Blogger Children and Technology Committee

Teach Me Something Fun: Media Mentorship and Online Learning

“Libraries are about access, and we need to step up to provide ALL TYPES OF ACCESS.”
–Amy Koester, ALSC Blog, Our Future Includes EBooks #alamw13, January 24, 2013

Online learning is a topic that deserves more focus.  Normally, in my conversations about electronic resources, the attention is mainly on ebooks or databases. Libraries, as informal and self directed centers of learning, have been concentrating more on online learning, and it is obvious we need to remember children in this movement as well. Yet when I did a quick and informal survey of library websites, I see much work and time has been spent by libraries on evaluating and recommending online learning sites, and some libraries have even created their own. Through media mentorship, we can draw both our young patrons and their caregivers to the many online learning products, free and paid for, that we subscribe to, find, evaluate, and list on our websites.

Three children laying on bean bags looking at their tablets.

Language Learning is a good example of an area that has a few good choices for children’s librarians.  Not everyone can afford to send their children to a bilingual private school or afford after school language classes.  But, if a library or a consortium subscribes to resources like Little Pim or Muzzy Online, many children can have basic instruction in some of the most popular languages for learning as well as ESL courses.  Little Pim is a popular language learning video company that partnered with Mango Languages to bring online access to public libraries.  Muzzy Online is quite similar, and was created by the BBC as part of their regular programming for children.

Scholastic Flix online learning products are a good mixture of text coupled with interactive games, quizzes, and streaming videos on a wide range of topics.  The main selections in this set are BookFlix (Weston Woods films paired with nonfiction books from Scholastic’s nonfiction series), ScienceFlix, FreedomFlix (American History), and TrueFlix (based on Scholastic’s True Book series).  In ScienceFlix, there are over 20 short videos that demonstrate easy to do science projects.  What I liked about these videos is that they make a rather daunting task like a science project seem simple to accomplish–for parents and kids alike.

BrainPop is an interactive online learning subscription that has games, quizzes, and videos on science, social science, and history topics.  Check out some of their free content to get a sense of their style and online approach; I particularly enjoyed this section on Mars.

Some libraries themselves are creating their own online learning opportunities for patrons.  Hennepin County Public Library puts up videos of fingerplays for parents and children to watch. Multnomah County teaches spanish songs for children on their website.  Los Angeles Public Library has a wonderful page called Full STEAM Ahead: Fun with Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math.  The librarians at LAPL have done a solid job of collecting the best of online STEAM related sites for kids.  It is there that I first read about Hour of Code.  There seems to be increased potential for these sorts of programs and I think media mentorship could be quite expanded with libraries creating and posting online video tutorials on popular electronic resources.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library has created Story Place: The Children’s Digital Learning Library.  It is a clever mix of online stories in which students have to click to progress the story, mixed with song and takeoffs on popular nursery rhymes.  Following each story is a choice of online activities.  Check out Clyde’s Smile, the story of a crocodile who loses his tooth in the river and all his animal friends who help him.  Characters’ speech is accompanied by text balloons, so students can listen and read along.  There are activities like 5 Hungry Crocs, in which children have to listen to the instructions or read them on the screen to help all five hungry crocodiles eat.  There is a Spanish version of the site as well.

screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-9-46-56-pm Online Learning for 0-5

For free online learning resources, check out some of the following which seemed to be popular among children’s librarians across the country:

  • Of course there is Khan Academy: the online classroom for kids 5 to 99 years old.  They have partnered with organizations like NASA, MIT, and the Museum of Modern Art to put together exercises and instructional videos on topics in art history, science, math, programming.
  • With National Geographic Kids, children can watch a range of nonfiction topical videos during which they are asked questions about what they are seeing or what they think.  I enjoyed the lesson on ‘Do You Have a Sixth Sense?” which looked at memory and perception.
  • The folks at PBS behind PBS Kids Labs have created a fun mix of games and lessons on math and reading.
  • Code Monster is an interactive tutorial for kids on how to code put out by the people at Crunchzilla.  It is light hearted and “gently” tries to convey the basic principles and techniques behind coding.
  • ABCMouse.com is mainly a subscription based service, and has free content for libraries. It is devoted to presenting a basic online curriculum to help children from ages 2 to 7 with reading.

Most of these sites are probably well known by many children’s librarians.  In the comments below, please share any programming or outreach or promotion you do that focuses on online learning.  Please share any recommendations for any sites or subscriptions services I may have overlooked in this post.

Michael Santangelo is the Assistant Director of Acquisitions for BookOps, the shared technical services department for the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library, and the current chair of ALSC’s Children and Technology Committee.

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