Lindsay Huth, Early Learning Specialist at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, and Holly Jin, Preschool Outreach/Early Literacy Librarian at the Skokie Public Library, reflect on their experience presenting on early childhood apps at the Opening Minds Conference in Chicago (January 2014).
When it comes to using technology with young children, early childhood educators and librarians have many of the same questions. What are the best practices for using apps with young children? What qualities should we look for in an app? When should we use apps with young children? We also have many of the same goals. We want to help children construct learning in creative and meaningful ways. We want to help children build technology skills. We want to support and scaffold learning in developmentally appropriate ways.
Since we have similar questions and goals when it comes to using technology with young children, it makes sense for librarians and educators to dialogue with one another about how we’re using apps in our respective settings. When the Opening Minds Conference, hosted by the Chicago Metro AEYC, called for proposals, we thought it could be the ideal forum to have this discussion. We titled our proposal, “Let’s Talk About Apps: iPads in the Early Childhood Classroom,” and were pleased (and a bit apprehensive) when it was accepted. Truthfully, neither one of us considers ourselves to be experts on using apps with young children. Thankfully, there are actual experts out there to guide us and lead the way. We attended as many webinars and conferences as we could to prepare, and tapped into other great resources found through NAEYC, Little eLit (of course!), and the Erikson TEC Center (Technology and Early Childhood), among others. We also drew from our own experiences using apps with young children in our storytimes and programs.
Though we admittedly have a lot to learn about apps, early literacy, on the other hand, is a topic we know quite well. We focused our presentation on apps that support Every Child Read to Read’s five early literacy practices of Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing, and Playing. On the day of our presentation, we were feeling fairly confident, a little nervous, and definitely excited. It was time to get the conversation rolling.
Though it’s not evident in these slides, our presentation included lots of discussion prompts. We often paused and asked the audience to share their questions and ideas. In addition to talking about apps, we also talked about the many ways that librarians and early childhood educators can partner on behalf of young children. The discussion around this point was the most animated and passionate portion of our session.
By the end of the presentation, I think we all felt we had learned some new strategies for using iPads with young children, as well as gained an understanding of how we can support one another in our common goal of helping children be ready for Kindergarten. As we all know, our impact on the community can be greater, and much more effective, when educators and librarians combine efforts to reach out to caregivers and children to promote early literacy.
The conference was definitely worthwhile. From both the standpoint of being presenters and attendees, it was packed full of opportunities for professional growth. And while we loved dialoguing with early childhood educators about how we can help children build pre-reading and writing skills using technology in “Let’s Talk About Apps,” the best conversations we had at Opening Minds were really about partnerships.
Let’s keep the conversation going!
We’ve had a few busy couple of weeks. First it was ALA Midwinter in Philadelphia, and then 3 intrepid LittleeLiters (Cen Campbell, Betsy Diamant-Cohen & Amy Koester) headed over to Chicago to represent Little eLit as a finalist in the Opening Minds Innovation Award. ECRR2 won, which we were thrilled about (keep in mind that it was an early childhood conference, not a library conference, and not only were two librarian groups finalists for the award, one of them took the prize home!!!)
After the showcase, however, things got a little wacky. We conscripted the support of our friends at Follett Early Learning and completely took over their booth to do an impromptu pop-up Guerrilla Storytime, led by the amazing and fantastic Amy Koester, who posted about the event on Storytime Underground.
Here’s my slightly tardy capture of Amy’s intro: