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As far as children are concerned, dinosaurs are right up there with pony rides, no bedtime, and unlimited ice cream. So naturally, you’ve gotta do dinosaur story times. And what could be better than an app that shows these amazing creatures in action? Not much. In my story time last week, the app BBC Earth: Walking with Dinosaurs made them come to life and the children went nuts.
The home page of the app has three different options. “Features” provides different screens with general information about dinosaurs and their environment, the different periods (Jurassic, etc.), famous discovery sites, how fossils are formed and excavated, and divisions of dinosaurs. “Dinosaur Hunters” offers a roll call of famous dinosaur hunters with portraits of them and short biographies.
The really fun option, and what I used in story time, is simply titled “Dinosaurs.” Pictures of dinosaur species float above a landscape in alphabetical order. These can be scrolled through and tapped on. Once a dino is chosen, a new screen is presented in which that dinosaur is shown walking along, looking around, and making noise. On the right side of the screen is listed the name and pronunciation, what the name means, and a brief overview of the dinosaur. A touch on the speaker button activates a narrator who reads the information to you—helpful for young users. Another button allows you to share the information on the slide either by email or Facebook. If you tap on the dinosaur, the information disappears, while the creature remains, trotting along in a darkened landscape. A swipe takes you to the next dinosaur in the alphabet, or a tap brings the information back.
Touching the button on the center bottom takes you to a 3D 360° view of the dinosaur with more detailed information about it. A tap on the magnify button or the dinosaur allows you to see even more detail. Some expansions even show the dino eggs, or prey, or the creature defending itself or attacking other dinosaurs. These screens didn’t always respond readily, but a swipe to another screen and back seemed to fix the problem.
For my story time, I had set up the app to Carnotaurus so that he was already on the screen when I opened the iPad. I had blanked the information and just had the dinosaur walking and making noise. Ho-boy! The kids were thrilled and the chatter exploded. I made everyone sit down and then I brought up the information with a tap and read the name to them. Then, I swiped to Ceratosaurus, then Citipati and finally, Coelophysis. The kids weren’t even close to being done looking, but the storytime needed to move along. Normally, I would have let the kids play with it during playtime after stories, but it was our craft week. I may bring back the app after another storytime and let the kids play then.
As mentioned, there’s one spot where the screens don’t respond like they should, and although you can see the dinosaurs clearly and everything is readable, I disliked that the screens and backgrounds were all so dark—but that’s a personal preference. The app might feel scary for some younger users because of the realistic movements and sounds, but my preschoolers did just fine. You get a whole lot of app for $4.99, and I managed to download it for free during one of the promotional times, so it was an even better deal. An ideal app for dinosaur lovers of all ages.The Librarian is on the Loose. ~*~ Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.
I have a somewhat tech based program one hour program I offered today for those who provide programs for older children and teens with autism. I have a small but strong core group who communicate mainly through iPads and communication devices.
We start our day off with a brief demonstration of what we are doing that day. I place picture signs on our felt board. Our schedule remains the same: Crafts, followed by movement activities, then books.
Each session, I hook my device (phone or iPod) to a CD player to play background music based in part on the special interests of participants. Yes, my playlist includes Shakira, Toy Story, Barney, the Wiggles and Katie Perry.
This week, our craft was decorating iPad covers that I had purchased inexpensively at our local dollar store using dollar store stickers and left over duct tape.
Our movement game was app-themed. Because half of the group loves Toy Story, I designed a real life version of the app Smash It. In the app, Buzz throws objects to knock aliens off of block towers. In real life, I taped pictures of aliens to shirt-boxes that were left over from another craft, and left over boxes from book shipments. With each successful ‘knockdown’ an additional level is added to the tower to increase the difficulty in knocking it over!
I must admit that most of the success of the one hour program was due to the initiative of the mentor that accompanied each teen incorporating him or her into the activity.
Moose Jaw Public Library
MISt, University of Toronto
Last week was LEGO week at our library! The popular, iconic building bricks have many fans of all ages in Homer. To celebrate the interest and skills of our community builders, we held our 4th Annual LEGO Contest and included a building session in our weekly summer series of Maker Mondays for kids and teens.
The LEGO Contest for ages 18 and under has the same basic format each year, but we tie the contest to our summer reading program by incorporating an element of the program’s theme. For example, this year our theme was Fizz, Boom, READ and we focused on all aspects of science, so the contest had two categories for each age group: open and new species. The open category included the varied interests and abilities of builders, and the new species category gave some kids and teens a starting point for designing their entry or pushed them to think beyond their usual building focus.
The contest is divided into three age groups. Prizes, donated by our Friends group, were awarded to 1st and 2nd place individuals and teams of two in each age group and category. Three community members volunteered to judge the entries, using this basic rubric, and the entries were displayed at the library for one week. We also let the public choose the People’s Choice Award with a ballot box at the library.
You can see this year’s 37 entries here:
Maker Monday: LEGO®
Each of the ten Maker Monday programs we offered this summer were designed to give kids and teens the chance to create, build, and make at the library. Each program was two hours long, giving the makers time to really explore the activity and concepts at hand, and was led by me or a community artist or expert. We featured programs on electricity, the forces of flight, making wood fired pizza, a sweater chop shop, 3-D printing, multimedia art, and of course, LEGO®. No registration was required for all but one of the programs, and an average of 35 makers attended. The series was designed for ages 8-18, but most of the makers were between the ages of 6 and 14. (The younger kids came to some of the programs like the Maker Monday LEGO®, with caregivers in tow, and we made it work as long as they were genuinely interested.)
Maker Monday: LEGO® was held the same week as the LEGO® Contest and was divided into two parts. The first half of the program was modeled after the LEGO® programs I offer periodically throughout the year. I provided the LEGO® bricks, figures, and other elements and then posed building challenges inspired or borrowed from the LEGO Quest Kids blog. I had the builders work on their own or as teams, depending on the challenge. Many libraries host successful LEGO® programs and their lots of resources online.
How to Host a LEGO® Club
LEGO® Day at the Library
Block Party: Legos in the Library
LEGO® Librarian Toolkit
After a snack break, the second half of the program was devoted to building a LEGO® story. I explained that we were going to make short videos using stop motion animation with LEGOs® and the LEGO® Movie Maker app. After I showed them the very short movie I made as a demo, I then introduced the concept of a story board and we talked about the elements of a story. (I won’t link to my demo, because as the makers all pointed out, it was really short and not very good. It’s always good to demo something that makes kids feel they can do better.)
I provided post-it notes for the movie makers to use as they designed their story in teams, but most kids didn’t use them. The building challenges warmed them up to building and most were natural storytellers when using LEGO®. If kids needed a starting point, I, or the summer teen volunteer helping me, worked with them until they were confidently moving ahead with their idea.
As makers were ready, they brought their story pieces to one of the simple movie making stations (table against a wall near good lighting). Every team or individual had a building plate on which to stage their story and then we used a couple of extra plates for the backdrop of the scenes. One maker and I built stands out of LEGO® for both my iPhone and the iPad we used for filming (we had two filming stations) to reduce the jiggle that happens with handheld filming. Here are a couple examples of the seven short movies that were made during the program.
Crashing by Jonathan (filmed with iPhone)
Black Knight by Colten (filmed with iPad)
After the program, I emailed the final products to kids or their families or posted a couple on my library’s YouTube channel. Many kids were instantly hooked on the idea of making simple movies with LEGO® and have since kept creating on their own. To me, that’s a sign of a successful program.
My review of the app (also published in the Alaska State Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums’ Friday Bulletin on 8/8/14):
LEGO® Movie Maker
iOS 5+ (iPhone, iPad, iTouch)
The LEGO® Movie Maker app is a user-friendly introductory tool for kids and teens who want to use stop motion animation as a storytelling tool, but have little or no experience with video production. Captured still images are stitched together by the app to create a short video with the click of the save button. The app includes title screen templates and the ability to customize both the title and director name(s). It also offers several background music choices and the option to add music from the device’s music collection. There is no narration function so movie makers will rely on action or strategically placed text in the scene to tell the story. The app’s overall ease of use would make this an excellent addition to a LEGO program in which young builders write a story, create the necessary elements of the story, and film it.
Once the video is deemed finished, the final product can be downloaded to the device’s camera roll and then shared with family and friends through email or posted online. While the app’s developer intends for the videos to feature the extremely popular LEGO bricks, videos with any props or actors could be created. Technical notes: The app does not contain any online links or in-app marketing. Currently there is only a landscape option for the title screen, so the still images are best captured in landscape mode also to offer a smooth viewing experience.Claudia Haines, Little eLit Curation Coordinator
Youth Services Librarian
Homer Public Library ~*~ Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.
When I was nine years old, I was playing around with a paint program on my family’s old Atari computer and figured out how to animate pictures by making a lot of images with very slight changes and then playing them together. As old-school as that early-90s Atari program was, it worked incredibly well and taught me how my favorite movies were made. Years later, when I found Scratch, I was thrilled to find a way to share that same exciting discovery of animation with kids—and I’ve been teaching it at my library and at a nearby private school for the past two years.
So you can imagine my disappointment that the new long-awaited iPad app, ScratchJr, doesn’t have the capability to animate your sprites. You can do this on the regular Scratch website by creating multiple “costumes” for a sprite and telling the sprite to switch costumes in a certain sequence. But ScratchJr has nothing like that. For me, this makes all of the projects just fall flat. They don’t look much different than the characters moving around or growing bigger or smaller that you see when you record a show in PuppetPals. I was hoping ScratchJr would be able to do much more.
A lot of the reviews of ScratchJr have echoed my disappointment. Perhaps this is because Scratch is such an amazing system with endless possibilities, and it’s natural to want to see some of that broad horizon replicated in its Junior version. So far a user can program sprites to move around or say something. They can also program a scene to change. They can enter sounds and text. And they can program cause-and-effect, like making a sound when a sprite is tapped. The left-to-right sequence is a win for ScratchJr because it’s very intuitive for little kids. The lack of coding language, replaced by obvious symbols, is another win that shows this app was made for younger kids than the users of the main Scratch website.
Adults will need to play around with it a lot before showing their kids how to do it. I wish it had been clearer what the symbols in the ScratchJr interface stood for—I had to learn some things just by trial-and-error. I do feel really excited to show my 4-year-old some of the easy things you can do with Scratch, and hope that she catches on. Understanding that things happen in a sequence and understanding cause and effect are just a few of the important literacy skills that this program can teach primary-grade children.
But this version is just a first step. Looking forward to an update!AnnMarie Hurtado is a youth services librarian with Pasadena Public Library.
Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.
Please see the official call for participation on the ALSC website:
In partnership with LittleeLit.com, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of ALA, and the University of Washington, Cen Campbell, Joanna Ison, and Elizabeth Mills have created a survey entitled “Young Children, New Media and Libraries,” and we would greatly appreciate your library’s participation.
We believe that libraries are at the cutting edge of incorporating many different kinds of new media devices [tablets, ereaders/tablets, digital recording devices, MP3 players, children’s tablets, etc.] into their branches and programming, and we are keenly interested in examining this new landscape across the United States. We want to hear from you in order to inform our research and to help us better understand the scope, challenges, and next steps for libraries regarding new media use.
We would like one librarian from your branch who is able to answer questions regarding your library’s use of new media to complete this survey.
Here is the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NTN6PWT
The survey includes 9 questions and we anticipate it will take no longer than 10-15 minutes to complete.
Please be assured that the information you provide through this survey will be kept confidential and will be analyzed in aggregate; no information that could reasonably identify of you or of your library will be included in any publications or public dissemination of the collected data. Participation in this survey is voluntary. You may not answer any questions you do not wish to answer and may withdraw your participation at any time without loss of benefits to which you are otherwise entitled. We believe that participation in this survey poses no greater risks that those experienced in everyday life.
Sincerely, and with much thanks,
Cen Campbell, LittleeLit.com
J. Elizabeth Mills, PhD Student, University of Washington Information School
Joanna Ison, ALA
Let’s talk transitions. Storytellers and librarians are no doubt familiar with trying to come up with the perfect transitions in story times. I have used fun apps like Animal Sounds or Endless Alphabet as transitional activities between books in my Toddler Times. Parents too, are faced with a series of transitions for their young children. Waking up, going potty, brushing teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast, playing, cleaning up, potty again, putting on shoes, getting into the car. All of this and more before story time! Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to share apps with parents that could help assist with transitions and waiting and kept the parent and child engaged with each other?
My go-to app for this is Sesame Street Family Play. It suggests real life games to play with children. The package of games for home comes with the $.99 app, download games for both travel and away from home for $1.99 more. The app asks simple questions to start, like your location and whether you have certain materials handy. If you say no, no problem, it moves right along. It then suggests a quick game, endorsed by one of the Sesame Street characters, that a caregiver and child(ren) can play together right that minute.
My children, ages two and four, and I enjoy playing together on my iPad. But they often have a difficult time transitioning to another activity. Enter Family Play. One night, after we had played with two apps, one of each child’s choosing, I chose Family Play. I told the kids that we were going to look at the iPad and a Sesame Street friend would suggest a game. They were sold. First, we measured the living room in lengths of kid (8.5 if you were wondering), then we played a game where the first person to find an object to put on their head was the winner and the most creative was also a winner. The app even tells you which skills you are helping your child develop by playing. We’ve also used the app when transitioning between non screen activities. The time between clean up and bath time went from boredom and sibling squabbles to pretending to be frogs and hopping over lily pads made of throw pillows. Yes, I can think of games on my own, but it’s always nice to have an assist after a long day.
Family Play is a favorite of mine personally. However, there are many other apps that would fit the bill for all sorts of families. Why not do a couple of fun math problems with Bedtime Math, learn a few new rhymes with ACPL Family, dance with the Laurie Berkner Band, or create a story about your day together using Our Story for iPad? All free to download! What apps do you like best for helping parents and children have fun together, both on and off the screen?Naomi Smith is a Youth Services Librarian for the Parkland/Spanaway branch of the Pierce County Library System in Tacoma, WA where gets to do the Baby and Toddler Story Times. She occasionally tweets at @Naomireads. ~*~ Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.
Since October 2013, when we launched our app-advisory and iPad storytime programs, I have led seven sessions of Storytime 2.0, an iPad-integrated storytime for children ages 3-6 with a parent; three programs to teach parents about using apps with children (Raising “App-y” Readers, for parents of pre-readers, and Raising “App-y” Learners, for parents of elementary school students); and collaborated on nine themed app-advisory lists (available on our apps page)!
Storytime 2.0 has continued to be a popular program. We have developed a core group of regulars, as well as new faces who join us each time. The majority of the participants tend to be 3 years old, but we do get some older and younger children as well.
From this first year of offering the program, I can offer the following advice and suggestions:
- Use the device for more than book apps! While we have enjoyed many book apps projected on the big screen (favorites have included: Barnyard Dance, Do you know which ones will grow?, Go Away, Big Green Monster, The Monster at the End of This Book, and Piccadilly’s Circus), iPads and other tablets are such versatile devices that it is great to use them for things that simply don’t translate to paper. My favorite thing to do is showcase non-book apps that create a participatory storytime environment. Each storytime session I use at least one app where the kids get to decide how to manipulate the game or activity. Based on my theme for that day, I have used: Mini-U: The Kitchen (the product sorter activity), Feed the Animals, Toca Kitchen and Toca Kitchen Monsters, and, perhaps the most versatile, Animal Sounds. I have used this app within rhymes, in games, or simply having the children go around and name what animal they want to hear. These games and activities are a high point of my programs. Yes, I use the iPad to enhance the program in other ways, projecting song lyrics, doing felt board rhymes, and reading one or two book apps per session, but I think that these activities are the most unique aspect of the storytime.
- Speaking of felt boards, I learned early on that the felt board apps (Felt Board and Mother Goose on the Loose) are much more fun and effective when you move the pieces within the app while doing the song or rhyme. You can capture still images and use them as a slideshow, but manipulating the pieces as you go is a much more interactive experience.
- After the storytime I handed out a list of the apps (and books) I used during that particular storytime. I also added to this list related apps that can be used at home. That way when I had a great app that related to the theme, but couldn’t figure out any way to use it in storytime, I still got to recommend it for home use to the parents and caregivers.
- Kids still love the hands-on stuff! During one of storytimes I handed out felt food pieces and read the book Lunch by Denise Fleming with a mouse puppet, letting each child come up and “feed” their food to the puppet. They thought it was hilarious! Several children mentioned to their parents that it was their favorite part of the program. So when planning, don’t forget that the storytime should be a nice blend of on-screen and non-screen.
We will continue on with our three-pronged approach (app advisory lists, parent-education, and storytimes) in the fall, as well as hopefully rolling out wall-mounted iPads in the children’s room.Clara Hendricks is a Children’s Librarian at the Wellesley Free Library in Wellesley, MA. ~*~ Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.
I subscribe to Children’s Technology Review, which is run by our friend Warren Buckleitner. As part of that subscription, I get a weekly email with reviews and industry news about, well, children & technology. Last week’s newsletter featured Warren’s video review of Astropolo, which one of our librarians, Carissa Christner, has tried out in her library. Check out Carisa’s mention of it in the LittleeLit Google group.
Also check out the rest of the CTR YouTube page for all kinds of videos, reviews and product demonstrations.
Note: Warren’s review comes complete with “bad singing”! Yay! we love bad singing! All singing is welcome and encouraged!)
Much has been said already about the impact that iPads are going to have on the way twenty-first-century children will approach education. Tablets aren’t just going to change the materials children use to learn, but also the ways in which children approach learning. Studies are already surfacing that suggest ebooks may have a detrimental impact on children’s reading comprehension skills. This is worrisome enough, but up until recently I hadn’t seen a lot of discussion about the potential impacts on a child’s development of creativity and imagination.
Then via the LittleeLit Think Tank, I came across an article written by Olof Schybergson entitled “The Generation Raised on Touchscreens Will Forever Alter Tech Design.” The article itself doesn’t offer much food for thought, unless your business is in tech or product marketing. But if you’re interested in the potential impacts of iPads on children’s cognitive and creative development, read the comments.
There was a particularly intelligent comment signed by a psychologist/teacher named “Teacher Tyler”—I urge you to read the entire comment here:
“[W]hat I’ve seen is that there is a MAJOR difference in children who have been put in front of a screen at early ages… [K]ids are being entertained by their ipads/tablets/screens verses creating the environment using their imagination around them… thus leading to an era where kids want the environment to stimulate them, instead of the child making their environment stimulating. This is huge. I’ve seen…countless children go from sociable to sitting in chairs looking for things in their environment to entertain them. I’ve yet to completely understand how this cohort develops into emerging-adulthood, give me 9 more years, but I feel that its going to be limited because of a lack of imagination due to a screen environment.”
When I read Tyler’s comment—especially the part about children being limited by a lack of imagination because of their screen media usage—I felt frightened, and a little conflicted. I am a librarian starting monthly appvisory programs at my library, and I am also a parent of a four-year-old who has been using iPads since the age of two. I have always read books to her and have always done a lot of play, singing and interaction with her. When she uses the iPad, I frequently use it with her. We love apps like “Presto” and “Puppet Pals,” and we make up funny stories and watch the apps transform our voices or our pictures into hilarious sounds and images.
Although I believe I’m using the tablet in the best possible way with my daughter, I have to confess I sometimes have misgivings about even letting her play with iPads.
It’s true she becomes less social after she’s spent some time playing alone with one. (No, I am not always interacting with her every single time. Sometimes she does use the iPad alone, because I am human and I still need to wash dishes or cook dinner every now and then.) Occasionally, she has sudden outbursts of hyperactivity or tantrums after having spent time with the iPad. She even went through an aggravating phase of thinking books were “boring” because there were no exciting sounds or video clips embedded in them. Sometimes, as punishment for bad behavior, I take the iPad away for a few days. I’m usually glad for that break, because her behavior is noticeably better and she’s more social and engaged.
In general, I think my daughter is turning out to be a smart and imaginative kid. But I’m still worried that screen media might stunt her creative growth. That’s scary for a parent. Everybody wants their children to have the best possible foundation for life, and hearing that screen media may limit their children’s development (even if it’s still by no means proven) is more than enough to give a parent pause.
If I didn’t have enough Mommy guilt to deal with, there’s my professional involvement in this trend of iPad use in libraries. Sometimes I worry about my role in promoting that among kids, and wonder if I’m on the “right side of history.” But then I remind myself that there’s no going back. Doing appvisory in the library is becoming as necessary as any other kind of media curation or reader’s advisory service. Tablets and smartphones are here to stay.
However, I feel a strong pull to tell parents, “Before you download another app, make sure your kids are also running around your backyard, reading books, and drawing pictures with pen and paper. Make sure they’re interacting with the REAL WORLD and bringing stories to life with their own minds.”
For now, I will continue to play with my daughter and give her experiences that will develop her imagination. And I’ll look out for Teacher Tyler’s master’s thesis. As both a parent and a librarian, I’m anxious to see what his research will uncover.AnnMarie Hurtado is a youth services librarian with Pasadena Public Library. ~*~ Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.