New year, new project: evaluating apps for kids

apps for kidsThe holidays are officially over, and chances are good that a bunch of your library customers have shiny new tablets and electronic devices at home. If you haven’t already started, now is a great time to start curating a collection of apps for kids – apps you can recommend to help develop traditional and media literacy skills; apps that can be used for library programs or one-on-one with parents and children.

Cen has made a great case on this blog and elsewhere for libraries providing these services to parents and children.  The fact is, kids are using these devices whether we like it or not. It’s not about whether we should encourage their use, but about helping the parents and kids who are already using them to use them wisely, to select good resources and to integrate them as part of a balanced media diet. It’s a very natural extension of what we do with books and other “traditional” media. And in some ways it’s even more important: app stores don’t let you “try before you buy” so parents are flying blind, using a few screenshots and customer reviews of <ahem> varying quality in order to make purchasing decisions. It’s a perfect place for libraries to step in and fill a need.

I think it’s a great idea to have resource lists for parents. I suggest having both a printable list you can hand out and a page on your library website that they can bookmark on their tablet device with links to recommended apps by age/device, etc. List any apps that you’re using in storytimes or programs, but also have a list of additional great apps and ebooks that parents and kids can use together at home.

But how do you choose the best apps? What do you look for, and what should you avoid? Over the next few days I’ll be talking about some of the criteria you can use when evaluating and selecting apps and ebooks to use or recommend for children. We’ll look at intended use and age appropriateness; interactivity; design and layout issues; support of print and media literacy skills; usability and affordance; customizability; and some of the more subjective criteria to think about (i.e. the “annoyance factor”).

With each post, please feel free to add your feedback in the comments – are there apps or ebooks that you’ve used with success? Any turkeys you’ve discovered? There’s no way we can cover them all, so join the discussion and share what you know, and we’ll all rock digital services together!

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Posted on January 2, 2013, in Apps, eBook and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I just have one minor issue I’d like to bring up: It seems like when we talk about apps, it’s always iPad apps. You can’t get everything in the Apple app store on Android, but many parents are going to have Fires or Nooks or what-have-you because it’s so much cheaper than buying an iPad. Also, some libraries (like mine) don’t have iPads and, if we were to get tablets, would be getting cheaper Android models because of budget constraints. If the curation project goes forward, I hope we lean toward apps that are available for users of either OS.

    • Absolutely! The criteria I’m discussing in this series of posts are platform-independent. And when we talk about curating, I think it’s essential that we look at multiple devices. Apple is certainly the big gorilla. I have both an iPad and a less-expensive Android tablet at home and I’ve been disappointed in the selection of Android apps compared to what’s available on the iPad. However, there are also some good Android apps that aren’t available for Apple devices and we should highlight those for our customers.

  2. We are just starting to introduce iPads in our storytimes here and there at Oakville Public Library. I have used a few story apps such as the Sandra Boynton classic Moo Baa La La La! (singing pigs are a crowd pleaser), David Melling’s Hugless Douglas and Eileen Christelow’s Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. I have also used Counting with The Very Hungry Caterpillar app (a great supplement to the picturebook).

    A couple of apps I have used as a standard feltboard activity are a free animated app called Animals for Tots that takes you into the forest where you meet some wildlife creatures who make great sounds and one of my most favoritest app of all time Felt Board (love!love!love!)

    I have been looking for a good app with nursery rhymes and so far have only really come up with Goosed Up Rhymes, which although highly regarded (best in nyt children’s app list 2011) just seemed to me like it was a little too visually and auditorily stimulating (Mother Goose may want the decaf option next time).

    Lastly National Geographic’s Look & Learn Animals vol.1 app has a word match that is a nice non-fic. touch to storytime.

    Great read, thanks!

    • I have the Nursery Rhymes with Storytime app and I have mixed feelings about that one as well. It looks beautiful, but the interactive elements can definitely be distracting. My son didn’t seem too interested in it at first, but he grew to really like it and has memorized all the rhymes and songs.I haven’t deleted it, but I still wish the interactivity was better integrated and less of a focus.

  1. Pingback: App reviews and evaluation – WORD.

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