It can be easy to feel overwhelmed with choices when it comes to the ever changing world of technology, but part of the fun can be exploring the fun, new gadgets and toys that come out! By speaking with other youth services librarians, keeping in touch via social media, and sharing our work, I’ve discovered that the task of keeping up with the next big thing becomes a little easier. Here at my library I touched base with two of our tech-savvy Children’s Librarians, Kristine Lee and Heather Tuck-Macalla, to see what tech they’ve used for successful programming and more. Below you can find some recommended games, gadgets and program ideas that have been a hit for us here at Rocky River Public Library. We’ve tried these out in the past year and think they successfully encourage thoughtful play and learning at home and in the library!
Snap Circuits: Snap Circuits and Snap Circuits Jr. are building kits that teach kids concepts of electricity. We have four original kits that we’ve used in multiple programs with a variety of ages. Our tweens have tinkered with the kits in our after-school maker-based program,”Freestyle Hangout”, led by Ms. Heather. First, second, and third graders have also experimented with the kits in my STEAM focused program, “Imagination Lab”, during a session focused on electricity. You can create over 300 projects with one kit and the instruction guide walks you through projects step by step.
Robot Turtles: This is technically an old fashioned board game, but it teaches some fresh new skills to little ones. Launched on Kickstarter, this game is geared towards 3-8 year olds and teaches the concepts of programming through (you guessed it) robot turtles! We keep this game out in our play area for families to pull out and use as they please, and it well used.
Hour of Code: Hour of Code is a great way to lead a coding program at your library if you aren’t sure where to start. Ms. Heather and Ms. Kristine have had a very positive response here when offering this program, and feel that the usage of licensed characters (such as Anna and Elsa from Disney’s Frozen) can help entice reluctant participants to get involved.
Paper Circuits: By combining a classic crafting material like paper with new materials like surface-mount LEDs and coin cell batteries, you can create really cool projects that are great for multiple age groups. This is another project that both Ms. Heather and I have used successfully for middle-grade and elementary students. Using a very simple circuit design the younger kids learned about electricity and circuits, while the older kids enjoyed creating light-up valentines. Stick with the copper tape on this though, we found the conductive paint to not work as well.
Ozobot: Although we haven’t had our new Ozobot featured in a library program quite yet, we are very excited about our new tiny robot! Using special colored markers, the Ozobot will follow the lines you draw and react differently based on the color combinations and sequencing. As an added bonus, the website has a plethora of ready-to-use lesson plans for educators and would be a good choice for exploring ideas of robotics and programming with school-age children.
Looking for more ideas? Some sites we love to check include the Children’s Technology Review; Nicole Henning’s Blog; Modern Parents Messy Kids; and of course ALSC resources like this sweet blog. Have you tried any new tech-related programs, devices or toys? Let us know in the comments! Sharing ideas is a great way to stay up to date and in the loop when it comes to tech success in the library.
Nicole Lee Martin is a Children’s Librarian at the Rocky River Public Library in Rocky River, OH and is writing this post for the ALSC Children and Technology Committee. You can reach her at email@example.com.