Today, I came across this press release on CNW about a Canadian pilot study of teens and their use of Web 2.0 technologies. While researchers were not surprised to find that teens are really good at using Web 2.0, they were surprised to discover the unique and innovative ways in which they use it—ways which the creators of these tools had probably never thought of. According to Natalia Sinitskaya, a PhD candidate in Education at York University,
“That goes counter to the popular expectation that teenagers don’t know what they are doing…the ability to use Web 2.0 tools is a new form of literacy, and as adolescents learn to manipulate them, their communication will move away from plain writing to a new form of multi-dimensional communication.”
This Canadian research comes at the heels of a major report to the U.S. congress on media literacy. On June 4, 2010, the Online Safety and Technology Working Group released its final report entitled, “Youth Safety on a Living Internet.” In a similar vein as the Canadian study, the report concludes that we must “start thinking about young people as active participants—true citizens—in an increasingly interactive online environment where young people are just as likely to create content as to consume it.”
The report cautions against scare tactics and argues that filtering and/or blocking access to social networks is not in students’ best interest. “There is some evidence that social networks can be protective in helping to shape and reinforce positive norms,” the report says. It’s a lengthy report, but well worth reading in its entirety.
Studies like these are strongly urging for a shift in the way we think about youth and technology. Both of these reports point to young people’s need to understand that they’re stakeholders in their own well-being online and for lessons that make more meaningful connections between what is learnt in an educational setting and what they need to know to engage and participate effectively in the real world.
I also highly recommend checking out a new report released by the Ontario School Library Association entitled, “ Together for Learning: School Libraries and the Emergence of the Learning Commons.”
On May 28th, 2010, Canadian Libraries are Serving Youth (CLASY) held its inaugural professional development event at the University of Western Ontario. CLASY is a newly established group dedicated to establishing a national network of library staff who work with teens and young adults.
Running this event involved a lot of work in a very short time, but we managed to pull it off, in no small part to the energy and determination of one Stephanie Vollick (a.k.a. Library Steph). I’m especially impressed considering that while all of this was coming together, Stephanie was also packing up her apartment and preparing to move all the way across the country where she’ll be starting a new job as a youth services librarian later this month.
For more information about the event, head over to the to the CLASY blog for a recap, including notes from the day’s think tank sessions. Dr. Paulette Rothbauer has posted a draft of her introductory address entitled “Taking Our Place at the Table Today: Working with and for Youth in Canadian Libraries ” on her blog, and you can view slides from Stephen Abram’s keynote, “Kids and Teens, Are They Different?” here.