The Tech Together program at Arapahoe Library District was designed to provide an opportunity for parents & caregivers of preschool children to learn about age-appropriate digital experiences, ask questions, and explore tablets & apps.
In creating the program, we relied heavily on reports from other libraries who have tried similar programs, and are grateful to have had that input.
For this pilot, our tablets came from a variety of sources. We were able to borrow the three iPad minis that are available for children and teens to use during our Library on Wheels bookmobile stops. In addition, we purchased two 7” Nexus tablets with funds from an internal program designed to support innovation, and we used personal devices (iPads & Nooks) from our department staff to reach our goal of 10 tablets. The program was open to ten adult-child pairs, with two staff presenting.
One of our hopes in using a variety of devices was to see if we had strong preferences for one kind or another. If we are able to continue this program as a regular offering, we will probably purchase a set of iPad minis, largely because we preferred the selection of apps on iOS over Android, and the mini size was adequate for pairs to share at a more affordable price than the full size iPads.
We were fortunate to have Lisa Guernsey present 2 programs in August 2013, one open to library patrons and the larger community, and a second event tailored to staff only. We timed the Tech Together pilot to run immediately after her visit, over 10 days of a post-summer-reading-program storytime hiatus. We were hoping to capitalize on interest generated by Lisa Guernsey’s appearance as well as use the storytime hiatus to help our patrons differentiate between the Tech Together programs and our regular storytimes. We held one program per day at each of our 8 branches. Attendance varied from just one family at our smaller branches, to 5-7 families at our larger locations.
We wanted to let our families know that when it comes to sharing technology with children, the best digital practices are related to the best analog practices: interacting, engaging, conversing, and sharing. We started our time by looking at a print copy of Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton together, modeling dialogic reading and inviting the children to become involved. Then everyone had a chance to explore the same book on a tablet while the staff wandered the room and checked in with each family.
Then, we set aside the tablets and built a truck out of felt shapes on the flannelboard, and we used that activity as a springboard to talk with the adults about active versus passive use of technology. The tablets came out again and we invited the kids to explore a paint program and keep making and creating, just like they had done together with the the flannelboard.
During the free play time at the end of the session, we talked individually to the adults about how to choose apps, making connections to the Every Child Ready to Read five practices that we also talk about in story time.
Our feedback was very positive. One nanny said, “I really appreciated that the program was nanny-friendly and explained how apps could benefit little kids and aid in development.” Another parent said, “This was wonderful! Great explanation of how to talk to your kids while using apps. Now it’s just about finding the right apps for my kids–you gave me a great start.”
Our goal is to use our experience with this pilot to develop and offer more sessions, so we can continue to be forward-thinking and mindful of supporting parents and caregivers with best practices for using technology with their young children.
For a list of apps used in Tech Together programs, check out Apps for a Preschool Tablet Program.
Melissa Depper is a Librarian in Child and Family Library Services with Arapahoe (CO) Library District. She is a 2013 Library Journal Mover and Shaker, and she blogs at Mel’s Desk.