Have you heard of Khan Academy? Sal Khan started the organization in the belief that people could learn by watching short, targeted videos online. Subjects run the gamut: from algebra to art history to the principles of banking to taking the SAT. He began by remotely tutoring his cousin in 2004 and created videos to help other cousins, and now the Academy catalog includes more than 2,700 recordings.
Khan Academy exemplifies one new option librarians can consider for professional development. It is also a good example of the positive effects the web, video, and interactive content are having on learning in the second decade of the 21st century. In other words, at least some of the people who use YouTube are not just watching cats getting stuck in ceiling fans.
Get out your sash
YALSA is collaborating on the Badges for Lifelong Learning project, an initiative of Mozilla, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory). Its goal is to connect education-focused organizations with technology companies so they can develop badge-learning systems together. A $75,000 grant announced March 1 at the Digital Media and Learning Competition in San Francisco will enable YALSA to launch a curriculum that awards badges in order to encourage and facilitate professional development for those working with teens. The curriculum is based on YALSA’s Competencies.
YALSA’s proposed badge-earning activities include, one, creating a Pinterest board to market a collection and, two, publishing a survey that uncovers the specific needs and interests of a community’s teens. Learners who earn badges as a part of this project can embed them in social profiles, in email signatures, on résumés, and so on.
What else is out there?
If you are interested in web-based professional development, you may consider the following:
- The newly launched YALSA Academy. This YouTube channel has videos that help those working with teens learn how to use Twitter, provide good teen customer service, run a mock Printz Award program, and much more. Each video is 3–7 minutes long and relevant for library staff members not specifically tasked with working with teens and those new to teen services.
- In mid-January Apple announced an update to iTunes University, a resource for locating and downloading courses from a wide array of educational institutions. The current catalog includes such courses as social science, teaching and education, and fine arts. I downloaded to my iPad what had been a face-to-face 2011 Stamford course on iPad and iPhone app development. I now have access to videos, lecture, and slides and can learn something I haven’t had a chance to learn previously, all in the comfort of my office or home.
- P2PU (Peer to Peer University) takes an informal, collaborative approach to learning. Anyone can start a course or a discussion group at P2PU and invite others to join as either a student or instructor. It’s also possible to join courses and discussions already underway. The course listing is growing, and there is an education area with archived courses from 2011 and new courses launching in March 2012.
Using the web and other interactive resources often present quick bites of information and make professional development much easier than in the days when Scouts were the only ones collecting merit badges.
LINDA W. BRAUN is educational technology consultant for LEO: Librarians and Educators Online and a past president of ALA’s Young Adult Library Services Association.
What If Tweens and Teens Want to Learn Virtually?
Adults aren’t the only ones that can expand their learning using online and mobile resources. Check out some of what’s available for tweens and teens.
The world of apps grows daily and much of what’s accessible is just right for tweens and teens who want to learn something for school or as a part of a personal interest. Check out the Apple App Store or the Android Marketplace for those topics that lend themselves to learning in an interactive mobile environment. Perhaps a manga loving youth customer wants to learn Japanese, you can find an app for that that includes interactive components. What about that tween or teen customer that can’t find enough information on their favorite TV show? There’s probably an app for that with lots of extra content including video interviews, photos, and inside scoop.
Using this site’s “X-Ray Googles,” young people get a chance to see the code behind a website and hack that code so to understand what’s going on behind the scenes. As the About section of the Hackasaurus website states, “Hackasaurus helps tweens move from digital consumers to active producers, seeing the web as something they can actively shape, remix, and make better.” Sponsored by the Mozilla Foundation, Hackasaurus is an excellent way to give tweens and teens the chance to problem-solve and think critically about the world of the web and how they use it.
The iTunes U app and content is far from being just for adults. Lessons include K–12 oriented content with materials available from schools around the country. If a teen wants to learn about creative writing there’s a course for that, or if there’s an interest in filmmaking there’s a course for that too. Tweens and teens can check out what’s available to extend their access on topics of interest beyond what might be available in a library’s physical or virtual stacks.