“Digital Play for Global Citizens” as a Framework for a Family Engagement Workshop at the Library

This summer, Oak Park Public librarians Anne Bensfield and Naomi Priddy hosted two workshops inspired by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center’s Digital Play for Global Citizens guide.

As Multicultural Learning Librarian, Naomi manages the Multicultural Collection, a circulating collection of books and artifacts from around the world. Her goals are to create opportunities to explore different cultures, invite learners to reflect on their own identities and cultural lenses, and ultimately to build intercultural empathy.  Anne’s work as the Children’s Digital Learning Librarian includes initiatives that spark digital inclusion in the community and in the library. Naomi and Anne combined their expertise to highlight digital tools from the library’s collections in addition to the tools in the guide.

Photo Credit: © Oak Park Public Library 2018

These family engagement workshops were designed for caregivers with kids between the ages of 7 and 12. The families who attended the workshops with their elementary school-aged children gave overwhelmingly positive feedback. Each digital resource we presented drew more and more attention and excitement. Families told us they planned to explore the tools at home—family members all had different favorites! It was great to hear them collaborating as well as sharing their background knowledge and experiences of the places they had “visited” virtually. After the first session, one of the attendees promoted the event on social media, saying “We are so lucky to have these awesome programs in our community.”

Photo credit:© Oak Park Public Library 2018

In addition to running this program again for families, we plan to offer the resources and information sessions to teachers in the elementary and middle school district. Students within the district have a 1:1 technology ratio with iPads and Chromebooks, and teachers are always looking for enriching materials to share with students.

We used the format below to organize our workshops, and offer these suggestions to other libraries or organizations that might want to run a similar program based on the guide.

  • Open with an icebreaker to warm up geographic imagination. We started by asking families to locate a place on a physical map to which they would like to travel, or had enjoyed traveling to in the past. This got their geographic muscles warmed up, and gave us a great launching point for their next task: researching a specific place using our library databases.
  • Structure the workshop so that activities build on each other. Digital Play for Global Citizens creates a natural narrative for skill-building, starting from identity development all the way out to analyzing global systems. We used this outline to structure our program.
  • Set up hands on-learning with room for assistance. We limited the size of our workshops so that the two of us could provide personal support launching the different apps and websites. Each family had access to a device.
  • Take time to highlight your library’s resources. In addition to sharing apps and websites from the publication, we took time to highlight library databases, our world languages collection, and artifacts from the Multicultural Collection.
  • Collect and reflect. We asked attendees to complete a survey sharing their favorite tools. The biggest hits were: AtoZ World Cultures, Ayiti, Google Expeditions, Geoguessr, and Kids Listen. The families shared with us that they planned to use the new tools at home, even after completing the workshop.

Photo credit: © Oak Park Public Library 2018

Finally, this is a link to the library brochure that we created— it covers of a mix of digital media and is used regularly for digital advisory at the library to help families, especially when it comes to families looking for more cultural awareness and language development resources.


Learn more about Digital Play for Global Citizens.



© Liz Farina Markel / Tipping Point Photography

Anne Bensfield is the Digital Learning Librarian at the Oak Park Public Library, where she sparks initiatives to support digital inclusion in the community and in the library. Her technology-focused professional development workshops on emerging technologies have been featured by the American Library Association, Illinois Library Association, and School Library Journal. She received her Masters of Library and Information Sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Online in Digital Libraries and in Youth Services. Twitter: @annebensfield

Naomi Priddy is the Multicultural Learning Librarian at Oak Park Public Library, where she manages a collection of books and artifacts from around the world. She has worked as a classroom teacher and museum educator. She received her Masters of Information in Library Science and Archives and Records Management from University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Instagram: @mc_librarian

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