Check This Out: The future just keeps getting friendlier

Anne DeGrace is the Adult Services Coordinator at the Nelson PublicLibrary. Check This Out runs every other week.

Once upon a time we’d ask our kids to help us program the VCR. Remember VCRs? It was a simpler time, but that part about asking the kids for help with the technical stuff is still around.

It’s easy to think they are born with this knowledge, thumbs text-ready and brains tech-savvy, but the truth is kids need to learn this stuff just like we do. If they are less intimidated than we are, they are especially poised to take tech the extra mile — and the Nelson library’s teen services coordinator Melodie Rae Storey wanted to help make that happen.

“There’s pressure to do tech programming for teens, but we didn’t have the hardware,” she says.

Storey talked to chief librarian Tracey Therrien, who encouraged her to apply for funding — something she’d been successful with in her former position at the Gibsons and District Public Library.

“With help from Columbia Basin Trust and Telus, we were able to buy 10 laptops and install programs like Gimp, DJ Mix, and Photo-Pea.”

The first program was a two-part workshop in photo manipulation for kids 12 and up. Storey reached out to the community. Selkirk College digital arts program graduate Peter McRory stepped up. For McRory, it was a great way to get his teaching feet wet in a rewarding environment.

Similarly, Mary Ann Spears (DJ Ginger) found the experience as fun for her as it was for the kids who did the two-part DJ workshop. Parents of kids under 12 have been contacting her about setting up a workshop for the younger set. “She’s been really inspired by the experience,” says Storey.

And so have the kids.

With just 10 participants per workshop, there’s time for one-on-one and a few new connections besides. “It’s been great to see them having fun, working together, and to see the ones who are more adept become teachers themselves, helping the ones who are struggling a bit.”

Digital literacy has joined traditional literacy as something libraries have embraced worldwide. At the Nelson library, we keep adding to our stable of the technical equivalent of horseless carriages. (Just as our great-grandparents were once spooked by those noisy things on wheels, it’s good to remember that everything was new once).

We have 10 public computers available for anyone to use, and we lend pre-loaded eReaders aimed at demystifying those. My colleague Heather Goldik teaches how-to workshops for accessing library e-materials and other e-topics several times each year; watch for opportunities coming up in 2019.

Digital fun starts young: The library has 18 Ozobots, cute-as-all-get-out robots that fit in your palm. Ozobots are versatile little critters, programmable by a six-year old using coloured markers on paper, or by a sixteen-year-old using more complex coding skills on a tablet or laptop. Ozobot workshops have been wildly popular for kids and teens, and there are plans for more robot fun in the new year.

“There’s a need for this, and a need to make it fun,” says Storey. “Tech doesn’t have to be scary at all.”

As for the teen tech series, coming up Dec. 6 and 13, from 7 to 9 p.m. is a video editing program, again with Peter McRory. In January, we’ll offer web development education with professional web designer Gregg Coppen. Facilitators for workshops in coding, digital art, and stop-motion animation are needed in the new year — your chance to step up and have an unforgettable experience shaping future digi-experts.

And that new generation of digi-experts means help with whatever newfangled thing the future throws at the rest of us — and wondrous new creations besides.

Anne DeGrace is the Adult Services Coordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week.

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