Summer, 2017: Two Teen Successes

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m assessing the 2017 summer program in bits and pieces as time allows. Here are a couple of successes to share.

Teen Scratch Ticket Challenge

We connected with a wide variety of teens this summer with the help of scratch tickets, of all things. The idea is borrowed from the genius, Kat at the 5 Min Librarian. In May, I read her post about the Scratch Ticket Challenge and thought it was a great idea. (Read her post to find out the tech details. I followed her lead and used her template with little variation.) Using the tickets was a last minute addition, but her description seemed easy enough to pull off in my small library as a pilot and I was looking for something new to spice up the teen summer reading/learning experience. (I’ll post more about the passive challenges we also had success with soon.) Ultimately the goal is to encourage teens to keep reading all summer and if a method other than the traditional “keep track of reading” works, why not try it?

We offered every teen who checked out a book or audiobook in the physical library a scratch ticket (1 ticket per day, maximum) which either got them a prize from the candy drawer, the surprise prize drawer or no prize in which case their ticket was entered into the grand prize drawing at the end of the summer. It was easy to keep track of the number of tickets printed for statistical purposes and my coworkers found it easy to manage. They loved giving out the tickets to unsuspecting teens!

Not only did we connect with teens who don’t want to keep track of their reading (in a digital or paper log) yet still read all summer and checked out books from the library, we also caught the attention of teens who are not regularly represented in program attendance; for example, teens who live remotely and visit the library sporadically or those who have limited family support. Our teen participation went from 24 last year to 83 this year. Most of the increase was thanks to teens who were not registered for the reading challenge. The teens who loved the scratch ticket game the most were on the younger end, 12-14. Why? My guess, after looking at the names of these kids, is because they recently graduated from the kids’ reading challenge and like the idea of participating in a game type program. I also saw lots of names I had never seen in any library program ever. Some teens participated both in the game and in the official reading challenge so they were entered into the 2 grand prize drawings multiple times.

What I like about this scratch ticket idea is that it meets teens who are reading where they, or at least some of they, are- at the circ desk checking books out. Teens were pleasantly surprised so to be offered a scratch ticket! Next year we plan to continue some version of the scratch ticket game; using it to both “reward” regular users and attract more teens to the library.

DIY Virtual Reality Goggles

Teen making DIY VR Goggles

Our DIY Virtual Reality Goggles program for teens was another successful teen program, but not in the usual stats sort of way. On a spreadsheet, it might not seem like a win compared with other programs I host. It was one of those programs that required a decent amount of planning time and didn’t see significant numbers. It’s beauty lay in the conversation that unfurled during the 2 hour program, in the confidence that filled the teen makers and in the new interests the project sparked.

Imagine 4 teenage boys crafting and chatting about a variety of topics for two hours and you’ll get an idea of what happened. (The cardboard goggles require measuring, cutting and gluing cardboard from shoeboxes or pizza boxes, plus fitting lens and other materials.) Yes, we talked about Virtual Reality, we briefly tested out the goggles at the end and I gave them a list of VR apps to try at home, but mostly they wanted to “hang out, mess around and geek out” (HOMAGO), as they say.  Eryn, the teen mentor who has helped me for the last two years with everything from the maker club to storytime, and I were amazed.

If you have teenagers and you drive them in a car much, you can imagine the kind of conversation that rolled out over the two hours. When teens are in the right space with the right group and at the right time, they talk about everything in such an uninhibited way. There was nothing shocking revealed, just a group of boys, plus Eryn and I, tinkering and talking. The kids who didn’t know each other, verbally danced around topics until they found common ground. When one didn’t know what the other was talking about, the group filled him in. Eryn and I were enveloped into the conversations without hesitation.

After two hours, we eventually had to “kick them out”  and finish cleaning up. For most of the four, the goggles they made were considered a prototype and the templates they took home will be used to make the next, more polished pair. This was a program that capitalized on the allure of new media, got teens making and learning, provided access to a new technology and connected teens with each other. Win. Win.

The funniest quote? “We’re actually going to make VR goggles? I thought we were just going to watch a video about them.”

DIY VR Goggle template and cardboard laid out on table

Materials (planned for 8-10, plus 2 extras):
lightweight cardboard (from shoe boxes or pizza boxes)
2-3 X-acto knives, used at a “precision” station to avoid sharp tools being lost amongst the cardboard remains
metal rulers to help make folds clean
scissors capable of cutting cardboard, enough for each teen to have a pair
glue stick and white glue
45mm focal length biconvex plastic lenses (see template link below for details)
velcro
rubber band
table coverings to protect surface
*We didn’t use the copper tape button. It works just as well to use tap the phone screen with a finger. (See template instructions.)
Instructables template and instructions

Evaluating Kids’ Media (of all kinds)

If you could see my office and house these days you would immediately recognize that I IMG_0943have a deep interest, okay maybe a passion, for illustrated books. This year the picture books, graphic novels, biographies, and illustrated nonfiction, each with colorful sticky notes peeking out like antennae, are piling up in even greater numbers than usual. The tall stacks and long rows of large and small books may seem half-hazard, but the spreadsheet and notebook that go along with them tell a different tale.

This year my work reviewing and evaluating books has taken on a new significance. I’m honored to serve on ALSC’s 2018 Caldecott Award Committee and that means I not only have to believe a book is exceptional, but I have to be able to talk about why the book and, in particular, the illustrations are worthy of the prestigious award. Those sticky notes have purpose! Each book in my growing collection is methodically evaluated using a rubric of sorts that draws on award criteria, research, and my experience working with children and teens.

My work evaluating media doesn’t stop with the paper book. While my book shelves and almost every nook and cranny of my office and home are filling up with Caldecott submissions, I continue to reserve space, virtual and real, for the apps, movies, video games, and programmable robots that all play a role in the daily lives of my community’s kids. As a media mentor, finding high quality media, in all of these formats, is an essential part of my work supporting the information, literacy, and media needs of my community’s families.

Along with serving on the Caldecott Committee, I have been collaborating with KIDMAP (Kids’ Inclusive & Diverse Media Action Project) this winter on a new checklist for evaluating children’s digital media. KIDMAP is a coalition “of media creators, producers, researchers, educators, and parents (that) support the creation of diverse and inclusive children’s media through research, best practices, and collaboration.”

KIDMAP DIG Checklist Overview

KIDMAP DIG Checklist Overview

The KIDMAP Checklist is designed to help reviewers, educators, librarians, and caregivers find and create digital media that is high quality and relevant to families with a variety of experiences. And while being glitch-free, entertaining, and age-appropriate is important, high quality also means being inclusive and rich in diversity. As with paper books for kids, digital media should provide a mirror, window, and sliding glass door; allowing kids to see themselves reflected in the stories told and learn about worlds beyond their own.

The extensive checklist, made possible with the financial support of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, includes sections addressing digital media’s content, art, audio, audience, purpose, functionality/navigation, support materials, and creative teams. The checklist can be used as a rubric or guide in both selecting digital media and designing it. New media is, well, new, but many elements of high quality traditional media can be applied to digital content and formats. Traditional media’s slow progress to broaden diversity and be inclusive does not need to be replicated however.

As with any rubric or evaluation tool, a specific app may not meet every criterion on the KIDMAP checklist and that is ok. Some elements may not apply to every type of media or title. The checklist is meant to be as all-encompassing as possible so that families, educators, designers, and decisions makers can consider inclusion and diversity alongside other elements of high quality digital media.  Each question draws attention to an aspect of digital media that impacts both kids’ ability to access the content and how positive the learning experience will be once they delve into it.

The checklist will eventually be available as a download and we expect to update it. Please use the checklist as you evaluate, select, and create digital media for kids and feel free to send your comments and questions about the checklist to KIDMAP.

Note: As a librarian and media mentor, I am especially excited by the ALSC Board of Directors decision in 2016 to recognize high quality digital media for young children (Excellence for Early Learning Digital Media) and I look forward to seeing the product of their first year’s work!

The checklist was inspired by the work of many including Nova Scotia’s Bias Evaluation Instrument (Canada), Reading Diversity (from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance), Joan Ganz Cooney Center’s The New Coviewing, Tap, Click, Read by Lisa Guernsey and Michael Levine, the Bias Screening Instrument for Interactive Media crafted by Warren Buckleitner (Children’s Technology Review) and Kevin Clark (Center for Digital Media, Innovation and Diversity), and Evaluating Apps and New Media for Young Children: A Rubric.

Thanks go out to Sandhya Nankani (Literary Safari), Amy Kraft (Monkey Bar Collective), J. Elizabeth Mills (University of Washington), Tamara Kaldor (TEC Center at Erikson Institute), Kevin Clark, Ph.D. (Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity, George Mason University), Chip Donohue, Ph.D. (TEC Center at Erikson Institute), Warren Buckleitner (Children’s Technology Review), Carissa Christner (Madison Public Library), and Daryl Grabarek (School Library Journal).

Media Literacy for Young Children: Accuracy Matters

11278910216_20a85bc557_o

Emperor Penguin by Christopher Michel via Flickr

Many people have no idea how much discussion and debate children’s librarians have about topics like books, programming, library organization, awards, digital media use, inclusion/diversity, holidays and more. We are a passionate, caring bunch! Even in my small, rural library we analyze, critique, and evaluate the merits and missteps of kids media on a daily basis.

Recently, our in-house discussions have focused on media that reflects the Alaskan/Arctic experience. Finding any content that includes Arctic animals, cultures, landscapes, etc. can be hard. When we do come across media with Arctic references, we pay special attention.

13958342330_e4463a539d_o
Walrus by USGS via Flickr

Three titles, two picture books and one app, came across my desk late in 2016 that made me let out a deep sigh; Penguin Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith, Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant and Christian Robinson, and LumiKids Snow by Lumos Labs. (See more info below.) At first glance they had nothing to do with the Arctic, but then…

Why does some children’s media continue to feature, incorrectly, penguins living in the Arctic and walruses in Antarctica?

What’s the big deal, you ask? Accuracy.

I am calling attention to the penguin/walrus issue here because I think it represents the broader accuracy/authenticity issue that is sometimes pushed aside as minor because the media is otherwise high quality. Some might say I am exaggerating or being overly sensitive. Should I overlook penguin/walrus issue?

While I am a true fan of the fantastical, fictional, and imagined, I do think that kids and their families learn a lot about the real world in fictional media. In all media for kids, books, apps, etc., I think accuracy matters. Incorrectly associating penguins and walruses may seem like a silly example of accuracy issues, but authentic representation supports kids by allowing them to see themselves, their environment, and their culture in the media they read, watch, and explore. All types of media also feed all types of kids’ curiosity about other people, places, and times. Inaccuracy- stereotypes and misinformation- can have lasting effects. I know writers, illustrators, designers, and developers can create high quality experiences that entertain, challenge, represent, and teach.

Interestingly, the Annoyed Librarian posted about scientific accuracy in children’s picture books on the Library Journal blog (November, 2016). While there are several comments to consider on the blog site, check out the additional conversation over on the Storytime Underground Facebook page. Whether or not Eric Carle’s caterpillar makes a chrysalis or a cocoon may not seem connected to the current discussions about fake news, but it might be. Kids and their families take away information from all reading experiences.

As media mentors, it is important for librarians to help families think about what the book, app, video, and website is telling us and whether or not the content is factual (and accurate), fantastical, or a hybrid. Media literacy is not new to librarians and this aspect of our work continues to be fundamental across formats. Intentionally including critical thinking skills in programs for even the youngest patron and conversations with families will have a long term impact. These skills will be invaluable as young children become adult readers and expand their media consumption. I and several others talked to Linda Jacobson about this for her article, “The Smell Test: Educators can counter fake news with information literacy. Here’s how,” in the January issue of School Library Journal.

The examples:

Problem: Walrus in the Antarctic?
A walrus appears late in the story clearly about Antarctica and told by a penguin. There is no explanation why and how the walrus appears in a marine world filled with otherwise authentic Antarctic animals. Was this a mistake or did I not get a joke in the otherwise humorous story?

penguin problems

Penguin Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith

 

Problem: Walruses and Penguins?
Again a walrus appears in this book about penguins, but in this case the walrus is a subtle addition to a book not as clearly about Antarctica, except for the presence of penguins. The generic types of animals, other than penguins and walruses, can be found in both regions. Maybe the penguins have immigrated? Maybe the walrus did?

little penguins.jpg Material Life

Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant and Christian Robinson

 

I read both books with preschoolers on different occasions and asked kids to help me decide. I asked the two different storytime groups to help me find the issues. One or two kids were able to recognize that walruses (native to Alaska and the Arctic) and penguins (native to the Antarctic and Southern Hemisphere) do not coexist. That was ok- we all learn something everyday. They liked the books for the most part, but were a bit puzzled why the walruses were there given that all of the other animals were appropriately connected. Even the adults had the “huh!” expression on their faces.

With information literacy on my mind, I then used the books as starting points for media literacy conversations. We briefly discussed whether the book was  a pretend story or a real story (pretend- penguins don’t talk or live in igloos, they were sure) and tried to figure out if the authors and illustrators added the walruses as a joke (not sure). We also used nonfiction titles and images on my iPad to help us take stock of where the other animals in the books live in real life (all in Antarctica except for the walrus, they were sure) and to decipher if the illustrations looked like northern Alaska and the Arctic or Antarctica (not sure- both regions can be snowy, icy, and have water).

Problem: Penguins in the Arctic?

lumikids snow

LumiKids Snow, Early Learning Play for Kids by Lumos Labs

 

App Description (iTunes, 3/10/17): “Explore an arctic adventure in LumiKids Snow! In this frozen playground, meet new LumiKids friends while you toss snowballs and sled around then warm up with some cozy s’mores!”

The app I reviewed for inclusion on my library’s mounted iPad, but I will not be adding it until the description is updated. (I contacted the developer in early January).

Family Play: Curating and Sharing Apps in the Library

Holidays, especially those accompanied by a significant number of days off from school, are excellent opportunities to recommend family time activities for in and out of the library. Along with passive “programs” and early literacy toys for families to enjoy in the library, I recently pulled out books for a display which are great for sharing at bedtime, in the car, and any old time. I added to the display a sign with some of my favorite apps that are fun for the whole family and by design, encourage joint media engagement and coplay. Here are the apps I included in the Family Play Recommendations, many of which have been featured on our mounted iPad.

family-play-apps-for-kids

 

family-play-app

 

Sesame Street Family Play
Sesame Street

This is an app that sparks ideas for off-screen play. Even the most savvy parents and caregivers run out of ideas, especially in stressful situations when families are logging time in crowded doctors’ offices, at airports during flight delays, and inside during harsh weather. This app provides more than 150 ideas based on where the family is playing and how many will join in the fun. The familiar Sesame Street characters will appeal to both kids and adults who are fans of Sesame Street. The app is research-based and boost learning skills while promoting fun, family play. For librarians and teachers this app could be introduced to families during a program by letting children help choose an activity and then playing the game as a group. it might be used similar to a song cube.
iOS/Adroid
Paid
Ages: 3-6

Toca Hair Salon Me app

 

Toca Hair Salon Me
Toca Boca

This app is one of my favorite Toca Boca apps because of its broad age appeal. The idea is to cut, wash, color and style hair with multiple tools in this open-ended play app. The app uses a photo from the device and then with a few adjustments the image is ready to makeover. There are no gender preconceptions and the styling possibilities are only inhibited by imagination. The concept and the design invite onlookers to become participants and the repeat usage is high. I prefer this app over the other fun Toca Hair Salon apps, although they are also noteworthy, because of the ability to upload a photo instead of using the provided images and characters. There is just something disarming about seeing an adult’s goofy selfie being altered by a group of kids. I’ve used this with young children, tweens, and grandparents as a party game and program icebreaker. A quick introduction gets the group off and running quickly. Photos of the final product can be saved to the device.
iOS/Android
Paid
Ages: 3+

grandma-gourd

 

Grandma’s Great Gourd
Literary Safari

Grandma’s Great Gourd is a trickster tale, story app based on the award-winning picture book, Grandma and the Great Gourd by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and Susy Pilgrim Waters. Reminiscent of classic stories like Little Riding Hood and The Three Billy Goats Gruff, this is the tale of a smart, adventurous grandmother off to visit her daughter on the other side of the perilous jungle.
The entertaining story is enriched with subtle, story-relevant interactive elements, an original musical score, friendly, almost familiar, narration, and sound effects which all bring the humorous, Bengali folktale to life. For example, readers help decide in which order Grandma negotiates with the three beasts in the jungle; a black bear, tiger, and fox. The paper book’s textile-like illustrations are digitized and slightly animated in the app, accentuating the layered effect envisioned in the original book.
Families can enjoy the story together in read-to-me or read-on-my-own mode from start to finish or the back button (once in the story) can be used to select favorite pages. The home and settings button can be found on the navigation panel also. A sound studio offers readers the opportunity to record personalized narration, in a particular home language for example, and new sound effects to become part of the story. The app also includes a physics based game featuring Grandma and a flying gourd and a way to learn more about the Bengali region of South Asia, Grandma’s World, through in-app, informational videos. Topics include wildlife, clothing, food, art and language. (This information was also included in Beanstack’s collection of media reviews.) Check out the Grownup guide for extension activities!
iOS/Android
Paid
Ages: 3-8

fairytale-play-theater-title
Fairytale Play Theater
Nosy Crow

Do your kids like dramatic play? This open-ended app lets children create their own retellings of 6 fairytales (featured in Nosy Crow’s story apps). Storytellers can change characters, backgrounds, storylines, and props from a select menu (again all featured in Nosy Crow’s story apps). They can even record narration and action which they can playback for an audience. Characters lip-sync along with the custom narration. This creativity app would be a lovely tool to extend book readings of fairytales to help kids learn the fundamentals of storytelling or a new way for families to create their own stories together and then present the final product as a show on a large monitor. The app is well-suited for multiple players either at home or in a classroom/library setting. The app is available in two versions- ‘standard’ with In-App Purchases and ‘complete’ with all of the available stories. If you want to try out the app before committing, go ahead with the standard version, but the complete version offers kids more flexibility.
iOS
Paid
Ages: 4-8 (Young children will experience a learn curve and may need initial help navigating the in’s and out’s of the app.)

me-app
Me
Tinybop

Me is a playful, digital storytelling tool in which kids and their families design personalized avatars and then create self-portraits, of sorts, using the app’s prompts and the digital device’s microphone, keyboard, touchscreen, and camera. Multiple kids, or kids and adults, can each craft their own story with drawings, photos, and words. The prompts pop up on the screen like thought bubbles and a quick tap reveals a question or direction which encourages kids to share their likes, dislikes, and feelings. Kids document their world and answer the ultimate question, ‘who are you?’ Imagination is strongly encouraged so kids can easily create a story for a pet or imaginary friend. Unanswered prompts can be saved for later and more options will appear. All of the pieces of each creation are kept in one place – perfect for sharing with friends and family – but nothing is shared outside of the app. The prompts are silly, interesting, and even peculiar, but all are well-suited for the whole family. Me successfully uses fun activities and thoughtful technical design to help kids find their voice and share it with others. (This information was also included in a monthly article I write for the Homer News about early literacy and children’s media.)
iOS
Paid
Ages: 4+ (younger with help)

Miximal App
Miximal
Yatatoy

Miximal mimics what singing does for language development in a silly literacy app that invites families to mix animals and sounds. To play this flipbook-inspired app, families switch the three sections of a handcrafted animal illustration by swiping on the screen to the left or right until a picture of an animal is complete. Tapping on the arrow at the bottom switches the display to a screen listing the three syllables of the animal’s name- for example, ‘go-ril-la’. If the name and animal represent an actual animal, versus an imaginary one, then the illustration animates and the animal does a little dance. While the goal is to make a whole gorilla or penguin, for example, the fun is in finding out what a mixed up animal looks like. Try the app to see a ‘fla-qui-saur’! (Hint: flamingo-mosquito-dinosaur.) The app supports five languages. (This information was also included in a monthly article I previously wrote for the Homer Tribune about early literacy and children’s media.)
iOS
Paid
Ages: 3-7

dipdap-winter
Dipdap Winter
Cube Interactive

Dipdap Winter is one of two drawing apps by this developer that lets kids contribute to short video stories. I like to share this one at my library because it’s very relevant to the local experience. Snow is covering the ground and kids will be familiar with the activities. For kids in other regions this might be a nice intro to life in colder climates.

The app’s idea is basic, but offers lots of opportunity for conversation. Kids draw a missing element to complete one of multiple short stories featuring the character Dipdap. Kids are given a prompt and pulsating dotted lines to follow if they choose. Creating the missing elements supports early writing practice whatever they ultimately draw for the missing element is acknowledged and used in the story- very rewarding for young children just beginning to write and draw.  In the creation mode, kids watch the complete story first to give them context for their drawing and then they get to work. In play mode, they watch the short video story without adding their own drawings. It is easy to move back and forth. The stories are winter related and feature everything from snow play and baking activities to waking a bear from hibernation.
iOS
Paid
Ages: 3-6

Simple Media Advisory in the Library

I’m always looking for better ways to provide media advisory that incorporate paper and digital resources, but that can be tricky. My library is small, has only limited resources, and is remote in comparison to many. We don’t have large monitors to project images or even good enough WiFi to keep an iPad connected 24/7. So I have to be creative. If you are a librarian or teacher, you probably know all about that.

So here is what I am doing lately. I am creating ‘Learn More’ themed signs, and accompanying displays, to provide media advisory (not just reader advisory) in simple ways wherever families look- throughout the children’s library landscape, on our website, and on social media. This isn’t a particularly new or innovative idea, but I wanted to highlight a simple example of media mentorship.

I start with the weekly storytime themes, pull in a broader array of library materials for kids 12 and under, and add high quality digital resources that relate to the theme but families might not know, or think, about. The idea is to connect families with information in multiple formats and encourage them to extend learning experiences with picture books, nonfiction books, audiobooks, movies, websites, apps, and more. The lists are not exhaustive by any means, but are a taste of what’s out there. The ‘Learn More: Penguins’ sign is part of a display in the library and is posted on our social media accounts. Again, it’s not super fancy, but media mentorship doesn’t need to be.

What does media mentorship look like in your library or classroom?

Learn More: Penguins display sign

Note: I love Jory John and Lane Smith’s latest book Penguin Problems for many reasons, but the inclusion of a walrus, an Arctic animal, in this obviously Antarctic tale was unfortunate. Alaskan kids are familiar with walrus since much of our state is above the Arctic circle, so when I read this book with kids I made sure to explain that walrus don’t actually live in the same parts of the world as penguins. Maybe that’s part of the humor? I’ve emailed Jory John to find out.