All my synapses were firing at the 2017 ALSC Charlemae Rollins President’s Program today. At this program, titled Plugging into the Digital Age: Libraries Engaging and Supporting Families with Today’s Literacy, three experts presented the latest research on digital technology, how it relates to childhood development and childhood literacy, and how librarians can use this information to become more effective media mentors for both kids and adults.
The program opened with Sarah Lytle from the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington. Using research-based data, Lytle clearly explained what we know about what, when, and how kids are able to learn from screens and why it is important. She offered two broad lessons based on this research:
- Let the screens be the tool and not the teacher In other words, it’s important to incorporate social interaction as the screen is being used.
- We know how children learn. These lessons also apply to screens. We know that kids learn best when they are actively involved, they are engaged, it is socially interactive, and it is meaningful. We need to proactively think about this as kids use screens.
Lytle also offered information about what content helps learning:
- familiar characters (like Elmo or Dora)
- songs (to help get kids up & moving and to aid in memorization)
- audience participation (directing a question at the user and pausing several beats to wait for an answer)
- repetition (like Blue’s Clues)
Encouraging the practice of guarding against “tools becoming teachers” Lytle explained that the use of “talking toys” leads to fewer back-and-forth interactions, fewer parent words, fewer child words, and fewer content specific words. But, she stressed, we CAN integrate media in a way that is good and helpful; it just should be very intentional.
Two other presenters also shared insights.
Chip Donohue of the Technology in Early Childhood Center, Erikson Institute encouraged each of us to be aware of adult behavior with media in front of children and to help parents feel empowered to be mindful as they use media. When in doubt about the use of media by kids, we were encouraged to think of the three Cs: Content, Context, and Child.
Lisa Regalla of the Center for Childhood Creativity was the third presenter. She spoke of the importance of guided play, in which kids are in control of what happens next as well as how to respond. Examples would be the beneficial aspects of playing games in co-operative or creator modes as well as media which involves “face to face” time with friends and family. She offered the example of kids playing Minecraft which allows and encourages:
- spatial and problem solving skills
- decision making skills
This was a valuable session about how librarians can enhance their important role as digital media mentors to both children and adults. Thanks to ALSC Past President Betsy Orsburn, and also to program co-chairs Christopher Brown and Linda Ernst for this opportunity to grow as media mentors.