As one of the early education committee members for my library, my work life has seen an uptick with early education information. Most recently, I went to a wonderfully educational seminar held at the Microsoft Conference Center in Mountain View. The conference was titled: Early Learning in the Digital World: A Silicon Valley Discussion. The discussion was moderated by Lisa Guernsey, author of two very popular books regarding screen time and young children.
Guest speakers included Michael H. Levine of the Joan Gantz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, Seeta Pai of Common Sense Media, Karen Lien of Imagine K12, Phil Vahey of SRI International Center for Technology and Learning and Rafael Lopez, Senior Policy Advisor at the White House.
To say that this was an enlightening experience would be an understatement. The discussion was educational and motivational. It confirmed for me that my library system is going down the right path with trying to figure out how to incorporate technology learning in the children’s space at the library. It motivated me as a children’s librarian, for the work that I do with children and although I play a rather small role in their lives, the role I do play is just as important as any other interaction they have in their lives.
I would sum up the entire presentation with these key points:
- Much has changed in the technological world. We can no longer make blanket statements about all screen time being bad for children.
- Focus on the whole child (0 to8 years old)
- Focus on the 3 C’s when engaging your young child in media
Content – what is on the screen?
Context – How is it being used? Is it background noise, is it a co-viewing experience?
Individual Child – Each child is different and has different needs.
- The use of educational media in a young child’s life is ubiquitous across incomes. Everyone wants to educate and give their child an advantage.
- There is a digital gap. The wealthy can afford these digital advantages. Even something as basic as wi-fi can be a hindrance for some families.
- Most educational apps are marketed for preschools and the largest volume focus on alphabet sounds and letter recognition. We know that there is so much more to literacy and learning beyond the alphabet. Phonics tend to be a big issue for new readers.
- We need to look at the whole child, and from a birth to 8-year old span. If a child isn’t reading at grade level by 3rd grade, the educational gap will only get larger. This increase the risks for dropping out, for decreased literacy skills and for a less successful future. Prison space in the United States is based on the number of young boys who are not at reading level by 3rd grade.
Michael Levine made a point that most teachers know that they should be doing something more with technology in their classrooms. The biggest hesitation comes with not knowing what to do with these tools. There is also very little transparency into the expertise that went into these app creations. It’s a very frustrating and daunting process for parents and teachers when looking for educational resources for their young children. All of the presenters made it a point to push for librarians as allies, as partners for this digital literacy and mentoring. As a librarian, I’m still trying to figure out our role in this dynamic. Although we should be, and relatively are, aware of the technology out there, how do we incorporate that into library programming and collections? Is it as simple as having pre-loaded tables for families to check out? Is that not enough? Where do we go and how far can we go with this? So much of what we do relies on what is done or needed at our locals and community centers. That teacher-librarian feedback and communication is so key towards fixing this gap, but its a gap that remains because of the lack of communication between these two entities in districts around the state.