"Technology-based programs, with high appeal to youth, can help public libraries build developmental assets in youth in our communities. By doing so, we establish libraries as key partners with schools and families in building strong and safe communities. Library staff leading technology programs can be those additional supportive adults that youth need in their lives. Regular programming for youth, whether weekly or monthly, provides a structured opportunity for exploration as well as social and intellectual development." (Nelson and Braafladt 10).

Before planning any technology programming, it is important to understand the role that technology already plays in the daily lives of children and teens. The Technology in the Lives of Youth page explores technology expectations and milestones for different age groups, challenges that technology presents, and additional resources.

The Importance of Digital Literacy for Youths

Public and school libraries have restructured their standards in regard to technology. In the past ten years, there has been a dramatic shift in how libraries obtain information which makes digital literacy skills vital to youth. Elementary school students learn keyboarding at earlier ages. Public libraries now have their catalogues online and on computer servers instead of a card catalogue; while more and more reference resources are imbedded in online databases. However, since we are now a part of the digital age, more and more youth learn from technology. Children utilize Web 2.0 applications to communicate with their friends and use tablets to read or listen to music. In the school and public library setting, technology programming addresses those needs.

Many “old school” librarians might be hesitant to use technology in their libraries due to its rapid evolution and expansion. Walton-Hadlock (2008) looks at the different types of programs for different age levels in technology. The reasons to use technology are about instruction for the kids (including motor skill development) but also help parents understand it as well. Plus, kids love to use technology because it’s fun (52).

Although a toddler as young as two years old may be too young to incorporate technology, this is the time to give instructional guidance to parents. These programs are implemented to inform parents on eliminating television for kids at this age. Also, the child could use any electronic toy but the parents should be involved as well (53).

For younger children between the ages of 8 and 11, the use of technology is prevalent and more commonly used for gaming. The purpose of technology programming at this age is for socialization. Gaming can be popular for this reason because it can ignite competition and cooperation. Plus, the importance of gaming can be a great way to get different generations involved, especially when the games involve teamwork or appropriate at multiple age levels (54).

Technology programs can be sometimes be implemented at a modest cost due to the donation of volunteer time and games. However, a library program that has a reasonable budget for technology could invest in different gaming systems and other technological hardware like tablets or smartphones. It is important to realize that libraries can implement many technology programs without significant material donations and a large amount of funding for technology. In the article, Walton-Hardlock cites some prime examples of using Web 2.0 technologies in the library. At a library in Minnesota, youth learned some basic 2.0 skills on blogging while getting additional experience in typing posts (55).

Technology is not going away and should be embraced rather than avoided. Libraries have great opportunities for growth by leveraging technology and technology programs. The most important thing is to instruct parents and youth about the usefulness of technology and how to use it safely and effectively.

The best technology programming will utilize the technology the library can afford and programs that youth enjoy due to its connections to their interests. However, by focusing on programming, libraries reach beyond merely providing access to technology and expand to fostering life skills.

The Impact of Integrating Technology Programming

Classroom instruction and learning can be enhanced by utilizing the support that digital technology provides.A study on two iPod apps demonstrated an average 20% improvement in vocabulary skills by children aged 3-7 when using the Martha Speaks: Dog Party app. (Rockman et al., 2010) Providing schools with computers increases the technology skills of both teachers and students. By utilizing laptop programs, schools increase student engagement with academic work as well as improving both technology and writing skills. (Zucker & Light, 2009)

Examples of Technology Programming

Scratch has strong appeal with youth and teaches them basic computer programming skills in a fun way. Children can build basic animations by using the Scratch programming that fits together visually like LEGO® blocks. The book, Technology and Literacy: 21st Century Programming for Children & Teens, offers a chapter with Scratch workshops and is a valuable source of technology programming information. It is listed in the professional resources below.

Another great website to teach children and teens how to code is Codeacademy. This website's main goal is to provide free coding education for everyone who wants to learn how to code. Children and teens can learn how to code in Java, HTML/CSS, PHP, Python, Ruby, and APIs. Ideally, children and teens can sign up on Codeacademy on a library computer, and teach themselves how to code. Coding is usually best learned individually, because every child has different experiences coding and learn at different rates. However, if you would like to have a weekly educational program at your library, Codeacademy also provides a free toolkit to start an after school programming club. Finally, patrons or librarians can sign up to teach on Codeacademy if they have proficient coding skills and want to share them with others in the Codeacademy community.

Movie Editing:
If a library has iPads and apps such as iMovie, this can be a great way to engage teens as they can record their own videos clips and edit them into movies or movie trailers. The technology programming offered by the library can begin at the stage of learning the youth are at and show them the next step in expanding their knowledge and improving upon their previous work.

A specific example of a movie editing program you can create in a school or public library is having patrons create a 90 Second Newberry Film. Every year, author James Kennedy encourages people of all ages to create a 90 second film adaptation of their favorite Newbery award-winning book. The rules include:
1) The videos must be 90 seconds, but you are free to bend this rule if the movie is magnificent
2) The video has to be about a Newbery award-winning or a Newbery honor book
3) "No book trailers! No video book reports! We're looking for full-on dramatizations, with mostly child actors, that manage to tell the entire story of the book in 90 seconds." Basically, make it fun!
4) Videos should be uploaded to a website like YouTube or Vimeo, and submitted to kennedyjames [at] gmail [dot] com. Subject line: 90 Second Newbery, and include any information about yourself.
5) When you send a link, James Kennedy has the right to post it on his blog and any other social media websites.
This is an excellent way to get kids and teens involved in all aspects of creating a film, such as script writing, directing, acting, and editing. All the library needs is a camera and simple movie editing software.

Photo Editing:
There are several ways for school and public librarians to include technology programming. For example, freely available photo editing programs found online, such as Picasa or GIMP (a more advanced image editor), would interest a wide range of youth. Hosting a photo editing workshop would be an interactive way to help young patrons learn. The librarian could have the youth take photos using digital cameras and load them onto the computers, and then introduce basics of the photo editing software. Allowing sufficient time for youth to manipulate the photos and ask questions (of each other or the librarian) is important.

An example of a passive program would be creating an Instagram for your library. Librarians can use Instagram to promote new materials, take pictures of programs, or encourage teens to take Instagram photos while at the library. Instagram is also an easy way to post photos on other social media websites such as Facebook. Instagram is free to use, and you sign up with an e-mail address. It's also the easiest and most basic photo editing program because it only adds filters to your photos with one click.

Teen Tech Volunteering:
If the community's teens have proficient computer skills, you can encourage them to volunteer as a "computer volunteer". Teen computer volunteers can be given responsibilities such as releasing print jobs, assisting children and other teens with basic Internet and Microsoft Office questions. This gives them an opportunity to fulfill community service hours, and they can add this volunteering program as work experience on their applications to college or their resumes.

Another Teen Tech Volunteering program is pairing a teen with a patron (child or adult) who needs help learning how to use their smartphone (such as Android, Apple, or Windows phones), e-reader (such as a Kindle or Nook), or any Apple Product such as an iPad, iTouch, or iPod.

A specific example of a teen tech volunteering program is the Teen Tech Squad in Hennepin County, Minnesota, by Cythia Matthias and Christy Mulligan. In 2006, the Minneapolis Public Library hired four teen employees to lead technology programs for other teens and younger students. Each teen hosted a workshop typically on free, open source software. The program helped teen leaders develop their literacy skills, but more importantly created youth job opportunities within the community. Since 2006, the Teen Tech Squad as spread to three other library branches, and has widespread success. The article breaks down the Teen Squad's creation, projects, software used, and learning outcomes of the program.

Teen Tech Week:
Beginning in 2007, Teen Tech Week is a YALSA sponsored event that occurs annually in March. According to their FAQ, "The purpose of Teen Tech Week is to ensure that teens are competent and ethical users of digital media, especially the nonprint resources offered through libraries, such as e-books, databases, audiobooks, and social media". Libraries are encouraged to participate by providing special programs for teens and their parents, or simply encouraging patrons to visit the library and check out digital media that is available to them. There are a number of toolkits librarians can download or purchase to help plan and promote Teen Tech Week.

Word Collages:
Another example of a way to incorporate technology programming would be to mesh a class book discussion with an online program such as Wordle™ or Tagxedo. The librarian can work with the students during a book discussion and help them collect a list of words related to the story. Then each child can create their own word cloud online using the words that they generated during class discussion. Tagxedo even allows them to choose a shape or a photo to create their word cloud in.

Electronic Gaming:
With internet access becoming ever more readily available, gaming is an increasingly social experience. Free online multiplayer games such as Minecraft and League of Legends can be used as the centerpieces for low-budget programs that require only computer and internet access. At a library event, players can connect online, trade items, collaborate on quests and battles, share tips, and show off skills. Library staff should take note of which online games are popular in their community.

Gaming consoles can be a one-time investment that gives back to the library through years of programming. Wii systems are ideal for young children, inexperienced gamers, and casual group play. Its motion-based interface means Wii play can encourage physical as well as mental activity. Titles such as Wii Sports, Mario Kart, and Super Smash Brothers offer short bouts of group play, making it easy to share among players. Xbox and Playstation consoles tend to be favored by more serious gamers, particularly (but not exclusively!) teenage boys. They may require more time and experience, but they are also more immersive and draw in skilled players eager to compete and show off skills. Competitive athletic games such as the Madden and Forza Motorsport titles have wide appeal. If a little violence is acceptable, first-person shooter games such as Call of Duty and Halo are popular with older teens. Classic group games such as Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero, and Rock Band, though aging, still makes for fun diversions that involve lots of players and require little experience.

Makerspaces are "a space for people to come together to create, share, and collaborate." Many libraries are creating technology-driven makerspaces for young people. These spaces include tools for video editing, sound recording and remixing,, photography, design, game development, digital storytelling, image manipulation, 3D scanning, modeling, and printing, and robot creation. One example is in the recent popularity of the MakerBot, a 3D printer. The MakerBot is too expensive for most patrons to own one for themselves, but at the library they can use the MakerBot as well as the software that allows them to design they object they want to create. Staff can provide instruction and ideas, host programs including demonstrations and collaborations on project, and hold contests for MakerBot creations. Less expensive creative technologies are also available, such as the MaKey MaKey, a digital invention kit that runs for about $50 and can be used in programming to foster creativity and technological literacy.

Using Devices:
Librarians can take advantage of the prevalence of of certain devices in their communities in creating programming. For example, many libraries have held "QR Code Scavenger Hunts." QR codes can be created for free online and linked to any website. Many types of smartphones are able to read the codes. Patrons can read the codes with their phones, which will lead them to catalog entries or online clues in the scavenger hunt. Tablets have been used in storytimes to provide interactive digital experiences that promote early literacy. Phones and tablets also offer a wealth of other apps that can be creatively implemented in any number of ways.

Professional Resources

Behen, Linda D. Recharge Your Library Programs with Pop Culture and Technology: Connect with Today's Teens. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited, 2013
Written by a school librarian, this book discusses how school libraries need to adapt to meet new technology advances by adding new tools to the library such as tablets, e-books, and digital storytelling. Brehen argues that library services, instruction, and programming need to stay relevant to today's teens in middle school in high schools, and librarians need to prioritize implementing pop culture and technology into their libraries. Finally, she provides a series of strategies for school librarians stay relevant to patron's needs.

Nelson, Jennifer, and Keith Braafladt. Technology and Literacy: 21st Century Programming for Children & Teens. Chicago: American Library Association, 2012.
In this handbook, Nelson and Braafladt synthesize research on the importance of digital literacy skills in the 21st century child and teen, and discuss some of the theory and research behind effective technology programming in libraries. Not only does the book delve into programming best practices, but also the importance of the instruction element that can be incorporated into tech programming. The book is divided into the following chapters:
  • Literacy, Public Libraries, and Education
  • Building Capacity for Innovative Program Development
  • Technology Programming Challenges and Opportunities
  • Technology Programming for Youth
  • Preparing for Workshops
  • All about Scratch Workshops
  • Resources

Young Adult Library Services Association. YALSA Teen Read Week and Teen Tech Week: Tips and Resources for YALSA's Initiatives. Ed. Megan Fink. Chicago: American Library Association, 2011. Print.
This book is the first volume in the "Best of YALS" series—a series designed to serve as subject guides for practicing librarians—which draws on the best articles from the Young Adult Library Services journal. Focusing on two YALSA-endorsed theme weeks, Teen Read Week and Teen Tech Week, this volume contains many articles about tech programming (centered specifically around programming for Teen Tech Week), but also general ideas about incorporating technology into your library's young adult programming. Articles are divided into the following sub-sections:
  • Five Best Practices for Teen Tech Week
  • Celebrating Teen Tech Week in Challenging Situations
  • Teen Tech Week Programming
  • Marketing, Outreach and Promotion for Teen Tech Week

YALSA Teen Space Guidelines
The YALSA Teen Space Guidelines "is a tool for evaluating a public library’s overall level of success in providing physical and virtual space dedicated to teens, aged 12-18. Potential users of these national guidelines include library administrators, library trustees, teen services librarians, community members and job-seekers hoping to assess a library’s commitment to teen services. Not every element of the guidelines may apply to every public library situation, but the guidelines can serve as a place to begin the conversation about what constitutes excellent public library space for teens." The guidelines focus heavily on the incorporation of technology into library and learning spaces, including broadly:
  • provide and promote materials that support the educational and leisure needs of teens
  • provide furniture and technology that is practical yet adaptive
  • ensure the virtual space reflects 21st century learning standards
  • provide digital resources for teens that meet their unique and specific needs

It's important to think about your library's overall technology collection and technology usage when planning tech-related programs. Knowing what works in your library's space with your resources will be essential to getting the most out of technology programming, as far as participation, engagement and enjoyment.

Webb, Allen, ed. Teaching Literature in Virtual Worlds: Immersive Learning in English Studies. New York: Routledge, 2012.
While you don't have to read this book cover to cover, the book is a valuable resource/guide for teachers and librarians who want to use alternative methods of teaching literature. Teaching Literature in Virtual Worlds is a collection of both high school teachers and college professors who created virtual worlds/projects to teach their students. Some examples are role-playing as literary characters online, exploring online interactive maps, and looking at museum websites to provide students context about the author's historical setting. Each chapter is written by different educators, who provide instructions on how they developed their project and the outcomes of their project. The chapters titles are:
  • A Virtual World for Lord of the Flies: Engaging Students and Meeting Common Core Standards
  • Midsummer Madness and The Virtual Temptest: Shakespeare as Foolish Role-play Game
  • From Migrant Labor to High Society: Of Mice and Men and The Great Gatsby in Virtual Worlds
  • Teaching Things Fall Apart in The Village of Umuofia
  • Content Learning in Literary Virtual Worlds: The Village of Umuofia
  • Building a Secondary Brave New World
  • Riffing on the Pied Piper: Combining Research and Creativity
  • Virtual Flanerie: Strolling through Mrs. Dalloway's London
  • Virtual Museums: British Literary Works in Historical and Cultural Context
  • "The Kindness of Strangers:" Angels in America in a Virtual World
  • From MUDs to Metaverses: The Past and Future of Immersive Literary Worlds
  • On the Building of Worlds

Works Cited

Create stories, games, and animations Share with others around the world. (n.d.). Scratch. Retrieved November 16, 2013, from http://scratch.mit.edu/

GIMP Windows Installers move from Sourceforge to ftp.gimp.org2013-11-05 . (n.d.). GIMP. Retrieved November 16, 2013, from http://www.gimp.org/

Nelson, Jennifer, and Keith Braafladt. Technology and Literacy: 21st Century Programming for Children & Teens. Chicago: American Library Association, 2012.

MaKey MaKey. Retrieved November 30, 2013, from http://makeymakey.com/.

Matthias, C., & Mulligan, C. (2010). Hennepin county library's teen tech squad: Youth leadership and technology free-for-all. Young Adult Library Services, 8(2), 13-16. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/57735167?accountid=14553

"Our Mission." Codeacademy. (n.d.) Retrieved November 17, 2013, from http://www.codecademy.com

Picasa. (n.d.). Picasa. Retrieved November 16, 2013, from http://picasa.google.com/

Rockman et al. (2010). PBS Kids iPod App Study: Executive Summary (PDF) (58)

Stoll, Christina. (2013). Makerspaces: Surveying the Scene in Illinois. ILA Reporter, 20(2), 4-9. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lls&AN=90489369&site=ehost-live .

Tagxedo. (n.d.). Tagxedo. Retrieved November 16, 2013, from http://www.tagxedo.com/

"Teen Space Guidelines." YALSA. American Library Association, May 2012. Web.

Walton-Hadlock, M. (2008). Tots to Tweens: Age-Appropriate Technology Programming for Kids. Children & Libraries: The Journal Of The Association For Library Service To Children, 6(3), 52-55.

Wordle - Beautiful Word Clouds. (n.d.). Wordle - Beautiful Word Clouds. Retrieved November 16, 2013, from http://www.wordle.net/

Young Adult Library Services Associaton. YALSA Teen Read Week and Teen Tech Week: Tips and Resources for YALSA's Initiatives. Ed. Megan Fink. Chicago: American Library Association, 2011. Print.

Zucker, A.A., and Light, D. (2009). Laptop Programs for Students (PDF) (69). Science, 323, 82-85.