Susan Reaves is a licensed 7–12 teacher in the state of Tennessee and is returning for Year 2 of the Digital Inclusion Fellowship at the Nashville Public Library. Contact her at Susan.Reaves@nashville.gov.
Part of my work as the digital inclusion fellow for the Nashville Public Library is to create awareness initiatives to encourage adults to learn how to become digital citizens. Work within the fellowship includes collaborating with other areas such as adult literacy, children’s, and teen services for digital inclusion programming. Studio NPL, the library’s innovative teen technology program, hosts workshops every day, ranging from music production, photography, and design to e-textiles and robotics. Brainstorming with Studio NPL, the idea of a teen-only Digital Inclusion PSA competition whose purpose was to encourage adults to learn how to get online was a concept in which everyone involved was excited about. We all saw its potential for the community.
We wanted to hold a successful teen competition that targeted an adult audience. There were many questions surrounding this initiative: Will teens care about this topic? Will they be motivated to compete? How will we spread the word? The answer reached across multiple systems and partnerships. Studio NPL already had a great relationship with teens in Nashville/Davidson County and had spaces at multiple library locations. We collaborated to develop contest rules, incentives, and ways to do outreach.
- The Digital Inclusion Fellowship supplied the prizes (laptops, tablets, and headphones).
- Contest information scrolled across the library’s homepage online.
- Studio NPL hosted workshops across the system for teens and mentored them on how to create PSAs.
- School libraries were contacted via the Limitless Libraries partnership between the Library and Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools.
To our amazement and delight, the teens got on board and started creating video and storyboard submissions. It seemed that they really did care about getting their parents, grandparents, and other adults online. They brainstormed at workshops held at the library and at outreach locations like juvenile detention centers. They came up with ideas that would make learning to get online relevant to those who didn’t know why they should. They created storyboards, videos, and rap lyrics. They asked for assistance from Studio NPL mentors, teachers, librarians, and volunteers. Some stayed late to complete their work.
At the end of the contest, we had a first-, second- and third- place winner. The library held a party—with cake!—where the submissions were screened and families got to see their teens receive recognition and prizes (which included a MacBook Air, iPads, and Beats Earbuds). The party was live tweeted and continued to generate excitement. The winning video was posted on the library’s Facebook page, where it has generated over two thousand views so far.
Leah Faulkner, a Hume-Fogg High School junior, won first place for her PSA. Though this was her first video project, the aspiring filmmaker successfully developed the concept for the video, filmed her entry with an actress family friend, and volunteers from the band Lonestar even wrote and produced the soundtrack behind the PSA.
In the end, a community came together across generations and communities to build this project. The contest evolved from a digital inclusion project to a community of inclusion as so many worked together to ensure its success. It’s very gratifying to recognize the people helped along the way: the adults who will see the PSA and understand they can go to the library for online resources, the teens who learned about video production, and the community and library staff members who collaborated together—many for the first time. We can say that this is the PSA that keeps on giving—on so many levels. We hope that others will be inspired by Leah’s work and that it will continue to change lives.