Calling all children’s librarians…

…school media specialists, educators, and other assorted amazing folk who work to bring creativity, literature, technology, and information alive for children!  If you live in or around the tri-state area (NY/CT/NJ) and are interested in brainstorming about topics like book trailers, eBooks, podcasting, digital storytelling, and social media, then please join us for the

3rd Annual KidLib Camp

an Unconference at Darien Library

August 11, 2010


Perhaps you are wondering, “What the donuts is an unconference?”  Good question, my friend!  An unconference is kind of like an unbirthday!

Actually, no.  It’s not at all like an unbirthday.  But it is a chance for professionals to get together in a somewhat informal environment to talk about topics of interest.  Everyone who signs up to attend the unconference submits discussion topics they’d like to learn more about.  You can also volunteer to lead discussions on subjects of your choice.  Then, on the day of the unconference, we vote on which major discussions we’d like to have, and break up into smaller groups.  Every person is an active participant and has the opportunity to share their experience, skills, and thoughts.

Besides being a day of inspiring discussions, intense brainstorming, and true professional development, it is also a chance to meet other brilliant, creative, and funny children’s librarians!

To find out more and sign up, click here.


Vinci Tablet: Cool Idea, Terribly Irresponsible Marketing

Yesterday I came across the website for Vinci Tablet computers for children.  Initially I was excited to hear about an iPad-like device that comes equipped with a near-indestructable screen, is pre-loaded with games, and is designed with small hands in mind.  Sounds pretty cool.  After a bit of research on their website and after watching a few YouTube demos, I was somewhat appalled to discover that the company is marketing their product to babies ages zero to three.

It is well-documented that children under the age of two should not have screen time.  According to numerous studies, screen time (including both television and computer games) can have negative effects on the social, emotional, and language development of young children.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies and toddlers under two receive no screen time whatsoever.  So, why is the Vinci Tablet company marketing a touch-screen computer to parents of infants?

For the preschool set and up, I think the Vinci Tablet has some very interesting possibilities (particularly in library and educational settings.) I take strong issue, however, with this product being pushed to babies.

Perhaps the most ridiculous rationale comes in the video below around the 2:05 mark.

The interviewer asks the sales rep, “What is the purpose of the Vinci Tablet?”  The sales rep responds that it is “To teach babies curiosity, first and foremost.” Whew.  Thank goodness someone is addressing the problem of aloof and indifferent one-year-olds.  Seriously?  A touch screen computer to “teach” babies to be curious about the world around them? Babies and toddlers are nothing if not little bundles of pure curiosity.  In fact, natural curiosity is the very essence of childhood!  And it is that natural curiosity that allows baby brains to develop, absorb language, decipher facial cues, learn to recognize familiar voices, and integrate into the social fabric of their environment.

While the Vinci Tablet is a very cool idea for slightly older children, the claim that it will help toddlers “develop skills and build confidence” flies in the face of all known research on the subject and amounts to incredibly irresponsible marketing.

Putzin Around with Voicethread

So today we had an awesome tech workshop with library goddess Linda Braun.  We experimented with some cool 2.0 tools like Audacity and Jing.  So many possibilities!

We also played around with VoiceThread, my new favorite toy.  The idea, at least the way I see it, is to foster a sense of community through conversation in which anyone can be a participant.  You can create a slideshow of sorts using photos and/or videos and layer on narration and text.  What’s so cool about VoiceThread is that once you save and make public your creation, other users can view and comment on it.  Comments can be uploaded and displayed as text or voice files.  It’s one of those things you just have to see and experience.

So! I putzed around and created a very simple voicethread using Flickr’s Creative Commons search and some free association.  Here are my results (and please comment, add, suggest, laugh, deride- that’s the whole idea):

my experiment

Baby LoJack and Teen Surveillance: Can (Should) Technology Replace Good Parenting?


Adorable baby photo courtesy of Flickr user //endless

So, I happened to catch one of those sanctimonious Duracell commercials in which having a pair of double A batteries saves the world from blowing up, prevents a small child from falling down a glass-shard-encrusted well, or some such nonsense.  This particular commercial depicted a mom spending an afternoon in the park with her children.  Mom turns around for a millisecond and little Timmy is gone.  But not to panic!  Mom has a Brickhouse Child Locator System (powered, of course, by Duracell).

Using GPS technology, little Timmy is equipped with a homing tag (at present this is an external device that can be worn or stored in a pocket or backpack) and his mom has the Locator which beeps faster as the homing tag gets nearer.  Crisis averted. lojack2

I was curious about this Child Locator system (which I fondly like to think of as “Baby LoJack”) so I checked out the website of the makers: Brickhouse Security.  They have some interesting products for “child safety”: hidden nanny cams (one looks just like an air purifier, another is disguised as an alarm clock), a GPS teddy bear, and bulletproof backpacks! Who are these kids’ parents?  Jack Bauer?

But then I found their “Teen Tracking” product line (“As seen on Fox News!”).  Get a load of this:

Sex, Drugs & Reckless Driving. Teen Tracking will put you as parents back in control. Sleep peacefully while your daughter or your son is out, monitoring their movements. Your children are counting on you to keep them safe.

Wanna know what you kid is text-messaging?  No problem!  Get a Cell Phone Spy Data Extractor.

Worried that Cindy Ann and her new bf are making out in your station wagon?  Put the kibosh on that with a CarCam Voyager.  Over 8 hours on one video card!

Wanna know if Johnny is really at baseball practice but don’t want to, you know, ask him?  Say no more!  Brickhouse’s got you covered.  Slip one of their Super PocketTrack Covert GPS Tracker pens into his (bulletproof) backpack!

Not quite invasive enough for you?  Why don’t you attach a Brickhouse Key Logger to his computer?  See over 64,00 keystrokes- even passwords!

Think Annie is lying to you?  Do you suspect that she is having premarital sex?  Don’t sit down and have a frank, heart-to-heart, mother-daughter talk!  And there is certainly no need to place any trust in your teen.  Technology is here for you!  Try Brickhouse’s Portable Lie Detector!  It can analyze any voice in person or on the phone.  And best of all, it has super cute graphics: “the Demon icon’s nose and horns grow when someone tells a lie.”  Nice touch!

Still have doubts?  Why not make like a CSI and invest in a Brickhouse Semen Detector?  (No, seriously.)

It’s a brave new world, huh?