STEM: All Hands on Tech – The Best of School Age Tech @ Your Library!

Kristin Staff Image

At Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh we continually evaluate the ways we can integrate technology into our libraries and communities. Of course using and learning a new technology is fun and really allows the Library staff to be creative in curriculum development for their programs. We use a variety of information to review technology using sites like Common Sense Media, a resource for parents and educators; School Library Journal and much more to research fun tech to use in our literacy and learning programs. Combining this with guiding work like NAEYC’s technology position statement and our role as media mentors, we feel confident that the technology children access in our libraries is fun, developmentally appropriate, and supports children in exploring their interest and growing into lifelong learners.

We were early adopters of tablets like the iPad in our educational efforts. All of our 19 locations have iPads and computers available in their children’s sections for use inside the space. These iPads may be used in programs to support storytelling or creativity. Some of our locations guide children in computer science through coding with apps like Scratch and Scratch Jr.Hopscotch and Daisy the Dinosaur. We take media use research seriously, and we’re able to recommend apps and screen time resources for children of all ages.

A child explores the Sphero robot.

Learning with technology is better with friends…especially exciting robotic friends!  Children’s spaces have Robotics and Coding kits for all of our staff to use in programs or sometimes by request. Check out a STEM Super Science or All Hands on Tech program and you may find yourself having fun with a Sphero SPRK educational robot. This spherical robot has learning potential for all ages. Preschoolers can drive around the robotic balls to make them paint using a tablet or phone, or have them swim in a water table. Tweens can create stunts and mazes to navigate using the block based coding lessons in the app. Even adults can explore language based coding using the Sphero. Sphero SPRKs are a staff and child favorite!

The charming Dot and Dash have made an appearance in some of our locations as well. Dot and Dash are robots that learn to interact with each other with your help. They do everything from teaching coding to playing the xylophone. The learning potential is vast, and Dot and Dash’s humorous banter are a great motivator with activities supporting a variety of ages. In other programs kids can actually build robots using materials like Hummingbird kits. Or they can build digital games with the assistance of Makey Makey or Bloxels. New additions to our robot friends in 2019 included Edison Robots and Lego’s Coding Express. Playing helps children developed the critical learning skills that will be essential as they grow. STEM can happen with or without tech and we feel confident we can help find the resources to best engage your learners. Check out some of our STEM book lists to engage in conversation about technology in their lives.

We let children’s interests guide our activities and ideas. This concept inspired our Teenspace Labs programs. Labs programs are a chance for teens to hang out, mess around and geek out! We believe this learning pathway applies to school age children as well, and children’s spaces often lead making, tinkering and inventing programs. From hand sewing, green screens and experimental electronic instruments, we provide tools for creativity that may be “tech free” as well. Programs that include fabric dyeing, microscopes, cool building materials, sculpting and slime, are just a few examples! Check in with your local children’s librarian and ask about Super Science and All Hands on Tech programs, as well as other opportunities to explore new and old technology along with books, to create and learn something awesome!

A display of books and robots.

Kristin is the Digital Learning Lead Librarian at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. She enjoys embroidery and strong female protagonists! When not corralling robots at the Library you will find her hanging out with her dogs Iggy and Fritz.