Category Archives: Uncategorized

Balancing “Screen Time” Repost From Happy Stuff

Many families are struggling to figure out how to best manage screentime in their own home.  The following is a re-post (lack of capitalization included!) from Happy Stuff, which is run by the inspiring Carissa Christner, long-time LittleeLit contributor and soon-to-be trainer. thanks for sharing balancing “screen time” Carissa!

balancing screen time

i’ve been thinking a lot about the healthiest ways to incorporate apps and technology into our family life. many parents deal with the issue by setting a daily time limit, and while that seems so nice and tidy and easily quantifiable (there’s even an app for that!), i know that if i were playing an interesting game and i was just about to complete a challenge and someone told me i had to turn the game off right at that moment …. i’d whine and complain and possibly even throw a giant fit too. i would also feel like i had a right to use up every minute of my maximum allowed screen time every day, as though if i didn’t use it all up, i’d be getting cheated out of my rightful screen time.

if the happy family tried that option, i’d spend large portions of my day having conversations about “just 5 more minutes” or “but i’ve only had 25 minutes of screen time!” or “that screen time didn’t count because i didn’t like that game” or “what if i called granna on facetime, would that count?”* and other “referee” questions in which i’d be constantly re-interpreting and re-creating arbitrary rules. that makes me cranky. plus, those questions are not teaching my child the bigger life lesson of how to include technology in a balanced diet of daily activities.

my friend carisa kluver created this wonderful model for teaching kids how to balance their own media diet (follow this link! read the article!), but i found that it was too abstract for me to explain to my 4 year old, so i broke down the first component — balance — into a system that he could understand and for now, i’ll judge the quality and engagement components myself.


Want to learn the details of Carissa’s “balance system”?  Read the rest of this post at Happy Stuff!


I Swear This Isn’t Political

I saw this posted on Facebook today.  Sorry for the low quality image.  I swear I’m not getting political with this (which might be terribly amusing for those of you who actually know me and my politics).  Look at the comments.  There are very different views about the value of Sesame Street.  Here’s some examples of the comments (all sic):

big bird must learn to fly on his own like a real bird. Barney doesnt get support from government and if PBS was to really shutdown it is not the end of Sesame street. you can go to any public library and they usually have plenty of Sesame street dvds

Last time I checked, most kids have parents. Those parents are perfectly capable of teaching their children the ABCs and 123s, there’s no need to cry about it. Why you wanna sit your kids down in front of a TV and pay them no attention? If its really that big of a deal, go buy some DVDs, pop em in and ignore your kids that way

PBS is sometimes the ONLY access to educational programs poor children have before they start school…NOT unnecessary.

Missing the point as usual, PBS haters – cable TV is out of the reach of some peoples’ budgets. PBS may be the only educational programming some kids get to see. Cut tax breaks to Big Oil instead and save the country billions…

Rmoney’s problem with educational TV is that it’s, well, educational. He knows that an educated electorate is not exactly the GOP base.

My opinion is there are other ways to cut the budget without hurting our children enough said….

It’s sad that we feel the need to use innocent children to further our ambitions.

no 8 year old would be able to understand that well or even watch the debate, i know this from experience cuz my little cousins would prefer pokemon over 2 guys debating lol

I love PBS.  It’s great. I think the government should give them money, and Romney was silly to have said anything about it at the debate.  That’s not what I found interesting .  What was interesting was the perceived value of this kind of media for children. There were 2 types of comments to this letter:  “hurting our children/using innocent children/only educational programming that poor kids get” vs “parents should teach kids to read themselves and/or get the dvds from another source (ie the library).”  Most of these people believe kids NEED Sesame Street for educational purposes, presumably as a preschool substitute or supplement.  I don’t believe that kids NEED Sesame Street, but if a kid’s going to watch TV, Sesame Street is probably the best choice for programming that we have.  Again, I grew up with Sesame Street and I think it’s great.  I learned all about near and far from Sesame Street. But it should only be one little part of a child’s literary education.  If these people are truly concerned about a child’s access to educational “things,” they should be squawking about how libraries and schools are horribly under-funded, not about  proposed cuts to television shows.  The “he wants to hurt our children” reaction is one that comes from an emotional place, and it’s a myopic view.

About the person who says kids don’t watch or understand the debate because his/her cousins would prefer Pokemen (logical fallacy much?):  I included that because that person’s a noob and obviously doesn’t know anything about children.

Kudos to the parent who gave Cecilia a pencil and paper and supported her right to express her opinion.

Bring on the Flying CodeMonkeys!

I just had a lovely meeting with my Children and Technology committee.  At the end of the business for the day we all shared a little bit of what’s on our minds; and I mentioned I’d love to develop a virtual storytime app.  It would appear that my colleagues might be able to help me out with the development of such a thing by hooking me up with flying librarian codemonkeys.  So come one, come all.  Anyone who’s interested in helping with developing a virtual storytime app, please contact me and we’ll make something awesome happen. I’m going to get my butt in gear and figure out how to use Twitter to its full capacity; my handle is @littleelit. (What’s embarrassing is that I don’t even know if that’s the right way to say that in tweet-speak.  Darn all this new technology.  Somebody tell me if I’m doing it wrong.)

Feedback from eStorytime Staff Demo

As mentioned in my previous post, I recently demonstrated a digital storytelling session for staff at the Campbell Library.  I got lots of good input from the children’s librarians and managers who were present.

Can we put this up on the website?

I love that this was the first question I got, mostly because I feel that I’ve missed my calling as a rock star and I really want to record some of my storytimes and develop a storytime app that’s available through my library’s website.  Seriously, though, it’s important to define one’s terms. What IS digital storytelling? What my colleague was asking about was what I refer to as virtual storytelling, which is traditional storytelling that is available in a virtual environment, usually through YouTube, an app or some other video streaming service.  The Edmonton Public Library has done a bang-up job of this in their Storytime Station.  We do have ideas about developing some virtual storytelling, but that’s a separate initiative. “Digital Storytelling” refers to using digital media within early literacy programming (storytime!).

What about Public Performance rights for iBooks and  Apps? 

Fair Use applies to apps and iBooks, as far as I understand it (I am not a lawyer, but I think we’d have heard about it if there was a big stink about the rules changing, or modified for a new format). The library is a non-profit institution, the content is used for educational purposes and no money is made.

For what age groups is digital storytelling appropriate?

I’m going to stick to preschool, family and school-aged storytimes for now when it comes to using iBooks and Apps. The NAEYC and AAP are slowly revising their hard-and-fast rules about screen time for young kids, but it’s still generally accepted that screen time for under 2 year olds should be kept to a minimum, and that even after 2, screen time should be limited.  That said, in a digital storytime, there is so much more going on that just showcasing an app; the librarian is talking, singing, moving around, there are other kids, other parents etc.  It’s not the same thing as sticking your kid in front of the TV to keep them appeased for a few minutes. In my personal opinion, an app or iBook projected on a huge screen so everyone can actually see the words is no more screen time than projecting a transparency.  I know of librarians who use powerpoint slides with lists of resources projected on a screen for Book Babies programs (but no other digital content within the program itself). I still don’t really feel good about doing a digital storytelling program for toddlers, though.

Will you be surveying the parents?

Yes! As a part of our pilot project we’ll be surveying the parents to see if/how they liked the inclusion of high-quality digital media in our early literacy programming.  Our library uses zoomerang, so I’ll be working with the head of children’s services at the Campbell Library to develop a brief but telling survey that a) people will actually fill out and b) will let us know what they really think about the program. A grand ambition if I ever had one!

What apps are you using?

I’ll be making sure that all the libraries in my library system who want to partake in digital storytelling goodness have their iPads synced to the iPad that I’m currently loading with fabulous apps and iBooks. I’m also developing a small cache of ready-made digital felt boards that can be used by my colleagues so they have some content that’s ready to go.  Like a storytime in a box, only digital.

For my demo I used the following:

Presentation App: Keynote
Book Based App: Blue Hat Green Hat
Storytelling App: Smoothie Felt Board
iBook: Pete the Cat
Scanned copies of musical notation and Nursery Rhymes

Digital Storytelling: More iBooks








Yep.  It’s official.  The more I work on this Digital Storytelling Project, the more I realize that a lot of the content I’m going to be using will be iBooks as opposed to apps. There are a few reasons for this:

1. iBooks are closer to “real” books. You can read them straight, just like you would with a book, and ignore any animation, narration or interactivity. Some of my digitally skeptical colleagues report that with iBooks it is more obvious to them that the content is the same, but the format is much more flexible.

2. There’s a lot of good stuff available; I’ve found a number of Caldecott winners and storytime standards like Caps for Sale, Click Clack Moo and Strega Nona. (I’ve been disappointed with app versions of some Caldecott winners; Freight Train is pretty terrible)

3. They load quickly and you don’t have to fiddle with them too much.

Here is my Digital Storytelling iBook Collection so far.  I’ve downloaded a whole bunch in the past few days and I can’t wait to use some of them in my upcoming pilot projects. They’re a little more expensive, but they can be synced to a number of devices, so think of it as 5 books for the price of one!

There’s an App Developer for That

At ALA recently I spent a lot of time going around to vendors asking if they had a model for distributing apps.  I got a lot of blank stares and “Hm, that’s a good idea.  I think I might know a guy in Tallahassee who might do that….” I was getting frustrated.  I’m not a developer/codemonkey/tech person, so I don’t really understand the inner workings of DRM (a necessary evil, for the time being, which allows libraries to share digital content) and why it can be applied to some types of files and not to others. In my head, if you can make eBooks available through the library, why not apps? It’s not being done.  And apparently no one is working on it. All I need is a prototype, a precedent, a really great idea.

That really great idea is readIMAGINE.

A little while ago I wrote an Early Literacy Grant for the Palo Alto City Library (don’t know yet if we got it) wherein we asked for a bunch of iPads to start introducing the community to some really great apps for young kids.  Jenny Jordan, Library Services Manager in the Children’s Library was very supportive of my vim and vigor for apps and early literacy, but I hadn’t heard much from her since we submitted the grant.

Then last month I got an email from her introducing me to a person by the name of Chiara McPhee. Chiara is an MBA student at Stanford and she’s working with a group of students who are developing some story apps and a distribution platform.  Would I be interested in meeting with her to see what they’re working on?  Ok, sure, let’s see what they’ve got.  I’d been approached by app developers before, so this not was entirely unusual.

Chiara met me at a coffee shop in the Graduate School of Business complex at Stanford and told me a little bit more about the project, and about a seriously big-name publisher that’s interested in their model. At that point I was still thinking, “This is nice.  But what’s it got to do with me?” Chiara introduced me to LeeAnn Parker, a 2nd grade teacher in a private school in Washington D.C. who did the initial classroom research. Then we went upstairs and it was time to see some of the work in progress.  I met Phat Phoung, head of creative  and 10 year Pixar veteran, and Mikhail Kushnikov, the tech guru.

I was FLOORED by this operation.  They have access to a media lab at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and I was introduced to 6 digital artists and animators, all piecing together two gorgeous apps. They showed me the concept artwork, some incredibly cute characters, and visual representations of the dashboard of their app.  Chiara is the business rep in this venture, and she’s a firecracker. She has done her homework, she’s a consummate professional and she is doing this work because she loves it.

These students have their ducks in a row.  They have gorgeous artwork, pedagogical field research that’s already been started (the apps aren’t even finished yet!), thorough market research, connections with animators, authors, philanthropists and developers, and some initial seed funding. They are developing an algorithm to determine reading level so the text in the story will be tailored to the child’s reading level. There is a content creation component (libraries are all over that these days) and kids will be able to submit feedback which will determine the plot for the series. They have a beautiful portal which will be customizable within the app to keep track of the art, stories and characters the child has created or interacted with. They are creating a whole virtual world with the capacity to serve as a new model for publishing AND a distribution mechanism.

readIMAGINE  has vision.  Revolutionary, beautiful, big-picture vision. And they want to launch their product in libraries.  I’m going to help them.

E-Books, Online Resources & Apps For Parents of Young Children

Slideshow from tonight’s App and eBooks program at the Mountain View Library.


Paws off my iPad, kiddo!

ALSC 2012 National Institute

I am TOTALLY jonesing to go to the 2012 ALSC National Institute in Indianapolis in September. And I’m REALLY jonesing to attend the following workshop:

Phones, Pads, eReaders & Tablets: Keeping Kids Connected to the Library
Does your library have what it takes to keep up with children in the 21st century? Your young patrons and their caregivers are using smartphones, tablets, eReaders, and iPads: are you catering your services to your high-tech patrons? Learn about communication, publicity, programming, and reference services and trends with these portable devices and how you can maximize your library’s tech-potential and keep a high cool-factor.  Presented by Laura Brack, Guilford Township Public Library

There are some other programs I’d like to attend as well, but not all of these relate to technology. I may have to spring for this 3 day children’s services extravaganza on my own if I can’t sweet talk anyone into sending me.

It’s All About the Money: Corporate Partnerships in Children’s Programming
Have you ever been strapped for cash for a children’s library program? Need a cash infusion? Well you’ve come to the right workshop. We’ll show you how to target corporations to receive funding for a successful library program. You’ll learn how to prospect for businesses, give corporations the hard sell, and in the end, gain the much needed funding. Remember, it’s all about the money!  Presented by Silvia Cisneros, Santa Ana Public Library and Cheryl Lee, Palo Alto City Library (Hi Cheryl!)

Moving Mock Newbery Online
Learn how the King County Library System (KCLS) transformed their Mock Newbery program from an internal staff development activity to a large, system-wide program.  The online transformation included blogging, video reviews, in-person debates, online voting, regional classroom discussions, and much more.  No matter what your audience, there are fun and easy ways technology can be used to enrich the experience and get everyone talking about the year’s big winner.  Presented by Angela Nolet, King County Library System

Planning for Excellence: Developing Best practices for Youth Services
You’re doing good programs – right? People are attending – right? But…if asked, could you explain the reason and purpose behind what you’re doing? What parameters you’re using to assure a consistent quality and message?  Hmmm… Unsure? We’ll share our process for developing best practices for youth programming birth through teen.  Presented by Celia Huffman, Cuyahoga County Public Library

Shake, Shimmy, and Dance: Using Music with Preschoolers
Looking for a way to shake up your preschool storytime? Try a dance party! Get the children moving and grooving to the best in children’s music. Participants will learn the importance of introducing music in early childhood, how to conduct a dance party, and how to encourage creative movement in children. Come ready to dance and participate!  Presented by Kate Schiavi,  Louisville Free Public Library

What difference does it make? The Impact of Early Literacy Training on Youth Services Staff
In May 2011, Hedberg Public Library youth services staff and community partners in Janesville, Wisconsin, participated in a two-day early literacy training program with Betsy Diamant-Cohen and Saroj Ghoting. Short and long term effects of the training on the library staff will be presented as well as observations from parent participants of the programs making this one of the few studies to find out what parents/caregivers are getting from changes in programming.  Presented by Dr. Betsy Diamant-Cohen, Mother Goose on the Loose® Early Literacy Program, Saroj Ghoting, early childhood literacy consultant, Sharon Grover, Hedberg Public Library, Dr. Allison G. Kaplan, University of Wisconsin – Madison, and Julie Westby, Hedberg Public Library

Digital Parent Webinar

Digital Parent put on a great webinar: Media and Early Childhood Development: What Parents Need to Know.  You can actually listen to it from that link- if you have an hour to spare I highly recommend you do. Dr. Holly Pederson allays some guilt that many parents feel about allowing their children access to digital media.  When I asked about eBooks at the end she said that she doesn’t really count them in the same category as TV, computers and video games- when the parent and child are interacting with the content and each other, it’s not the same kind of passive experience as just watching a TV screen.