Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Dear Lego, we want building bricks not beauty tips

In my home and in my libraries I am a huge champion of Lego. They are, to me, a great STEM/STEAM tool that make for a solid foundation for my Mobile Makerspace. I was, personally, a little dismayed when they introduced Lego Friends “for girls”, because Lego was the perfect gender neutral toy. But honestly, we do have some Lego Friends (they were gifts) in my home and if you mix them up with all the other Lego blocks it really isn’t a big deal, just a wider variety of colors. But I was dismayed to learn that Lego was including “beauty advice” for girls in its Lego magazine, which is targeted towards 6 to 12 year olds. Rather than writing up a post about how disappointed I am with more traditional gender messaging creeping into the Lego brand I thought I would share several tweets shared yesterday on Twitter that highlight how off brand this messaging is.

I did get a response from Lego on Twitter:

App Review & Lego MakerSpace Fun: Giffer – Using Legos to tell stories and learn how to make Gifs

Because of time, space and money, my library MakerSpace is primarily Lego based. But that’s okay, there is a lot you can do with Legos. Last night I met with a group of Tweens and we used our Legos and an App to create Gifs.

Most of the Tweens there didn’t know what a Gif is, so that was the first thing we covered.

Then we had to storyboard an outline for our Gif. We chose animals because you could move them and show that movement pretty easily. They tend to want to build houses, which are stationary and not the best for telling a story of this kind.

So a variety of animals were built, including penguins, a zebra and a lion. A few other animals were attempted and then scrapped. Simplicity is what we needed.

After we created our animals, we started playing around with placement and movement, taking still photos along the way. Similar to an old fashioned flip book, we knew that if we did small movements and then put the still frames in a Gif maker we would get a pretty cool looking Gif.

The Gif maker we ended up choosing was Giffer. It is available in the iTunes store for $2.99. There is a pro version for an additional dollar. Please note, there are a variety of Gif makers you can choose:

Make an animated GIF in Photoshop Gickr Picasion GifBoom (app!) Cinemagram (also an app!) Gizmodo: How to Make a GIF in 5 Easy Steps Free Online GIFmaker Make a GIF Mashable: Make Reaction GIFs with These 7 Tools Mashable: How to Make GIFs 8 Free GIF Maker Apps 

My favorite part was that after we made our first Gif, one of the Tweens present decided we had to do it all over again because he needed to add blood – which of course was some red Legos. So here’s our Gif . . .

Karen’s Thoughts:

Overall, I liked a lot of things about the App and would give it a 3 out of 5 stars. There are a few things I would like to change:

1. You can add text, but you can’t change the color of the text. It is white, which was problematic for us. There are font choices, but no color choices to which I say boo.

2.  I’m still looking around, but it looks like they have easy sharing capabilities with Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook but I can’t find an embed code. I really wanted to easily be able to copy and paste an embed code for the above Gif to show you what it looked like but the only way I could figure out how to do that was to tweet the gif to myself and embed the tweet, so in this aspect I couldn’t use this gifmaker to make and use gifs in the way that I wanted to. So I’m going to keep researching that aspect. If anyone has an answer for me on this problem, please share it in the comments.

As for the process itself, it was really quite easy. The Tweens and I had a lot of fun trying to figure out how to make our story work. They did wonder why there were penguins on our Serengeti, but the answer is because I adore penguins. Penguins should be in all the things. Also, they were easy to make. We had fun and we learned some new things, not just tech things – which were awesome – but some things like storyboarding. I call this day a win.

So here’s the big question: What is your favorite Gif maker and why? I am particularly interested in something that gives you more freedom with how you share your gifs.

More Resources: 
15 Sexy, Easy-to-Use Multimedia Tools to Up Your Visual Content Game

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.

Then they started building cars using Legos and their bot motors to race. This meant they had to experiment a lot because whether or not the car would move depended on things like design, size, and the size of the motor/battery from the bot. For bigger cars, they tried using two motors, which didn’t work as well. But they could make a variety of smaller cars, use their brush bot motors, and race.

And as they built race tracks, they found that they had to consider things like how to round the corners so that the bots didn’t get stuck in them.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CqgPcy9QJU]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbFjbSk8xOc]

And the beauty of it is that it all came from them. I gave them free reign and they allowed their minds to take them places I would never have thought of. I was very impressed and the take away for me is that in our programming sometimes it’s a great idea to leave space for creativity; we can try and control the program, or we can be open to allowing the program to go in new directions and surprise us all.