Category Archives: Digital Native

Traditional Digital Musical Storytime, by Tom Schween

Digital technology is an exciting new tool in the magical storytime treasure chest that I may choose to take out and play with when the situation calls for it. I want to identify those opportunities and push storytime services forward into new territory.

Photo credit to Janice Gartin

Photo credit to Janice Gartin

My musical storytime today integrates edited soundtracks for each program, children’s sing/move/play-alongs, musical transitions, background music, sound effects, instruments, and theatrical props. I utilize new media tools such as my iPhone, iTunes playlists, wired and wireless speaker devices (bluetooth), Garage Band sound effects, and apps. I am also very keen on finding ways to seamlessly use screens and integrate visual technology.

Stories, songs, and serving up make believe to make learning delightful for children during their wonder years is what storytime is all about (at its core). I am conscious not to make the technology I use the focus. When technology interferes with keeping listeners engaged, it does them a disservice.

New media provides us with new vessels for tried and true early-literacy storytime practices, like reading-aloud, singing-along, and felt-board storytelling. Using technology also has the added benefit of cultivating family computer and media literacy. Storytime, with the addition of new audio-visual layers, has the potential to simultaneously cultivate multiple literacies through the imaginative delivery of both traditional and digital materials.

Photo credit to Ricardo Sfeir and Sandra Chow-Zhang

Photo credit to Ricardo Sfeir and Sandra Chow-Zhang

21st century technology not only offers exciting new options for my storytime repertoire, it’s also a powerful way to promote the benefits of library storytime and at-home reading routines to caregivers. Now is the time to utilize new media tools (such as ebooks, apps, audio playlists, and digital audio and video channels) to expand storytime into digital native turf.

In digital storytime, I can still root today’s young children in tradition. But by looking beyond storytime technophobia, I believe I may reach and teach them even better while cultivating the next generation of storytime devotees (who will undoubtedly take storytime to even greater heights).

Over the past eight years, Tom Schween has delivered more than a thousand musical storytime programs to pre-k classrooms across the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a graduate student studying the crossroads of children’s librarianship and technology at San Jose State University. Tom began volunteering as a certified story reader with Oakland Public Library’s “Books for Wider Horizons” in 2006. He became a licensed Kindermusik educator in 2009, currently works as a principle backstage technician at Steve Silver’s Beach Blanket Babylon in San Francisco, and wrote a free online guide to storytime called the Magic Carpet Handbook at
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.

Thinking About iPads from a Parent’s Perspective, by AnnMarie Hurtado

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.

The DIRTI App and the Blurring of Digital and Physical, from Rachael Stein

Digital non-natives talk about the digital world and the physical world as if they are separate, clearly delineated spaces. Digital natives (read: all the children you work with) instinctively know otherwise. The line between the digital and physical is blurring, with occasionally magical results. For example, check out this Alchemy Studio blog post about the DIRTI app, which allows toddlers to turn their mud pies and ice cream smears into sound and light waves:

More videos of the app in action are available here:

This type of activity has far-reaching ramifications for the way we conceptualize early literacy and creative play. The toddlers are leading the way, so we’d better catch up!

Rachael Stein
Information Services Manager
Eastern Shore Regional Library

And sometimes you just need to leave technology at home and go to the farm

emandalhowdyI attended an alumni gathering in San Francisco recently for Shawnigan Lake School, the illustrious institution in the backwoods of Vancouver Island from which I attained my high school diploma (ZOMG! it has an entry in UrbanDictionary). At the event I made the acquaintance of another Kaye’s girl (that’s what we call the girls who lived in the Kaye’s boarding house) and she told me about her job as the office manager for Emandal, an educational farm in Mendocino county, CA, a few hours north of San Francisco. Whitney Donielson is also a blogger and told me about some of her projects and experiences with technology as a child, and while she was attending Shawnigan (when I was there we didn’t have computers in our rooms, let alone wifi or the ability to download Youtube videos to watch after lights out!). I asked her if she’d be willing to write a post about unplugging for my high-tech blog.

Unplugging is also part of a balanced media diet, and even though children’s librarians need to keep up with the lightning-fast pace of the digital publishing world for children, we also need to communicate to parents the necessity of leaving the iPad, smartphone, laptop, kindle, nook, or ipod at home every now and then. So take a peek at Emandal: A Place to Unwind, Breathe Deeply and Connect.

Technology Limited Post


About a year ago, shortly after graduating from college, I moved to a remote educational farm in Northern California to work in the office. The technology at the farm is limited by city standards: there’s no cell phone reception of any kind out here (only landline phones) and while there is internet access, it’s also limited: slow satellite internet that’s only accessible from the office area.

I’ve head my generation referred to as “technology natives.” While I wasn’t born knowing how to use a computer like all those YouTube videos of 18-month-olds using iPads, I did install AOL on my dad’s computer in 1st grade using one of those free CD-ROMs from the grocery store. Because I grew up with technology and computers, and because I’m working at a place that seeks to provide a space where folks can take a break from it, I’ve truly seen life on both sides of the spectrum.

While many schools and businesses are working to expand their use of technology and computers, the farm strives to remain a relatively technology-free space. During our summer Family Camp programs, we limit the areas where folks can use their phones, tablets, laptops, etc. While there are a few grumbles, for most guests, it’s the one time of year when they’re truly able to separate from their devices and they relish it.We also don’t use technology during our outdoor educational programs for elementary school students, instead relying on reading, discussions, physical activities, and other teaching tools. Most of the schools seem to like this, often requesting that our educators not even discuss technology or media with their students.
On the one hand, I wonder about the wisdom of limiting kid’s technology usage—surely it puts them at a disadvantage, living in such a computer reliant world—kids really are the future, and some day, they’re going to have to know how to run the servers and fix the automated traffic lights. It seems counterintuitive to shelter kids from such a significant part of their communities. And, of course, computers are an excellent tool both for teaching and learning.

emandalbabyBut I’ve also watched kids revel in getting back to the basics, so to speak. I’ve witnessed kids spending hours reading books, hiking, swimming, and getting really dirty. I’ve watched kids fall under the spell of the animals, watched shy kids become more confident as they collect eggs from the chickens, and seen their pure joy as they spend hours picking wild blackberries.

I’ve realized that too much of anything can lead to oversaturation—we need books and computers, email and face-to-face communication. Balance is key, and while I don’t think we need to go the route of Ned Ludd and completely eschew technology, both kids and adults need to occasionally take some time to really unplug.

Whitney Donielson
Office Manager
Emandal Farm

My heart’s an iPod

We listen to a LOT of music in our house.  Little J is very fond of the Decemberists, Charlotte Diamond, Europe, Laurie Berkner, Tom Waits, and Gym Class Heroes.  He will ask to listen to them.

“We can have my heart a stereo?”
“Sure baby! How do you want to listen to my heart’s a stereo?”
“On iPod! No, on pomputer.  Yes! pomputer!”

So we fire up the pomputer and find some quality YouTubeage for him to dance around the living room to.  At times he will ask to have music on the “eBook” (that’s what he calls the Galaxy Tab), so we use the YouTube App to find music there.  My digital native knows there are different ways to access the same digital content, and depending on his mood, he can choose just audio or audio and video.  This too, ladies and gentlemen, is media literacy in action.

Libraries Get the Shaft in Otherwise Cool Book

I just started reading John Palfrey and Urs Gasser’s Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives (review to come).

It depresses me that I didn’t have to read any further than page 2 to hear libraries being slammed:

[Digital natives] study, work, write and interact with each other in ways that are very different from the ways you did growing up.  They read blogs rather than newspapers. They often meet each other online before they meet in person. they probably don’t even know what a library card looks like; and if they do, they’ve probably never used it.


That hits right where it hurts.  Granted, this book was written in 2008 (that’s TOTALLY ancient), and I don’t remember seeing either of the authors at CLA this year to see all the cool stuff lots of public libraries are doing for these digital natives.  We’re working on it, guys!

I held regular teen craft nights in my branch where we made duct tape iPod protectors.  We’re acquiring all sorts of eReaders in my current library to train the staff with so they know what to do when someone comes in and says “I can’t get this eBook to work!” We’re working on changing the minds of the more conservative librarians who think that all a library will ever need to provide for young people is books and storytimes.  We’re facebooking, tweeting, blogging, chat referencing and tumblring.  We’re LMFAOing.  We’re pimping our iPhones right along with our bookcarts.

But we can’t compete with AmazoniTunes, GoogleB&N, The Pirate Bay or all sorts of other providers of digital entertainment when it comes to ease and convenience.  Not yet.  We need some of those digital natives to infiltrate the publishers to make it a little easier to lend digital content.


Page 8 says this:

Librarians, too, are reimagining their role: Instead of primarily organizing book titles in musty card catalogs and shelving the books in the stacks, they serve as guides to an increasingly variegated information environment.

Ok, they get points for the “increasingly variegated information environment” bit, but these dudes must be old.  Card catalogues?  Librarians shelving books? That’s just crazy talk.

eBook Vocabulary: Media Literacy

Well, whaddya know!  There is an entire professional organization dedicated to Media Literacy.  The National Association for Media Literacy Education publishes the Journal of Media Literacy Education and provides us with a handy dandy definition.

“Media literacy [consists] of a series of communication competencies, including the ability to ACCESSANALYZEEVALUATE, and COMMUNICATE information in a variety of forms, including print and non-print messages.”

Whoa.  Ok.  That’s very broad.  Luckily they break down the definition further:

  • Media refers to all electronic or digital means and print or artistic visuals used to transmit messages.
  • Literacy is the ability to encode and decode symbols and to synthesize and analyze messages.
  • Media literacy is the ability to encode and decode the symbols transmitted via media and the ability to synthesize, analyze and produce mediated messages.
  • Media education is the study of media, including ‘hands on’ experiences and media production.
  • Media literacy education is the educational field dedicated to teaching the skills associated with media literacy.
But- it’s not really literacy, is it?
Yes!  It is!  Media literacy comprises much more than the linear orthographical decoding of yesteryear.  Our kids are digital natives who need to know how to comprehend and utilize multi-sensory information from all different types of devices.  Words, images and sound are all legitimate purveyors of information requiring different skills for processing.

In order for kids to become useful people in our increasingly digital world, they’re going to have to be proficient not only in using current technology, but in figuring out new technology as it becomes available.  Traditional literacy was basically a skill that you learned once and you were set for life; media literacy is a wider set of continually evolving, increasingly sophisticated skills.

So how does this relate to eBooks?  
Reading eBooks together is an awesome way to give our little monsters the skills to figure out what they’re going to need to know in our big bad world of sensory overload.  If we can give them good quality eLiterature with well designed multimedia extras we start them on the path to media literacy.