Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fired Up About WiredKids Summit in Washington DC

Yesterday I had the incredible luck to be able to snag an invitation and attend the Wired Kids Summit in Washington DC. I was in town for another event, the WebWise Conference on Libraries and Museums in the Digital World, Sponsored by Institute of Museum and Library Studies and Wofsonian-Florida International University. I had signed up too late for a pre-conference with IMLS, and was feeling a bit down about this. But then last week, the inimitible Art Wolinsky posted in to LM_NET about the WiredKids Event and I could not believe my incredible good luck of being in DC on this day without a specific agenda. I responded to his kind invitation and was rewarded with a ticket that gave me entre to this unique event. One of the biggest and most wonderful thing WiredKids does is to sponsor groups of kids called Teen Angels and Tween Angels. These kids are ambassadors for Internet safety and ethical use of the Net. They range in age between 8 and late teens. There are chapters all over the US and while most kids were from relatively close locations, some were from distant places including California, Florida, and points in between the coasts. They have also partnered with Girl Scouts, thereby reaching thousands more youngsters. Participants had all completed a serious research study, with thought-provoking topics like gender differences in gaming or the relative safety of social networking sites. As MC Parry said, their data has unique value because it is from kids and collected by kids. This adds an important dimension because, while kids might fib to adults, they tend to be very honest with peers. Most of the kids had done surveys, with Survey Monkey a tool of choice for many. They had analalyzed their data and prepared PowerPoint presentations that would rival those done by adults for conference presentations. The kids put on the show; the kids WERE the show. Adults were the audience. Parents had to sit in the back, and guests sat at tables with the kids, so we could visit with the kids during the day. It was great for me, a former junior high librarian, to be back with REAL KIDS for a day. And these kids were wonderful. They were poised and savvy. During presentations the audience was great. I had to think about some staff developments I have attended where the audience, all educators, were really quite thoughtless about chatting during presentations. There was none of that from these kids, and the adults were, I think, far too interested in what was being shared by the young presenters.

Nancy Pearl, Library Action Figure, had a wonderful day with the kids. Everyone sat at big round tables which had piles of junk food and art supplies in the middle. The kids plowed through the goodies and kept busy doing drawings on placemats and decorating foam stickers and shapes. By the end of the day everyone had stickers all over. Clearly the planners knew how to keep the kids happy and occupied during this long event, which was an all day affair with sandwiches and cookies for lunch. At very top of page is a picture of Nancy at the table at the end of the day, by which time it was littered with art supplies and food and wrappers. Right below that you can see all the Angels, dressed in white, as they went up front to bid the audience good-bye.

I could not stop thinking how lucky I was to be in Washington DC, and how much my visit was enhanced by this wonderful experience. Kudos to WiredKids, to the dedicated organizers of this nonprofit organization, and for all the great things they do. And thanks to Art Wolinsky for extending the invitation that allowed me to attend!

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