Learning from outside the library: PLM 2011

At this year’s Peer Learning Meeting, an annual gathering of grantees of the Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries program, I organized a session on “Learning from outside the library.” I’m a big proponent of ideas that flow across institutional types or our typical ways of thinking. The more we’re exposed to ideas outside our normal routines and communities, the better.  The opening keynote couldn’t have been a better set up for my session. Sarah Houghton, aka Librarian in Black, urged the library grantees to look to businesses, technology trends, and other non-library sources for inspiration on what libraries should offer their communities.

My session featured seven NGOs. Five serve local Seattle communities; one is a Seattle-based NGO with programs in Africa and Asia; and one operates in India.  The session started with each representative giving a 2-minute pitch, followed by an hour for participants to rotate among stations for in-depth discussions. Here are brief overviews of the programs, as provided by their representatives, or cobbled together based on my own notes.

Discussion at one of the learning stations

Laura Enman, EdLab Group. Virtual Pop-Up Books – Engaging youth in 3 Dimensions. Using innovative and easily available technology, you can make your imagination come to life in a virtual pop-up book.  With the use of new barcode-like technology and simple webcams, you can design 3D characters, buildings and other images that will “pop-up” when their barcode appears on a page.  This activity teaches about 3D modeling, digital literacy, and simple math concepts in geometry and scale.

Malory Graham, Reel Grrls.  In this presentation you will learn how young women in the Pacific Northwest are being trained in digital storytelling skills to get their voices heard. You will learn about the unique mentoring model used by Reel Grrls to partner girls with adult women filmmakers to produce engaging new films. You will hear about successful strategies for using media production to get girls inspired by technology programs and view samples of inspiring youth-produced videos made in the Reel Grrls program.

Jason Hahn, Grameen Foundation, Community Knowledge Worker program.     For poor farmers in the developing world, a crop failure can be catastrophic, putting already marginalized families at risk of disease, malnutrition and financial ruin. Grameen Foundation’s Community Knowledge Worker (CKW) program uses mobile phone applications and human networks we have developed to provide poor farmers with relevant, timely agricultural information, including caring for animals, planting crops, treating pests and diseases, and getting fair market prices for produce and livestock. This information helps farmers improve their lives and livelihoods by increasing their productivity and income.

Geeta Malhotra, READ India.  Rural Education and Development (READ) in India is having a mission of setting up of Community Libraries and Resource Centres.  This presentation will focus on READ’s computer programs, including: community radio; SMS service for spreading legal awareness; youth literacy; collaboration with India’s Common Service Centers; livelihood trainings with solar lanterns; reproductive and adolescent health education, and; videos-based education for women on issues of domestic violence, workplace safety, and elder abuse.

Sarah Stuteville, Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative.  The Summer Institute of the Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative is a five-day intensive media production and digital literacy program for Puget Sound-area youth ages 13 to 19, hosted by the University of Washington’s Department of Communication.  The program targets low-income youth from diverse backgrounds throughout the Puget Sound, and is led by a team of educators with journalism, media production, and youth development backgrounds. Students earn the basics of photography, interviewing, audio recording, storytelling and video editing through creating their own audio slideshows, which are then published on the youth-run blog Puget Sound Off.

Chris Tugwell, Metrocenter YMCA Youth Tech.  YTech is not your traditional “technology” program. Young people are creating digital media, engaging in civic debate, and learning the skills and confidence needed to compete in the 21st century. Learn how young people launched Teens Against Distracted Driving and Seattle TEA (Teens Engaged Afterschool), and other cause campaigns using PugetSoundOff.org, a local, innovative website providing young people opportunities to Connect, Collaborate, and Take Action.

Hassan Wadere, Horn of Africa Services.  Horn of Africa Services (HOAS) serves Seattle’s East African immigrant community. This session will focus on innovative techniques that connect East African parents and youth through technology, and a program that helps underserved youth understand the vitality of voicing concerns through digital media.

There was great energy in the room and feedback on the session was very positive. Thanks to everyone who participated.