Wednesday, May 13, 2015

New Media Sprouts at Lester Public Library in Two Rivers

A parent plays the "Alien Assignment" app with her kids.
A parent plays the "Alien Assignment" app with her kids. 
Guest Post

My journey to incorporating New Media into early literacy programming began at the 2014 Growing Wisconsin Readers Early Literacy Symposium. During the symposium there was much discussion about new media and young children and I began thinking that it was something I wanted to try at my library. Of all the things discussed that day one thing really took root “adults can be afraid of “breaking” technology, can be afraid to look like they don’t know what they are doing with technology and often don’t like it when kids know more about it than they do.” 

While that is not a direct quote it was certainly something that was brought up and described some of my worries. I often think that I can only do programs if I understand than implicitly and quite frankly, it is hard to keep up.

After the Symposium I went to my director and told him I wanted to explore purchasing iPads for our library to use in youth programming.  He said yes and then as luck would have it, a donor came forward with the funds to make it happen. I purchased one.

And then my forward progress stopped, I started to worry again, “How do I maintain multiple iPads? What if a child breaks one? How do I know what to put on them? What if one gets stolen? What if a child takes one and gets into horrible things online while using one? Not all staff at my library thinks we should do it, how do I turn them around?”

A fleet of new iPads at the Lester Public Library.
A fleet of new iPads at the Lester Public Library.
So I put off buying them and decided to wait until the stars aligned just right.

The opportunity to participate in the New Media Training arose and I immediately applied. The stars aligned and it was AMAZING! I discovered that I was not the only one who was letting my fears get the best of me. I came back to the library brimming with ideas and ordered 10 iPads within a week.

I set them up by myself (1 day of work) and have used them in 3 programs so far.

I have used them in a 4k story time, a school-aged math program and a family STEAM night program.

Here is what I discovered:
Math Club participants use the "Curious Ruler" app.
  • Kids were willing to learn with me. In fact I used an engineering app that I couldn’t even solve after the first two puzzles. The kids solved puzzle after puzzle. It didn’t matter.  I just provided the tool and let them go.
  • Using new media can enrich the type of programs I am already doing, it doesn’t need to replace them. 
  • Parents are looking for guidance and suggestions about apps and how to use them with their children and now I have suggestions to give them.
  • Kids still want to do the non-technology parts of the program too.
  • Kids have dirty fingers and iPads don’t melt in front of your eyes because of it.
  • Even though I still have a lot to learn I can learn it as I go.

Finally, I discovered that librarians are amazing and are always willing to share ideas, struggles and solutions so JUMP IN and give it a try!

Post and photos by:
Terry Ehle, Youth Services Coordinator
Lester Public Library