While the use of modern technology can still be contentious in libraries, by now many of us feel comfortable with or at least accept the existence of modern technology in libraries. One fear many of us still have is the problem of youngsters becoming isolated users of devices. We encourage parent interaction, but we certainly can’t force it. We can, however, provide contexts that encourage not only parent interaction, but co-play among the children.
On the floor play:
Children’s librarians have long been champions of play and its merits. Most of us probably have some sort of play on the public floor of our children’s spaces, and we often see this resulting in unexpected play partners and friendships. We might hesitate to put screen or other technology in public places, for fear it will encourage solo play or detract from imaginative play. If you’re using screen technology, limit the apps you put on the devices. You’ll prevent them from spending too much time on the device. Tether them to a table and place them in the middle of the play space to increase group interaction. You’ll be surprised by how many kids end up playing together and talking about what they’re playing.
Don’t have enough funds to get a device for every attendee of your tech program? No problem! They might be spending a bit less time personally using the device, but they will learn valuable lessons about community and technology. In our Cubetto robot programs, each robot sometimes had 8 people working with it. They worked together to program Cubetto to follow the storyline they made up together. You’ll also reinforce that technology is just a tool, not the main focus. In our Digital Camp programs, where children and their caregivers learned basic tablet and computer skills, kids learned to use a tablet by carrying out various activities. The focus was always on the reason for the tablet, not on the tablet itself. Kids carried out a group scavenger hunt where they took turns taking pictures of their findings using the tablet. Because they needed to take turns, the kids didn’t zero in on the tablet, but rather on the task of hunting down the items on their list.
It’s OK To Use Rudimentary Technology:
So often, we think of technology as the most modern iterations of computing. But it’s important to remind families that technology can be anything we have created as a tool to solve a problem. Choose technology for programming in your library that encourages hands-on group problem solving. Items like the Rigamagig often requires group work, as well, because of its size. Encouraging group play at the library in this context will encourage it in all library play.
Embed Librarians by the Play:
Lastly, don’t be shy to be a part of the play. Spend time throughout the day interacting with families playing in your library. Demonstrate group play behaviors. Ask the children questions as they play, make suggestions, and talk to them about other library materials that might interest them. This is also a great way to make sure families understand the value of play and technology in the library.
Do you have any tips for encouraging group interaction with technology at the library? Share them in the comments!