Tech Savvy Library Professionals: Chapter Eight of the Little eLit Book

Today we’re happy to bring you the eighth chapter of the Little eLit book, Young Children, New Media, and Libraries. This chapter, titled “Tech Savvy Library Professionals,” is written by library training coordinator Jennifer Hopwood. It’s available by clicking here, or on the image below.

Tech Savvy Library Professionals

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. This is the final full chapter of the book. In mid-June 2015, the entire work will be available in a single PDF ebook document, including appendices and other additional materials.

Common Elements of “Educational” Apps: The Tired & the Exceptional, by Carissa Christner

In an app market flooded with apps for kids, all of which claim to be “educational,” how can you tell which apps are truly worth your and your child’s time? First of all, ask yourself if the “game” that the app presents is any better than a set of flashcards. If not, you likely wouldn’t use actual flashcards with your preschooler, so why would you use an app version of the same thing? Here are some other common app activities that many, many app developers are using to make their products seem “educational”:

Coloring Pages: First of all, read this excellent argument against using coloring books at all. Then realize that if the app fills in whole blocks of color with one touch, it even takes away the pleasure (nay, the very option!) of scribbling. Instead, if you want an art app, try Musical Paint Pro which allows users to create art on a blank canvas, determining the size of brush, the opacity and intensity of the paint, and the color. Each color, when painted onto the canvas, creates a different musical tone, the notes changing depending on which part of the canvas is being painted. Users can record and replay their creation to listen to the music they created and watch their art appear as it plays.

Memory Match: So many apps use this game! Most are simply matching exact pictures, but some at least ask users to match related pictures like an animal matched with the first letter of its name. I have found one shining exception to this dullness in Fiete: Match. First of all, this game is only a matching game and they’ve developed it very well. Secondly, the app includes Fiete himself playing against you. This one feature (an opponent) sets this matching game app miles apart from the rest. I also like that it includes lots of options of types of matches (anything from exact picture matches to numbers and sums).

Puzzles: A picture is broken into parts (squares or classic interlocking puzzle-shaped pieces) and the user must put it back together; in and of this self, this isn’t necessarily a strong digital game, especially if the image on the puzzle has no context or meaning for the child playing it. An exceptional example of a puzzle app, however, is Phlip by Curious Hat in which the user takes a photo (which becomes the image for the puzzle) and then chooses how many squares (4-25) it will be broken into, then the squares are shuffled. Users tilt the screen to rotate the squares and when they’re in the proper alignment, tap on the square to lock it in place as you tilt to align the rest.

Shape / Color / Number / Letter Identification Games: Just because an app includes a game that drills users on basic preschool identification skills doesn’t mean it’s high quality, or even educational. Take time to really examine how the app is teaching these skills—is it unique to the app format? Is it engaging for young children? Is it truly better than flashcards?

Unless the developers have employed these activities in a way that you find fresh or especially intriguing, they are not, on their own, reason to download the app. And if these are the only activities included in the app, it’s likely not worth your time.

 

Carissa Christner is a librarian with Madison Public Library.

What is the purpose of a library? Thoughts from Dorothy Stoltz

Let’s take a moment and look for the potential within a library’s situation to create practical, yet extraordinary and inspiring, opportunities where individuals and families become self-reliant and thrive. How can the library add value to the lives of those in our community? Learning and growing are natural forces in humanity no matter the book format or learning platform. Let’s celebrate the spirit of learning.

How can libraries partner more effectively with parents, schools, and others to help a community thrive, especially while treading the convoluted pathways of new and emerging technology and budget concerns? Like Benjamin Franklin’s Junto, a group of likeminded aspiring artisans and tradesmen “formed … a club for mutual [self] improvement” to enhance their community,[i] the library celebrates human creativity, curiosity, and courage.

“Leading the examined life,” as Socrates described it, can inspire the library as an organization to cultivate a creative, reliable, and compelling service environment. By examining, on a regular basis, what works and what doesn’t work, a library can tap the strength of an orderly and poised process for decision-making. In this way, a library is better poised to train staff and otherwise make pragmatic digital media decisions to support parents and children. When a library creates a learning philosophy, where each employee is responsible for their own learning, it can connect staff to the library’s purpose to support human growth. A library’s self-discipline to grow and learn as an organization in order to serve its community magnifies the possibilities and the opportunities to be able to do so.[ii]

Valerie Smirlock, consultant for Maryland department of education, says:

Librarians have the perfect opportunity in storytime sessions to shape interaction with children in such a way as to promote social and emotional skills. By connecting parents to local resources, librarians can also encourage parents as they help their young children develop self-regulation skills, the most important skills for children entering school. Can the children sit still? Do they get along and share with others? Are they beginning to identify and express their emotions? Can they follow directions? Having these kinds of conversations with families in a non-threatening place like the library can effectively get more parents the kind of support they need around challenging behaviors and appropriate social and emotional skill building.

Serving families with high needs—educational, financial, and emotional—often does not yield the same high statistics as other library programs. However, offering library opportunities, including access to technology, to these families is part of serving the community. For deeply troubled parents, making referrals to social work-type agencies has been a successful method. Our relationship goal is to be professional and amiable without becoming drinking or shopping buddies. [L]ibraries [have] the freedom and flexibility to focus resources to support “high needs” families without jeopardizing [a library’s vision] to help every family inspire their children to enjoy learning.[iii]

Libraries can offer opportunities for adults and children, together, to engage their minds through play and learning activities, digital media, books, information, conversations, and reflection time. Libraries can offer opportunities for children to plant seed thoughts, if you will, in their own minds that will germinate, blossom, and ripen as they grow into young men and women. A thinking person will value learning and develop pragmatic habits of contemplation. A thinking person will contribute to the world by treating others with goodwill, tolerance, and helpfulness, and by expressing useful, joyful, and perhaps even dazzling ideas in life.[iv]

The public library is an organization of bits and pieces—books, technology, learning activities, staff expertise, and other excellent resources. The idea is to go beyond thinking about individual pieces and tap the strength of the whole—the central purpose of a library. This purpose can be described as the enlightenment of humanity in a practical way. In this way we are not only helping a storytime mom find recommended early literacy apps, but supporting her efforts to be her son’s first teacher. A thirteen-year-old is not only participating in the Escape the Ordinary summer reading program, but challenging himself to think in new ways to enrich life. We are not so much searching for a copy of The Boys in the Boat for the local barber shop owner to enjoy reading about the 1936 Olympic rowing event, as much as helping him explore the concepts of grit, teamwork, and starting with the end in mind.[v]

[i] Shaw, Peter, ed.  The Autobiography and Other Writings by Benjamin Franklin.  New York: Bantam Books, Inc. p. 53.
[ii] Forthcoming ALA Editions book: Inspired Collaborations: Early Childhood Partnerships © Copyright 2016 by Dorothy Stoltz, Susan Mitchell, Cen Campbell, Rolf Grafwallner, Kathleen Reif, and Stephanie Shauck.  All Rights Reserved.
[iii] Stoltz, Dorothy. “A Smorgasbord of Possibilities: Maryland Libraries Address Their Charge.” Children & Libraries. Summer 2014. p. 23, 25.
[iv] Adapted from Stoltz, Dorothy, Conner, Marisa, Bradberry, James.  The Power of Play: Designing Early Learning Spaces. Chicago: ALA Editions. (2015) p. 11.
[v] Forthcoming ALA Editions book: Inspired Collaborations: Early Childhood Partnerships © Copyright 2016 by Dorothy Stoltz, Susan Mitchell, Cen Campbell, Rolf Grafwallner, Kathleen Reif, and Stephanie Shauck.  All Rights Reserved.

 

Dorothy Stoltz
Outreach and Program Services
Carroll County (MD) 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.

Managing New Media for Youth Services: Chapter Seven of the Little eLit Book

Today we’re happy to bring you the seventh chapter of the Little eLit book, Young Children, New Media, and Libraries. This chapter, titled “Managing New Media for Youth Services,” is written by librarian director Genesis Hansen. It’s available by clicking here, or on the image below.

Managing New Media for Youth Services

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. In June 2015, the entire work will be put into a single PDF ebook document, including appendices and other additional materials.

Welcome to the Digital Neighborhood: A Fred Rogers Center and Little eLit Digital Literacy Symposium, by Claudia Haines

This was a week of collaboration. Librarians and early childhood education experts teamed up in Harford County, Maryland, to talk with more than 80 librarians and educators as part of a grant from Comcast to expand the Harford County Public Library system’s digital literacy efforts. We had two goals: to talk about what’s new and what’s still true in the world of new media and young children, and to train librarians in their evolving role as media mentors. The successful training included Tanya Smith from the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media, Dorothy Stoltz and Kristen Bodvin from the Carroll County Public Library (Maryland), and myself, Claudia Haines, from the Homer Public Library (Alaska).

While in Harford County, Tanya and I also spent time with families of young children at the Abingdon and Bel Air branches to talk about what to consider when using digital media with young children, tips for choosing apps or any digital media, and then how to explore them with their children. Both the training for professionals and the discussions with families included rich conversations and thoughtful questions, demonstrating that collaborations leave us all better informed.

Here are the slides we shared at the training. The first set of slides are those used by Tanya and I to discuss research, the important NAEYC/Fred Rogers joint position statement on technology and young children, how to evaluate apps and other new media, the role digital media has in the library, and factors to consider when incorporating new media into storytime and other programs.

This second set of slides were used by Dorothy and Kristen to talk about Every Child Ready to Read and early literacy.

We discussed a variety of apps and resources that librarians and educators can use to guide their digital media use with young children and their families. We wanted to make those available here, as well as share the several handouts we brought.

Handouts:
Five Practices & Early Literacy Components Support Each Other
Homer Public Library’s new media brochure for families
Rubric for Evaluating New Media
NAEYC/Fred Rogers Position Statement- Key Messages

 

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.

Talking About Our Motivations for Using New Media, by Carissa Christner

During a recent group discussion about different ways that families can make a media plan and how we, as librarians and media mentors, can help them with that complicated topic, Tessa M. Schmidt (of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction) made an excellent suggestion and it really stuck with me. She pointed out that we need to talk to children about “purpose” (I think of it also as “motivation”) when we are deciding whether or not to use new media at a given time. For instance, if your child approaches you with a request to use the iPad, ask them what their purpose for using it is. Are they seeking a specific piece of information? Is there a particular app they’re excited to use? Are they just bored? There’s not necessarily one right answer (although perhaps if we begin realizing that our motivation is frequently boredom-based or “just out of habit” we might be motivated to open up a discussion about other alternative activities or ways to break the habit), but talking directly about our motivations can help our usage to become more purposeful and mindful rather than just a frequent force of habit.

Parents can also talk about their own motivations for using their devices: “I’m just going to check my e-mail quickly because I’m expecting a message from your grandma,” or “I need to check the weather forecast to see if we need to wear our rain boots today.” Grown-ups can also share their motivations for saying “yes” to their child’s request for the iPad: “I need to have a conversation with your doctor right now and I know you’re tired of being in this exam room. Why don’t you try out that new app we played together last night for a few minutes while we wrap up this visit?” or “Would you like to read a book app for one of our bedtime stories tonight?” or even, “I’m not feeling well right now and I need to lie down for a few minutes. Why don’t you come sit beside me on the bed and we can turn on the narrator so you can listen to one of your book apps?”

Be honest with yourself and with your kids about your motivation. I think this will be a great way to bring a mindful awareness to your own use of devices as well as lay solid groundwork for a healthy media diet as your child grows up.

 

Carissa Christner is a librarian with Madison Public Library.

 

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.

IMG_4449

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

IMG_4448

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.

IMG_4451

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.
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