Incorporating digital elements into story time has been a popular topic this year. There were two sessions on the topic at the California Library Association's annual conference as well as a session on story time apps at the Association of Rural and Small Libraries conference.
We also had an incredible turnout for our November Every Kid Ready to Read: Tech Tools for Early Literacy webinar.
We were lucky enough to have two esteemed guest speakers for this webinar:
- Tanya Smith shared research-based recommendations published by the Fred Rogers Center and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
- Lori Crocker (Douglas County Libraries, Colorado) gave practical examples of how to bring technology into library story times.
I thought I'd share some of the top tips for making story time go tech from the sessions I attended as well as from our excellent webinar.
1. Study Up on Early Learning and Children's Media
Tanya opened up the webinar by providing a little history of the Fred Rogers Center (you know, Mr. Rogers!) as well as its mission statement:
"Staying true to the vision of Fred Rogers, we help children grow as confident, competent, and caring human beings."
One of the ways the center does this is by providing workshops and resources for parents and educators on incorporating technology into lesson plans. Tanya walked us through the center's position on incorporating technology into early childhood education, which was co-written with the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Before planning your digital story time, take a few minutes to look through the Fred Rogers Center's website and familiarize yourself with the Early Learning Environment (also known as the Ele). This is a free online toolkit in early language literacy and media literacy for teachers, families, librarians, and other educators. Tanya also recommended checking out the Erikson TEC Center.
2. Use Technology to Enhance — Not Replace — Traditional Learning Materials
One of the center's key messages regarding young children and technology is as follows:
"When used intentionally and appropriately, technology and interactive media are effective tools to support learning and development."
In other words, if you can do a program or a lesson without technology, then do it! But if that lesson or program can be enhanced in some way with technology, it doesn't hurt to try it out.
It will not only make your lesson or program more exciting, it will also provide children with more information. However, the use of technology for education needs to be a thoughtful process: think through how you're using it, why you're using it, and if it's appropriate.
3. Get Equipped
Lori shared that the Douglas County Library started doing digital story times when it got a streaming media device. The staff connected the library's Apple TV to a monitor, which displayed content from a mobile device, such as a tablet. You can see Lori's illustration below:
One solid piece of advice I've heard from multiple librarians is to swap in only one digital element when you're first getting started.
If you've never used Apple TV or a media streaming advice, your first digital story time session is not the time to start! If you're comfortable using a certain tablet, however, you should start with that.
4. Select Apps as You Would Select Books
When searching and selecting apps to use for story time, use the same level of discernment you'd use when picking out a book. Lori recommends using the following criteria:
- Purpose: What is the purpose, and how does it connect to the story?
- High-quality app developers: Find out which developers make early education apps, and determine which ones you like. Lori recommends Duck Duck Moose, Nosy Crow, Originator, and Fox & Sheep.
- Descriptions: Read the apps' descriptions, and see if they have YouTube videos of the app in action.
- Reviews: This gives you an idea of how people use the app and what they think of it.
- Price: Pretty self-explanatory!
5. Practice Makes Perfect (or Almost Perfect!)
Get comfortable with the equipment you're using, and do multiple run-throughs of every app you plan to use. If something isn't working multiple times, don't use it!
Another useful tip: practice transitions. If you're moving from the book to an app and then back to the book, make sure that it flows smoothly. And what if you mess up? Just keep moving, and don't make a big deal out of it.
6. Prepare a Statement
You should be prepared in case a parent or guardian questions why you're using technology in story time. Lori recommends having a "statement" prepared to help them understand how technology is beneficial in story time. She recommends introducing the app, explaining its purpose, and connecting it to early literacy practices.
Tanya advised that rather than tell parents what to do with technology, show them how you can engage children with it through example.
- Fred Rogers Center (Saint Vincent University)
- TEC Center (Erikson Institute)
- Position Statement on Technology and Young Children (NAEYC/FRC)
- Lisa Guernsey
- The Joan Ganz Cooney Center
- ELE (Early Learning Environment)
- Little eLit
- CommonSense Media
- Digital Storytime
- Reading Eggs Donation Page
Image 1: Chandler Public Library / CC:BY
Image 2: Screencap from webinar