Makers2Mentors: 1

Happy New Year!

2017 was a crazy year all around, but it was exceptionally busy for me. The latter part of the year was consumed with my work on the Caldecott Award Committee and the Makers2Mentors <M2M> initiative I started, thanks to a Libraries Ready to Code grant funded by ALA and Google. Mum’s the word, for now, regarding my year of evaluating picture books, but I am ready to share about the <M2M> project.

Makers2Mentors logo in black and whiteWhat:
Makers2Mentors is a series of programs and opportunities for local youth and families to explore Computational Thinking and Computer Science in age-friendly ways. As part of the Ready to Code project, I am a member of a cohort (28 libraries in 21 states plus the District of Columbia) contributing to the design of a toolkit for all libraries to help kids, teens and families explore Computational Thinking and Computer Science at the library.

When:
November, 2017- August, 2018

Why:
I launched the initiative, in part, to address the huge gap in access to Computer Science education in my community by providing a variety of free programs for diverse audiences. And beyond the library, we wanted to stimulate a community conversation about why Computational Thinking and Computer Science are vital skills for Homer’s kids regardless of whether or not they work as a programmer, journalist, mariner, artist, etc.

This project is also an extension of my work with families around the idea of media mentorship and literacy in the Digital Age. Understanding CS and being able to communicate with digital tools reflect the evolution of literacy, much like the printing press did in 1234 (Asia) and then in 1440 (Europe). Finding information and creating content still happen on paper, but much of our  information exchange is happening online. How do we help kids, even young children,  navigate both traditional media and new media not solely as consumers, but as active participants and creative designers, producers and writers? How do we help families and educators support literacy and learning with tools that include high quality apps, digital tools and even robots in and out of the library?

How:
This initiative targets preschoolers, older kids, teenagers and their families. It is designed to capture the interests of many- maybe not all at the same program- by showing the many faces of CT and CS. Each program or component of the initiative will include both digital and ‘unplugged’ aspects and will have its own unique goal or intended outcome. Along with formal programs, we’ll also start circulating robot kits, add new CS related books to the collection and share information with parents about CT and CS. As part of <M2M>, kids and teens can be makers and they can also be mentors. Our community lacks a large CS community, so training teens as mentors empowers them and fills a need; additional instructors to help guide and teach.

I’ll be highlighting some of the programs and resources I use, including challenges and successes, over the coming months.

Media Mentorship: New Thoughts from AAP on Screen Media and Children

Back in May, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) convened a symposium on the topic of children, teens and screen media called Growing Up Digital: Media Research Symposium. A group of pediatricians recently published proceedings from the event highlighting some of the themes like “diversity matters”, “gaming, gamification, and m-Health can be powerful learning tools” and “screen media can adversely affect sleep” that came out of the discussions and offering recommendations for families, pediatricians and educators. And it seems like AAP’s message is slightly different.

The AAP is not new to the discussion about kids, teens and media nor making recommendations for families and screen media use. In fact, I always mention the AAP’s 2013 policy statement on media use when I talk with librarians about Media Mentorship, along with policy statements written by experts at other organizations such as the Fred Rogers Center, National Association for the Education of Young Children, Zero to Three, and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. What is different about the new recommendations included in  the proceedings is their tone. Instead of solely focusing on the negative aspects of screen media use, they are offering recommendations on how to promote a healthy media diet. It moves away from a simple “don’t” approach to a list of “do” recommendations that reflect the complexity of the evolving screen media landscape and the help families need.

With these updated recommendations, AAP seems to be acknowledging what experts within AAP and beyond its membership have been saying for some time now: that all screen (aka digital or new) media is not the same, using screen media can be a positive experience and families need help (from media mentors perhaps?) navigating the wild west of screen media for children. The recommendations contain some of the same the messages found in earlier statements, but they are part of a broader package that incorporates the nuances that are part of the kids and screen media discussion. For example, in the 2013 policy statement, AAP states that screen media use with kids under 2 should be zero. In these latest recommendations, pediatricians will find suggestions for families like “Engage in using digital media together” and “Parenting strategies are the same across various environments, including screen media.”

When I was talking to a group of librarians-in-training recently about the AAP’s 2013 statement on media and kids as part of a presentation on Media Mentorship, I was asked a question that often comes up. One of the graduate students asked me “So how do you personally feel about using digital media with kids under 2?” I told her “It depends.” And it does. As Lisa Guernsey would say, it depends on the 3 C’s: content, context and the child. The recommendations and themes in the recently published symposium proceedings (and hopefully in a forthcoming updated AAP statement) seem to agree. While I think there are still gaps in the recommendations, for example some screen media can actually promote “conversation, play, and creativity” instead of just displace it, AAP is demonstrating its responsiveness to the rapidly changing world of screen media and its use by children and teens.

AAP continues to rely on research-based recommendations, but long term research, which I support, is slow for obvious reasons.  Researchers need time. Meanwhile digital media and its use by both kids and teens is happening and changing regardless, so how do we help families with their media needs and promote positive media use? With the recommendations in these proceedings, I think the AAP is giving pediatricians something positive to work with when they talk to families about their healthy digital media diet and reaffirms the importance of putting kids and teens first.

Isn’t this a great opportunity for Media Mentors (librarians) and pediatricians to create partnerships that support families?

Want to know more about Media Mentorship in the library? Check out these resources.

Welcome to the Digital Neighborhood: A Fred Rogers Center and Little eLit Digital Literacy Symposium

This week I’m on the East Coast and I had the pleasure of working with a group of innovative librarians and early childhood experts who all care about kids and supporting their families’ literacy needs. The league of media mentors just got bigger! Here is the Little eLit post about our collaboration.

Little eLit

This was a week of collaboration. Librarians and early childhood education experts teamed up in Harford County, Maryland, to talk with more than 80 librarians and educators as part of a grant from Comcast to expand the Harford County Public Library system’s digital literacy efforts. We had two goals: to talk about what’s new and what’s still true in the world of new media and young children, and to train librarians in their evolving role as media mentors. The successful training included Tanya Smith from the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media, Dorothy Stoltz and Kristen Bodvin from the Carroll County Public Library (Maryland), and myself, Claudia Haines, from the Homer Public Library (Alaska).

While in Harford County, Tanya and I also spent time with families of young children at the Abingdon and Bel Air branches to talk about what to consider when using digital media with young…

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AkLA 2015: Early Literacy & New Media for Young Children

For the past several days I’ve been at the annual Alaska Library Association conference in Juneau, Alaska. It’s my chance to catch up face to face with the other librarians around our vast state and learn a few things from this resourceful bunch.  (Juneau librarians turned books into these beautiful table centerpieces! Cool, huh?)

I was asked to present a pre-conference on new media and young children and here are the resources I shared. The 3 hour session was jam packed with great questions, ideas and enthusiasm. Thanks to everyone who attended!

First the slides from the pre-conference:

This second link is a resource list including references specifically for librarians/educators and others useful for parents/caregivers. The resource link also includes review sites and other online resources. Early Literacy & New Media for Young Children Resource List

Here are the apps we discussed and several others I wanted to share:

An iPad for Anytime Use Now in the Library

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Just last week, we finally made an iPad available for use in our modest-sized, but busy, children’s library! I’ve been using iPads in programs for almost two years now, but this is the first time we’ve had one for families to use anytime. The first week has seen regular play by kids, mostly in pairs or groups.  We’ll be adding another iPad to our Teen Space soon, but here are the ins and outs of managing our first mounted iPad.Friends Play With the Felt Board App

First of all, we chose the iPad, versus another device, for several reasons.

  • the App Store has by far the best selection of high quality apps at this point
  • the iPad screen is a great size for viewing toy and story apps as part of a pair or small group
  • the mounted iPad is one of several we received as part of a grant so apps can be shared with the other devices we use in programs
  • I am a savvy iPad user so installing an iPad was helpful because I am the primary manager of this device

We mounted the iPad horizontally on one of the few free walls in the space using a MacLocks Wall Mount. It is across the room from the desktop and AWE computers, and also on the other side of the children’s library from the space where families with young children most commonly sit and read together. It is, however, in clear site of the circulation desk through the windows that separate the children’s library. The iPad is actually nicely situated in amongst the stacks in a part of the space that needs a draw- the 900s, biographies, magazines and audiobooks- and the device may be another tool for broadening kids’ exploration. While kids may like these types of materials, the device is actually attracting them to a space they may not naturally gravitate towards when they visit the library.

One unexpected wrinkle we’ve been dealing with is charging the iPad. There is an outlet located right below the iPad, but it’s difficult to plug the charging cable into the device while the iPad is in the mount, which we were hoping to do. Since we don’t want to open the mount every night to charge the device, we decided to tuck the cord into the mount and leave the small square piece that goes in the outlet out of reach until it gets charged at night. We’re hoping that works.

Like other libraries we decided to offer one app at a time on the iPad. We don’t have the resources to switch out the app each day, but we are going to keep each app on the iPad for one week. The device is locked into the one app using Guided Access and prevents kids from accessing the settings or other content we want left alone. The one app method also has proven to help kids focus on the task at hand and self-regulate their digital media use. Once they are done exploring the app, they move on to another activity and allow other kids and families to have a turn. We don’t enforce time limits based on our experience with the AWE computers which targets a similar age group. Over time we found that AWE users rarely explored for more than 30 minutes and so we don’t feel the need to control their use.

Because this iPad is in our children’s library, we have chosen to focus on apps, both toy and story, that support early literacy among kids under 9. Will older kids test out the apps and even enjoy them? I have no doubt. In fact a group of 10-12 year olds giggled away as they told each other stories with the iPad this past week.Felt Board app and Older Kids

To select apps for the public iPad, in addition to apps I share in programs, I use the rubric I mentioned in an early post. The first app I added to the iPad was Software Smoothie’s Felt Board. It’s one of my favorites and it doesn’t use sound. While sound isn’t a deciding factor in what apps we’ll feature, we didn’t want to add much more background noise to the children’s library. It’s a non-shushing space, but after school the volume gets pretty loud with just a conversational level because of the number of people.

Every week I also add the App of the Week to my library’s Pinterest App of the Week board so family’s can find the apps we’ve previously recommended.

What’s up for next week? Toca Boca’s new Toca Kitchen 2, an updated version of Toca Kitchen. Here’s why:

Toca Kitchen 2 let’s kids play with pretend food and imaginary guests who respond to meals in silly, and sometimes surprising, ways. This is a toy, not a game with points, coins, or levels, and kids will delight in the freedom to create digital concoctions from the array of whole food items found in the kitchen’s fridge. Food can then be prepped, cooked, or juiced and fed to one of three culturally diverse guests (a woman, a man or a kitchen monster).
The mostly wordless app supports multi-touch and is easily enjoyed by friends or family members playing together. The app is free of 3rd party ads, links and in-app purchases.

Toca Kitchen 2 is currently only available on iOS. The special launch price is $.99. The app is great for ages 3-6, but older kids (and adults) may enjoy playing along also!