Tag myspace

Tapping the Tools of Teen Culture in the LMC

This article first appeared in the Sept/Oct issue of “Multimedia & Internet @ Schools.” They put it online full text (yay) but I’m going to reprint it here now in case you didin’t click through, and because I can. While it is focused on Library Media Centers in schools, it is could be useful for public librarians too.


On Dec. 13, 2006, TIME named us all Person of the Year. The cover read, “You Control the Information Age. Welcome to Your World.” It should come as no surprise that this declaration set the Web atwitter. Some people saw TIME’s choice as a validating instance of mainstream media recognizing the shift occurring in the production of information and online content. For younger people, the people we’re teaching in our school libraries, there was no shift to recognize. Many of them have never known an information landscape without things such as blogs, YouTube, MySpace, and instant messaging. They’ve always known the Web to be not just for reading content but for writing content as well.

Let’s not mistake their acquaintance with Web 2.0 for expertise. While our students might be able to click through Web sites with ease and change the layouts of their MySpace profiles in the blink of an eye, there are still many things we can teach them about the read/write Web. There are also many ways we can teach our students using the read/write Web. Underlying these opportunities is the possibility to use the read/write Web to discuss the issues of authorship, authenticity, and the production of information—all topics for rich discussions of information literacy.

This article will provide a cursory review of some of the best online tools you can use to excite teachers and to prepare students to be active agents in today’s participatory culture.

Start a Conversation

Don’t think of Weblogs as a certain type of Web site. Certainly there are plenty of blogs that fill the “online diary” stereotype, but we’re not necessarily concerned with these here. Think of Weblogs from the back end. Blog systems are powerful pieces of software that allow nontechies to publish things on the Web. That highlights their potential a bit more, doesn’t it?

Ease of use isn’t the only reason you should employ blogs. An important reason is the availability of interactivity. Usually blog posts are enabled to receive responses through comments. Blog posts and comments are a great way to get students talking about books online, and this is already taking place in commercial venues. See the Readz section of the tween blogs site AllyKatzz, for example. The blog Student Reflections on Night by Elie Wiesel is an example of students responding to posts about a book through comments. Students can also use blogs for creative writing purposes. They might really enjoy writing a blog from the perspective of a book’s character or historical figure. Whatever content they are putting online, they are sure to be engaged with the process of blogging more than the process of turning in a document to a teacher.

Google’s Web-based Weblog system, Blogger, is a good place to start because you can have a free blog up and running in less than 10 minutes. If you’re at a loss for what to put online, use content that you’re already preparing for use on paper. Better yet, put your book talks into text and post them online. Like most online tools, there are a variety of privacy settings you can explore to best suit your needs. If you want to go beyond blogger, check out Edublogs, which is a free Weblog hosting service for educators and students. The software it uses is the current darling of the blog world: WordPress. If you get serious about integrating Weblogs into your curriculum, you (or your school’s IT department) can download your own version of WordPress and host it on your school’s server. This is the most technically difficult solution, but it will afford you the most control over your blogs.

No More FrontPage!

School librarians often make Web pages for teachers who want some of their units to be online. Skill and time restraints have often forced school librarians to use the now-discontinued Microsoft FrontPage to accomplish this task. The increased usability of wikis—Web pages that can be quickly and easily edited—have pushed FrontPage further into obsolescence.

Wikis are one of the best tools to increase collaboration among school librarians, teachers, and students. School librarians can hold instructional sessions and show teachers and students how to edit wikis. Thus, the task of making a Web page for a teacher’s project becomes an opportunity to empower teachers and provides an information literacy lesson for students. Other uses for wikis include using them as a Web notebook with which to collect links and information, as a brainstorming space, and as a way to make easy to update pathfinders.

There are different levels of protection and security you can give your new wiki. The popular and free wiki site PBwiki.com allows users make their wikis private by password protecting them. Only people with the wiki’s password can see and make changes to the wiki.

Pretty as a Picture

At first glance, Flickr is a photo-sharing Web site through which people can easily upload photos to the Web. Looking further, you’ll notice that Flickr is a large pool of user-generated content and an interesting example of everyday people cataloging information and working with metadata … for fun! Users can tag the photos they upload, creating a searchable keyword index to the photos on the site. Flickr aggregates all of these tags and assembles them into a tag cloud, which is a visual representation of the tags used on the site. While students might be bored to tears if you lecture them about formal taxonomies versus folksonomies, there are still a number of ways you can use Flickr in the LMC. Flickr can be searched by tags, or full text, including photo titles and annotations. A Flickr scavenger hunt might be a good way to talk about search strategies and the reliability of user-generated content. Photos can be organized into sets on Flickr. Having students upload images to Flickr, group them into sets, and provide text annotation is a way to get them more interested in presenting their book reports. Use Pictobrowser and your Flickr account to easily create an online slide show of photos. There are many tools available at fd’s Flickr toys that you and students can use to make magazine covers, motivational posters, and more out of Flickr photos.

Buddying Up to IMers

In schools, instant messaging (IM) is often maligned as a social distraction. It is indeed a channel for powerful social interaction, a fact that has secured a place for IM in young people’s life toolkit. For many of them, IM is the preferred mode of communication; it is as important as—or even more important than—phone and email correspondence. Some libraries are responding to this by being available to communicate with their users via IM. This meets IMers where they are and removes a barrier to service.

People who IM the library often add the library’s screen name to their buddy lists, which are lists of online contacts. Libraries become the “buddies” of IMers. What a great relationship to cultivate! When libraries are on a student’s buddy list, the library has a near-permanent presence in his or her online experience. Along with friends and family, the library is there as a trusted source of information.

One of the best things about starting IM in your library is that the software is free. AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) is the most popular IM service for young people, so be sure to register for an account on their Web site. You can download the AIM software, but if you don’t want to bother (or it isn’t allowed in your institution!), try using a no-download Web-based service such as meebo. If all forms of IM are blocked in your school, you’ll have to have a conversation with the IT department and school administration.

Be the Change

School librarians wanting to start new, interactive Web projects often face resistance from school administration. Is there an effective way to convince risk-averse administration to green light your project? Tim Lauer, principal of Lewis Elementary in Portland, Ore., highlights the fact that “school librarians are in a unique position to help students, teachers, and administrators understand the challenges and opportunities that present themselves as technology and communication tools change and take on a more social nature. Ignoring these changes will not make them go away, so it is imperative that we help our students learn the responsible use of these technologies.” It is this urgency that needs to be expressed to resistant colleagues. If we continue to let other librarians, teachers, and administrators stick their heads in the sand, we’re not successfully filling our roles of information professionals.

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Choices, Choices! Do I Wiki or Blog?

Blogs and wikis are both tools that enable people to get content online. Once you play with both tools, you’ll soon discover that blogs are good for displaying content in order and archiving that content. Wikis don’t automatically archive content like blogs, and it is easier to keep certain content
in one place. When using blogs, new content pushes older content off the page into the archives. Generally speaking, blogs are good for always having current, different information on a page. Wikis are more Web-like and are good for having multiple, linked pages that hold specific content. Looking at the Wikipedia page for a certain topic and then a blog that covers the same topic will highlight the differences.

Resources for Keeping Up With Teen and Tech Trends

“2007 Horizon Report” by The New Media Consortium and EDUCAUSE
“Highlights six technologies that the underlying research suggests will become very important to higher education over the next one to five years.” Includes discussions of social software, virtual worlds, and user-created content.

“Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century,” by Henry Jenkins

“Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants,” by Marc Prensky
A classic essay on the learning habits of young people.

Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens Are Really Doing Online, by Anastasia Goodstein

This book cuts through hype and details how young people are using the Web.

Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture, by Henry Jenkins
Not only valuable for its content about the tech side of participatory culture, this book examines fandom, a realm in which many teens enter.

Ypulse: Media for the Next Generation
News and information about teens and tweens geared toward “media and marketing professionals” is very useful for librarians wanting to gain insight into the preferences of people that age.

Pew Internet Studies
These reports are useful for gauging what teens are doing online. The statistics provided can help you make the case for interactive and engaging Web projects.

Social Networking Websites and Teens

Teen Content Creators and Consumers

Teens and Technology: Youth are Leading the Transition to a Fully Wired and Mobile Nation

walking paper scraps

Wikipedia Becomes a Class Assignment

Knowing their work was headed for the Web, not just one harried professor’s eyes, helped students reach higher – as did the standards set by the volunteer “Wikipedians” who police entries for accuracy and neutral tone, Groom said.

The exercise also gave students a taste of working in the real world of peer-reviewed research.

Face it – oldies want chums, too

But a recent study by analysts comScore showed that nearly one third of Facebook users are aged between 35 and 54, and that this group also made up 41 per cent of MySpace users.

walking paper scraps

Brain-computer interface for Second Life.

A research team led by professor Jun’ichi Ushiba of the Keio University Biomedical Engineering Laboratory has developed a BCI system that lets the user walk an avatar through the streets of Second Life while relying solely on the power of thought. To control the avatar on screen, the user simply thinks about moving various body parts — the avatar walks forward when the user thinks about moving his/her own feet, and it turns right and left when the user imagines moving his/her right and left arms.

I want my JETPACK!!

MySpace and Skype to partner

Both Skype and MySpace say they will deeply integrate the other into their services. On every MySpace page, members will have a chance to click on a link and make a Skype call to another member

Wow. Just wow.

a PDF of my 4/30 EI presentation

Yesterday I gave a Education Institute webinar titled Facebook and MySpace: Pros and Cons for Libraries. Here’s a big honkin’ (10MB) pdf of my slides.


One of the questions that came up during the Q&A session was about curricular uses of MySpace (particularly in a high school setting) in which students can remain anonymous.

The basic idea is to have students use MySpace as a tool to get their content on the web. In doing so, they can create profiles for many other things besides themselves. Here are some ideas:

  • Characters from a novel, or different novels. Blog posts and listing “likes and dislikes” must be made in the voice of the characters, and the characters must interact through comments. Maybe even dialog from the book should be expressed in the students own language.
  • A historical figure. Same deal applies.
  • Elements of the periodic table. Get creative with listing body type and the “About” section.
  • Math equations. Students must use the blog posts to help teach others about the equation. When completed, the class will have created an online reference source.
  • Same goes for parts of speech, vocabulary words, inventions, etc.

Do teachers ask students to do similar projects on paper? You bet. Might students forget the fact that their doing *school work* when completing projects framed in a social networking setting? I think there’s a pretty good chance. Some students might not care if their teacher thinks they’re slacking, but when their online reputations are at stake they might step it up. I’m sure they’d like to link to the funny and useful profile of the quadratic equation that they created.

missing cat myspace

It is quite likely that using MySpace was the only way Vernie’s people knew how to get a website up and running.

Isn’t it great that people have the tools to do things like this? I love the details section. Height: 0′ 4″, Sign: Leo.

I found the MySpace page from a poster on a telephone poll in my neighborhood.

Library MySpace Study

Take a look at this MySpace profile: Library MySpace Study. It is by two LIS students and they are using MySpace to, well, study MySpace. Their “About Me:”

Hello, this is Kelly and Lisa. We are graduate students in Library and Information Science at Dominican University in River Forest, IL. We are doing a study on public libraries with MySpace profiles for our Research Methods class with Prof. Kate Williams. Our research plan is to look at public library MySpace profiles to see how libraries are using MySpace to interact with patrons. We will send out interview surveys via MySpace email to a random sample of library profiles. Check out our MySpace blog for updates and information as our study develops. Feel free to leave us comments, questions and suggestions!

They’ve already friended a number of libraries and have a bibliography about MySpace and Libraries.

MySpace Invaders

myspace invaders
The title slide for my presentation about MySpace and libraries.

school libraries and myspace

We’re all aware that some academic and public libraries have been using MySpace (see Jenny’s post about the recent US News article too!) to remain relevant and market themselves, but what about school libraries?

It being a hot-button issue and certainly blocked in 99.999% of schools, I imagine school librarians would have a heck of a time getting any sort of admin approval for this. I can hear the conversation. “If we have a MySpace, that’ll *condone* kids visiting the site and it will connect them with molesters!” Right. Because they’re not using it anyways. God forbid there’s any positive influence or education by example going on.

But I digress. Please let me know if you know of any school libraries (or schools in general) with a MySpace account. Thanks!

amazing library site for teens: My Own Cafe

I may have simply missed the train on this one, but maybe you did too. Alternative Teen Services posted about it in December, VOYA had an article about it but I only recently learned about My Own Cafe.

What it is? My Own Cafe is a MySpace type website hosted and moderated by the Southeastern Massachusetts Library System, and holy smokes it is amazing. It is a great example of libraries providing an online community for its young patrons, and doing so without being librarianish. At the same time, it manages to be a great spot for kids to learn about healthy ways to be online. Here’s a page titled safety tips.

People don’t visit My Own Cafe for the safety tips though, they visit it for the message boards about sports, music, movies, politics and more, lists of communty events, and MP3s from local bands. I’m sure the librarians hope they visit for the homework help and links into library resources. You’ll see below that their My Own Cafe login automatically logs them in to the library system’s databases. Nice. I think My Own Cafe is the best library site for teens around. It is a great example of libraries translating something that they do well in their physical branches to their online branches: community.

I got in touch with two SEMLS employees, Kathy Lussier, Assistant Administrator for Technology and Vickie Beene-Beavers Assistant Administrator for Youth Services [thanks Beth], to ask them some questions about the site. Emphasis in their answers is from me

Who are you, what do you do and what role did you play in the creation of MOC?

We wrote the LSTA grant that provided the initial seed money for the project, worked with the initial advisory group of teens and librarians and the web developers during the site’s development, and are now providing the funding for the continued maintenance of the site. We also provide the training to librarians to administer the site.

The SEMLS is a state-funded, multi-type library system providing services to libraries in Southeastern Massachusetts. We provide delivery in this part of the state, provide access to online databases, offer continuing education programs, administer ILL and regional reference assistance, among many other things.

Do you know how many MOC accounts have been created? How many posts to the message boards?

We now have 189 users under the age of 20 who have registered for accounts. However, we’re in the midst of an iPod giveaway, so I’m hoping to see that number increase by the end of August. We have had 5,971 posts to the boards since October 7, 2005, which is when we first launched the site in pilot mode.

MOC takes the idea of a YA section of a library website – something that many libraries haven’t even attempted yet – to a whole new level. It is fantastic that teens can have an online identity there. Was that an idea you had early on?

I think our idea early on was that most library web sites are fairly static and unlikely to attract the interest of most teens. We knew from the beginning that to engage teens, we would need a site where the content changed daily and the would incorporate some kind of interaction. We know that teens are primarily using the Internet to interact, and we didn’t think the site would be successful without some component that would support interaction. In our initial brainstorming session with the advisory group, we talked about the possibility of using private IM, private e-mail, blogs, and chat. We ultimately decided to go with the messageboards.

How many librarians have a presence on MOC? How much work is it for them? Do you have any teens working on the site?

We have trained staff from 52 libraries on how to customize My Own Cafe for their own libraries. Most are from public libraries, but we have also trained staff from a handful of high school libraries as well. We have approximately 75 staff members from these libraries who have administrative capabilities on the site. It’s hard to see this from the Guest account, but when a teen from a “real” library logs into My Own Cafe, their library’s name shows up underneath the logo in place of where you see “Southeastern Massachusetts Library System.” Everything on the My Community page is specific to that particular library. It shows the library’s contact information, highlights the events going on in that particular community, and will eventually feature job postings from that town. The teens may also have additional databases available to them in the info center if their library has their own subscriptions.

We designed the site with the intention that it would work for a library even if they could not devote much time to maintaining it. Some libraries haven’t done much to customize the site since their initial training, but at the least they have been able to customize the site enough so that it is a viable portal for the teens in their communities. These libraries are not as likely to have high participation from their teens, but some do find the site and become active participants. Other libraries spend more time recruiting teens and training them how to update the site. We’ve found that libraries with active YA librarians and programs are more likely to be the ones to spend more time on the site, but they are really incorporating it into their existing YA activities rather than adding it on.

We are currently organizing meetings with the site’s library administrators to see how we can get them more actively involved in helping out with some of the monitoring of the site.

We do have various administrative levels set up for the teens so that they can help administrate the site, and several libraries have chosen to work with their teens on keeping the content on the site fresh. The various jobs available to teens are moderating a messageboard (by far the most popular choice), adding events for the library, reviewing music from local bands to decide whether it should be posted to the site, and creating polls for the site. All of the boards are monitored by teens, although we try to check in everyone once in a while to see how things are going.

As if having kids hang out at the digital branch of the library isn’t enough, the site is also set up to connect them with library materials, and it does this without being (lame and) pushy. Once logged in, they can seamlessly connect to library databases. Do you know if they’re doing this?

Of course, you know this whole website was an elaborate way to get teens to use these resources. We don’t make it easy for patrons to use our databases, and we really tried our best to improve this situation in My Own Cafe. Ideally, we would love to use federated search so that we can Google-ize our online databases, but we don’t have the funds for federated search right now, and I’m not sure there is a product out there yet that really makes database searching as easy as Google.

In the interim, we have designed the site so that teens enter their library card once when they create their accounts. As long as they are logged in, they do not need to enter their barcode again. We provide a search box that automatically brings them to an InfoTrac Powersearch search. They also get one-click access to all of our other databases (although we never actually use the word database on the site). We have also recently given libraries the ability to add their own individual subscriptions to the site so that teens do not need to go to four different places to use a library’s resources. When writing the grant, we had looked at brarydog from Charlotte & Mecklenburg County and followed their example in making database access a little easier.

But you asked the question about whether they are actually using these resources? Well, we know the info center will not be the thing that brings teens to the web site. We’re relying on the messageboards and music center to be the draw. But our hope is that as they use the site, they start to discover other resources available to them and begin using them because they are easily accessible. I’m looking at our stats, and use of the info center and the find library materials page was fairly low during the early months of the web site. The info center was the fourth most-visited page in April when we were doing a special iPod giveaway. Users could be entered into a drawing for an iPod if they answered 10 questions using resources in the info center. The questions were difficult, but the info center also includes access to MassAnswers – our 24/7 chat reference service – and we were encouraging the teens to use MassAnswers for the stumpers. In May, the info center sunk to the tenth-most visited page, but there were still quite a few more requests than in months previous to April. There hasn’t been much activity on those pages during the summer, which isn’t surprising. We’re planning a similar iPod giveaway in the fall when teens are settling back into school.

During the last iPod giveaway, I noticed a user had posted to the board about an article she had found in eLibrary, one of our online databases. You can read the post here. She was one of the users who participated in the giveaway, and it gave some evidence that the promotion got at least one teen to use a database for personal use.

Kids have a reputation for not behaving themselves online. What has your experience been with MOC? Have there been many posts to delete? I think that online communities can be self-policing, and I’ve seen some examples of this on MOC. One person gets testy, and others say, “Stop it” or simply ignore the comment.

We’ve also grown accustomed to hearing about kids acting inappropriate, i.e. bullying, foul language, so far our experience has been quite the opposite. The incidents of improper behavior on My Own Cafe have been VERY low. With teen moderators monitoring and editing content, we’ve found that our volunteers have been very careful and considerate in allowing other teens to speak freely and to maintain a sense of respectfulness and an atmosphere where teens can feel comfortable expressing their opinion. So yes, self—policing will and has happened on MOC. Via the net, teens are challenged to articulate their opinions and ideas among peers and it is inevitable that teens will interpret a post as a personal attack. It’s no different from adults conversing. But even when posts are heated, this is an opportunity for teens to practice their moderating skills; some are learning to present their arguments with facts, while others are learning to listen to both sides of a debate. Yet even at this date, we haven’t had to delete a post that our moderators thought was malicious.

The fact that MOC allows for teens to have an identy is crucial because of what they want to do online: connect with others. I noticed that the forums and message boards are one of the most popular sections of the site, one teen having just under 500 posts.

Isn’t that the reason that we post messages online? To connect and meet with new people who share our interests. It’s no different from going to a dance, hanging out at the mall or meeting other gamers. It’s pretty cool to see the types of conversations that go on with teens and even cooler to see how intense some of these conversations evolve.

Another reason I really like MOC is because it is teaching kids appropriate online behavior. This is an important part of information literacy, and I see it as more important than them memorizing that the atomic number for titanium is 22.

A recent George Washington University Study sanctioned to evaluate the effectiveness of the Netsmartz Program in Maine indicated that a teen’s internet safety awareness rose dramatically. Whether or not a teen has participated in a formal internet safety program, any teen will tell you that they have been drilled ad nausea by both teachers and parents on what or what not to share online. Hopefully we effectively added to that dialogue by posting our guidelines to continue practice safety and appropriate online behavior in our Newbies section. However we know that it is still an individual decision as to whether or a teen will abide to the guidelines. But most teens will choose to communicate or opt not to participate if they are not comfortable.

However we are finding that our teen moderators are much more stricter than we are when it comes to appropriate behavior-and even grammar for that matter (laugh). If a situation arises where teens do not feel comfortable, we’ve asked that they contact us via email after hours and of course by phone. Without an opportunity for them to make a decision without an adult present, how else will they learn to be safe?

Although I noticed that many people have YouTube videos embedded, I don’t see many photos on the site. Intentional? This is very different than, say, MySpace where many teens post photos as comments.

As we continue to offer training workshops to our SE members we are encouraging both our school and public librarians to ask teens to use avatars rather than personal photos in their profiles. We’ve had some teens to post photos of themselves (at least we assumed it was them) but it looks like they opted to switch to an avatar instead. But in all honestly, teachers and school media specialists have been discussing safety with teens in classroom settings for a number of semesters and I think teens are finding other ways to express themselves creatively while satisfying the wishes of concerned adults.

If you had unlimited time and funds, what would you do to improve MOC?

What we would really love is to expand our Poetry section to include all things related to art. In this Creativity Center we could house digital artwork and photography, short stories, podcasts, you name it. It is ripe with the possibilities with the proper funding. We just haven’t had the time to seek money outside of our local resources but it is due time. Got any suggestions? 😎

Many thanks for Kathy and Vickie for this great project, and sharing their thoughts with us.

funny stuff

A few people have emailed me asking about my absence, so here’s a quick note saying hello to everyone. I’ve been off doing fun things, usually involving riding one of my bikes fast, far, or both. For some content, here’s a great comment I found on the MySpace of one of the TFML’s MySpace friends:

omfg! take ur town off of myspace! people could molest you!!!!! jk jk jk. lol. jus got back from my aunt &uncles crawfish thingy. fun fun. okay. laterr.

The library had a slew of 6th grade classes come in to hear about the summer reading program today. Their eyes popped when we told them about the library’s efforts with books on iPod, IM, video games and MySpace. Some of them were so shocked you’d have thought we showed them a married bachelor or a three sided square. I didn’t know our image issue was *that* bad.