The program activities are the way you can make your program production centered, and they should align directly with the outcome(s) you chose in Section 3.1: Elements of a Connected Learning Program. Choosing the right activity requires an understanding of youth development as well as the unique characteristics of your desired participants.
Creating and performing
The connected learning framework calls for production oriented experiences. Instead of passively absorbing knowledge, teens should be involved in the knowledge creation process by creating, performing, or remixing a digital or physical artifact.
Connecting Teens & Community
YALSA Snack Break
“We have these teen vloggers who make videos of themselves reviewing books, and we’ve been putting them on our website and they’ve been really well received.”
— Focus Group Participant
Sharing and competing
Art displays, film festivals, literary magazines, open mic nights, and other activities that showcase creative work give teens a venue to express themselves. Adding an element of competition can motivate teens to participate. These kinds of activities can follow or be integrated into activities that are focused directly on creating or performing. For instance, a public play can follow a series of drama workshops; a series of movie-making classes can culminate in a film festival showcasing what participants created.
True To Life Foundation
Chicago City of Learning
Collaborating, co-learning, and teaching
Collaborative activities with other teens can provide the social interaction that teens crave. Teens can co-learn with adult mentors, as well. Teen volunteers can assist younger children, other teens, and even adults and seniors during library programs. Teens can provide seniors with more one-on-one tutoring during computer classes, for example. A librarian at an urban western library used older teen volunteers to act as mentors during a recurring program featuring science activities. “I always did a training session with them before each Science Explorers program. So they understood the concepts really well and knew what their jobs were, and then we created stations in which they were manning. And so they had some sort of mastery over this concept. And then I was there to sort of facilitate and answer the harder questions.” Having teens in teaching or mentoring roles not only results in a deeper learning experience for the teens themselves, it also supports peer learning in the learners and can provide the teens with resume content and teach them professionalism and other job skills.
When youth are hanging out, they probably don’t even realize they’re learning. But they often are—they’re learning from their friends, they’re learning from the games they’re playing, the graphic novels they’re flipping through, and from casual interactions with library staff. Even if it looks to some people and to the youth themselves like they’re just wasting time, it’s important to realize that learning can look like this.
Video Game Club
Notice that “sitting still and listening to an adult lecture” does not fit into any of these categories! Passive programming, with teens receiving information but not engaging with it, is not part of connected learning. Youth librarians are well aware that programs that feel like school are neither effective nor popular. “Teens will vote with their feet,” says Jennifer Velasquez.1 Constance Steinkuehler puts in another way: “If it smells like school, they’re not going to touch it.”2
“I’m serving 14 different middle schools and six high schools that are all pretty substantial in size. So one of the big important things for me, ‘cause we’re right in the center of the city, is the opportunity to bring together kids who are separated otherwise. I love creating teams and committees that are made up of kids from a lot of different high schools and different backgrounds and different ethnic groups, and giving them a project to work on together… I see it as a way to really build our community by having these kids get to know each other. Even if their high schools are natural rivals or whatever, they have these positive experiences with each other. So collaboration is a big part of how I plan my programming.”
— Teen Services Librarian at a western suburban library
Hartford Public Library YOUMedia
YALSA Snack Break
Program Design Activity
What kind of activities will your program involve?
1: Teen Programming Development: Making It About the Teens from Start to Finish, by Jennifer Velasquez. YALSA, 2016.
2: Constance Steinkuehler on Interest-Driven Learning. Edutopia, 2013.