An iPad-enhanced Storytime, by Awnali Mills and Rachel Sharpe

This is the story of an iPad enhanced storytime, told by colleagues Awnali Mills and Rachel Sharpe.

Awnali: I was getting ready to do a bird-themed storytime and found the book Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? by Rita Gray. It follows two children as they listen to various birds in their yard and watch a silent robin on its nest until its eggs hatch. The book verbalizes the calls of the various birds and contrasts them to the silent nesting bird.

As I was reading over the story, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could play these birdcalls for the kids?” I tried finding birdcall apps to work on my iPad in an unobtrusive way. No dice. I tried downloading individual bird calls, but that didn’t work well either. Frustrated, I reached out to my colleague Rachel Sharpe to see if she could conjure a technological brainstorm. She did!

Rachel: I searched the Internet for free, downloadable birdcalls and struck gold with a math professor’s website from SUNY (the site has been around since 1997!). The birdcalls are registered under a creative commons license (CC BY-NC 3.0), so I was able to download most of what I needed and modify them to fit my needs. For the rest, I used www.foundsounds.com.

Once I had my collection of birdcalls, I used Windows Movie Maker to arrange the sounds. Because I was working with sounds, not video, I had to add 90 seconds of a blank title screen to act as the video portion of the movie. I added the sounds, repeating some of the shorter ones, and left three seconds between each bird call to act as a buffer.

When all the sounds were in place, I saved the video and uploaded it to zamzar.com, a file conversion site. Zamzar quickly converted the file to an .mp3, erasing the video portion of the file and just keeping the audio. Voila! I quickly attached that file to an email and shipped it off to Awnali.

Awnali: Rachel’s .mp3 worked beautifully on the computer, but I needed it on my iPad. Following some instructions I found online, I downloaded Dropbox onto my computer and iPad and used the app to download and transfer the birdcalls .mp3. Success!

I practiced manipulating the iPad while reading the book aloud several times to make sure that it worked seamlessly. I learned that the three-second interval Rachel had inserted was just enough time to read most of the lines without stopping, and it was easy to pause playback for longer lines.

I had the .mp3 open and ready to go before the kids arrived (playing it from Dropbox).  I held the book in one hand and operated the iPad with the other. This worked perfectly. As soon as the children heard the birdcalls, they gasped and looked at their parents, who smiled at them. When one little girl heard the catbird call, she piped up, “What was that??” Because the catbird does, in fact, sound like a cat! This combined to create the charming effect of walking through the woods listening to and watching birds. When I asked, “Do you see the_____ bird?” The kids excitedly assured me that they did. I couldn’t have asked for a better effect.

Undoubtedly, straightforward apps are much easier to utilize. But we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be limited to only the content supplied by others. In the true spirit of makers, we stepped out of the box, developed an idea, collaborated with others, and utilized numerous technologies to produce a beautifully enhanced storytime—no app needed.

Awnali Mills works in the Children’s Dept. of a public library and she gets the snot scared out of her by sudden loud sounds coming out of apps she’s trying out. She blogs at The Librarian is on the Loose.

Rachel Sharpe works in the children’s department of a public library and has permanent dibs on the department’s iPad.

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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.

Early Literacy, New Media & Young Children: A Pre-conference Recap by Claudia Haines

For me, being a children’s librarian and media mentor means supporting both the literacy needs of the families in my community as well as supporting my peers as we navigate through the still-murky waters of using new media with young children. Knowing about the latest research, understanding the technology and how to use it, and being able to sift through what’s good and what’s awful are essential skills for media mentors. Having opportunities to discuss what’s new, what works, and what we don’t yet know are important parts of our professional community’s bigger conversation about new media.

Recently I got a chance to share what’s new and the how-to’s with fellow librarians at the Alaska Library Association’s recent state conference, Channeling Our Voices, in Juneau, Alaska. It was exciting to share what has developed in the year since Cen and I led a similar pre-conference in Anchorage together. The group represented various urban and rural communities across the vast state of Alaska and came to the pre-conference with a variety of experience using new media. The early literacy and new media conversation during the conference was dynamic and thoughtful. I particularly loved discussing the many ways to be a media mentor regardless of budget, space, or community and what librarians/media mentors need in terms of support to be their community’s champions.

The slides from this year’s pre-conference are below. A list of resources that I provided can be found here and the list of apps we discussed can be found here. Please feel free to share your thoughts and contact me with any questions.

Claudia Haines, Little eLit Curation Coordinator
Youth Services Librarian
Homer Public Library
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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.

New Media in Storytimes: Chapter Six of the Little eLit Book

It’s that time again–time for this month’s release of the next chapter in the Little eLit book, Young Children, New Media, and Libraries. This chapter, titled “New Media in Storytimes: Strategies for Using Tablets in a Program Setting” is co-written by librarians Carissa Christner, Anne Hicks, and Amy Koester. It’s available by clicking here, or on the image below.

New Media in Storytime

To read more chapters from Young Children, New Media, and Libraries, please visit the “Book” tab of this site.

This project, with many contributing authors, has been a work in progress for some time. Chapters are being released once per month, on the 15th, until all chapters have been published here. At that point, the entire work will be put into a single PDF ebook document, including appendices and other additional materials.

App Review: Keezy

IMG_4447I recently used an app called Keezy in a storytime I was presenting all about music. The app was originally designed for professional (and aspiring) musicians to use as a sound mixing board, but it has a super-simple interface that makes it into a very flexible tool easy enough for kids to use and full of possibilities for different ways to use it.

The main screen of the app consists of 8 colored squares. When you first open the app, you can touch each square to hear a pre-recorded default recording. Some of the sounds are rhythms, some are synthesized voices singing, others are short musical riffs. You can play them one at a time, or layer them in any way you want, pressing as many as all 8 at once.

You can also choose one of the other pre-recorded musical mixes to hear a different selection of sounds.

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But the real beauty of this app comes when you choose the “+” symbol from the options menu.

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This option will take you back to the main screen, only this time, there is a small microphone symbol on each square.  Press on a square to record your own sound clip and once it’s recorded, the microphone disappears to let you know that that color now has a recording associated with it.

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Of course, you can record musical clips (I had my storytime group echo back a few bars I sang to them and then we listened to ourselves on the playback), and one of my favorite features is the fact that there are 8 squares, allowing a full octave of individual notes if that’s what you want, but…. you’re not limited to music. You can record any audio as long as it’s not longer than a few seconds! Some ideas I’ve thought of include:

  1. Recording animal noises (or your own voice making animal noises) for a guessing game.
  2. You could incorporate this app into a re-telling of one of those cumulative tales like “Too Much Noise” and record your audience making each of the animal noises before you begin telling the story and just press the button each time when it’s time to hear that noise in the story.
  3. Same thing for the song, “Bought me a Cat” (of course, the audience can still sing along if they want to!).
  4. You could do a MadLib story with a group and assign a part-of-speech to each color square (as long as your MadLib has no more than 8 blanks) and ask kids to come up and record a word for each square, then as you’re retelling the story, just press the square to playback the word at the right time.
  5.  You could have kids write an 8-sentence story and record a sentence for each color, but in a scrambled order and challenge a friend to figure out which order the colors should be played in to make the story make the most sense.This is a great, easy-to-use, open-ended content creation app with so many possibilities to explore.  Oh, and did I mention? It’s FREE! What will you make with Keezy?

Carissa Christner is a librarian with Madison Public Library.

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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.

Evaluation of New Media: Chapter Five of the Little eLit Book

We are happy to announce the release today of the fifth chapter of our book, Young Children, New Media, and Libraries. This chapter, “Evaluation of New Media,” was co-authored by children’s librarian Claudia Haines and social worker Carisa Kluver. It’s available by clicking here, or on the image below.

Evaluation of New Media

To read more chapters from Young Children, New Media, and Libraries, please visit the “Book” tab of this site.

This project, with many contributing authors, has been a work in progress for some time. Chapters are being released once per month, on the 15th, until all chapters have been published here. At that point, the entire work will be put into a single PDF ebook document, including appendices and other additional materials.

Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats: App Review, by Awnali Mills

When my friend Rachel Sharpe emailed me about this wonderful app that I just had to try, I jumped right on it because she has great taste in apps. Once again, she was right! Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats ($2.99 iPad/iPhone) is a fun little story with great graphics and interactivity and worked well in storytime.

Kalley's 1The story is about this wonderful machine that a little girl named Kalley has invented. On each screen, she shows her father different parts of the machine, each one interactive. You can pull the levers, push the buttons, use the puffer and the smasher, paint things different colors (and combine primary colors to create secondary colors), and sort things into different bins. Kalley’s father thinks all of this is wonderful, but he’s baffled by the point of all this machinery. At the end of the story, the little girl finally explains that this machine makes food so that her father won’t have to go to work, but can stay home with her. Sadly, her father explains to her that he works for more than just the ability to purchase food, and Kalley proclaims that she’ll just make machines to do those things too!

And, that’s the story behind the app. The developer came home from work and his daughter had designed this machine on paper for the very same reason that appeared in the story. The developer turned her idea into an app as a way of possibly making her dream of daddy staying home a reality. I like a heartwarming-tale-meets-cold-hard-technology story as much as the next person, but it doesn’t make a bad app into a good one. Fortunately, this is a pretty good one.

Kalley's 2What I liked: The interactivity is pretty fabulous. There’s enough stuff here to keep kids playing with it for a long time, and it’s sneakily educational. Being able to watch as cats play around the machinery, and using the machinery to try and tease them is fun (cats cannot get hurt). You can also remove the cats as one of the options. You can have narration or not as you choose, and have background music or not. It’s easy to navigate, and there are no ads or in-app purchases. I loved that it featured a girl as the engineer. I love the message that kids have the power to create things to improve their lives.

What I didn’t like: The “puffers” and “shrinkers” on my app didn’t work, although the screenshots shown on the app’s website show them working. While this is disappointing, it didn’t lessen the charm of the working machinery. Some of the word choices irritated me, particularly when the girl tells her father, “It stamps shapes of the things that you choosed.” Yeah, I know that it’s a little kid speaking, but obviously incorrect grammar makes me a little crazy.

Kalley's 3I liked this app enough to use it in a food-themed storytime. I wasn’t sure how all the interactivity would translate to a storytime setting, but I managed to work some of the machinery while I was reading, and worked some of it after reading the page—practicing ahead of time is crucial here. If I had to do it over again, I would lower the volume a bit (I had it on full blast) so that the noise of the machinery didn’t compete with my voice as much. The kids were glued to the screen and seemed to enjoy the story. I meant to make the app available for play after stories, but kids were mobbing the flannelboard I had made available for play and I got distracted. Maybe next time!

 

Awnali Mills works in the Children’s Dept. of a public library and she gets the snot scared out of her by sudden loud sounds coming out of apps she’s trying out. She blogs at The Librarian is on the Loose.
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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.

Touchtronic ABC’s: An App Review, by Lisa Mulvenna

I am always looking for a fun new way to promote early literacy and Touchtronic Letters is a great product. I picked my set of 26 lowercase letters up from Lakeshore Learning as I was setting up a recent program where kids and parents could come and play with recommended apps.

Touchtronic ABC’s is a free app for kids who are working with letters (ages 2-7) and uses the Touchtronic Letters. There are three games in this app that work with different levels of letter recognition. The games do require some fine motor skills as users need to find the correct letter to match to the screen.

Mystery Door is the easiest game and has the user put your letter in a window. When this happens, the door will open to show an item that matches that letter. For example, if you use an M, the door will open and you will see a monkey. You will also hear “M is for monkey.”

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The second game is called Letter Bubbles is a little more difficult.  You match letters to bubbles that carry different items.  For example, if you see an apple in a bubble, you will put the A on the bubble to pop it.  The narrator will also say “A is for apple.”

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The third game, Word Machine, is for a little older user.  The game has kids adding the last letter to three-letter words.  Users are shown a picture as they hear the word spoken out loud.  They are then asked to find the missing letter.  In this case, I heard “fox” as I saw the fox and was asked to find the O to complete the word.

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From a public library perspective, I would either circulate the letters as a kit where customers can download the free apps to go with them or use them in a program where kids or parents get to try out apps.  They would also make a good early literacy station if you had a way to monitor the letters so they didn’t disappear.

 

Lisa Mulvenna is the Head of Youth/YA Services for the Clinton-Macomb Public Library and one of the three co-founders of MiKidLib.  You can also find her blogging at http://www.lisaslibraryland.blogspot.com or on Twitter at @lmulvenna.

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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.

Inventioneers: An App Review, by Awnali Mills

IMG 1 InventioneersYou know one of the things I love? When you download an app ‘cause it’s free and get Absolutely Hooked On It. That’s how it was when I found Inventioneers by Filimundus AB (iTunes/Android). Normally, I’m all about apps for preschoolers, but I was intrigued by the thought of learning physics by making my own inventions—not usually a preschooler thing. “Okay,” I thought, “I’ll bite. It’s free, and at worst I can just delete it.” To start with, I was just going to see how the app worked. I tried the first section and after much fiddling (bit of a learning curve) got my invention to work. I was so excited! I went on to the next page and got that one to work, too. Then I realized that the little stars floating around were prizes. If I could get parts of my invention to hit them, then I got a bonus! An hour later I had to drag myself away.

The free download of Inventioneers offers one open “chapter.” This one chapter is more than enough to tell you whether you’d like to make the one-time purchase of $1.99 to open five other chapters and the Create Your Own Invention section. Each chapter is actually a setting in which you create inventions to solve problems. There are 42 “pages” in each chapter, each page offering a progressively more difficult task.

So maybe, like I was, you aren’t quite sure how an app can let you explore physics and make inventions. In the app, gravity works on objects, as does force. You build inventions, taking these forces into account, to accomplish tasks. To start with, the app lets you work on simple problems, only giving you the props you need to make your inventions. Sort of like handing you all the pieces to a slingshot, telling you that a rock needs to hit a can and letting you figure out how to put the pieces together to accomplish the task. At first, you aren’t quite sure what to do. Then, through experimentation, you figure it out.

IMG 4 InventioneersSo, what sort of raw materials does the app give you to accomplish these tasks? I’m so glad you asked, but I’m not going to list everything because it’s extensive. Here’s just a sample. For building there are funnels, boards, pipes, bricks, and cheese (who knew?). Things to drop, things to throw, and things to balance on all make an appearance. And then there are things like gears, spokes, fans, motors, ramps, horns, clocks, springs, balances, fire, explosives, and more. There are also these little guys called Inventioneers. They are tiny characters in the game “with special abilities like blowing air, creating fire, magnetism, and shooting lasers.” All these materials REALLY come into play once the game is unlocked and you can access the Create Your Own Invention section. The chapters give you a task to accomplish but the Create section allows you to imagine your own task.

My only complaint, if any, was the fact that you’re allowed to set up parts of your invention to begin in mid-air. This wouldn’t work in real life, obviously. Maybe it’s just me, but I couldn’t figure out how to make some of my inventions work without this quirk. Once I accepted that things work a bit differently in app-world, I got on just fine.

This app isn’t for preschoolers. It would be appropriate for parents and elementary kids to sit down together and work through the problems (if the parent could resist taking over!). I can see it sparking all kinds of conversations and tinkering with physical objects. This would also be a fantastic app to have available on children’s area tablets in the library or for free play in classrooms. The vast number of possibilities and the educational aspects make this app worth the in-app purchase price.

Awnali Mills works in the Children’s Dept. of a public library and she gets the snot scared out of her by sudden loud sounds coming out of apps she’s trying out. She blogs at The Librarian is on the Loose.
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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.

Rhyming FeltBoard: A Demonstration with Felt Board by Software Smoothie, by Katrina Bergen

After the positive reception of my last video demonstrating how a digital felt board can support pre-literacy development in storytime, I wanted to share another example. Here is a Software Smoothie Felt Board presentation of words that rhyme, a pre-literacy presentation for three to five year olds learning to connect sounds to letters and words.

Katrina Bergen, student, CalstateTEACH
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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.

New Media in Inclusive Early Literacy: Chapter Four of the Little eLit Book

We are pleased to announce the release today of the fourth chapter of our book, Young Children, New Media, and Libraries. This chapter, “The Role of New Media in Inclusive Early Literacy Programs & Services,” was written by children’s librarian and doctoral candidate Tess Prendergast. It’s available by clicking here, or on the image below.

New Media in Inclusive Early Literacy Prendergast

To read more chapters from Young Children, New Media, and Libraries, please visit the “Book” tab of this site.

This project, with many contributing authors, has been a work in progress for some time. Chapters are being released once per month, on the 15th, until all chapters have been published here. At that point, the entire work will be put into a single PDF ebook document, including appendices and other additional materials.

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