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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Technology, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. 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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2. 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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3. Practical wisdom and why we need to value it


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.

The Very Short Introductions (VSI) series combines a small format with authoritative analysis and big ideas for hundreds of topic areas. Written by our expert authors, these books can change the way you think about the things that interest you and are the perfect introduction to subjects you previously knew nothing about. Grow your knowledge with OUPblog and the VSI series every Friday, subscribe to Very Short Introductions articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS., and like Very Short Introductions on Facebook.

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4. 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:


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:


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.


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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5. 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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6. 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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7. 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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8. 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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9. 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. 


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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10. Illustrator Saturday – Marcelo Elizalde

marceloMarcelo Elizalde was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1953. He is a self-taught, dedicated children’s books illustrator.

At school he considered his drawings as average, but his peers and professors saw a difference that he hardly acknowledged. What really differenciated him from other children was his rather excessive love for cartoons and picturebooks. Pictures, especially those intended for children, made him dream of something that he could not fully understand.

In Argentina he contributed to the most important publishers of books and magazines, and after the year 2000 he started to work for abroad. He began by Spain, but soon he added clients in the USA, Korea, Sweden, Canada and other countries.

A few years ago, he started teaching Children’s Books Illustration at the main art school in Buenos Aires, what made him review all he knew about the craft and conceive a conceptual basis for a criticism of the images intended for children. He is nowadays writing a book about the subject, that has his mind in a state of continuous bubbling, which he says, “makes him look a little absent-minded, or deranged, if you will.”


I work with an iMac 21.5″, 8Gb RAM, OS Mavericks; an Intuos 4 graphic tablet, and an Epson V500 scanner.

The application is Photoshop CS6

Step 1

Step 1

I very rarely draw directly on Photoshop. I feel that the tablet has this limitation and that I cannot move my hand with grace to set the first ideas on paper. There are some illustrators who do not start in paper, to whom I strongly recommend to use the pencil. The sketch comes out faster and dances better.

I sketch on a light semitransparent paper that lets me trace and refine the sketch. When I have it as I wish, i.e. precise where I need and loose where I am more confident, I scan it to 300ppi.

Step 2cropped

Step 2

I always work upon the very layout, to be sure that the image is always in place in relation to the whole graphic space. When needed, I do it on the spread, so that both pages talk smoothly-or at least not fight to death. For that, I open the PDF of the layout as individual PSD files and save them in this format. I paste the scan of the sketch and put it in place and resize it if needed.

Step 3cropped

Step 3

I open a new layer, fill it white and reduce its transparency to a value that lets me trace the drawing with a black common round brush.

Step 4

Step 4

I put a special attention in refining these lines so they have movement and profile and they don’t appear blunt or clumsy. I think that every bit of the illustration must have a beauty of its own and not depend on fellow sectors to look good.

Step 5

Step 5

When I´m done with the black lines, I open a new layer below this one and set a background. It can be any color, as long as it is dark enough to be visible when I “paint” the subject. I prefer dark blue, or red, or an earth hue.

Step 6

Step 6

In the times when the capabilities of Photoshop to build brushes was very primitive, I made this one up for very general painting purposes. And albeit I now have a box full of gorgeous brushes, I still use this one from time to time. I named it “Ancient” in the brush presets box.

Step 7

Step 7

Between the blue Background layer and the black line layer, I open a new one and I paint a background that will belong to the subject and that will give it the desired general hue. I chose a brownish color and set the layer to 50%. This I do so as to help the image have a chromatic coherence, as if working with washes of paint.

Step 8

Step 8

I start the always uncertain process of applying color in steps, using the Ancient and varying the transparency with the pressure of the pen. First darker colors, then the lighter.

Step 9

Step 9

I keep on applying layers of “paint”. You can see the blue background a little through this layer. It may not look like very important, but try otherwise and the difference will be huge.

The application allows me to go back some steps and retry and again and so forth. Luckily, you can’t see my doubts here. See that the borders f the paint are slightly loose with respect to the outline.

Step 10

Step 10

I apply the lighter color in the illuminated parts. By default, I make the light come from above to the left.

Step 11

Step 11

I continue with the other subjects and objects of the scene.

Step 12

Step 12

Added the color to the ground that the subject is standing on. I apply, always in a separate layer, the highlight, generally in white.

I do it in a separate layers so as to control the intensity by varying the transparency of the said layer.

Step 13


Step 13

I open a layer above the blue background and, using again the Ancient, I proceed to “smudge” it to produce a soft, textured new background, suited especially for illustrations that either don´t need a scenery or are requested as standing alone in the blank of the page.

Step 14

Step 14

Finally, I apply the heavy Shadows layer. For that, I open a new one and set it in Darken mode, 25-30% opacity. Then I (usually) draw flat shadows with blue C100 M100 Y0 B0.

I set it in Darken mode so the details underneath are not painted over but are modified as if under a shadow. I change the transparency according to the color of the subject and the need of stress or character.

Step 15

Step 15

This is the final picture as I give it in. CMYK, 300ppi, TIFF format.

I hope you like it.

How long have you been interested in art?

I was the “artist” of the family, albeit no one knew what we actually meant by that. It was easy to see that I would drop out from any technical career, which I did.


Did you study art in college? If so, what college did you attend and what did you study?

I assisted for less than a year to the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes (National School of Fine Arts) in Buenos Aires. In those days the syllabus was very good but rigidly classical, and Illustration was a very, very bad word. Everyone liked what I produced, but it was just illustration or it looked like such. Nobody knew what to answer to the question “So, what?”. I dropped out and went back home to teach myself.


Can you tell us a little bit about the classes you liked?

I liked especially Sculpture and Engraving, partly because the professors were very talented and open minded, and were of the idea, which I learned then, that you must try to master the technique to liberate yourself from material burden as much as possible. Their message was “do what you want, not what you can“. I forgot about Gravure, but Sculpture is still a blissful place where I want to get someday.


What was the first painting or illustration that you did for money?

The very first were a couple of single-panel cartoons for a sailing magazine. They were funny and I still like them.


What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

I did not graduate, as I said, and the things that I did one can hardly call them a “job”. My career started out in the wilderness.


How and why did you start going digital with your art?

In the 90s I contributed to a magazine –that was the dream-come-true of my childhood– and for production reasons they encouraged us illustrators to switch to working with computers. I like gadgets, so I bought a Mac and all the peripherals one Friday, a friend helped me plug everything correctly on Saturday and Monday evening I was giving in my first digital illustration. I felt like I had been illustrating in Photoshop for years and that I could finally perform things that were impossible with traditional materials.


Have you always lived in Argentina?

Yes, except for a 6 month stay at Bogotá, Colombia. I moved with the idea of settling there, availing a publishing boom, but I soon found out that it didn’t smell like books but rather just like paper. That was a vaccine against any will to migrate.


What do you think influenced your artistic style?

I have a straightforward and humorous approach to my subjects, and that I learned from Sergio Aragonés, a Cuban cartoonist that did the little drawings in the corners of Mad magazines. He knew everything about producing funny situations in black and white ink thumbnails. I also learned a lot with Richard Scarry, who conveyed humor and expression to his very simple animal characters. And for the image itself, I always loved and longed for the illustrators of the 50s and 60s, like the Provensens or Celestino Piatti or my compatriot Ayax Barnes, among many others.


What was your first big success in illustrating?

In Colombia I illustrated a cookbook for children produced by Nestlé (the swiss dairy company) to be distributed to supermarkets that sold hundreds of thousands of copies. But this I learned when I was back in Argentina, so nobody even patted my shoulder for that.


When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for the children’s market?

Nearly always, or at least since I was 17. The trouble is that I didn’t know then that that was called illustration and that doing it for children was a specialty in its own right. I always wanted to produce the kind of images that I saw in the books I read.


When did you do your the first illustration for children? And what was it?

In a sense, when I was 17, an age that I mentioned before, and it was in the most direct and brutal manner.


How did that come about?

I assisted to a secondary school where they thoroughly taught us English language, and the last year we had to make teaching practices within the school, to primary pupils. My first assignment was a first grade, Friday afternnon, last hour; the worst possible combination. To make things harder, the teacher was very beautiful and we were all in love with her.

The subject was The Farm. I could neither refuse nor desert so I produced a series of cutout animals and people and farm objects that the little demons had to stick to a big paper with background field and sky. Though I made this up the night before, the lesson was such a success that I could have the children quiet for 15 minutes. The cutouts were much admired and I thought “Where did this all come from? How could I do it out of nothing?” It took me ten more years to find out.


Do you have an agent to represent you? If so how did you connect? If not, would you like one?

I did have one in the UK, but it didn’t work. I would like to have one. There should be agents to get you an agent. An Uberagent.


I see a few pictures that look like you sculpted a character. Is this something new you are trying out?

I started that back in 1995, blending my untested talents in sculpture and my profession. I did some works with clay, and I even took my models (yes, the very models) to the Bologna Book Fair in Italy, where I got much praise, but no assignments. The market for such technique is very, very small, as one can see in any bookstore. Anyway, my models availed me interviews at Aardman, the makers of the Wallace and Grommit series, and in the Spitting Image studios, both in the UK.


Have you published with any USA publisher? If so, who? And how did you get the contract with them?

I attended the SCBWI’s Winter Conference in 2001, where I made good contacts, particularly with Don Curry at Mondo Publishing, from whom I got my first assignment in the USA. Then came Innovative Kids, MacGraw Hill, Scholastic, Meredith, Klutz, and some more. I was assigned very interesting projects that I enjoyed a lot.


Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own book?

Oh, yes.


Are you open to illustrating a picture book for a self-published author?

As long as they pay me my fees, yes, why not. I stumble from time to time upon a request of this kind, but I couldn’t so far find out why these authors assume that you will do it for free, for the glory of it or for an uncertain future reward.


Have you worked with educational publishers?

Yes, and I particularly enjoy illustrating impossible books, like math books, and make of them a thing worth seeing. So much so that educational publishers in Argentina used to call me when they had one of those unillustratable books. This is where I apply what I learned from Sergio Aragonés.


Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Yes, and I am currently contributing to one. But for many years I illustrated for the magazine that I (and everyone else in Argentina and the region) read when I was a kid. That is a badge that still makes me proud. I also worked for newspapers, both for children and adults. I particularly enjoy this kind of quick, concentrated effort, where you have one or very few shoots to make a story. You have to be very efficient.


What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

My repertoire is a little limited. I have a subscription to Children’s Illustrators, and I mail the news about my recent work to clients. In fact, I concentrate my efforts in keeping my clients rather than go hunting new ones. That’s not for mere conservatism but simply because I don’t have a bold strategy to do otherwise.


What is your favorite medium to use?

Apart from the computer I love gouache. I started my career with that medium and it made a deep impression in my style. If you look at my pictures you will see that many of them imitate that juxtaposed color planes mode, as if it were gouache. I like the smell of it, too. And I have an unconditional love for the common, old black graphite pencil of eternity.


Has that changed over time?

As I said, I started with gouache, but then I tried everything else. Watercolor, acrylic, color pencils, pen & china ink, crayons and pastels, paper cutouts, plasticine, collage and I even tried baked dough (It didn’t work).


Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes, habitually. Not in this very moment. To have the studio at home is both a blessing and a curse, but I have decided long since that it is much more the former than the latter.


What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

The radio.


Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

No, I’m not that disciplined. I am a very curious person and i have a lot of interests that claim for their share of my time. I am disciplined to meet deadlines, though. As writer Douglas Adams said, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by”.


Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Yes, but to a certain point. My style does not support much documentation. It becomes very evident when I stick too much to researched images. Anyway, I do google my subjects, be it a rhinoceros or an airplane, but I usually make it just to avoid horrible mistakes or pick features that will enhance the result.

I have very seldomly taken photographs as documentation. When there was no internet, I used to go to the zoo and take some pictures when I couldn’t find the angles that I needed. Now you type “mouse-deer” and you have loads of photos to choose from.


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Not doors but gates! I could write an essay on the favorable changes that the internet brought to my work. It added extra dimensions to the creative process, the professional life, the research, the relation with colleagues, the access to other illustrator’s work, which was very limited before; the delivery of the pictures, the invoicing, the wiring, the meeting of new people from everywhere. I just cannot remember how it was to finish the work, tidy myself, dress up and go bring it to the editor. Do you remember?

marceloseagullsand bread

Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes. I love it. They made it thinking of me. Anyway, I would love to meet the crew someday and tell them a couple of things!


Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

After my first month struggling with the mouse, my Mac dealer called me and said “You should try this”.

First comes my right hand, second my Wacom, then my left hand.


What do you think is your biggest success thus far?

I didn’t have any big successes that I can think of.


Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I am currently finishing the research for a book I want to write about illustrating for children. Not about technique nor professional development, but about the essence of what we do. I want to give an answer to the question “What is it that we do? For what?”. I never heard of a good answer to that. I think that in reality nobody knows. Well, I think that I am slowly coming to the point and I will struggle to publish it. That is my dream.


What are you working on now?

I´m illustrating the second batch of a series of books whose translation would be The Jungle Gang, obviously about the adventures of a group of animals. They are coming out funny.


Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

Always buy the best material that you can afford. Saving in this matter is like bandaging your fingers, or maybe banging on them.


Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

I use to say that I had to navigate my profession looking at the stars. Now, the young illustrators have their GPSs –the internet is one of them– and there are tons of advice everywhere. But there’s one thing that I try to never forget, and that is the children; the children that see my pictures and incorporate them along with the story, and feed something into their minds, or hearts, or souls. In many parts of the world (not in the USA) the child as a viewer is being neglected and the images are becoming cold and distant, as if intended for adults, more concerned about the aesthetics of the matter than the emotions one has to help express.

To say that I mind the child within me is too commonplace and expresses nothing. I’d rather say that I work for the real, average child out there.



Thank you Marcelo for sharing you process, journey, and expertise with us. I know you will have many more successes in the future and we would love to hear about all of them, so please drop me a line when good things happen.

To see more of Marcelo’s illustrations you can visit him at: www.marceloelizalde.com.ar   Please take a minute to leave a comment for Marcelo, I know he would love to heard from you and always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, picture books, Process, Technology, Tips Tagged: Buenos Aires, Marcelo Elizalde

3 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Marcelo Elizalde, last added: 6/14/2014
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11. Creating a Welcoming Environment for Kids with Sensory Issues

How does your library  welcome children with special needs?   Have you thought about offering sensory storytimes for children on the autism spectrum or with sensory processing issues? Can technology help librarians serve this population better?  Amy Price, Librarian at Oakstone Academy in Westerville, Ohio developed Digital Sensory Storytime to help meet student needs. Oakstone serves many students with autism or sensory processing issues. Additionally, in cooperation with the State Library of Ohio, Price created a series of video tutorials that detail her process: Digital Sensory Storytime on the Ohio Ready to Read website. This site also includes a resource guide with a sample digital sensory storytime, app recommendations, and more! It a wonderful starting point for anyone interested in understanding and serving this population.

Interestingly, Price has found interactive digital stories have particular aspects that are especially effective for children with sensory processing issues. Price notes three essential characteristics of an interactive digital story:

  • full color pictures
  • full text (preferably highlighted)
  • an audio read to me function

For example, the read to me function of a digital book is especially valuable because it can be understood more easily by a person with auditory processing issues: the word is pronounced exactly the same each time in the digital story, whereas a human voice may pronounce the same word slightly differently each time.

Example of a page from a social story created by the author.

Example of a page from a social story created by the author.

Additional techniques Price includes are picture schedules, social stories and how to create them, and other aspects to consider such as lighting, sounds, smells, etc. when thinking about creating a welcoming environment to support these children. The video tutorials definitely increased my own awareness of differing needs. And don’t worry if you don’t have time/staff to create an entirely new program: Price advocates for including these children in traditional storytime and offers tips to help make inclusion successful.

If you are interested in learning more about serving patrons with autism and sensory processing issues, there are many great resources to help you get started:

  • ALSC Blogger Renee Grassi posts on sensory storytimes (and films) and serving children with special needs offer more insight and resources.
  • Videos and resources from Libraries & Autism: We’re Connected, developed by the Scotch Plains Public Library and Fanwood Memorial Library are helpful for all library staff as children who come to storytime will also check out materials and visit other parts of the library.
  • Also of note is a recent book Programming for Children and Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder by Barbara Klipper, ALA Editions, 2014.

-Robin L. Gibson is a Youth Services Librarian at the Westerville Public Library in Westerville Ohio and member of the Children and Technology Committee.

0 Comments on Creating a Welcoming Environment for Kids with Sensory Issues as of 6/14/2014 12:25:00 AM
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12. Fun with MaKey MaKey

In November, I began a 6-week series called Maker Mondays. The program attracted a small following and has since become so popular that I extended it into June and am even creating a summer Maker camp for teens. Maker Mondays is a program for grades 6-9 and serves around 15 students each week. Every Monday, we learn a new skill or do a new project.

The favorite activity by far has been the MaKey MaKey. MaKey MaKey’s are invention kits that work like simple Arduinos. It consists of a simple board and wires with alligator clips.

The MaKey MaKey

The MaKey MaKey

MaKey MaKey allows any conductive material to work in lieu of a computer keyboard. The front of the board looks like an old Nintendo controller. Alligator clips connect from the board to whatever material you are using, allowing that material to stand in for that particular function (ex: hooking up a banana to the “space” clip will allow that banana to be used instead of the space bar to control the computer). You can hook up to anything conductive, including play-dough, fruits and vegetables, and even people (don’t worry- the current is very low and isn’t dangerous!)

The great thing about this kit is how accessible it is. When I took an Arduino workshop, it took me 2 hours to program a board to make a light blink (your results may vary). However, within five minutes of learning the MaKey MaKey, I was controlling Mario Bros. with play-dough.

MaKey MaKey’s are perfect for a HOMAGO-based program for students. Students can collaborate to make cool stuff, can learn at their own pace, and can achieve results with minimal technology skills.

To start a MaKey MaKey program, I recommend supplying one kit per two students (kits retail for around $50). Ask students to bring laptops from home, or supply them yourself. The kit needs a computer to work (Macs and PC’s both work). Provide students with a variety of supplies: cardboard, conductive tape, play-dough, cheap wire, tape, glue, tinfoil, and whatever else you have around. Here are some projects that our students have done:

Dance Dance Revolution using cardboard, tinfoil, and of course, feet.

Dance Dance Revolution using cardboard, tinfoil, and of course, feet.

A violin using cardboard, tape, and wire.

A violin using cardboard, tape, and wire.

A flight simulator operated by play-dough.

A flight simulator operated by play-dough.


A piano using conductive tape.

You can find simple video games and instruments to use with your MaKey MaKey online, like Mario Brosa virtual piano, and the addictive Flappy Bird (Flappy Bird isn’t any easier with play-dough controllers).

This is definitely my favorite Maker device and I’m happy I can pass it along to all of you. For more Maker ideas, check out our Making in the Library Toolkit.

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13. The Cynja, by Chase Cunningham & Heather C. Dahl | Dedicated Review

Get ready for some serious action in the first volume of a new comic-book-style picture book series about malicious cyber attacks, The Cynja.

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14. Learn About “The Cynja” with Chase Cunningham and Heather C. Dahl

The cyber world is filled with battles between good and evil—it’s as thrilling as any comic book—and yet it didn’t have its own superhero. So we started thinking, what would you call someone with super powers in cyberspace? What would they look like? They’d need to be smart and stealthy, wouldn’t they? And have awesome weapons? And before you could say “DDoS attack!” we had “the Cynja”—a cyber ninja!

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15. Artmaster Shirow Di Rosso Discusses “The Cynja”

Shirow Di Rosso is the Artmaster behind the new comic-book-style picture book series about malicious cyber attacks, The Cynja.

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16. Market Summer Reading with Social Media Apps

Make the most out of mobile social marketing apps to promote your Summer Reading Program by using Snapchat, Instagram and Tumblr this summer. As 21st century librarians are always on the go, even more so during the summer months, mobile social marketing apps can be effective tools of communication. Here is a breakdown of three high-traffic platforms to engage your audience in real time with a few simple taps.

1. Snapchat is a photo-messaging app that launched in September 2011. Today, 46% of Americans ages 12 to 24 years old use it. As of May 2014, Snapchat users send over 700 million pictures and videos each day.

Snapchat is unique in its ability to create short (1 to 10 seconds long) images or videos, which can be enhanced with graphics or text, and sent privately and ephemerally to your friends, followers and family. Once the message has been reviewed it is permanently deleted from your account, your recipients’ accounts and from the Snapchat servers.

Quick Tips-

Download other complimentary apps such as Snapbox (iOS) or Snapchat Saver (Android) to save Snapchats. These apps allow you to go back after the summer and analyze which marketing approaches worked best. Snapchat container apps also permit privacy/anonymity learning opportunities with your teens and may be useful in the compliance of your library’s social media policy.

Regularly send out messages to your Teen Advisory Board and encourage them to create and disperse same-day marketing for library events.

Screenshot your Snapchats so you can market this platform on your library’s other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

2. Tumblr has been around for quite a while (since February 2007) but has recently gained steam with their ever-improving mobile app capabilities. Recent app updates include the ability to customize your micro-blog account with a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) user interface, more secure two-factor authentication and the ability to mention other bloggers in your tags and reposts.

Recent studies have found that young adults are moving away from Facebook to Tumblr. In fact, of the Millenials polled, 61% state to use Tumblr regularly compared with 55% who said they use Facebook regularly.

Quick Tips-

Take advantage of trends and memes to engage your audience.

Check out what other libraries are doing with Tumblr. My two recommendations are the Oskaloosse Public Library and Darien Library.

Actively cite sources and use the “@” symbol to mention other users and their original content as a living demonstration of copyright and information standards.

3. Instagram first appeared in October of 2010. Since then, more than 16 billion photos have been uploaded from users spanning the globe. More than half of young adults with Snapchat accounts also hold an Instagram account. About 70% of Instagram users check their accounts and search photos once a day.

Instagram permits users to tag their photos, add a location, as well as edit and filter their photos. The social marketing app was purchased by Facebook for $1 billion dollars. Facebook added video sharing capabilities to Instagram to compete with Vine. Everything from cat pictures to book trailers can be created and uploaded with Instagram within minutes.

Quick Tips-

Connect your library’s Instagram account with its Twitter and Facebook feeds to seamlessly provide the same content across all of your platforms. This works very well if you have designated library teen accounts.

Geotag, tag people and tag words to your photos for optimal exposure.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Use pictures and videos to instigate a library scavenger hunt, promote prizes and programs, share recently returned or new library materials and fun contests like “Library Shelfies.”




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17. Cybersecurity and the cyber-awareness gap

“‘There’s probably no issue that’s become more crucial, more rapidly, but is less understood, than cybersecurity,’ warns cyber expert P.W. Singer, co-author of Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know. Cybersecurity has quickly become one of the most defining challenges of our generation, and yet, as the threat of cyber-terrorism looms, there remains an alarming “cyber-awareness gap” that renders the many of us vulnerable. We interviewed P.W. Singer in order to learn more about why this issue is so crucial to our daily lives and how well-equipped our government is to protect us from the risks that lie ahead.

P.W. Singer discusses the growing importance of cybersecurity today

Click here to view the embedded video.

P.W. Singer talks about the role government plays in regulating the internet

Click here to view the embedded video.

P.W. Singer highlights the cyber-awareness gap in U.S. government

Click here to view the embedded video.

P.W. Singer and Allan Friedman are the authors of Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know. P.W. Singer is Director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution. Allan Friedman is a Visiting Scholar at the Cyber Security Policy Research Institute, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at George Washington University.

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18. Five on Friday: Travel Edition + a Book Giveaway

A recent visit to San Francisco inspired me to think about oral story telling, publishing, an persuasive writing. Here are five things my trip left me thinking about. PLUS, leave a comment on this blog post for a chance to win a copy of a new picture book from Chronicle Books.

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19. Advocating for Appropriate Technology in the Children’s Spaces – ALSC Institute Programs

2014 Institute LogoThe upcoming ALSC Institute in Oakland, CA, on September 18-20, 2014, provides an abundance of outstanding programs to attend, from exploring innovative ways for youth services librarians to engage with community to the latest in early literacy research and best practices.

Among the many programs offered will be Advocating for Appropriate Technology in the Children’s Spaces, which will explore how to advocate for appropriate technology for children with our patrons, community and organizations. Presenter Elizabeth Gray gave us a few minutes of her time to talk about what Institute attendees can look forward to.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I wish I knew then what I know now! At my first job as a children’s librarian back in 2004, I tried to advocate for children’s computers but was new and my supervisor and I didn’t exactly see eye to eye. Instead of effectively advocating, I got labeled as a trouble maker and ended up making my life more difficult. Now I am a library manager and I still advocate for children’s materials, technology and spaces (and staff!).

Tell us about your program in just 6 words.

Getting your patrons the best technology.

What’s one thing you feel people should know about your program?

I’ll give children’s services staff ideas and practical tools for maximizing those important resources that can sometimes be controversial or minimized: kids’ computers, games, and downloadable media.

What’s one thing someone who attends your program will be able to take back to their libraries and use right away?

Practical tips such as how to look at technology-related statistics and trends and how to “talk budget” in a helpful way. I’ll also provide examples of data and charts that you can use at your library.

Looking at the list of other programs on the lineup, which one are you most looking forward to attending?

It is hard to pick a favorite, but I think I’m most looking forward to Thinking Outside the Storytime Box: Building your Preschool Programming Repertoire.

If you could be any kid’s lit character, who would you be and why?

I would be Lucky from The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron because I love her attitude.

Ted McCoy, ALSC Institute Task Force Member and Children’s Librarian at Springfield (MA) City Library

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20. Women in STEM

STEM Women in STEMThough there is an increasing focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in the U.S., there remains a gender disparity among workers in these fields. According to a  2011 U.S. Department of Commerce report, women are less likely than men to have an undergraduate degree in a STEM field and they are also underrepresented in the STEM workforce.

Female role models and examples can be particularly helpful to combat this disparity and to encourage all children — and particularly girls — to pursue careers in STEM fields. Fortunately, there seems to be an increasing focus on women in STEM in children’s literature, which makes it possible to offer these role models in your classroom or library. The books below are some particularly good options for kids interested in STEM and they all focus on the contributions women have made in these disciplines. All of the books perfect for kindergarten through second grade unless otherwise noted.


Rachel Carson Women in STEMRachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor with illustrations by Laura Beingessner
Nature enthusiasts will find inspiration in Rachel Carson’s story of building a career as a biologist writing about the environment. The book opens in Carson’s childhood and details her education as a biologist at a time when few women were employed in the field and her struggles writing Silent Spring, her most famous book. It does not shy away from her battle with cancer, which ultimately killed her, and offers a note with additional information about Silent Spring’s impact. The book also includes numerous notes and a bibliography of both Carson’s books and other works about her.

me jane Women in STEMMe…Jane by Patrick McDonnell
Jane Goodall is a particularly popular subject for books for all levels of readers, but this multiple award winner is among the best. Combining adorable illustrations, materials from Goodall’s own childhood notes, and selected photos, it shows how a childhood dream can become a reality, which is an inspirational message no matter what your goal in life may be.

Florence Nightingale Women in STEMFlorence Nightingale by Demi
Though Florence Nightingale is a well-known historical figure, this book brings to light aspects of her life that will be unfamiliar to many readers, including her determination to pursue a career in nursing despite her parents’ reservations and her innovations in hygiene practices. The illustrations bring to life her family and the hospitals where she worked and will keep readers engaged. The book also includes a timeline of her life and books for further reading at the end.


Marvelous Mattie Women in STEMMarvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor by Emily Arnold McCully
Born to a poor mother in 1838 at a time when few women had the opportunity to have a quality education or the freedom to become inventors, Mattie Knight used the toolbox she inherited from her father to start inventing as a small child. Over the course of her life, she created numerous important inventions, including a guardrail to protect workers in textile mills and a machine that is still used today to create paper bags. The book not only details her inventions but also shows her strength in defending them from those who tried to steal them from her. The illustrations incorporate examples of diagrams for her inventions and the book also includes an author’s note and bibliography with more information on Mattie.

Girls Think of Everything Women in STEMGirls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh; illus. by Melissa Sweet
This book, which is aimed at young readers in about second through fourth grade, collects stories of a variety of female innovators who created everything from a chocolate chip cookie recipe, to kevlar, to computer compilers. Young inventors are also included, offering great inspiration for young readers. All of the stories are illustrated with a combination of collages and paintings. The book ends with resources for young inventors.


Rosie Revere Women in STEMRosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty; illus. by David Roberts
Rosie loves to invent things and hopes to be an engineer one day, but when one her inventions fails, she thinks about giving up. Her great-great-aunt sweeps in to convince her that she is wrong and to explain to her the importance of trial and error. The cute story and entertaining drawings will be sure to make this book a favorite.


Of Numbers and Stars Women in STEMOf Numbers and Stars: The Story of Hypatia by D. Anne Love; illus. by Pam Paparone
This book tells the story of Hypatia, a woman in ancient Alexandria whose father chose to educate her the same as boys were educated at the time. Despite the limitations placed on women at the time, she became a respected mathematician and philosopher, a process that this book brings to life through its illustrations.

Infinity and Me Women in STEMInfinity and Me by Kate Hosford; illus. by Gabi Swiatkowska
Readers of this book follow an eight-year-old girl named Uma as she grapples with the concept of infinity. Friends and relatives all try to explain it through different analogies, bringing Uma to consider topics as divergent as music, friendship, and love in her quest to grasp the meaning of infinity.

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21. Writing Tip – Google Maps = Magic Carpet Ride

Guest Blogger: Johanna Bilbo Staton  

Map Program = Magic Carpet

You’re writing about a particular place, but your description feels flat. What you want, instead, is for your reader to feel as though they are actually “there.” Time for a field trip? But maybe that’s not possible—it would take time and money, lots of both if the location is far away from you.

I’ve discovered another solution: the map program on my computer and in particular the satellite and street level views. Granted, they will not give you the sounds and smells of a place, nor how it will look in a variety of seasons and weathers. Yet a map program can provide you with a surprisingly useful amount of detail.

Here are two examples of how I have used this resource:

Those computer maps are likely less than ten years old. How much use could they be for a story set almost five hundred years ago? Answer: quite a bit. Part of my story is set in Quarley, a tiny village of thatched-roof cottages in Hampshire, England. I know for a fact that they are at least forty years old. Four hundred plus? Maybe not. But in that relatively flat countryside there is one high spot, Quarley Hill, and it would have been there at the time of my story. I’ve seen it in person, but before that, I had seen it on Google Maps, and had written about it:

By mutual agreement, we angled toward Quarley Hill, a bump in the landscape that was our one local claim to any sort of height. Trotting up and down it, Frydd declared, was the best way for Bonesy to regain his mountain legs.

Later in the same manuscript, the main character and her companion are riding west toward Wales. Obviously there’s a big difference between modern roads in the UK and those of Tudor England. But I compared a British Ordnance Survey Historical Map of ancient Britain (also a useful resource) with a modern Ordnance Survey map of the same area, and so had a good idea of the probable route my riders took. Going to the area on Google Maps and going to the street view gave me this detail:

The Salisbury Plain had been flat. Now we rode through rolling countryside. We were in a valley, with slopes rising up on either side of the road.

Chances are I may find the program useful in a possible future project to be set in medieval Scotland—find a modern road through a wild area (plenty of those in the Highlands!) , and see what there is to see.

(However, Google seems to have changed its map program slightly since I did that. Instead of being able to move a little person-on-foot icon to a road, the program shows me a selection of street-level pictures. But this ought to be helpful also.)

I’ve also used the map program capabilities in my freelance copyediting, but in a way that would be just as useful for my writing. The text in question was from a contemporary novel set in New York City, in a scene that was set on the roof of a major theatrical landmark, and concerning what the characters could see from there. From the map program, I was able to determine which of the details given were, in fact, visible from that location, and which ones were iffy or impossible.

Writer’s block about your setting? Call up your map program, tell it where you want to go, let it get you down on the ground, and see what inspires you.

Filed under: Advice, article, authors and illustrators, Internet, Technology, Tips, Writing Tips Tagged: Jody Staton, Writing: Goodgle Maps

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22. Science Fiction, Shaping Our Future

Any Smithsonian Magazine readers out there? The May issue caught my eye because it has Patrick Stewart on the cover. The man is 73 but he is still as hunky as ever (his wife is only 35!). Much as I’d love to ramble on about him, I’m going to move on to an article of interest in the magazine on science fiction. No, it’s not Star Trek or X-Men but it could be!

The article is How America’s Leading Science Fiction Authors are Shaping Your Future by Eileen Gunn. We often think of science fiction in terms of whether or not the view of the future comes true. I have found myself saying more than once, where’s my flying car? This is unfair, of course. As Gunn suggests,

the task of science fiction is not to predict the future. Rather, it contemplates possible futures.

Some writers like Ursula Le Guin like future settings because it is a big question mark making it a safe place to try out ideas. Others like to envision where contemporary social trends or science and technology might take us. Sometimes you get happy futures but these days more often than not you get dystopian futures with ideas, social structures or technology taken to extremes. Think Margaret Atwood with biotech and genetic engineering or Suzanne Collins taking the gap between rich and poor to the extreme in Hunger Games.

But does science pay attention to science fiction? Yes, it does. Astrophysicist Jordin Kare went to MIT because the hero of his favorite Robert Heinlein novel went to school there. And last fall two MIT instructors taught a class called “Science Fiction to Science Fabrication” that had a syllabus crammed with scifi novels and stories, movies and games. Students were assigned to create a functional prototype inspired by their reading and then consider the social context of what they created. One group of students, inspired by William Gibson’s Neuromancer, built a device that enables the user to make a hand gesture that stimulates the muscles in the hand of a distant second user to create the same gesture. The students thought it would be great for use in physical therapy but there was also a big discussion around how the technology might be exploited for unethical purposes as it was in Gibson’s novel.

Then there is design fiction, something I have never heard of before but which makes complete sense. Tech companies commission imaginative works to model new ideas and create what-if stories about potential new products. Novelists the likes of Cory Doctorow have written these sorts of “science fictions.”

We might not have flying cars but we have plenty of other technologies thanks to the imaginations of science fiction writers and the skills of scientists. While the design fiction kind of creeps me out a little bit (I’m not sure why), I am heartened to know that there are plenty of scientists who love and are inspired by scifi. As the article concludes:

Science fiction, at its best, engenders the sort of flexible thinking that not only inspires us, but compels us to consider the myriad potential consequences of our actions.

Filed under: SciFi/Fantasy, Technology

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23. YALSAblog Tweets of the Week – May 23, 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 May 23 and May 29 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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24. Technology in Writing Workshop: When Students Take The Lead

We are neck deep in drafting various pieces for our multi genre writing project these days, and I am noticing (and celebrating) two ways in which our workshop has changed, both of which… Continue reading

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25. App of the Week: Plain Text 2

Title: Plain Text 2
Platform: iOS
Cost: Free

plain text 2

When my school adopted iPads for AP and pre-AP students, one roadblock some students encountered involved working away from wireless networks. I showed some how to set up individual Google docs for offline access, but sometimes students wanted to begin typing an assignment and hadn’t created or adjusted a doc so they could access it at home. Plain Text 2 provides an excellent word processing platform for those instances, and it’s clean interface has made it a go-to for writing many documents.

If you’re thinking Notepad, the text isn’t THAT plain. Fonts include Helvetica, Courier, and Times New Roman, and you can adjust the font between 10 and 24 points…the only down-side is that whatever you specify is set for the document, so you can’t alternate fonts or sizes. You can also double-space, much to the delight of my students working on English papers, and there is a running word count and Flesch-Kincade Grade Level and Readability Scores (under the “info” option). An extended keyboard provides convenient access to the most commonly used symbols without toggling.

photo (1)

You can create folders for organization and sort documents by date and name, both ascending and descending, and specify the way folders and documents appear as well. Best of all, you can set it up to sync with Dropbox and iCloud…so our students can write at home, sync without any action on their part once they’re back on campus, and then access the online file from any connected device for further manipulation or printing.

You can pay an additonal $4.99 to remove ads, but they don’t seem a huge distraction. Librarians might want to share the Privacy option which disables analytics, too.

This app has been a lifesaver for many students on our campus.

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