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Teen Programs

    Programs Tech

    How “Beyond MySpace” Evolved to Passive Tech Programming

    Once upon a time I had the responsibility of planning an all day event called the Teen Summit. Around five years later I can almost think about it without my blood pressure going up. We had a large variety of speakers and at the particular facility we were using we also had a computer lab.

    We wanted to use the computer lab for a session and after consulting with what was then known as my library’s Computer Learning Connection we developed a session called “Beyond MySpace”.  The idea was to show teens some useful sites that they might use during their library computer time which at that point was nearly all MySpace all the time.

    Yes, they were still on MySpace – the digital divide is alive and well in Cleveland and over and over I’ve observed our teens behind the trends in website usage because of it. It was a very successful session, and by collaborating with CLC I also met one of my closest friends.

    Fast forward to Teen Tech Week 2012, where it’s now all Facebook all the time. I decided to simplify the workshop concept and run a small contest in the department to introduce teens to some other websites that they might enjoy or find useful. I made a sign for each computer station with very simple directions:

    1. Take a look at our list of great websites.

    2. Visit the sites and fill out a review for as many as you’d like.

    3. Each review enters you for a chance to win.

    4. One lucky winner will receive a $10 McDonalds Gift card and a prize bag.

    5. Two other winners will receive a prize bag.

    Enter your reviews here:

    The link goes to a Google Form which is still there if you want to take a look.

    Keeping in mind some these were much more exciting in March 2012 here are some of the websites I suggested with the description from my sign:


    • Search for a source like a book, article, or website; or enter the information yourself.
    • Add it to your bibliography.
    • Download your bibliography in the MLA, APA, Chicago, or Turabian format.


    • Take notes on the computer or on your phone.
    • Take and save pictures with a camera phone.
    • Clip web pages and save them as notes.
    • Sync notes to all your devices.
    • Notes are taggable and searchable.

    Spark Notes

    • Get study guides on a long list of literature.
    • Find study guides on everything from biology to math.
    • Prepare for the SATs, ACTs, or AP tests.


    • Upload your original writing and work on it from any computer.
    • Share your writing with a group or with the world.
    • Get feedback on your writing.
    • Discuss writing related subjects in the forums.


    • Listen to streaming music for free.
    • Tell Pandora what kind of music you like and it will play similar songs.
    • Create your own custom stations.
    • Find new songs and artists.


    • Search for pictures of things that interest you.
    • Repin the pictures to your own personal inspiration boards.
    • Pin pictures of things you want to remember from other websites.
    • Share your pins on Twitter or Facebook.


    • Browse and create fashion trends.
    • Search or browse for pieces.
    • Create and share your own looks and fashion spreads.

    Stumble Upon

    • Tell Stumble Upon what you are interested in.
    • Let it guide you to websites on your topic from other members.


    • Create an animated movie by choosing sets, characters, and more.
    • Create dialogue by typing and watch characters speak your words.
    • Save and publish your movie online.


    • Select squares on the matrix to create original music.
    • Share and embed your creations.
    • Listen to other people’s music.



    Programs Teen Programs

    Sneaky Literacy: The Great Debate


    Teens love to argue. Just suggest they might have broken a rule and watch them go. Why not harness that for good and get them thinking at the same time by hosting a great debate? Pick a  book related controversy and challenge them to find evidence in the text to support their opinion. You can even invite a coach or student from a local debate club to give a mini-lesson on building arguments and using evidence before you let them loose.

    What kind of things can they argue about?

    • Team Gale vs. Team Peeta vs. Team Katniss
    • Should Draco Malfoy be in Azkaban?
    • Sirius Black: Doting Godfather or Insane Hypocrite?
    • Superman vs. Batman vs. Spiderman
    • What is John Green’s (or any author with multiple popular books) best work?
    • Are there girl books and boy books?
    • Can you judge a book by it’s cover?


    Programs Teen Programs

    Sneaky Literacy: “Best Of” Lists Program Brainstorm


    Original photo credit: Shorts and Longs

    If you read my post on Restaurant Wars you know I love programs that sneak writing, reading, research, and critical thinking in the back door. Another program that accomplishes this is running some kind of “Best Of” list program where teens create a top 10 or top 25 list. This can also give your teens a bit of a voice when their tastes are reflected by more mainstream lists.

    Top List Topic Suggestions:

    • Best Books Ever
    • Best Books of the Last Year
    • Best Hip Hop/Rock/Metal/Country (as your audience demands) Songs of the Year
    • Best Hip Hop/Rock/Metal/Country (as your audience demands)Songs Ever
    • Best Reality Show/Worst Reality Show
    • Best Movies/Worst Movies
    • Best Literary Characters

    Your options here are pretty unlimited. I think that this would work best as a passive program with a regular program to announce the final results. You might consider a kick-off program as well as the finale. If you have the  ability to take nominations via a Google Form and create an online poll for the voting all the better. You could certainly do it via paper nomination forms and ballots as well. I’m also including ideas for doing this as a single program if that fits your library better.

    Nomination Phase

    This is where all those good skills come in. I would create a handout with library resources related to the topic. For example if you were doing music take this opportunity to highlight music criticism resources and databases with music magazine articles. Patrons can then nominate a candidate for the list via whatever form you provide.

    Your form should ask “Why” and let nominators know they should be as persuasive as possible with their answer and not just write “because they’re awesome”. This is where they want to find evidence from those resources and clearly write out their case. Set a deadline for nominations and display them all once the deadline has past. Keep the nominator’s name a secret to avoid any drama on the popularity front.

    Voting Phase

    Set a deadline for everyone to vote on the nominations,encouraging them to read the nominations carefully. A week should do it, this isn’t ALA after all. Once all the votes are in take the ten highest vote-getters as your Top Ten or if you have a lot of entries you can expand the list to Best -Blank-.

    Finale Program

    If you want to keep it passive you can do a bulletin board or display to announce your winners, but it would be more fun to do a red carpet announcement of the winners. Serve popcorn and punch in fancy plastic glasses. Create a stage and build up the reveal. Start with the bottom of the list and work your way to the top. “The #3 movie of all-time, as voted on by you is ________ nominated by Nominator’s Name.”

    One Program Variation

    Sometimes we know that kind of extended program won’t work in our library. No problem. Bring some resources and some patrons into the room and let them verbally duke it out finishing the session with a vote. They can practice social and argumentation skills by having a (hopefully) civilized discussion while making a case for their favorites. Think of it like a mini-selection committee session.

    What would change or add about this program idea?

    Programs Teen Programs

    Sneaky Literacy: Teen Restaurant Wars Program

    restaurant wars

    Original Photo: Thomas Hawk

    This is basically the sneakiest writing, research, and presentation skills program I’ve ever suggested.  It’s based on the Restaurant Wars challenge on Top Chef, without the cooking. Even if teens don’t get the reference they should like the concept.  My teens are very interested in culinary careers now and yours might be too. You can encourage teens to use your collection for cookbooks, interior design books, and anything else related to their vision. You might want to acquire catalogs from restaurant supply companies or discarded magazines to help.

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