Search Results for Rachel Sharpe

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.

Osmo at the Library, by Rachel Sharpe

A few months ago, someone posted about the Osmo that was ready for pre-order. I convinced my library’s Friends to purchase one and have been anxiously awaiting a chance to debut it in a program. (The Osmo is awesome, and I love it!) One of the reasons we bought it is so that we can use it at our annual math nights and literacy nights that we host for our local Title I elementary schools.

There are three apps for the Osmo right now. One of the apps, Words, has kids competing or working together to spell words based on the picture on the screen. Luckily, right before our literacy night, the developers released an update that allowed users to create a custom word list. What better way to promote literacy and the library than with a customized library-themed word list? I spent an afternoon running around the library taking pictures to build the list, and I’m really happy with the results.

Ridge Elementary Family Literacy Night %40 TU 001At the night of the program, I set up the Osmo station, just one iPad with two sets of letters and the Osmo. Kids had to take turns using the Osmo and could play two words in a row before they had to switch. If no one was waiting, they could keep playing.

Some kids were really competitive, but it was really wonderful and heartwarming to see some of the older kids helping the younger ones spell the words. If a child hadn’t gotten a right letter in a while, some of the older ones would hand them a letter and show them what to do. I didn’t even have to say anything!

While the kids were playing, I had a chance to speak (well, shout, really) with parents about screen time and what resources the library offers for them.

The whole experience went so well that we’re bringing the iPad and Osmo back for Math Night in the spring, and the local teachers all want one for their classrooms. All in all, it was a huge success!

Rachel Sharpe
Library Assistant II
Henrico County 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.

Sock Puppets Galore, by Rachel Sharpe

Each month, we have an elementary craft program called Stories & Such. I’ve been searching for a while for a way to incorporate our iPad into the program and finally found a way to add a digital element.

I decided we were going to make sock puppets but add in the opportunity for the kids to film a short skit of their puppets interacting.

Additionally, I had remembered seeing posts from Allison Tran and Emily Lloyd about their success with using the Sock Puppet app in their storytimes, and I thought my elementary kids would enjoy the app just as much. Using the app, I filmed several 30-second segments starring the pig and zebra puppets.

In the first video, I had the puppets introduce the craft, while the other videos featured the puppets demonstrating what the kids could talk about in their videos.

When the kids arrived for the program, we watched the first video and read Smitten by David Gordon. Then they chose a sock base (which were donated socks left over from a program) and went to town, grabbing ribbon, felt, beads, googly eyes, and whatever else I set out. I gave them 20 minutes to design their puppets.

While their puppets dried, we watched the remaining videos, and we brainstormed about what they could talk about in their videos. I also had all the parents fill out permission slips that allowed me to film their children. The slips asked for the child’s name, description of the puppet, and parent email.

For our puppet stage, I took a table, covered it with a sheet, and placed it near a solid-colored wall. When the kids were ready to be filmed, they gave me their permission slips and climbed behind the table. I gave them one minute to do whatever they wanted while I filmed them with the iPad mini.

After the program, I edited the videos, uploaded them to YouTube, and sent the links to the addresses the parents provided. The response has been great. Several parents commented how much fun their kids had during program and how much they loved the videos.

Evaluation:

1. Don’t use Elmer’s glue with fabric. It doesn’t dry fast enough, and nothing sticks to the sock. Although it was hilarious to watch puppet parts fly off while the kids were filming. Thankfully, everyone had a sense of humor.

2. Speak up! It was really hard to hear the kids who were performing the puppet show.

3. Have a separate area for filming if possible. For the most part, the kids who weren’t filming were quiet, but I had a few really excited kids who would keep laughing or talking while I was filming. You could hear them quite clearly on the video.

Overall, the kids were really receptive to the change of pace. I’m excited to see how else I can incorporate the iPad into more of my craft programs!

Rachel Sharpe
Library Assistant II
Henrico County 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.

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.

Buckle My Shoe, an app review

photo 1I have loved using Anna Grossnickle Hines’ version of One, Two, Buckle My Shoe in storytimes for years.  With its quilted illustrations, the slight variation in text from the traditional rhyme (just enough to make it interesting, not so much that it becomes weird or unfamiliar), and the layers of detail that you can choose to explore with kids or not, depending on how squirrely your group is (How many buttons are on this page? Where did that red thread come from?), this book is rich with read-aloud possibility. I was delighted to learn recently that this book has now been translated into an app called Buckle My Shoe by appropro!

photo 3I am happy to report that the app stays very true to the book. All of the quilted illustrations are intact (with very subtle animations that add interest, not distraction) and in addition to the counting element of the buttons (which is even more apparent in the app than it was in the book), the app incorporates some interactive activities at the end of the book. The activities are all done with a “pile” of buttons at the bottom of the screen, and activities include sorting, making patterns, and making pictures with buttons. I appreciate that the activities are after the book, not disrupting the narrative, but instead furthering the learning and play opportunities. I also love that the activities each have a guided option as well as freeplay prompts. This is one of those hard-to-find apps that work equally well for storytime and for at-home play.

We asked a few other librarians to review the app as well and here’s what they had to say:

“I actually had a chance to use this app in storytime this week, since our theme was nursery rhymes! The book part of the app worked nicely as an addition to our fingerplay. We used our fingers to count along with the app and then did some motions for the words. It’s short enough that we did it twice and then counted to ten using the buttons. The app worked well; although it did quit on me and I didn’t think the animations were dramatic enough to catch and hold my large group’s attention. I also wish the font had been consistent throughout the book.

I did really love the extras! The sorting part is ripe for parent-and-child interaction, which makes me really excited. I can just imagine a mom or dad and a preschooler hovered over the iPad, carefully sorting each button and talking about where it belongs. It’s wonderful!” — Rachel Sharpe, Virginia

 

“I like the illustrations!  Super cute, “quilted” style images make for a very sweet app.

The one thing I don’t like is that when I tap on the images of the numbers, there is no voice over repeating that number.  So when I tap on the number “1” it should say the word “one”.  There is a voice over when I tap on the buttons, which is nice, but I think for a counting app, kids should be able to tap on the numbers and hear the word.  This app seems to be aimed at very young children who are still learning their numbers so hearing the words when tapping on the images would go a long way to reinforce the concept.” — Anne Hicks, New York

 

“This was a very satisfying app – simple and colorful and easy to navigate.  The beautiful fabric pictures were as appealing on the screen as in the book and I liked the moving elements with the read aloud of the rhyme.

I especially liked the Design screen with the button pictures and patterns but to me one of the most appealing parts was the sound of the buttons falling in a pile.  I could definitely see kids following the patterns and creating their own or sorting by size or color.

I could see recommending this app to parents as an early literacy activity since sorting and sequencing contribute to emerging literacy skills and there are abundant opportunities to work on those.  It’s a simple app but it offers a lot of skill building and creativity – moving the different buttons around is easy and gratifying.” — Laura Antolin, Illinois

 

“I recently used the app with some story time participants 15-24 months old. Fortunately I had small groups that week. Though the illustrations directly from the book are bold enough to use with a group other components are best suited for a one child and one grown-up interaction. One child was already familiar with “1,2 buckle” and eagerly touched the buttons on the iPad. Some children came up to touch the screen but others sat back and observed. The app is a lovely extension of the book. Users can choose to have the book read to them, in a child’s voice, or turn off that feature. Words are highlighted as they are read. The automated reader counts the buttons as the child touches them, in any order, and, once touched, the buttons can be moved around the page. Other features of the app include opportunities for counting, sorting, designing, patterning and matching. Success is built in to the counting feature, where a button appears when the user touches a finger on the fabric hand. If you are on the page with the number 2, for instance, only 2 buttons will appear no matter how many times the finger tips are touched. Such is the gentle nature of the app that, in other activities, there is no right answer, encouraging experimentation and creativity. Users can interact as simply as counting from 1 to 10 or get more advanced and sort Venn sets. All aspects of the app lend themselves to conversation which enhances early literacy skills: “Can you find the red heart button?” “How many green buttons do you see?” A gentle, satisfying tinkling sound accompanies the movement of the buttons which are a lovely array of bright colors, sizes and shapes offering all the fun of playing with real buttons without the choking hazard. Buckle My Shoe is a high quality, visually appealing app offering numerous components for educational and creative play. No external links.” — Nicki Petrone, Ohio

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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.