Early Literacy iPads at AVRL, by Angela Reynolds

After many months of planning and creating (and sweating), we now have Early Literacy iPads at the Annapolis Valley Regional Library. Because of limited funding, we have 4 iPads that we are using for this 12-month pilot. 2 of the iPads will be available for check-out for one hour per day IN-LIBRARY only. We are asking that adults check them out on their own library card, but they must have a child between the ages of 2-6 along with them. You can read our iPad agreement here.

el ipads logoApps on the iPads were chosen to enhance the ECRR skills: Talk, Sing, Read, Write, Play; plus I added “Make” and “ABC & 123” folders as well. The apps that are currently on the iPads are listed on this Pinterest board.

We went with the check-out in-library model for several reasons. We’ve been using iPads in storytimes and programs for over a year now, and one thing we’ve heard is that parents & kids want to spend more time together on the devices. We’ve also heard from teachers and family literacy organizations that many families do not have the money to purchase devices for their kids, but want to know more about how they work and want their child to have access to them before they start school. This model gives them access, on their own schedule, and allows for joint media engagement inside the library. Since we have many small branches, and the iPads can only be borrowed for one hour per day, we feel this provides an opportunity for more people to have their hands on the devices than if we allowed them to be checked out and taken home. (We also kind of hope this model will be less likely to result in loss of our equipment.)

MC ipadsWe are placing 2 iPads at a time in the branches, even though we own 4. We are doing this so that every two weeks, the set in the branch can be switched out and refreshed by staff at our headquarters, who are trained to do so. This avoids transport of more equipment, and only a few staff need to know how to do this step. Again, small branches, often with one person on staff at a time, with little time to do extra tasks.

The technical bits are the reason it took us so long to get this running. We are using Apple’s Configurator app to manage the set of iPads. Everyone said it was easy to use, easy to update and refresh the iPads and to add apps. Ok—I’ll say this—yes, it is easy, once you’ve climbed the Mt. Everest learning curve. You have to have a DUNS number, which this small Canadian library system had never heard of, let alone have. Then you have to register with Apple as a business. That’s right, not an educational institution, a business. Then you have to get VPP (Volume Purchase Program) account. Then you have to purchase an app for each device. None of this “sharing on 5 devices” stuff for businesses. The list of steps goes on and on, and you’ll likely need someone with a lot of patience and/or a lot of Apple know-how to get you through it. YouTube is your friend here, because we found lots of solid advice there. Anyhow, once you have it all figured out, yeah, it IS easy. You plug the iPads in, hit refresh, and boom, any changes made by patrons are wiped clean, your iPads are back to exactly the way you want them to be.

So now we have them, just put out in the first branch last week, and we’ll see how it goes. We are trying it for a year, and each of our branches will get the iPads for a month. We may need to tweak things during this time, and we will if we need to. I am looking forward to hearing comments from our branches and seeing how it goes.

Here’s a list of the technology we needed for this project:

Angela Reynolds
Head of Youth Services
Annapolis Valley Regional Library
Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

About Amy Koester

I'm a youth services librarian with a penchant for exciting ideas and engaging programs. It's a sure bet that if you talk to me about STEAM, whimsy, and trying new things, we'll be best friends forever.

Posted on September 23, 2014, in Apps, Early Literacy and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. It seriously took us 7 months to get VPP, Configurator, etc, set up, mostly because Apple has ZERO support for VPP. And when I finally got through to someone (via email only, there is no phone VPP support at all) they gave me the wrong information, and had me sign up as an educational institution, while also insisting that we were part of NYS’s educational contract (paraphrasing there, it’s a mess). Well, of course we weren’t, and couldn’t be part of Apple Education. And that meant creating several new email accounts, etc, because once one is registered with an iTunes or VPP account, it can’t be used again for any other accounts.
    It was a nightmare. We (might) be all set now.
    Good luck with yours!

  2. We recently got ipads for our library and I didn’t even know about this configuration. You mention that you have to purchase the same app for each device. I think it would be great to have the devices configure easy and to wipe any patron changes quickly, but it seems like the amount of apps we’d be able to purchase would be so low because we’d have to pay for them multiple times. Do you think it’s worth while instead of just manually going through each device at the end of each day to wipe it?

  3. Angela Reynolds

    Lindsey, it depends on how many iPads you have, how much staff time you have, and how many apps you want to put on your devices. Also, how many locations. I am trying to do this for 11 branches, so I needed a solution for multiple locations. We have a set that we use for programming, and that’s how we treat that set.

    Josh, I feel your pain. It took us about that long as well, and for very similar reasons. Apple is NOT very VPP user-friendly for a small organization–maybe more so for a large business, but has not been easy to get this off the ground. Though I did get some good tech help once I got in the correct stream of emailing. It just took longer than I wanted it to!

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