A First-Time Digital Storytime Experience, by Allison Tran

The first time I saw digital storytime in action, I was amazed to see how effectively we can engage an audience with a book app. I realized that the presentation style and level of audience involvement isn’t necessarily any different from “traditional” storytime– it’s just that the book is so much more visible. Watching an expert share a book app was like a lightbulb going off in my head, and the first time I actually got to try it myself was most definitely another lightbulb experience. But I’m not going to lie: it was also AWKWARD.

Despite the fact that I’ve done storytime with print books for seven years, despite the fact that I’m comfortable in front of a crowd, despite the fact that I’m a regular iPad user—wow, attempting to manipulate the iPad while referring to the screen while interacting with the audience was more challenging than I expected.

The video in this post shows me sharing the book app of Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton in a digital literacy training, and it’s basically a cold reading. I’m familiar with the print version of this book, but I’d only seen the app version once, very briefly. And suddenly I was volunteering to get up in front of my colleagues and present it as if I had any idea what I was doing.

So, what did I take away from this first attempt? Learning to use apps in storytime is a process—one that takes practice and thoughtful preparation. The actual experience was exhilarating, slightly disorienting, and fun. There were moments where I felt like, “Oh! Okay, I’ve got this!” and other moments where I felt like, “What am I doing up here? Where should I swipe? Where should I look?” There’s a lot to think about: managing the device, referencing the screen, interacting with the audience—and, of course, remembering to smile! More than anything, I felt like this skill could only get better with practice, so I kind of wanted to try again immediately after finishing the story.

Even though I cringe seeing myself on video, I think this video will be essential in my journey to becoming adept with this new format. Watching it, I see that I’m not quite as awkward as I felt, but there are definitely aspects of my performance I can work on. Here’s my personal critique:

Needs improvement
* I need to work on getting my head out of the device and making more eye contact with the audience.
* I would definitely be more familiar with the app I’m sharing before presenting it in a real storytime. I would practice enough to know exactly where on the screen to swipe to turn the pages, and would test out all of the app’s interactivity to have a solid idea of which bells and whistles I want to share and which ones I want to skip.

Right on!
* I used the app’s background music to emphasize the fun you can have with rhythm and pacing.
* I got the audience involved.
* I created a teaching moment when I accidentally prompted the narrator to say a vocab word–I didn’t mean to pull it up, but I explained to the audience what had happened and moved on.
* There were a few pages where the interactivity I expected simply didn’t happen. User error? Probably. But rather than fuss with it, I just kept going. Hopefully nobody was the wiser!

Let me admit something to you about myself: I’m a perfectionist. The idea of sharing with the world something less than completely put-together is scary to me. This video of my first attempt at digital storytime is–well, it’s not a shining example of best practices. It’s a glimmer. It’s a hope. So, I sincerely hope that I can share with you another video in a few months that shows me more confident, more practiced, more polished.

Do you use ebooks or apps in your storytimes? How did you feel the first time you tried it? What helped you build confidence?

Allison Tran, Mission Viejo 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.

About Amy Koester

I'm a youth services librarian with a penchant for exciting ideas and engaging programs. It's a sure bet that if you talk to me about STEAM, whimsy, and trying new things, we'll be best friends forever.

Posted on April 7, 2014, in Apps, Story Time and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thank you for this article and video. It gave me a lot to think about as I prepare to incorporate digital elements into my first storytime.

  2. This is great! It took me a while to figure out that I could just read from the large screen and I only needed the iPad to turn pages. It frees up your movement. 🙂

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