Intended use: evaluating apps for kids
The final criterion I’m going to talk about in this series on evaluating apps is the consideration of how the app or ebook is going to be used. Different qualities become more important when you are using an ebook with a large group than when a single parent and child are using it together. What makes this difficult is that there’s no sure-fire way to tell if something is going to work in a storytime or program. There’s a certain amount of trial and error involved (see Cen’s posts on her Tablet Tales pilot project for more on this).
If interactive elements are too distracting in a storytime setting, that ebook might be more appropriate for one-on-one reading or for use in a more hands-on program (see Paige’s posts for some suggestions). You can choose ebooks that are a more direct analog with the print book instead of those that are filled with additional interactive features. The iBooks or Tumblebooks version of a book can sometimes be a better choice for a storytime setting than an interactive app. Librarians might feel more comfortable incorporating digital media into their storytimes if they start with the ebooks that lack interactivity or have interactive options turned off. As comfort with the technology increases, they can branch out into incorporating books with more interactivity.
My main caution here is not to dismiss an app or ebook just because it doesn’t work in one setting. Most books that work well in storytime will also work well for one-on-one reading (see The Very Cranky Bear), but the opposite is not always true. Cen found that Wild About Books can actually make you feel a little dizzy when it’s projected on a large screen. Some activity-based apps can be used both in a parent/child setting or in a larger program with multiple activities.
Just as it’s important to consider the intended age and developmental level when choosing apps, it’s also important to think about how the app will be used. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different ways of using an ebook or app – have fun with it! Play! And as you do so you will refine your knowledge of what works and what to look for in the future. Children learn by playing, and guess what? So do we! So enjoy branching out into a new area, and let your exploration of digital collection development for your library give you a great excuse to play and have a lot of fun on the job.