03 June 2011

Digital Preservation: What do teens know about it?

What do teenagers know about digital preservation?

Learn more on the new Library of Congress digital preservation blog, The Signal.

The first line - "It’s many adult’s worst nightmare: how to entertain and (try to) educate 30 8th graders for an hour?" - brought back memories.

As co-founder of the Las Vegas (NV) Hebrew High for post-bar/bat mitzvah students, I had major misgivings about teaching family history to a class of eighth-graders. Having taught English to this age group at the Iran-America Society in Teheran long ago, I knew it wasn't easy.

However, the Las Vegas class turned out to be one of the best I've ever had. Students used the major reference works from day one and understood how to navigate the sometimes strange phonetic spellings in Alexander Beider's books. They contacted grandparents and long-lost relatives and asked questions, wrote reports, created family trees and they involved their parents and extended families.

So I was intrigued by digital archivist Butch Lazorchak's post today in The Signal.

He advises that the first thing to do is to try and think like the teens, and used the example of a Florida middle school class trip to Washington, DC.

It wasn't the first time the LOC has worked with students on digital culture. In 2009, high school students from Virginia visited. The “Digital Natives Explore Digital Preservation” video illustrates their knowledge, ideas about preservation and who should do it.

The National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIPP; say it "n-dip") at the LOC has participated in the National Book Festival and hosted Personal Archiving Day events, but there are differences in outreach to adults, teens and eighth-graders. Here's the program that focused on digital photos.

There were some interesting items in a 2010 Pew study of myths about how teens use cell phones and social networks. It indicated that after texting, the most popular features were taking and sharing photos. The middle-school students' program focused on helping them understand "how to capture, describe and preserve their own digital photos," About half the group used digital cameras, while the others used phones.

The split is important, because the primary distribution (and possibly only long-term storage) strategy for many of the phone users was to upload their photos to a social networking site such as Facebook.

We explained some of the issues with using a social network site as a primary storage option (history has shown that those sites don’t stick around forever), and talked about how it’s best to save your photos across a range of devices (thumb drives, CDs, external hard drives, online storage) and geographies (your house in Florida, your friend’s house across town, your grandma’s house in Seattle).

And we were pleasantly surprised by the student’s degree of knowledge on the issues. Most of them recognized that their digital photos were “at-risk” in some way (one had filled her camera by shooting 800 photos in one day and was worried about how to save them when she ran out of space), and many had perfectly reasonable back-up and replication strategies already in place. Our presentation “teased-out” more detail on these strategies, and got both the students and their parental chaperones to think a little harder about saving their photos with something that resembled a long-term strategy.

NDIPP attempts to raise awareness of digital preservation issues and encourage people to take personal action to preserve their own materials in today's absence of comprehensive tools to help them do so. According to the author, "the personal photographs of the students at South Lake could become the valuable cultural heritage materials of tomorrow, but only if the students take care of them first."

Read the complete article at the link above.

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