Are your teens YikYakking?

Among the many apps out there that our kids are using is one called YikYak, which is an anonymous (and highly controversial) messaging app. Imagine...Twitter, only messages are streamed geographically, and with no usernames. Let that sink in. NO. USERNAMES. No form of identity. Participants can say...anything, really, with no consequence. 

I monitor it just to stay on top of these things, and some of the stuff I've read would curl your toes. In some places around the nation, school districts are seeing students and teachers being slandered, drug deals being arranged, and far worse.

The worst I have seen personally is just...crudeness. Remember that movie What Women Want? YikYak is basically like are reading the minds of other people who are in close proximity. 

And that, my friends, is a scary place to be. 

It is important to note that YikYak, with all its flaws, does attempt to work with school districts to protect students and teachers. IT departments can contact YikYak and establish what is called a "geofence."  

yik yak

2015 Junior United Nations Assembly

Everybody says middle schoolers are...a handful. And hey, I’ll be the first to tell you about how destructive and volatile they can be even with everyday simple machines.

But in my book, they are the most exciting, delightful little diamonds-in-the-rough on God’s green earth and the Junior United Nations Assembly of Alabama is just the place to see them shine.

January 29-30 I had the privilege of seeing their hard work and effort come to fruition. Held at Birmingham-Southern College, this year JUNA featured 49 nations, represented by approximately 250 6th-8th graders from schools all over Alabama.

19 of those sweet angel babies are mine, and my, oh, my, did they shine. Our three teams standing up for Australia, Liberia, and Morocco were especially noteworthy because they were the only teams from any of the 50+ schools in our district.

In their respective committees, our young ladies and gentlemen spoke out to plea for UN assistance for issues in their nations such as child enslavement, water pollution, and ebola relief. They demonstrated proficiency in student leadership, initiative, public speaking, courteous debate, understanding of world resources and issues, and creative problem-solving.

The first day of the two-part conference included students greeting one another in native tongues, (some incorporating sign language), taking on the language, dress, and culture of their nations. After all the pretty pleasantries, they broke out into pre-assigned committees involving UN topical issues such as education, the environment, health, poverty, disease outbreaks, trafficking, etc.

Within each committee, two to three students presented the resolution that was written by the entire team/delegation in the months prior to conference; this involved a series of three speeches. These students then fielded questions from other students...and here is where the rubber meets the road...they must be intimately familiar with their nation’s issues and even that of their geographical neighbors in order to adequately defend the resolution. Beyond that, they must have oratory skill and charisma to field questions and respond to them to adequately defends the resolution. 

Every delegate (soon will change to each nation) votes on each resolution in the small committee room, and the 2-3 nations receiving the most votes from each committee will then pass out of committee. Those nations will have the opportunity to repeat their same presentation in General assembly, taking questions now from a wider variety of nations.

There is a public “roll call” after each presentation, and the nations vote yes, no, or abstain. If they have more yes votes than no, they are passed by the general assembly. This is the hallmark of teams who are well prepared, have researched well, and have a well-honed ability to communicate articulately and with enthusiasm and to respond to questions courteously and effectively. 

Awards given at the conclusion of the conference include recognition of leadership, display board, costume, resolution, spirit, best nations, individual leadership as delegates, and preparedness. This fun, celebratory time isn't the goal of the JUNA experience, but it does put a nice little bow on things.

As for my sweet little team, we are gearing up for a fun field trip to deepen our study of global cultures, but we are already looking forward to next year's JUNA in Alabama! 

My AVL Story Video Contest

The Alabama Virtual Library Executive Council announces the “My AVL Story” video contest! Library patrons of all ages and from all geographic locations within the state are invited to participate in this simple campaign, in which we gather brief video stories about how the AVL has impacted Alabamians. Prizes for winners include GoPro cameras, Chromebooks, iPad, gift certificates, and more! See for all details. The deadline for entries is March 13, 2015 at midnight. 

This is a great opportunity for teachers, librarians, parents, and students to tell how the Alabama Virtual Library has helped YOU! Every resident within the state of Alabama is eligible. Click over to the contest guidelines and start working on your AVL story TODAY! 

Technology: How has it changed us?

"Technology" can feel like a vague term these days, given our pervasive use of and dependence upon it. Check out the video below (may the mercies of your district's internet filtering allow it through), and consider discussing some of these questions with your kiddos:

  • Can you imagine your life without any technology at all?
  • How has technology changed us as a society?
  • 1657 was an especially relevant year in this clip; what OTHER years include the most defining moments of modern tech use? Why?
  • What is the most important tchnological advance or discovery in the 1950s? What about 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s?  

Thinking about how we serve

Still here, friends. Thanks for those of you still having in there with me. :) Don't let my lack of posts give the wrong impression that I don't have any posts swimming around in this here brain o' mine. What a fantastic year this has been, and I have some posts coming soon to fill you in. For now, there are a few special reads I wanted to share.  

* under CC0. 

* under CC0. 

Doug Johnson posted recently about the $3400 piece of chalk. His point really hits home. Far too often I see and hear of well-meaning educators who are taking the same old concepts (worksheets, chalkboard lecture, etc.) and simply putting a techy twist on them. Lecture notes transferred to a powerpoint or Google Slides presentation are still...lecture notes. This does not change the nature of instruction. This does not make the experience deeper or any more meaningful for the students. It simply creates a $3400 piece of chalk. As librarians and teachers and instructional technology experts, we should push for better. More. Deeper. Higher. In ourselves and our colleagues.   

Great bulletin board idea for teens and social media: Teens and social media. Twitchy yet? There is so much shark-infested water out there for our teens in the social media world. I feel some days that we're all just standing on the slope in the pool between shallow and deep, and if we take just One. More. Step. We are going to be in over our heads. And with our kids? They don't even know they're in danger...that's the scariest part. This post gives some great suggestions for guiding teens to respecting dangers and putting the brakes on their own behaviors. Which, if I know one thing about teenagers, will be waaaay more effective than us trying to regulate for them. 

The Copyright Comic Book: I'm a librarian. Copyright is my thang, friends. And this is a supercool resource that even our teens will love.