Sunday, June 5, 2011

Making Things at the Library Helps Build Skills

Wired has a terrific article about the value of kids making things and getting creative, and how this gives them advantages going into the future. The article focuses on Maker Faire a celebration of creativity and ingenuity that takes place in San Mateo, California.

Want Kids to Win the Future? Turn Them Into Makers — and Sci-Fi Fans
By Angela Watercutter
“If you look at [Steve] Jobs and [Steve] Wozniak, they were makers,” Bushnell said in a phone interview with “The more we can turn the nation into a nation of makers, they will be smarter, they’ll be better problem-solvers, and they’ll be more equipped for the problems of tomorrow.” ... “When I hired engineers and people on the creative side, I never looked at their grades,” he said, referring to the teams he built at Atari and beyond. “I interviewed them strictly on their hobbies, and if they did not have a hobby in technology I wouldn’t hire them….

How can we introduce teens to new interests and hobbies? Alas, there is not such a fair for the Seattle area yet (there is a mini-one in Kitsap County today...with some good ideas to borrow too), but this is something libraries definitely be able to provide for kids and teens.

I love the idea of stealing many of their program ideas and doing them in our libraries. Already our kids librarians are doing more with Legos. Should the their be Teen sets too? Would teens come to a program on LED projects beyond throwies? What about musical bots? A modified Xbox360 controller? Or maybe an Extreme Marshmallow Cannon? For more ideas, check out the Makers Faire program guide here.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Line Betweem Dependence and Addiction?

Some interesting and not terribly surprising statistics were revealed in this article, summarizing a recent study:

Digital Dependence of Today's College Students Revealed in New Study from CourseSmart™

Findings show college students feel helpless without technology—checking their devices at least every 10 minutes and foregoing face time for Facebook.

There are so many alarmist reports out about youth's dire need for technology (don't you love the dark image above, found by the image search "facebook addiction"...there are some doozies!). Clearly many youth feel totally dependent on it now. When does that become addiction? Were we saying the same thing about teens and telephones in the 1980s?

I often find myself of two minds. One one hand, I know how good I feel after I'm unplugged for a weekend, as I was a few days ago to go camping. Time slows down. Conversations happen. Exercise occurs naturally. I even read a few books. On the other hand, I believe technology is just how our species is evolving, no good or bad about it, it simply is. That is very easy to see M.T. Anderson's Feed becoming a reality all too soon. What do you think? Are teens ready to be plugged in full time? And what are the risks we face with this step?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

More Social Networking Stuff

I find social networking and the ways young people and adults utilize things like Facebook, Twitter, etc. to be extremely interesting and I think services like these provide 'instant windows' into our culture in a real-time manner that hasn't been previously possible. Much like your Fred Meyer card allows the store to collect information useful for marketing and sales much faster than was ever possible in the past, Facebook and its clones allow us to look at our relationships, how people interact with others, and observe how certain societal mores change or develop at nearly the same speed that Freddy's can see that you prefer Tostitos over Santitas. I saw a couple of articles today on about dealing with 'online haters' and about Facebook trends that made me remember the article Dawn shared on 'Facebook Depression', so I thought I would share these as well for other people interested in this kind of thing. There is some good advice in the 'haters' articles and some interesting information about how 'Facebooking' has influenced, or at least given us an easier way to observe, how young people interact with each other. The stories aren't necessarily teen-centered, but I think they have a lot of relevant information in them.