Blog Archives

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.
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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.