Radio Shack is not scary

True Confessions

I’ll tell you what, if your town still has a Radio Shack, it’s worth going in there every now and then. That’s the store I’d give a wide berth in the mall while Christmas shopping, and got sweaty palms just thinking about entering when there was something on my dad’s list that required a stop in there.

It’s a little like going into a comic book shop for me. I’m not a lifelong comics fan like some librarians, so when I started venturing into comic book stores, I was a little trepidatious, and worried that I’d ask stupid questions or, buy the wrong stuff, or well… have to deal with Comic Book Guy.


Worst. Librarian. Ever.

But really, the folks I’ve talked to are so glad you’re there and interested in doing some cool maker stuff. It’s not scary. It’s not intimidating. (It’s not busy, so you’ll get good customer service.) But you know what? The Radio Shack folks and the comic book store folks, they’re kind of like librarians.

They’ve got information about stuff in their collection that we want to know more about but are unsure about where to start. And I don’t know if it’s in their training manual or I’ve just gotten lucky, but every time I’ve asked for help (and that would be every time I’ve gone into one of their stores) they’ve moved out from behind the counter to show me exactly what I asked about. And when I ask what new cool robotics stuff they’re hearing about or have in stock, they’re happy to chat, and excited to hear that the Maker movement is happening in libraries.

So, if you see a project that you’re thinking about trying and you’re weighing a trip to Radio Shack or the shipping costs of ordering online, try stopping in to the brick-and-mortar store. Just like we want those local bookshops to survive, we should want local places with maker tools to survive too. You may be pleasantly surprised and encouraged to try more hands-on tech. Tune in later this week to see what I bought on my last trip and how the program I used it in went down.

True Confessions: Failing Forward or Troubleshooting?

True Confessions

lightbulbMy poor science knowledge continues to plague me.  When I am sitting at this table and trying to figure out why the various Lego Wedo sensors aren’t working, I feel like a failure.

Now, this whole process is about trying and failing and trying again.  I understand the concept of failing forward. Really, it’s what boosted my confidence to complete this project.  But at some point, you sort of need to understand the concepts in order to make things work, right?  That’s my problem.  I’m terrified that I don’t understand some of these things.  Self-discovery is a lovely thing, but don’t you have to explain some of the concepts to the kids you work with?  That’s what makes these teachable moments — bringing the discovery around to understanding.

I lack confidence in this area.

True Confessions: Who has the time?

Programs, True Confessions

Our team met last week to update each other on what has been going on in our various libraries and in the programs we are running.  The consensus seems to be that we are all very busy.

Surprise surprise.

One of the reasons I wanted to do this project was because I don’t have the time to dedicate this work in my “everyday” work life.  I had hoped that the ILEAD U project would give me the push I needed to incorporate more technology into my programs.

And to be fair, it has.  I do STEM programming regularly, on top of the Robot Test Lab programs I run.  I have been successful in this endeavor.


I’m still not 100% there.  How much should we be doing?  How much should I know about this stuff?

I don’t have time to sit around and play with robotics kits.  When I walk into a program, I am just as green as the kids who are testing the kits.  We are discovering together.

This is something I am coming to terms with.  The idea of “co-creation” and “co-learning” is a new idea to me.  I have always felt like I needed to be an expert on something before I could present it to the kids I work with.  Because of the time constraints, I cannot do that.  I open up the class with a disclaimer: I am not an expert here.  We are going to learn together.

This is good and healthy for kids.  I truly believe that we need to be self motivated to learn.  Kids need to own the responsibility of learning.  And I need to be okay with not knowing everything.

It is all a challenge.  I don’t feel like I have enough time to get EVERYTHING out of these kits.  But, on the other hand, no one said I needed to.  We are experimenting, growing, changing.  Our libraries are trying new things and we are not experts.

So as we come to the close of this experiment, I can take that away from this project.  We need not be scared to try.  We will likely not have enough time to do all that we want to do, but we can put one foot in front of the other and give it our best shot.