When Leanne Bowler was working as a public librarian in Canada in the early 90s, she witnessed something extraordinary happening at the brand-new computer stations: a toddler, in crinkly diapers, climbed up onto the stool, placed her finger on the left-click button of the mouse, and began to navigate the screen.
“It was absolutely paradigm changing for me to see a baby know intuitively what was going on with that computer. My curiosity was piqued!” Now, on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences, Bowler studies the ways children interact with technology and digital literature.
Her course “Technology in the Lives of Children and Youth” has won a national award as it explores ways to use technology to encourage learning in non-formal environments. Bowler’s coursework teaches Master of Library Science students to set and reach objectives for childhood literacy in new media, whether that means guiding interactions with parents or (more recently) exploring the technical environment where cyber-bullying is happening.
Bowler, as part of the Kids+Creativity Network, has begun pilot studies to observe children’s experiences with cyber-bullying and hopes to examine technology design as a potential way to halt such behavior. Bowler says, “I want to understand what happens, technologically speaking, that does or does not allow young people to reflect before they act.”