under the auspices of “harmful to minors” is backed in his/her quest for content by the First Amendment and CIPA, which requires that the material be unblocked by the school or library. The first two categories (“obscene” and “child pornography” images) are not similarly protected under the First Amendment, so schools and libraries are not required to unblock those materials.

In theory, CIPA is fairly unobjectionable: none of us want to provide materials harmful to minors, child pornography, or obscenity. In practice, however, schools and libraries have applied CIPA in a draconian fashion: over-filtering for fear of patrons finding objectionable materials and for fear of losing federal funding. Going above and beyond CIPA’s filtering guidelines has resulted in egregious bans on social media, gaming, and emerging sites; nursing exams and other health information being blocked; embarrassment and confusion for patrons; and a negative public perception of technology at the library.  Furthermore, as Fencing Out Knowledge states, over-filtering does a disservice to our 21st century learners, is contrary to ALA’s Bill of Rights, and disproportionately affects the economically disadvantaged.

Fortunately, the report includes four recommendations for ALA to take action on this CIPA-originating issue of over-filtering. The recommendations are:

  1. Increase awareness of the spectrum of filtering choices.
  2. Develop a toolkit for school leaders.
  3. Establish a digital repository of internet filtering studies.
  4. Conduct research to explore the educational use of social media platforms and assess the impact of filtering in schools.

While ALA tackles those items at a national level, in your own community you can advocate for young adults’ broad access to the internet by becoming familiar with CIPA’s requirements; educating yourself on the harms of over-filtering; and advocating for digital policies that best fit your school or library mission and your teenagers’ 21st century needs. Don’t wait for ALA to finish their action items! Start the new school year by coming to the table now. Read the report as soon as possible, and become a consistent, professional voice at your school or library’s Technology Committee.

Click here to read Fencing Out Knowledge: Impacts of the Children’s Internet Protection Act 10 Years Later.

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6. Special events and the dynamical statistics of Twitter

A large variety of complex systems in ecology, climate science, biomedicine, and engineering have been observed to exhibit so-called tipping points, where the dynamical state of the system abruptly changes. Typical examples are the rapid transition in lakes from clear to turbid conditions or the sudden extinction of species after a slightly change of environmental conditions. Data and models suggest that detectable warning signs may precede some, though clearly not all, of these drastic events. This view is also corroborated by recently developed abstract mathematical theory for systems, where processes evolve at different rates and are subject to internal and/or external stochastic perturbations.

One main idea to derive warning signs is to monitor the fluctuations of the dynamical process by calculating the variance of a suitable monitoring variable. When the tipping point is approached via a slowly-drifting parameter, the stabilizing effects of the system slowly diminish and the noisy fluctuations increase via certain well-defined scaling laws.

Based upon these observations, it is natural to ask, whether these scaling laws are also present in human social networks and can allow us to make predictions about future events. This is an exciting open problem, to which at present only highly speculative answers can be given. It is indeed to predict a priori unknown events in a social system. Therefore, as an initial step, we try to reduce the problem to a much simpler problem to understand whether the same mechanisms, which have been observed in the context of natural sciences and engineering, could also be present in sociological domains.

Courtesy of Christian Kuehn.
Courtesy of Christian Kuehn.

In our work, we provide a very first step towards tackling a substantially simpler question by focusing on a priori known events. We analyse a social media data set with a focus on classical variance and autocorrelation scaling law warning signs. In particular, we consider a few events, which are known to occur on a specific time of the year, e.g., Christmas, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. Then we consider time series of the frequency of Twitter hashtags related to the considered events a few weeks before the actual event, but excluding the event date itself and some time period before it.

Now suppose we do not know that a dramatic spike in the number of Twitter hashtags, such as #xmas or #thanksgiving, will occur on the actual event date. Are there signs of the same stochastic scaling laws observed in other dynamical systems visible some time before the event? The more fundamental question is: Are there similarities to known warning signs from other areas also present in social media data?

We answer this question affirmatively as we find that the a priori known events mentioned above are preceded by variance and autocorrelation growth (see Figure). Nevertheless, we are still very far from actually using social networks to predict the occurrence of many other drastic events. For example, it can also be shown that many spikes in Twitter activity are not predictable through variance and autocorrelation growth. Hence, a lot more research is needed to distinguish different dynamical processes that lead to large outburst of activity on social media.

The findings suggest that further investigations of dynamical processes in social media would be worthwhile. Currently, a main focus in the research on social networks lies on structural questions, such as: Who connects to whom? How many connections do we have on average? Who are the hubs in social media? However, if one takes dynamical processes on the network, as well as the changing dynamics of the network topology, into account, one may obtain a much clearer picture, how social systems compare and relate to classical problems in physics, chemistry, biology and engineering.

The post Special events and the dynamical statistics of Twitter appeared first on OUPblog.

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7. Good for the Brain

Want to help your students focus better during independent writing time? A recent NY Times piece by Daniel J. Levitin may hold the key to making this happen in your classroom.

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8. An appreciation of air conditioning

This week—August 15, to be exact—celebrates the climax of Air Conditioning Appreciation Days, a month-long tribute to the wonderful technology that has made summer heat a little more bearable for millions of people. Census figures tell us that nine out of ten Americans have central air conditioning, or a window unit, or more than one, in our homes; in our cars, it’s nearly universal. Go to any hardware or home goods store and you’ll see a pile of boxes containing no-fuss machines in a whole range of sizes, amazingly affordable, plop-’em-in-the-window-and-plug-’em-in-and-you’re-done. Not only do we appreciate the air conditioner, but we appreciate how easy it is to become air conditioned.

When it comes to cool, we’ve come a long way. But in earlier times, it was nowhere near as simple for ordinary citizens to get summertime comfort.

One of the first cooling contraptions offered to the public showed up around 1865, the brainchild of inventor Azel S. Lyman: Lyman’s Air Purifier. This consisted of a tall, bulky cabinet that formed the headboard of a bed, divided into various levels that held ice to cool the air, unslaked lime to absorb humidity, and charcoal to absorb “minute particles of decomposing animal and vegetable matter” as well as “disgusting gases.” Relying on the principle that hot air rises and cool air sinks, air would (theoretically) enter the cabinet under its own power, rise to encounter the ice, be dried by the lime, purified by the charcoal, and finally ejected—directly onto the pillow of the sleeper—“as pure and exhilarating as was ever breathed upon the heights of Oregon.” Lyman announced this marvel in Scientific American, and in the same issue ran an advertisement looking for salesmen. Somehow the Air Purifier didn’t take off.

More interesting to homeowners was the device that showed up in 1882, the electric fan. Until then, fans were powered by water or steam, usually intended for public buildings rather than homes, and most of them tended to circulate air lazily. But the electric model was quite different, with blades that revolved at 2,000 rpm—“as rapidly as a buzz saw,” observed one wag, and for years they were nicknamed “buzz” fans. They were some of the very first electrically powered appliances available for sale. They were also exorbitant, costing $20 (in modern terms, about $475). But that didn’t stop the era’s big spenders from seizing upon them eagerly. Delighted reviewers of the electric fan claimed that it was “warranted to lower the temperature of a room from ninety-five to sixty degrees in a few minutes” and that its effect was “like going into a cool grove.”

The fan combined with ice around the turn of the century, producing an eight-foot-tall metal object that its inventor called “The NEVO, or Cold Air Stove.” The principle was simple: air entered through a small pipe at the top, was pulled by a fan through the NEVO’s body—which had to be stuffed daily with 250 pounds of ice and salt to provide the cooling—and would then be discharged out an opening at the bottom. “It dries, washes, and purifies the air.” As the NEVO had more in common with a gigantic ice cream freezer than with actual temperature control, and the smallest NEVO cost $80 (nowadays, $1,700) and cost $100 per season (over $2,000) to operate, it didn’t get far.

By 100th Anniversary Press Kit – Carrier Corp (Carrier Corporation) Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

By this time, a young engineer named Willis Carrier had developed a mechanical system that could actually cool the air and dry it, the Apparatus for Treating Air. But this was machinery of the Giant Economy Size, and used only in factories. In 1914, one wealthy gent asked Carrier to install a system in his new forty-bedroom Minneapolis home, and indeed the system was the same type that “a small factory” would use. Unfortunately, this proud homeowner died before the house was completed, and historians speculate that the machinery was never even turned on.

It wasn’t until 1929 that Frigidaire announced the first home air conditioner, the Frigidaire Room Cooler. This wasn’t in any way a lightweight portable. The Room Cooler consisted of a four-foot-tall metal cabinet, weighing 200 pounds, that had to be connected by pipes to a separate 400-pound compressor (“may be located in the basement, or any convenient location”). And it cost $800, in those days the same as a Pontiac roadster. While newspaper and magazine articles regarded the Room Cooler as a hot-weather miracle, the price (along with the setup requirements) meant that its customers came almost solely from the ranks of the rich, or businesses with cash to burn. Then fate intervened only months after the Room Cooler’s introduction when the stock market crashed, leaving very little cash for anyone to burn. Home air conditioning would have to wait until the country climbed back from the Depression.

Actually, it waited until the end of World War II, when the postwar housing boom prompted brand-new homeowners to fill their houses with the latest comforts. Along with television, air conditioning was at the top of the wish list. And at last, the timing was right; manufacturers were able to offer central cooling, as well as window units, at affordable prices. The compressor in the backyard, or the metal posterior droning out the window, became bona fide status symbols. By 1953, sales topped a million units—and the country never looked back.

Appreciation? Of course. And perhaps, adoration.

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9. Digital Inclusion

The Information Policy & Access Center has released their findings from a 2013 Survey about Digital Inclusion.

You can read the full report online.

Digital Inclusion is more than Digital Literacy, focusing on not just access but supporting users to engage in digital communities. The report explored the roles of public libraries in four main areas:

  • Quality access to digital technology
  • Access to a range of digital content
  • Services and programs that promote digital literacy
  • Programs that address key community needs, such as health and wellness and education, and that promote workforce development and civic engagement.

Overwhelmingly what we discovered is that libraries have increased access to computer workstations and faster internet and technology infrastructure like outlets and wireless printing.

  • All libraries offer access to online databases.
  • Almost all libraries offer homework assistance.
  • Most libraries offer access to e-books,
  • While over a quarter of libraries provide patrons with e-readers to check out.

The survey has also documented the innovations that are happening in libraries like Mobile Technology and 3D Printers which have been adopted in 1.5% of libraries.

What the survey highlighted is that while we are providing access to technology and content we are creating a different type of digital divide.

City Libraries are able to

  • make more upgrades to technology infrastructure like workstations and outlets,
  • offer an Average Internet Download Speed that is 5X faster than Rural Libraries.

Only 32.5 percent of rural libraries can support formal technology classes,

  • while 77.6 of city libraries offer formal computer skills training
  • 100% of city libraries surveyed reported that they offer either formal or informal technology training.

We know that rural communities have less access to resources, but as we work to support STEM in schools these gaps can put communities even further behind.

In addition to being an information center, many libraries serve as a central location where members can gather to foster community.

Over half of Suburban and City Libraries host community engagement events

while less than half of town libraries and less than one-third of rural libraries are able to engage and support the community in this way.

As more and more people connect online, the library can be one of the few places where the public can engage with members of the community, be exposed to diversity, and gain a better appreciation for and connect to their neighbors in a comfortable and relaxed environment. While hosting a book club, candidate forum, or gaming seems small, these can be one of the few places in the community outside of school where everyone has a chance to interact and participate.

Lastly Health and Wellness is an area we can all improve. With the move to National Health Care, and the confusion of much of the public I expected to see many libraries offering programs and support, but a mere 37% of surveyed libraries offered programs that assisted patrons in finding and accessing health insurance information.

 

The one area of Health and Wellness that libraries are addressing is promotion of a healthy lifestyle, but only 55% of libraries offer these types of programs and it drops to 44% for Rural Libraries.

We have made many strides since the last study was conducted in 1994, but we still have a long way to go. With so many free online courses available libraries have even more access to resources than they did before. We can partner with organizations like  Workforce Career and Job Training, CoderDojo, Code.org, Healthcare.gov, local health providers, and other community organizations to help serve patrons and create a more informed citizenry.

This is the first survey to provide detailed data about how libraries are serving the public. As we apply for grants to support the needs of our communities, I hope this survey helps frame the needs of our library users.

Ipac has framed the survey results in the context of the communities libraries serve. You can access a mapping tool online at http://digitalinclusion.umd.edu to explore the services available in your community.

All images from http://digitalinclusion.umd.edu/infographics

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10. What’s the media Feeding us?

feed Whats the media Feeding us?For the past six weeks, I have had the pleasure of teaching an English course to a group of highly motivated high school students enrolled in the summer session of an Upward Bound program. This summer’s book selection — Feed by M. T. Anderson — has spurred a campus conversation that I keep catching snippets of while I wait in line in the cafeteria or when I walk down the halls in the dorm. (I’m serious — a large group of teenagers, in school in the summer, are really talking about a book in their free time!)

Feed never fails to generate intense feelings and is also one of those books that could be suited to almost any theme or purpose that a course might cover. It lends itself to discussions of identity, social class, gender roles and expectations, conformity, language, as well as the topics around which I organized my summer course: media and technology.

The overarching question my students and I have been grappling with over the course of the summer is “Does the media create or reflect reality?” Feed is the perfect title to use as a case study for exploring this question, as it presents a dystopian world where the majority of people have a device — the “feed” — implanted directly into their brains. The feed constantly bombards its users with advertisements that are responsive to their locations and emotional states and also offers seemingly unlimited access to information. Of course, it also leads the users to have tremendous blind spots in terms of their understanding of the world around them and is controlled by powerful corporations who may or may not have the best interests of their users at heart.

Feed is the perfect choice for a course focused on media literacy. The book itself articulates and reinforces the need for precisely the skills learned in media literacy exercises: how to think critically about the content present in media messages, how to actively engage with information rather than passively accepting it, and how to uncover who creates the media and what their agendas might be.

Over the course of the summer, I have watched my students develop an increasing awareness of the challenges and implications of growing up in a media-saturated world. In addition to reading Feed, we have analyzed videos, advertisements, and contemporary songs to see what is under the surface of the media messages that we too often accept without question — and with which we even find ourselves singing along! I can see my students’ blinders beginning to come off as they think more critically about the world around them and how media impacts their own lives.

While Feed projects a vision of a dystopian future and was published back in 2002, I am struck each time I reread the book by how close the world Anderson describes seems to our own. The media and technology are increasingly influential and already play a key role in shaping our reality. The time to think about the implications of a media feeding us constant messages that may or may not reflect the world we want to inhabit is now and Feed is a wonderful title to use to engage young people in these critical conservations.

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11. My client’s online presence

By Jan Willer


Social media and other technologies have changed how we communicate. Consider how we coordinate events and contact our friends and family members today, versus how we did it 20 or 30 years ago. Today, we often text, email, or communicate through social media more frequently than we phone or get together in person.

Now contrast that with psychotherapy, which is still about two people getting together in a room and talking. Certainly, technology has changed psychotherapy. There are now apps for mental health issues. There are virtual reality treatments. Psychotherapy can now be provided through videoconferencing (a.k.a. telehealth). But still, it’s usually simply two people talking in a room.

Our psychotherapy clients communicate with everyone else they know through multiple technological platforms. Should we let them “friend” us on social media? Should we link to them on professional networking sites? Is it ok to text with them? What about email? When are these ok and not ok?

Social Media Explained (with Donuts). Uploaded by Chris Lott. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

Social Media Explained (with Donuts). Uploaded by Chris Lott. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

Some consensus is emerging about these issues. Experts agree that psychotherapists should not connect with current or former clients on social media. This is to help preserve the clients’ confidentiality. Emailing and texting are fine for communicating brief messages about the parameters of the session, such as confirming the appointment time, or informing the psychotherapist that the client is running late. Research has shown that emotional tone is frequently miscommunicated in texting and email, so emotion-laden topics are best discussed during the session.

How do we learn about new people we’ve met? In the past, we’d talk directly to them, and maybe also talk to people we knew in common. Now everyone seems to search online for everyone else. This happens frequently with first dates, college applicants, and job applicants.

Again, contrast this with psychotherapy. Again, two people are sitting in a room, talking and learning about each other. When is it ok for a psychotherapist to search for information about a client online? What if the psychotherapist discovers important information that the client withheld? How do these discoveries impact the psychotherapy?

No clear consensus has emerged on these issues. Some experts assert that psychotherapists should almost never search online for clients. Other experts respond that it is unreasonable to expect that psychotherapists should not access publicly available information. Others suggest examining each situation on a case-by-case basis. One thing is clear: psychotherapists should communicate with their clients about their policies on internet searches. This should be done in the beginning of psychotherapy, as part of the informed consent process.

When we’ve voluntarily posted information online–and when information about us is readily available in news stories, court documents, or other public sources–we don’t expect this information to be private. For this reason, I find the assertion that psychotherapists can access publically available information to be more compelling. On my intake forms, I invite clients to send me a link to their LinkedIn profile instead of describing their work history, if they prefer. If a client mentions posting her artwork online, I’ll suggest that she send me a link to it or ask her how to find it. I find that clients are pleased that I take an interest.

What about the psychotherapist’s privacy? What if the client follows the psychotherapist’s Twitter account or blog? What if the client searches online for the psychotherapist? What if the client discovers personal information about the psychotherapist by searching? Here’s the short answer: psychotherapists need to avoid posting anything online that we don’t want everyone, including our clients, to see.

Ways to communicate online continue to proliferate. For example, an app that sends only the word “Yo” was recently capitalized to the tune of $2.5 million and was downloaded over 2 million times. Our professional ethics codes are revised infrequently (think years), while new apps and social media are emerging monthly, even daily. Expert consensus on how to manage these new communications technologies emerges slowly (again, think years). But psychotherapists have to respond to new communications technologies in the moment, every day. All we can do is keep the client’s well-being and confidentiality as our highest aspiration.

Jan Willer is a clinical psychologist in private practice. For many years, she trained psychology interns at the VA. She is the author of The Beginning Psychotherapist’s Companion, which offers practical suggestions and multicultural clinical examples to illustrate the foundations of ethical psychotherapy practice. She is interested in continuing to bridge the notorious research-practice gap in clinical psychology. Her seminars have been featured at Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and DePaul University. 

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12. YALSAblog Tweets of the Week-August 8

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between August 1 and August 7 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.

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13. Paul Otlet, Google, Wikipedia, and cataloging the world

As soon as humanity began its quest for knowledge, people have also attempted to organize that knowledge. From the invention of writing to the abacus, from medieval manuscripts to modern paperbacks, from microfiche to the Internet, our attempt to understand the world — and catalog it in an orderly fashion with dictionaries, encyclopedias, libraries, and databases — has evolved with new technologies. One man on the quest for order was innovator, idealist, and scientist Paul Otlet, who is the subject of the new book Cataloging the World. We spoke to author Alex Wright about his research process, Paul Otlet’s foresight into the future of global information networks, and Otlet’s place in the history of science and technology.

What most surprised you when researching Paul Otlet?

Paul Otlet was a source of continual surprise to me. I went into this project with a decent understanding of his achievements as an information scientist (or “documentalist,” as he would have said), but I didn’t fully grasp the full scope of his ambitions. For example, his commitment to progressive social causes, his involvement in the creation of the League of Nations, or his decades-long dream of building a vast World City to serve as the political and intellectual hub of a new post-national world order. His ambitions went well beyond the problem of organizing information. Ultimately, he dreamed of reorganizing the entire world.

What misconceptions exist regarding Paul Otlet and the story of the creation of the World Wide Web itself?

It’s temptingly easy to overstate Otlet’s importance. Despite his remarkable foresight about the possibilities of networks, he did not “invent” the World Wide Web. That credit rightly goes to Tim Berners-Lee and his partner (another oft-overlooked Belgian) Robert Cailliau. While Otlet’s most visionary work describes a global network of “electric telescopes” displaying text, graphics, audio, and video files retrieved from all over the world, he never actually built such a system. Nor did the framework he proposed involve any form of machine computation. Nonetheless, Otlet’s ideas anticipated the eventual development of hypertext information retrieval systems. And while there is no direct paper trail linking him to the acknowledged forebears of the Web (like Vannevar Bush, Douglas Engelbart, and Ted Nelson), there is tantalizing circumstantial evidence that Otlet’s ideas were clearly “in the air” and influencing an increasingly public dialogue about the problem of information overload – the same cultural petri dish in which the post-war Anglo-American vision of a global information network began to emerge.

What was the most challenging part of your research?

The sheer size of Otlet’s archives–over 1,000 boxes of papers, journals, and rough notes, much of it handwritten and difficult to decipher–presented a formidable challenge in trying to determine where to focus my research efforts. Fortunately the staff of the Mundaneum in Mons, Belgium, supported me every step of the way, helping me wade through the material and directing my attention towards his most salient work. Otlet’s adolescent diaries posed a particularly thorny challenge. On the one hand they offer a fascinating portrait of a bright but tormented teenager who by age 15 was already dreaming of organizing the world’s information. But his handwriting is all but illegible for long stretches. Even an accomplished French translator like my dear friend (and fellow Oxford author) Mary Ann Caws, struggled to help me decipher his nineteenth-century Wallonian adolescent chicken scratch. Chapter Two wouldn’t have been the same without her!

Photograph of Paul Otlet, circa 1939. Reproduced with permission of the Mundaneum, Mons, Belgium.

Photograph of Paul Otlet, circa 1939. Reproduced with permission of the Mundaneum, Mons, Belgium.

How do you hope this new knowledge of Otlet will influence the ways in which people view the Internet and information sites like Wikipedia?

I hope that it can cast at least a sliver of fresh light on our understanding of the evolution of networked information spaces. For all its similarities to the web, Otlet’s vision differed dramatically in several key respects, and points to several provocative roads not taken. Most importantly, he envisioned his web as a highly structured environment, with a complex semantic markup called the Universal Decimal Classification. An Otletian version of Wikipedia would almost certainly involve a more hierarchical and interlinked presentation of concepts (as opposed to the flat and relatively shallow structure of the current Wikipedia). Otlet’s work offers us something much more akin in spirit to the Semantic Web or Linked Data initiative: a powerful, tightly controlled system intended to help people make sense of complex information spaces.

Can you explain more about Otlet’s idea of “electronic telescopes” – whether they were feasible/possible, and to what extent they led to the creation of networks (as opposed to foreshadowing them)?

One early reviewer of the manuscript took issue with my characterization of Otlet’s “electric telescopes” as a kind of computer, but I’ll stand by that characterization. While the device he described may not fit the dictionary definition of a computer as a “programmable electronic device” – Otlet never wrote about programming per se – I would take the Wittgensteinian position that a word is defined by its use. By that standard, Otlet’s “electric telescope” constitutes what most of us would likely describe as a computer: a connected device for retrieving information over a network. As to whether it was technically feasible – that’s a trickier question. Otlet certainly never built one, but he was writing at a time when the television was first starting to look like a viable technology. Couple that with the emergence of radio, telephone, and telegraphs – not to mention new storage technologies like microfilm and even rudimentary fax machines – and the notion of an electric telescope may not seem so far-fetched after all.

What sorts of innovations would might have emerged from the Mundaneum – the institution at the center of Otlet’s “World City” – had it not been destroyed by the Nazis?

While the Nazi invasion signalled the death knell for Otlet’s project, it’s worth noting that the Belgian government had largely withdrawn its support a few years earlier. By 1940 many people already saw Otlet as a relic of another time, an old man harboring implausible dreams of international peace and Universal Truth. But Otlet and a smaller but committed team of staff soldiered on, undeterred, cataloging the vast collection that remained intact behind closed doors in Brussels’ Parc du Cinquantenaire. When the Nazis came, they cleared out the contents of the Palais Mondial, destroying over 70 tons worth of material, and making room for an exhibition of Third Reich art. Otlet’s productive career effectively came to an end, and he died a few years later in 1944.

It’s impossible to say quite how things might have turned out differently. But one notable difference between Otlet’s web and today’s version is the near-total absence of private enterprise – a vision that stands in stark contrast to today’s Internet, dominated as it is by a handful of powerful corporations.

Otlet’s Brussels headquarters stood almost right across the street from the present-day office of another outfit trying to organize and catalog the world’s information: Google.

Alex Wright is a professor of interaction design at the School of Visual Arts and a regular contributor to The New York Times. He is the author of Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age and Glut: Mastering Information through the Ages.

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14. App of the Week: ScratchJr

Name: ScratchJr
Platform: iOS 7 or later/compatible with iPad
Cost: Free

scratchjr logoOK, I know some of you are saying, “Wait, I thought this was the YALSAblog for those working with teens. What’s up with a review of an app that’s for really young kids?” It seems crazy that the YALSAblog App of the week would review something like ScratchJr, but I have to say, there’s a lot to make it worth recommending to staff working with teens and to teens themselves.

  • ScratchJr is a perfect way for any adult – library staff member, parent, teacher, etc. – to start learning about why all of this talk about teaching young people how to code is important, to begin to understand what block-based coding is all about, and to be able to gain some skills so to be better prepared for STEM-based programs that might be rolled out that integrate critical thinking, problem-solving, etc. within a coding environment.
  • Any library that is giving teens the chance to work with younger children on coding projects will want to know about ScratchJr. It’s a perfect app for teens to use with kids to get the younger kids started on learning how coding works and on STEM-based activities that integrate critical thinking and problem-solving. If the teens you work with are working on this kind of project, it’s also a perfect opportunity for teens to have a chance to talk and think about how to present the information to children, how to plan and implement a program of this kind, and so on. It will take a lot of critical thinking and problem-solving on a teen’s part to put together a ScratchJr program for younger children, and that’s great.


When you get started with ScratchJr you’ll need to start a new project. As with all Scratch software and apps, the new project starts with a cat as the main character of the story, or game, or activity you are going to program. And, as with all Scratch programs you can change that character and/or add more characters to the project you work on.
screen showing start of a scratchjr project

What ScratchJr and other programs of the same type is all about is learning how to program by creating a process that tells the cat – or other character that you use – to move in a certain way, say something, stop and pause for a period of time, and so on. The focus is on learning how the commands you put together have an impact on what’s going on on the screen.

ScratchJr doesn’t have as many commands to work with as it’s parent product Scratch, but it has plenty to get started with for those who are learning how to program in this way. Users can move characters in all directions, have the character speak, record narration, hide and show characters and more. Users can also add backgrounds and change the look of a character using some simple character editing tools.
sample of a scratch project in the works with blocks and characters on the screen

Any adult that is wondering what this coding thing that people are talking about as a part of learning for children and teens is all about, should try out ScratchJr as a first step in their own learning. Teens working to help younger kids will do well learning ScratchJr as well. It’s worth the time to take a look and think about how ScratchJr does have an impact on the teens and the families that you work with.

Have a suggestion for App of the Week? Let us know. And find more great Apps in the YALSA Blog’s App of the Week Archive.

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15. A Call to Tech Support

The wifi in my eldest daughter’s laptop died recently. Being the home’s Chief Technology Officer, I worked through the handy troubleshoot on the system which told me it was working perfectly. Of course, the inability to connect to the internet and the distraught look on my poor daughter’s face told me it wasn’t. No worries, I bought a USB dongle and she was up and running.

Little did I know that my trouble-shooting skills would soon be needed again. A week ago, she informed me that her dongle wasn’t working. Of course, at 11:15, my system was shut down, so I didn’t pay much attention and went to bed. When I awoke, I realized it wasn’t her computer – there was a wholesale internet outage in the house!

I think that is mentioned in Revelation, isn’t it? The Mark of the Beast and the inability to access High-Speed Wireless is in chapter 13, if I remember correctly. I looked outside and it didn’t appear the Battle of Armageddon had begun yet. A check of the beds told me the wife and kids were still here, so the rapture hadn’t left me behind (Whew!)

But I still had no internet.

This has happened before and I fixed it. What did I do? Oh yeah, I unplugged it and it rebooted itself. So I pulled the plug and let it regenerate. Unfortunately, the light blinking was still red long after power was restored. So I called my ever-helpful internet service provider and got stuck in the web of automated attendants who sound helpful, but are very patronizing. Don’t they know I am the CTO? That should give me some status, I would think.

My biggest problem wasn’t the self-righteous know-it-all computer voice on the other end of the phone, it was the fact that my cell phone service is spotty in the basement where the router resides. So I put the phone on speaker and listened as best I could. Like a rat pushing through a maze, I found the tech support cheese after seventeen minutes and the new, smarter sounding Tech Support Weenie voice tells me we are going to have to restart the system.

TSW: I will now tell you how to restart your system. This is a medium level procedure and will take approximately 3-5 minutes.

Okay

TSW: Can you see your internet router?

Yes

TSW: Please find the power cable on the back of the router and say yes when you’ve found it.

Got it

TSW: I didn’t understand you.

Er…  Yes

TSW: Trace the cable to the electric outlet. Unplug the cable and wait 10 seconds before plugging it back in.

Well, that’s what I did before, but okay

TSW: Did this solve your problem?

NO!

At that point, my spotty cell service affected my ability to clearly hear the next steps in the process. What I am pretty sure it said was for me to disconnect all cables, kick the box across the room, plug it back in and see if any lights were blinking. Repeat until no lights function.

Done!

After I hung up, I went to work early and left this note on the floor:

936051_10152553265964675_8432536674832206132_n

 

The good news, there is free wifi at the hotel, but I really wish they would call.


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16. YALSAblog Tweets of the Week: August 1, 2014

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between August 1 and August 7 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.

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17. YALSAblog Tweets of the Week: July 25, 2014

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between July 25 and July 31 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.

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18. Rebooting Philosophy

By Luciano Floridi


When we use a computer, its performance seems to degrade progressively. This is not a mere impression. An old version of Firefox, the free Web browser, was infamous for its “memory leaks”: it would consume increasing amounts of memory to the detriment of other programs. Bugs in the software actually do slow down the system. We all know what the solution is: reboot. We restart the computer, the memory is reset, and the performance is restored, until the bugs slow it down again.

Philosophy is a bit like a computer with a memory leak. It starts well, dealing with significant and serious issues that matter to anyone. Yet, in time, its very success slows it down. Philosophy begins to care more about philosophers’ questions than philosophical ones, consuming increasing amount of intellectual attention. Scholasticism is the ultimate freezing of the system, the equivalent of Windows’ “blue screen of death”; so many resources are devoted to internal issues that no external input can be processed anymore, and the system stops. The world may be undergoing a revolution, but the philosophical discourse remains detached and utterly oblivious. Time to reboot the system.

Philosophical “rebooting” moments are rare. They are usually prompted by major transformations in the surrounding reality. Since the nineties, I have been arguing that we are witnessing one of those moments. It now seems obvious, even to the most conservative person, that we are experiencing a turning point in our history. The information revolution is profoundly changing every aspect of our lives, quickly and relentlessly. The list is known but worth recalling: education and entertainment, communication and commerce, love and hate, politics and conflicts, culture and health, … feel free to add your preferred topics; they are all transformed by technologies that have the recording and processing of information as their core functions. Meanwhile, philosophy is degrading into self-referential discussions on irrelevancies.

The result of a philosophical rebooting today can only be beneficial. Digital technologies are not just tools merely modifying how we deal with the world, like the wheel or the engine. They are above all formatting systems, which increasingly affect how we understand the world, how we relate to it, how we see ourselves, and how we interact with each other.

The ‘Fourth Revolution’ betrays what I believe to be one of the topics that deserves our full intellectual attention today. The idea is quite simple. Three scientific revolutions have had great impact on how we see ourselves. In changing our understanding of the external world they also modified our self-understanding. After the Copernican revolution, the heliocentric cosmology displaced the Earth and hence humanity from the centre of the universe. The Darwinian revolution showed that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors through natural selection, thus displacing humanity from the centre of the biological kingdom. And following Freud, we acknowledge nowadays that the mind is also unconscious. So we are not immobile, at the centre of the universe, we are not unnaturally separate and diverse from the rest of the animal kingdom, and we are very far from being minds entirely transparent to ourselves. One may easily question the value of this classic picture. After all, Freud was the first to interpret these three revolutions as part of a single process of reassessment of human nature and his perspective was blatantly self-serving. But replace Freud with cognitive science or neuroscience, and we can still find the framework useful to explain our strong impression that something very significant and profound has recently happened to our self-understanding.

Since the fifties, computer science and digital technologies have been changing our conception of who we are. In many respects, we are discovering that we are not standalone entities, but rather interconnected informational agents, sharing with other biological agents and engineered artefacts a global environment ultimately made of information, the infosphere. If we need a champion for the fourth revolution this should definitely be Alan Turing.

The fourth revolution offers a historical opportunity to rethink our exceptionalism in at least two ways. Our intelligent behaviour is confronted by the smart behaviour of engineered artefacts, which can be adaptively more successful in the infosphere. Our free behaviour is confronted by the predictability and manipulability of our choices, and by the development of artificial autonomy. Digital technologies sometimes seem to know more about our wishes than we do. We need philosophy to make sense of the radical changes brought about by the information revolution. And we need it to be at its best, for the difficulties we are facing are challenging. Clearly, we need to reboot philosophy now.

Luciano Floridi is Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the University of Oxford, Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, and Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford. He was recently appointed as ethics advisor to Google. His most recent book is The Fourth Revolution: How the Infosphere is Reshaping Human Reality.

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Image credit: Alan Turing Statue at Bletchley Park. By Ian Petticrew. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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19. Robots Teach the Basics

The Booth & Dimock Memorial Library in Coventry, Connecticut purchased its very own 3D printer this past winter. That forced us to take the leap from encouraging the maker-mentality to full on maker space. It is still a work in process (and always will be) but we learned many great things during the past few months. Here is my favorite.

Sometimes it takes a complex project to make you learn the simplest of tasks. 

Robot

Our maker space brought other departments looking for collaborative programming before our 3D printer was even out of the box. We jumped right in and tried to pick a project that would encompass six ninety minute workshops and teach a variety of skills. We decided to make these robots to expose a group of eighth graders to 3D printing, soldering, wiring and coding.

The parts were downloaded from Thingiverse with a few modifications based on the electronic components we were able to purchase. Those modified pieces were also found online along with a plethora of information and including further instructions from other robot projects.

robot partsThe 3D printing portion went really well! Most of the teens knew much more than I did about the process, the program and even our printer. It was intimidating because I wasn’t sure at that point how I would fill up the remaining sessions if they did everything so quickly. The same thing happened with the learn-to-solder portion.

At the next meeting each teen was given a kit with their electronic components, hardware and the 3D printed pieces. It was time for assembly. That was the part I was most confident with—it had taken me maybe 15 minutes to assemble the robot (before wiring). That wasn’t the case with this group.

They had no idea how to use a simple screwdriver.

I had taken this step for granted. Agonized over the coding, made detailed wiring diagrams and taught them to solder before they ever came near the electronics. Yet, this was the step that really gave them trouble. They worked through it though and helped each other along the way despite it taking two 90 minute sessions to assemble to structure of their robot. We had to forgo our “Pimp the Robot” and racing day to make up for lost time, but in the end it was worth it.

The group learned a valuable skill. Not the one we set out to teach them, by a valuable skill none the less. And after all, maker spaces in libraries exist to provide other the tools with the tools to keep making.

We are planning a similar project for the fall—hopefully we can restructure the process so we don’t lose our last meeting. This summer we are going to keep working on basic skills like using a screwdriver. Maybe with some easy and cheap projects we can have at the ready for anyone looking as though they are interested in the maker space and have some free time.

Interested in more maker ideas? Check out the Making in the Library Toolkit.

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20. Children’s Rights in the Digital Age or, How UNICEF is Like Your Library

When I was eight, I won our school’s “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” throw down. I scoured the neighborhood for hours, wheedling coins and Snickers bars out of polite neighbors and adding them to my little orange box. By the end of the night, the hoard of pennies and nickels had broken the box at the seams, and I presented it to my teacher wrapped in a sustaining nest of duct tape.

The reward for all of this was a trip to UNICEF headquarters. Somewhere in my parent’s house there sits a billfold stuffed full of pictures of the wall art, the cafeteria, the library– all of the things that as a child I found interesting. At eight, I understood that UNICEF were the good guys, that they fought AIDS and built wells, and that they were kind of like the non-mouse version of the Rescue Aid Society.

But beyond saving Penny from Madame Medusa, UNICEF strives to help children and mothers in all aspects of their lives, including the digital.

As part of their ongoing efforts to support children the world over, UNICEF recently came out with a study entitled “A Global Agenda for Children’s Rights in the Digital Age.” At 76 pages and written like your psych major friend’s thesis, it’s not exactly a page turner, but at its core lie some very important ideas:

  • More and more children are using internet and communication technologies (ICTs) in their daily lives and for more and more of them the use of this technology is something normal– taken for granted.
  • Developing countries are seeing a slow but undeniable increase in the use of ICTs.
  • Children face dangers and complications whenever they step online– and those dangers are ill understood by the adults responsible for teaching them to stay safe.

UNICEF wants to help these children and their caretakers understand how to use ICTs safely and productively, and help use them to their fullest potential.There’s just one or two problems:

 

  1. Most knowledge has been obtained in the global north, and it’s relevance to the global south is largely untested.
  2. Although many valuable initiatives are underway worldwide, the lack of comparable baseline data and policy and programme evaluation makes it hard to learn from the experiences of others or to share best practices (4)

The report goes on to detail recommendations for how to gather information, problems with existing data, and what information has never been gathered at all. It points out that much of our research into how children used the web was conducted during the “web 1.0” days, before social media and the Sharing Revolution began. For an organization like UNICEF, the report argues, moving forward without baseline data and research leaves them without a leg to stand on: in order to help children navigate the internet, they first have to know how they’re using it.

It’s an idea that applies to libraries and librarians as well: to help, we first have to understand. Without understanding, our actions, no matter how well-intentioned, will see their impact hobbled. You’ve seen the results of assumptions in your daily interactions: a parent who wants the library computers to be monitored; a teacher who bans laptops and iPads from their classroom; a librarian who thinks the computer table is a waste of space. All of them are acting based on what they assume kids are doing online, whether that’s checking in online and checking out IRL, tempting shady PSA-worthy predators, or cyber bullying their peers.* And in some cases they’re absolutely right; kids are kids, and they do ill-conceived things online sometimes. That’s what they have adults for– to help them make good decisions, and give them the tools to face down their bad ones.

One of the harder things can be getting teens to actually tell you what they’re doing online. It requires more than a survey, or a one time sit down; it requires trust and an established relationship, and there’s the rub. Whether teacher, parent, or librarian, to ask teens a question and expect a serious answer, you first have to know the teens and get them to understand you as a person who will listen. The Future of Libraries report puts it beautifully:

“To support their learning—personal, work-related, and academic—library staff must connect with teens as individuals. As one participant noted: “Many teens don’t have relationships with non-supervisory adults. . . . Teens need more adults who are not ‘in charge’ of them” (participant, YALSA Summit). This theme was echoed by other participants, who used words like allies, mentors, coaches, and partnerships to describe the relationships that library staff must develop with teens in order to provide effective and substantive programs and services” (10)

Forming these kinds of relationships with our teens is paramount if we want to help them in their needs as patrons. As librarians, we’re uniquely positioned to have this conversation. We monitor and guide, but can’t ground them. We help with homework, but can’t give them a grade. Our interactions with our kids can offer them not only a safe place to be, but a person to talk to without fear or reprisal or judgement, and an advocate who can communicate their needs to the library or school administration.

Of course, receiving an answer to the question of “how do you use the internet” is only the tip of the iceberg. The internet has made us a globally connectable community, but we are still creatures of flesh and soil and our geographical and social differences mean we use the internet in different ways, and can face different dangers while on it. Answers need context; you have to understand teens’  backgrounds, their goals, what their home life is like, who their friends are. You have to be aware of the geographic area you live in, the socioeconomic makeup of the community, the diversity of the population, and a hundred other factors that come into play.

Basically: understanding people is hard, and understanding them well enough to be able to effectively guide them is even harder. But understanding is the first and most necessary step to educating; you must grok before you can lead.

How are you having this discussion with your teens and patrons? Do you think it’s a conversation worth having at all?

 

 

*Because we all know adults never spend too much time on their iPhones, check Instagram during meetings, or post nasty things on online forums.

 

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21. Oral history through Google Glass

By Juliana Nykolaiszyn


It was late in the day when a nondescript package arrived at my office. After carefully opening the box and lifting off the lid, there it was: Google Glass. And yes, it was awesome. Initially, the technology geek in me was overjoyed, but the oral historian soon took over as I raced through potential uses for this wearable technology in my daily work.

Google's augmented reality head mounted display as glass form. Photo by Ted Eytan. CC BY-SA 2.0 via taedc Flickr.

Google’s augmented reality head mounted display as glass form. Photo by Ted Eytan. CC BY-SA 2.0 via taedc Flickr.

I have found Google Glass provides unique challenges to and opportunities for conducting oral history, from interviewing to access. Worn like a pair of glasses, Google Glass allows users to take a photo, record video, get directions, send messages, search the Internet, make phone calls, and more with a simple voice command, “Ok Glass.” Google made this innovative piece of tech available to a limited audience of beta testers or “Glass Explorers” in 2013. Google Glass is easier to obtain today, cost remaining the most prohibitive factor. A lower cost consumer model is in the works, and is expected to be released later in 2014. This may dispel the social stigma that has developed around the wearable technology.

Over the last few months, I have put Google Glass through its paces with oral history in mind. I’ve learned that in an interview setting, Glass can be awkward for the narrator and the interviewer, and thus negatively impact the overall exchange. In fact, I was downright distracted while attempting to record with the unit, even in brief stretches. Maybe it is because I am not accustomed to wearing glasses, but there were other factors at play as well. First, you cannot zoom in while recording video, which limits framing the shot. And though Google Glass captures video in 720p, the battery limits recording time to approximately 43 minutes. Similarly, there is only 12 GB of usable memory. Another major downfall of Google Glass is the built-in microphone. The mic can easily and clearly record the person wearing the unit, but struggles to pick up other voices, such as narrators stationed at a comfortable distance. Furthermore, the mic is not omnidirectional, lessening the overall quality of recordings.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Here is an example of conducting an interview with Google Glass.
Credit: Oklahoma Oral History Research Program

Despite the technical shortcomings, I still see promise for using this type of wearable technology to gather oral histories. Google Glass can be used in instruction training tool. It provides a unique perspective for analysis, helping interviewers understand their connection to narrators, and to monitor head movements or gaze during a recording session. Another potential area of growth is access. Exhibits utilizing Google Glass are starting to emerge in several cultural institutions, including the New Museum in New York and the UK’s Manchester Art Gallery. Third-party applications are also being developed, which will only add to one’s ability to use Glass to enhance public displays. Finally, Glass may provide oral historians the ability to share interviews across geographic boundaries. Interviews can be live streamed via Google Hangouts, allowing for real-time access and interaction, perfect for connecting groups inside or outside the classroom.

At the end of the day, oral history is complimented by technology. While we have seen shifts and changes through the years, technology is still very important to recording, preserving, and accessing oral history. Google Glass may not be as robust as it could be for the purposes of documenting and preserving the history around us, but I am betting this type of wearable technology will move past these shortcomings sooner rather than later. As for its role in oral history, my initial experience suggests only time will tell how we will use it.

Juliana Nykolaiszyn is an Associate Professor/Librarian with the Oklahoma Oral History Research Program at the Oklahoma State University Library. She serves as an interviewer on several oral history projects, including the Inductees of the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame, Oklahoma Centennial Farm Families, O-STATE Stories and the Spotlighting Oklahoma series. In addition to interviewing, Juliana is involved in making materials available online, primarily through CONTENTdm and other web-based efforts.

The Oral History Review, published by the Oral History Association, is the U.S. journal of record for the theory and practice of oral history. Its primary mission is to explore the nature and significance of oral history and advance understanding of the field among scholars, educators, practitioners, and the general public. Follow them on Twitter at @oralhistreview, like them on Facebook, add them to your circles on Google Plus, follow them on Tumblr, listen to them on Soundcloud, or follow their latest OUPblog posts via email or RSS to preview, learn, connect, discover, and study oral history.

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22. The 3 C’s for Evaluating Early Literacy Apps

Yesterday I attended ECRR 2.0 Apps for Early Literacy session at #alaac14. A panel of 6 individuals passionate about early literacy discussed current research for best practices, as well as demonstrating a few of their favorite apps.

Panelist Chip D. from TED Erickson encouraged us to think about the 3 C’s:

Content – Is the content of the app developmentally appropriate? High quality? Intentional in its support of ECRR 2?

Context – Is the app appropriate for the context? Will it be used one on one? In storytime? In another setting?

Child – It is appropriate for the individual child? Each child is unique and their personality, interests, and preferences should be taken into account.

 

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23. Gamification of Summer Reading

Home Screen of Teen Summer Challenge

Games often provide an opportunity to have fun, learn new things, simulate real life, and explore things only dreamed of before. Whether playing a board game, role playing game, or a video game, players are challenged to overcome obstacles and use strategy to solve problems and meet goals. In classrooms teachers are using game elements more and more to encourage practice, assess mastery, or explore new concepts with students, while keeping lessons interactive and engaging.

Much like the proverbial carrot and stick, rewards are a strong motivator, plain and simple. If you ask a group of teens to tell you one thing they can check out with their library card, most will stare blankly at you; if you offer up a piece of candy for an answer, everyone in the class will beg to be the one you choose to respond.

Gaming has this motivation built right in, though instead of rewarding players with treats, they get points, fun things to add to their inventories or badges to show off. This brings in another big motivator – competition. Although competition doesn’t appeal as widely as rewards, it is powerful to many. Who doesn’t like to feel like they are special, smart or more successful than their neighbor or friends? The combination of rewards and competition is a strong, almost universal, force for motivation.

Every summer, vast numbers of libraries across the world host some sort of summer reading program to encourage kids and teens to read. They give charts and logs for the participants to keep track of their reading. For the younger kids, this breaks a big challenge into smaller, easier-to-accomplish chunks, making personal success more consistently achievable. Unfortunately, that kind of gratification doesn’t seem to be as appealing to the teen population – participation from that audience is far lower than most libraries would like. So what would be a better motivator?

In 2012, Pierce County Library (PCL) was inspired to take our summer reading program out of the box and into the 21st century, by taking it online. The librarians were not happy with the participation levels of teens and wanted to do something about it. Ann Arbor Public Library and New York Public had seen success in having an online program, and PCL was determined to find a way to engage teens. An online game seemed like a natural answer.

More influence and inspiration came from Search Institute’s research on Sparks and Thriving (http://www.search-institute.org/research/sparks-thriving). Sparks refers to the intrinsic interests, talents, and passions that young people have that motivate them to learn, grow, and contribute. PCL wanted to introduce teens to as many new experiences as possible, encourage teens to further explore interests, and to celebrate the talent and passion demonstrated through the successes of projects during the summer.

The team was certainly ambitious that first year – determined to come up with something imaginative, engaging and different from what everyone else was doing. Using the framework of gaming as a motivator, the Teen Summer Challenge was born. A team of youth services librarians, led by two teen librarians, created content and a game platform that increased participation in summer reading from about 200 participants county-wide to about 650, with practically no marketing. The goal was to have a soft release to test the waters with the community – instead there was a pretty significant splash. With that achieved, each of the next two years led to further development and fine-tuning to meet the target audience and make it the best it could be for participants.

Probably the most common question is regarding what software was used, and can it be shared or purchased. The answer isn’t that easy – this program was not something that was built by a vendor or corporation, nor comes out of a box. The primary development was done completely in-house by a staff member who was very comfortable with WordPress. The guidelines and content creation for the challenge were written by librarians on staff. Using Buddypress along with several different add-ons, the basic framework was created. As the project grew and improved, grant funding and hired programmers helped to make the desired customizations.

Ann Arbor and New York Public Library’s programs used a different model, created primarily in Drupal, and now more libraries are joining the bandwagon and using a variety of other tools with success. The tool isn’t the important piece, use whatever you have (including paper logs), but it is to give teens a challenge and motivation, and then celebrate with them and give them bragging rights with their friends when they accomplish goals. Whatever form your game takes, be it scavenger hunts or small quests that are part of a bigger challenge, or something completely different, make sure it involves those motivating elements of rewards, achievements and some element of competition. Offer a wide range of options or interests to inspire a wide range of teens. You might be surprised at your participation and how even a little friendly competition will inspire teamwork, community and encouragement.

If you’d like to learn more, check out these links:

First year of PCL’s Teen Summer Challenge
Current year of Teen Summer Challenge 
New PCL Adult Program launched this year
Ann Arbor Library
New York Public Library
National Digital Summer Reading 

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24. Robotics for the Rest of Us

When I first started my job, I used to spend hours planning programs, planning for every possible thing that could possibly go wrong. I would arrive at my events an hour early and would nervously pace the room, thinking all the thoughts we’ve all had: Do I know what I’m doing? What if a teen has questions I can’t answer? What if I get fired and have to be a barista again? 

But since 2006, librarianship has changed. We are no longer expected to be experts and with the advent of the Maker Movement, teen programming has become more about HOMAGO than lesson plans. This led me to do something last winter that I never, ever thought I’d do: I started a Robotics Club with no knowledge of robotics. If I can do it, so can you. Here are my thoughts:

EV3RSTORM

One of the basic robots that teens can make with LEGO Mindstorms

1. Buy some Mindstorms kits.
LEGO Mindstorms kits are a great way to offer beginner robotics. Kits are a bit pricey at $350/each (plus AA batteries), but after you make the initial investment, robotics programs cost nothing but staff time. I recommend providing one kit per four students.

2. Get Organized.
The kits are basically fancy LEGOs and consist of thousands of little pieces. I recommend you try to sort the kits into containers before you begin. However, keep in mind that no matter how well you organize, things will end up looking like this:

photo

Teens build robots using the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 kit

I try to keep the kits separated as best as I can, but that is very hard to do.

3. Familiarize Yourself With the Instructions

Mindstorms instructions

Mindstorms instructions

The EV3 kits come with one basic set of instructions. The LEGO website provides instructions for over 20 more robots. As with regular LEGOs, physically building things is the most time-consuming part. Take the time to look at the instructions and go through the different pieces. I have helped find stray pieces far more than I’ve actually helped with robotics. Learn what the pieces look like so you help and so you can train your eye to look for them on the floor.

Brick

The EV3 Brick, which is used for programming.

Each robot design is centered around what is called the “brick:” a Game Boy-esque device which can be programmed to perform different tasks. Motors and sensors can be plugged into the device through cords. The brick comes with an internal demo program which can be used to move a robot back and forth. More complicated maneuvers can be programmed through the EV3 software, which can be downloaded onto a computer or smartphone. There are some great beginner tutorials found on the Stemcentric website.

4. Learn From the Students and Have Students Learn From Each Other
Many schools offer competitive robotics clubs, which can seem exciting and also intimidating to students. The advantage of libraries is that we can offer casual programming for students who want to try robotics for the first time. Every student will enter with a different skill set. While some kids will struggle with finding the correct pieces, others will be inventing their own robot design.

Mindstorms kits can serve all different skill and experience levels. Use these different levels to your advantage. As I have already established, I am not a robotics expert. When students ask me questions I don’t know how to answer, I redirect the question to a more advanced student. Teens get to know each other through learning together. If the group is stuck on a question, I have them help me search YouTube for tutorial videos.

5. Set a Goal
I usually run my programs for an hour and a half once a month. While there are new students each time, there is usually a base group that comes every month. For first timers, focus on just building a basic robot. Students who are unfamiliar with the kits may need the entire program time to build. That’s fine! If you aren’t using the kits for additional programming, offer to save their creation so they can experiment with programming next month.

For students who are a bit more familiar, set a challenge for the month. I started very basic, by having the kids design a robot that could knock down a tower of Jenga tiles (spoiler: all robots can do this in one way or another). Some students might love smashing things, so they may choose to do that every time. Or, lay out an obstacle course and challenge students to program their robots accordingly.

Go with whatever works for you!

Our library purchased ours through our IMLS grant for Maker programming. If you are interested in more information about STEM programming see the STEM Programming Toolkit.

Have you tried out Mindstorms at your library? Share your experiences below.

 

 

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25. Practical wisdom and why we need to value it

vsi1

By David Blockley


“Some people who do not possess theoretical knowledge are more effective in action (especially if they are experienced) than others who do possess it.”

Aristotle was referring, in his Nicomachean Ethics, to an attribute called practical wisdom – a quality that many modern engineers have – but our western intellectual tradition has completely lost sight of. I will describe briefly what Aristotle wrote about practical wisdom, argue for its recognition and celebration and state that we need consciously to utilise it as we face up to the uncertainties inherent in the engineering challenges of climate change.

Necessarily what follows is a simplified account of complex and profound ideas. Aristotle saw five ways of arriving at the truth – he called them art (ars, techne), science (episteme), intuition (nous), wisdom (sophia), and practical wisdom – sometimes translated as prudence (phronesis). Ars or techne (from which we get the words art and technical, technique and technology) was concerned with production but not action. Art had a productive state, truly reasoned, with an end (i.e. a product) other than itself (e.g. a building). It was not just a set of activities and skills of craftsman but included the arts of the mind and what we would now call the fine arts. The Greeks did not distinguish the fine arts as the work of an inspired individual – that came only after the Renaissance. So techne as the modern idea of mere technique or rule-following was only one part of what Aristotle was referring to.

Episteme (from which we get the word epistemology or knowledge) was of necessity and eternal; it is knowledge that cannot come into being or cease to be; it is demonstrable and teachable and depends on first principles. Later, when combined with Christianity, episteme as eternal, universal, context-free knowledge has profoundly influenced western thought and is at the heart of debates between science and religion. Intuition or nous was a state of mind that apprehends these first principles and we could think of it as our modern notion of intelligence or intellect. Wisdom or sophia was the most finished form of knowledge – a combination of nous and episteme.

Aristotle thought there were two kinds of virtues, the intellectual and the moral. Practical wisdom or phronesis was an intellectual virtue of perceiving and understanding in effective ways and acting benevolently and beneficently. It was not an art and necessarily involved ethics, not static but always changing, individual but also social and cultural. As an illustration of the quotation at the head of this article, Aristotle even referred to people who thought Anaxagoras and Thales were examples of men with exceptional, marvelous, profound but useless knowledge because their search was not for human goods.

Aristotle thought of human activity in three categories praxis, poeisis (from which we get the word poetry), and theoria (contemplation – from which we get the word theory). The intellectual faculties required were phronesis for praxis, techne for poiesis, and sophia and nous for theoria.

Sculpture of Aristotle at the Louvre Museum, Eric Gaba, CC-BY-SA-2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

Sculpture of Aristotle at the Louvre Museum. Photo by Eric Gaba, CC-BY-SA-2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

It is important to understand that theoria had total priority because sophia and nous were considered to be universal, necessary and eternal but the others are variable, finite, contingent and hence uncertain and thus inferior.

What did Aristotle actually mean when he referred to phronesis? As I see it phronesis is a means towards an end arrived at through moral virtue. It is concerned with “the capacity for determining what is good for both the individual and the community”. It is a virtue and a competence, an ability to deliberate rightly about what is good in general, about discerning and judging what is true and right but it excludes specific competences (like deliberating about how to build a bridge or how to make a person healthy). It is purposeful, contextual but not rule-following. It is not routine or even well-trained behaviour but rather intentional conduct based on tacit knowledge and experience, using longer time horizons than usual, and considering more aspects, more ways of knowing, more viewpoints, coupled with an ability to generalise beyond narrow subject areas. Phronesis was not considered a science by Aristotle because it is variable and context dependent. It was not an art because it is about action and generically different from production. Art is production that aims at an end other than itself. Action is a continuous process of doing well and an end in itself in so far as being well done it contributes to the good life.

Christopher Long argues that an ontology (the philosophy of being or nature of existence) directed by phronesis rather than sophia (as it currently is) would be ethical; would question normative values; would not seek refuge in the eternal but be embedded in the world and be capable of critically considering the historico-ethical-political conditions under which it is deployed. Its goal would not be eternal context-free truth but finite context-dependent truth. Phronesis is an excellence (arête) and capable of determining the ends. The difference between phronesis and techne echoes that between sophia and episteme. Just as sophia must not just understand things that follow from first principles but also things that must be true, so phronesis must not just determine itself towards the ends but as arête must determine the ends as good. Whereas sophia knows the truth through nous, phronesis must rely on moral virtues from lived experience.

In the 20th century quantum mechanics required sophia to change and to recognise that we cannot escape uncertainty. Derek Sellman writes that a phronimo will recognise not knowing our competencies, i.e. not knowing what we know, and not knowing our uncompetencies, i.e. not knowing what we do not know. He states that a longing for phronesis “is really a longing for a world in which people honestly and capably strive to act rightly and to avoid harm,” and he thinks it is a longing for praxis.

In summary I think that one way (and perhaps the only way) of dealing with the ‘wicked’ uncertainties we face in the future, such as the effects of climate change, is through collaborative ‘learning together’ informed by the recognition, appreciation, and exercise of practical wisdom.

Professor Blockley is an engineer and an academic scientist. He has been Head of the Department of Civil Engineering and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Bristol. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Institution of Structural Engineers, and the Royal Society of Arts. He has written four books including Engineering: A Very Short Introduction and Bridges: The science and art of the world’s most inspiring structures.

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