Tuesday, July 22, 2014

TPiB: Bristlebots, take II (or what happens when you give teens space to be creative)

Since the SRC was science themed this year, Christie and I knew that we wanted to do a small robot program. We did a lot of research and came up with some various ideas, but ultimately we decided to do these small robots called Bristlebots or Brushbots. It turned out there were pre-made kits you could buy so we did that.

The day before my program I put a sample together to make sure that I would know how to do it with my tweens and teens. As a general rule, I try to avoid embarrassing myself in front of them. I'm not saying it never happens, I'm just saying that in this particular instance I thought putting a demo together was a good idea. One of the things I discovered was that putting the bots together wouldn't take much time at all. But I had my Lego Makerspace so I figured we could spend the rest of the time building racing courses and letting the teens race their bots.

The day of the program, these teens genuinely surprised me. Instead of building tracks, they began doing little experiments of their own. One kid used a mini-figurine and his bot motor to see if he could get the person to move. Another built a horse and did the same. They take a concept and ran with it.

TPiB: Brushbots

I have been having remarkable luck playing with technology at my library. I was a little apprehensive at first, just because of our location and the kids- would they get off the computers to actually learn about Raspberry Pis? Would they think these were as cool as I did? Would they be willing to take a breathe and actually follow directions above and beyond the sticker crafts that we hold on Saturdays, take the steps, and work to put something together? And how am I going to put all of this together when I'm either IN the library floor proper, or across the hall in a meeting room that no one knows is a library program?

So far, however, the answer has been playing with them in front of the tweens and teens. It may seem simple, and at points it gets hard to explain to administration, but it's one of those interaction development components that tweens and teens need- someone to pay attention to them, and to interact with them without feeling that the adult is being "put upon" or "suffering" their presence. I did this when we got the Raspberry Pis, and my classes have been full and we have wait lists. And I did this with the Brushbots.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Middle Grade Monday - How Much is Too Much?

My students come back to school a week from today! Yes, we're on a weird schedule. For those of you unfamiliar with school employees schedules, we usually have 5 to 7 pre-service work days before the students come back. I spent the first two absorbed with technology tasks - signing out laptops, requesting network accounts, etc. Today, we had a full day faculty meeting to discuss the myriad tweaks and changes that come with a new principal and a new year. Tomorrow, I finally get to work on the library.

This is What Happened When The Tween Read EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS by A. S. King

I am an avid and vocal A. S. King fan and The Tween lives in my home so she is well aware of this. In fact, she recently got a chance to meet my favorite author and got some signed books of her own. But then an interesting thing happened, you see she ASKED me if she could read them. This was an odd thing to me for a couple of reasons.

Like her, I was an avid reader growing up. I never asked for permission to read a book, I just read it. It never even occurred to me to ask. And no one ever asked me what I was reading. So in that moment I had a weird wrestling of Librarian Mom - who was like, read what you want, read everything, go, do it - and Mom Mom - who was like, um, well, you're a very sensitive soul and maybe you should wait a couple of years. In truth, I wish she hadn't asked.

But then one day last week she came to me again and asked if she could read EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS and I said yes.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Reflections: Not All Educations are Created Equal

I was speaking to someone the other day about the issue of growing poverty in the U.S. when the friend shocked me by victim blaming kids living in poverty. The most surprising part of it all was that this friend is a social work major who is going into the field to help children. She is going to go try and help the very children whose lives she doesn't seem to understand in any way. 

It's easy for us, as adults, to look at other adults and see that a better education could help improve their lives. But the truth is, not all educations are created equal and many children are born into this world with incredible educational disadvantages that can be almost impossible to overcome.

To begin with, not all schools are created equal. Many schools rely on local funding, so schools in poorer communities are fundamentally disadvantaged. When we were living in the poorest county (at the time) in Ohio, you could see that reflected in the school system. Because over 80% of the students qualified for free or reduced lunch, the school district applied for and received a special grant so that every child in the area received free breakfast and lunch. Every year the school tried to pass a new operating levy and every year it failed. In the 10 years that I lived there no new levies were passed. It's not that the parents didn't care about education, it had more to do with the fact that the average yearly income was around $24,000 and paying additional taxes would mean going without more meals or the opportunity to fix your dying car you need to get to and from work.

In comparison, we moved three years ago due to my husband's job. Though things are still very tight for us and the people who live in this neighborhood, the schools in Texas have a different funding structure and are doing better financially. Beginning in the 5th grade, every student in this school district gets a laptop to take home every night to do homework. I imagine there are a significant number of students who don't have Wifi at home, but they can still use the computers to write reports or put together presentations. Due to funding laws here, when the schools recently needed an increase there was no vote necessary, the district simply raised the school taxes.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Finds: #SVYALit Project Edition

Two things happened this week and I really want to talk about them.

Earlier this week, the news broke out that Joanie Faircloth had retracted her statement that Conor Oberst had raped her. I wasn't really familiar with this story until news broke out about the retraction, but I want to take a moment to talk about this in the context of the #SVYALit Project.

You see, when we talk about rape - when I have talked about rape - inevitably someone will come out and ask, "but what about false accusations?" The truth is, false accusations happen. Current research indicates that 2 to 8 percent of rape and sexual violence reports are a false accusation. That means that more than 90% of sexual violence reports are real reports.  This commonly cited statistic is the source of some debate, but even the highest of estimates are around 25 to 40% of rape accusations are false, which means that a majority of all rape charges filed are not false.

False accusations are really problematic for two important reasons:

1. It obviously seriously messes up the life of the person falsely accused, and this is a problem. A huge one. If formal police charges are filed then Faircloth will be charged with a crime. In addition, Oberst can and most likely will file civil charges against Faircloth because she has in fact put him through tremendous pain and suffering and I imagine things like loss of income.

2. It makes it that much harder for the victims of sexual violence to come forward and have their stories heard because the tendency is for people to reply, but what about false accusations. In fact, this happens with rape in a way that it doesn't happen with other crimes. There are false reports of theft, violence, etc. And yet, if you go to the police and report these types of crimes you are still usually taken pretty seriously; your case will be investigated. It is currently estimated that sexual crimes are still vastly under-reported, with the figure being as a high as 60% of sexual crimes going unreported, due in part to the way victims of these crimes are treated as they go through the process of reporting. In a world where victim blaming is already so rampant, false accusations make it that much harder for real victims to seek justice.

Both of these are equally horrifying results of false accusations. Every time someone makes a false accusation against another person, they aren't just hurting that person, they are hurting every single victim of sexual violence.

Also this week news broke out about Jada, a 16-year-old who discovered that she may have been raped by watching pictures of herself passed out go viral on Twitter with a Hashtag. She went to a party where drinking was involved, passed out, and woke up in a state of undress. She was told at the time that she had vomited on herself and that someone had cleaned her up. Later, however, photos appeared online that suggested that something very different had happened. And to make matters worse, people began taking pictures of themselves in a pose similar to hers with a Hashtag (which I will not mention here), mocking this girl. In a moment of tremendous courage, Jada went public, telling her story and using that same social media to try and raise awareness and reclaim herself. And because sometimes social media is awesome, people are choosing to proclaim #IStandwithJada.

Friday Finds - July 18, 2014

This Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: If Ranganathan wrote a list about the SRP

Celebrating 3 Years of TLT, with a Giveaway

Book Reviews:
In Our Mailbox:

Around the Web

If this doesn't scare you, you're not paying attention.

Kirkus agrees with me about Lish McBride's Firebug.

The Annoyed Librarian is either and idiot, or not a librarian. Yeah, I said it.

On the other hand, Hi Miss Julie is profoundly wise.

What happens when a state provides free, universal birth control access?

This makes me very, very happy. Tiny Cooper 5ever.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

In Our Mailbox: How to resurrect a long dead TAG, take II

Earlier today, Heather Booth answered a question that came in our mailbox from a librarian wanting to breathe some new life into a TAG (Teen Advisory Group). Heather is wise in the way of TAGs and offers a lot of great advice, but I am going to offer another approach.

TAG as Content Creators

In my first library position, I started a TAG. Every month we met and talked and eventually what they decided is that they wanted to put together a monthly newsletter, which we did. They wrote book, movie and music reviews. They wrote poems and short stories. And because this was more than 10 years ago, we laid it all out on my computer and we printed and copied it for distribution around the library. This would easily translate to today into things like running a blog or Tumblr and this group of teens would have loved that. They were great teens, we had a lot of fun and they enjoyed the opportunity to express themselves. This is what worked for this TAG at this time and because of that it was awesome.

TAG as Idea Generators

In Our Mailbox: How to resurrect a long dead TAG?

Many of us have had this problem at one point or another. Having a TAG (or TAB, or YAAC, or Teen Council - whatever you want to call it) is drummed into our heads as The Thing to do in order to get teen input on library services.  But sometimes they fizzle, sometimes you burn out, and sometimes there's an interest, but it's unfocused and needs some direction.  An established librarian in a new position, here is reader Sarah's dilemma:
My library at one time had an active and thriving Young Adult Advisory Council, but from what I’m hearing, interest waned, and it sort of died a natural death sometime during the previous (retired) librarian’s tenure. I’ve had some recent inquiries by teens interested in joining it (they never took the information about it off the website) and my director is definitely interested in resurrecting it, but is leaving the details up to me. I was hoping to get the benefit of your experience working with teens and see if you had any ideas or suggestions?

I have a great group of summer teen volunteers that I’m hoping to interest in being part of the YAAC once school starts back, but I don’t want it to be just a “show up, eat pizza, gripe about school and life, go home” social club. I am toying with the idea of setting it up as simultaneously a Harry Potter Alliance chapter, because I love their focus on citizenship and doing good in the community and the world if I can get my director to go for it.
Sarah, I think you're actually in a great position here to start something wonderful and cool.  Here's what you have going for you:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Review: Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson

When I was a Junior in high school, I had a history teacher who wanted to make sure that we understood current events and the world that we lived in. So every Friday, we had a current events type quiz bowl. There was a boy in my class named Luke and him and I were super competitive. So I begged my parents for a subscription to both Time and Newsweek and I read. I learned about the tumult in the Middle East, I learned who current world leaders were, and I learned about the way things like gas, terrorism, and boundary disputes can effect the world we live in. My history teacher would love this book.

Emily Bird is the daughter of scientist parents who are involved in work that Bird can't really understand. All she knows is that her parents, particularly her mom, put tremendous pressure on her to be a successful microversion of them, and she's not really sure that is what she wants. And then one day the future doesn't matter because it looks like there may not be one.

A flu pandemic is starting to spread and the world as we know it is changing - and is at war.