A look into how the Brooklyn Public Library has integrated littleBits to offer a tech program without needing a laptop or wifi.
Download Case Study PDF.
Andrea Vaughn Johnson has worked in children’s libraries for eighteen years and as Coordinator of School Age Services, plans Brooklyn Public Library’s Summer Reading program and other learning and literacy initiatives.
Who were the key people in your organization that made this project possible?
Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership (using Mozilla Open Badges in programming and expanding
How did you learn of littleBits and what made you decide to implement them?
We hosted a Maker Faire at our Central Library with Hive network members, and littleBits attended.
What really attracted me to littleBits was they allow us to offer a tech program without a laptop or wifi. We’re trying to expand our tech programming for youth but some of our locations do not have the equipment or wifi strength to offer technology programs to groups.
littleBits also has an appealing, kid-friendly look and using them is very intuitive!
Explain how you implemented littleBits into your program?
We start with a training workshop for our librarians before we send out kits to our 60 locations for programs. The first step was bringing them up to speed. Then a slow rollout to Teen Tech Time and Tween Tech Time at the Central Library – did an introduction, and demo, to allow them to explore.
Next step was to introduce a project idea. After being inspired by Paul Newman popcorn video, we had them animate an Einstein photo. Everyone really understood these concepts quickly. We then went to iterative art with the art bot project.
We also did an activity station during a Coder Dojo event on the weekends – 2-3 hours where people could drop in and explore and play with the modules.
That worked really well but drained the batteries. However I saw a lot of kids collaborating and helping one another – kids who had been playing a while would show new people what to do when they came up to the table.
What worked well?
It’s something that people can grasp quickly and work independently. The modules are very attractive to a broad age range and to both boys and girls.
littleBits makes STEM concepts accessible along with circuitry – budget-wise and tech-wise. We not only saw the kids get excited, but the staff were excited as well. We received comments like, “THAT WAS AWESOME!” from some of the kids.
It could work well to have a focused project with a discreet amount of Bits and take the focus off of open exploration.
What was a challenge?
– Keeping track of all the pieces! Creating a project where they have enough creativity with what they’ve been given.
– It’s important to provide a balance between giving students the freedom to experiment with a range of littleBits, but also to keep track of the pieces, and to guide students when they’re using too many at once.
– littleBits are a bit like glitter – kids are so attracted by them that they start to think that the more they have, the cooler their project will be.
– It’s useful to point out that often the more pieces there are, the less effective the circuit is.
What has been the response of your community?
First, they are enchanted with the look of the littleBits. Following that, I think there’s some relief and joy in the fact that they are so accessible to use and understand.
How would you summarize what you’ve learned in implementing your littleBits program?
littleBits are versatile in terms of programming. It’s easy to incorporate them into a very casual program where they’re put out to play and experiment with, but there is also such a range of projects to focus on, from crafts to robotics.
Did you upload any projects or lessons to our website?
No, but we used many of the projects uploaded for inspiration, and screened them during the programs as further inspiration.
What are your future plans for littleBits?
We are planning to use them in programming for a summer camp that visits the library and other cultural institutions in Brooklyn.
Each institution provides programming that reflects its unique nature, and we are going to host a mini Maker Fair involving Makey Makeys and littleBits.
We will also have a littleBits activity station at our June 5 Summer Reading kickoff event, which will be a science festival inside and outside the library. We would also like to incorporate them into our craft programs. The additional Sets purchased with grant funds will be shared among our librarians for programs in the branch libraries. We feel that programs like these highlight the library’s role in providing access to and education about emerging technologies.