The Multimedia Toolbox and Evolving New Media Research

Maybe I was born to be a young people’s librarian.

Toca Boca Selfie

Toca Boca Hair Salon Me Selfie

I don’t say that because I was an early reader. I can’t remember the name of any librarians from my childhood. I didn’t grow up dreaming of librarianship. In fact, I didn’t decide to be a librarian until long after I had explored various parts of the globe, pursued different passions, and had settled my kids into elementary school.

When I look around my office, at little nooks in my house, and on my computer, I realize that one of things I bring to my job is a vast, ever-increasing toolbox. I’m constantly adding to my librarian toolbox physical and intangible tricks, ideas, and toys that might connect families with literacy in a new way or get kids creating and exploring their passions. I have always “filed away” ideas, collected bits of this or that, and looked for the connections between people and projects. Those traits help me everyday at the library, even if every inch of my desk, my office shelf space, and my brain is overflowing with developing ideas and little notes. I was either meant to be a librarian or destined to be a hoarder. There’s still time I guess…

LEGO movie

Digital Filmmaking with LEGOs

I’ve been thinking about my toolbox a lot this week. My work days are filled with storytimes, summer reading program planning, selecting and buying materials, cataloging, and a bazillion other tasks and projects and I need resources to make them all happen. To find solutions and suggestions I turn to my professional network, piece together materials from the library (a friend’s classroom, my recycling bin, or online), and talk to kids and families, including my own.

The storytime part of my multimedia toolbox is the biggest. With felt pieces, puppets, pop-up books, a newly acquired parachute and more, it includes traditional tricks of the trade as well as apps, digital books, and portable speakers to go with my smartphone, among other things, so I can include new media in my programs as appropriate and provide advisory about digital content when asked.  Using new media in storytime, which can include anything from digital music for a silly dance contest (yeah, Jim Gill!), keynote images of Alaskan berries, or an app or e-book, is becoming increasingly common, but some librarians question any use of digital content. So, why do I have new media in my storytime toolbox? I want to:

  • model how to use high quality digital content and joint media engagement (aka co-viewing).
  • introduce high quality, interactive tools that extend and compliment the early literacy experience that is a part of all of my storytimes.
  • provide access to high quality digital content that kids may not be able to afford at home.
  • help kids create and learn together, including digital content.

When used together, I think interactive media that includes high quality content can offer families a valuable experience. I like to think I’m helping families add to their own multimedia toolbox.  It’s up to them how they use the tools and the ideas they generate down the road. Maybe the next “big idea” will come from a young mind at our library.

This week, several articles written by thoughtful, well-informed professionals expressed their similar opinions. And they have the research to prove it. I wanted to bring attention to some of them because I struggle with other posts and articles that denounce the use of new media with kids as if it is a simple issue. New media is varied. All new media is not mind-numbing, poor quality, or passive. All apps are not violent games. Parenting, education, child development, and access to information are complex issues with lots of variables. We need sound research to guide our practice of helping families navigate the world of information.

Here are a couple of the insightful articles about new media that I read this week:

Interactive Media Use at Younger Than the Age of 2 Years: Time to Rethink the American Academy of Pediatrics Guideline? Dr. Dimitri Christakis, parent, pediatrician, prominent researcher at the University of Washington, and co-author of the American Academy of Pediatrician’s 2011 media use guidelines talks about his evolving views on the use of interactive media with young children with Today Moms and the potential benefits of iPads when joint media engagement, interactive media, and high quality content are in the mix. I was particularly interested to read Dr. Christakis’ article because I talked with him about new media and kids in 2013.

10 Reasons Why We Need Research Literacy, Not Scare Columns This article, co-authored by David Kleeman, Glenda Revelle and Jessica Taylor Piotrowski with help from members of the Children and Media Professionals group on Facebook, was written in response to an article about kids under 12 and mobile devices that went viral earlier this week. about the need for sound research when we talk about literacy and new media.  It is thoughtful, rational, and well-worth the read.

10 Reasons Why I Will Continue to Give my Children Handheld Devices Fellow librarian Megan Egbert wrote this week about new media in her own family’s life.

What are your thoughts on new media in storytime?

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