Children are drawn to technological tools. Children who have just begun to walk may try to press all the buttons in his or her home. When something is moving on a screen, they want to see what is happening. But just because they are attracted to it does not mean that they need it. Some parents are using their children’s innate interest in technology to replace active play. I believe that a child who begins using technology in school can become just as adept as one who has been using it since the early years. However, since technological “toys” are available, since they appeal to young children, and since so many parents are already using it, integrating it into our programs in a well-thought out way serves an important purpose. As educators, we can provide a model for parents to use technology with their children in age appropriate ways.
Mother Goose on the Loose is a research-based, musical, interactive storytime for children 0-3 and the people who love them which I developed that is structured on Barbara Cass-Begg’s Your Baby Needs Music. MGOL programs are fun-filled thirty minute interactive sessions that use rhyme, songs, puppets, musical instruments, and more to stimulate the learning process of babies and toddlers. Some librarians have asked about using technology in Mother Goose on the Loose programs. The answer is this: Technology handled with careful consideration, in moderation; in ways that fit in with the program’s intent and don’t overwhelm, that enhance but don’t replace, and that encourage parent/child interaction is appropriate for use in a Mother Goose on the Loose program.
The wider goals of Mother Goose on the Loose are focused on the caregivers. The program is geared toward educating them to feel comfortable interacting with their children in a nurturing environment. In Mother Goose on the Loose, the librarian is a facilitator rather than a performer. The goals of the facilitator are to encourage parents to be a child’s first and best teacher by modeling actions, giving them songs to sing, showing them how to use the tools available to them, and explaining how to access those tools at home or in other places outside of the library. This agenda can apply to the use of technology as well as to the use of books and musical props.
The technology does not replace the traditional literacy tools; it helps to expand and enhance what already exists. Here are a few examples.
- Summer Rosswog, presented programs for parents and babies at the Library of Congress Young Readers Center in Washington, DC. There was a smart board on a wall in the space that she used for programming. When singing a song about colors, she would use the smart board to show the color mentioned. If the song was about red, the entire smart board would be red. If the color in the song then switched to blue, the smart board would turn blue.
- Kerri Ann St. Jean searches for and finds songs from iTunes. She downloads them, makes a playlist on her iPod, and uses the songs during library programs. This is much easier than using the clunkier CD player.
- Eric, in one of the DC public libraries uses an iPad during his MGOL sessions. When singing about the sounds animals make, he also shows a photograph of the animal on his iPad and gives the children the opportunity to hear the sounds that each animal actually makes. The children are then invited to mimic the animal sounds. The children have the experience of hearing and making actual animal sounds rather than reciting words that represent animal sounds such as “Moo, moo, moo.”
- Michele Presley from Baltimore County Public Library created movements to go along with a jazzy version of “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe” from Toddlers Sing. Once the children had learned all the movements from weekly repetitions of the rhyme, Michele videoed them acting it out. When she played the video back to the program participants, she looked at the delighted children’s faces and saw how proud they were of themselves, calling out. “There I am!”
Appropriate use of technology in a program for children from birth to age three means that it is presented as part of the program, without replacing what is already successfully in place. Parents should always be reminded that children learn best when playing WITH the adult in their lives, and this applies to using technology tools as well. Parents should be reminded that technology tools should be accompanied by physical action and used as ways to encourage conversation. Until research is published regarding the effect of technology use on very young children, a limit of two to three nursery rhymes presented with technological tools should be adhered to in each MGOL session.
Recently, a free app for Mother Goose on the Loose with limited nursery rhymes was released with the intention of using it to enhance what is happening in MGOL programs. For instance, Mother Goose on the Loose is built on repetition. Nursery rhymes are repeated 80% of the time, but the way they are presented varies. This shows children that there can be different visual representations for the same item or idea, and allows the repetition to stay interesting. An app can provide one way of presenting the rhyme, but it would have to be in the context of multiple presentations using books, flannel board pieces, and other interactive games. Here is a possible sequence of events for using the rhyme “Jack be Nimble.”
- Recite the rhyme the first time and show an illustration from a nursery rhyme collection.
- During the next session, show a picture drawn by a different illustrator.
- The following session, have a flannel board piece of Jack jumping over a candlestick (or perhaps even two pieces with children being invited up to the flannel board to help Jack jump over his candlestick).
- Bring in candlestick and recite the rhyme. Invite the children to come up one at a time and jump over the candlestick. Request applause as each child completes the task. (For babies, bring the candlestick to each parent sitting in the circle and ask them to “jump” their baby over the candlestick with ensuing applause).
- Use colored scarves while reciting the rhyme. Hold the scarf in your lap and lift it in an arc over your head when Jack jumps over the candlestick.
- Recite the rhyme and bring your iPad around to each mom. Ask them to guide their child’s finger to help Jack jump over the candlestick. Give this developmental tip: “Parents are a child’s first and best teacher. Children thrive best when interacting with their parents in a joyful way. The age-appropriate way to use technology with young children is by making it a shared experience. Children are drawn to technology, but it only enhances their development as a healthy WHOLE child if it is used with their adult in a loving, interactive way.”
- Bring in enough empty toilet paper rolls and give one to each parent/child pair. Ask them to use their imaginations and pretend the toilet roll is a candlestick. Recite the rhyme and EVERYONE can jump over their own candlestick. Give a tip about extending the activity at home by playing “Jack be Nimble” with other small, safe objects.
- Shake chickitas while listening to a recording of “Jack Be Nimble” from a playlist on an iPod, iPad, or MP3 player.
- Use your imaginations. Recite the rhyme while everyone is standing up in a circle and JUMP when Jack jumps.
- Show another book illustration. Tell parents to substitute their child’s name in place of “Jack.”
In the above 10 examples, I have shown how technology can be a tool that can be used in programs such as Mother Goose on the Loose, as long as it is carefully implemented and explained.When used in this way, the use of new media adheres to NAEYC’s principle for technology use with very young children because it is hands-on, engaging, empowering, it gives the child control, and it also provides adaptive scaffolds to ease the accomplishment of tasks and is used as only one of many options that support children’s learning through the one nursery rhyme, “Jack be Nimble.”
- The Indianapolis Public Library presents Digital Littles, a technology-rich preschool storytime experience, on a regular basis. It includes laptops and a robotic dinosaur! Children enjoy extending their storytime experiences by drawing digital pictures related to a book featured in storytime using programs such as KidPix or Microsoft Paint.
- Michele Presley from Baltimore County Public Library hands out colored scarves while showing a video of Puff the Magic Dragon and leads the children in waving the scarves.
- By projecting images from the International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL- a database that contains picture books from around the world) onto a screen, Lauren Collen allows children to see small details in picture book illustrations that they might otherwise have missed. This enables children to decode storylines for themselves via the illustrations (especially in wordless books) and experience narrative skills long before they have learned to read words.
- Use Keynote to create story panels and scroll them across the screen as you are telling a story. The iPad becomes a Kamishibai Theatre.
- Use the ap “Fake a Bell” to make bell-like sounds children like.
Because I believe that there is value to including new media via technology in MGOL programs, but that it must be done in a carefully considered, sensitive manner, a new workshop called “Goose 2.0” which further explains and models these practices is now being offered. The traditional MGOL training is combined with technological expertise of librarian Cen Campbell, to create a dynamic, useful, hands-out workshop. Librarians are encouraged to experiment with new media (in moderation, of course) and to use developmental tips and modeling to show parents appropriate ways to share new media with young children.
In addition, since librarians are already wonderful resources for recommending books and helping families find information, they can also extend their role into one of a media adviser. Parents looking for apps for their children could benefit from knowledgeable librarians who could not only recommend good apps, but could also speak with parents about healthy media behavior with children.
As research continues and results are published this view may be modified. But I am excited to be take Mother Goose on the Loose into the 21st century through thoughtful and valuable use of technology and new media.