Category Archives: Android

CATS Winter Workshop: APPles & Androids, by Stephen Tafoya

I had the opportunity to present at the CATS (Children and Teen Services) Winter Workshop in Colorado at the end of January. The program was called APPles & Androids, and I would like to highlight the points from the workshop for you here.

Before we got into the slides, we did our first APP-tivity. Using Endless Alphabet, I told the participants that I needed their help. “These rascally monsters just came through and messed up all my letters and I need you to help me put the letters back in order to build the word.” By asking choice/contrast questions, I had the participants tell me which letter was first, which one came next (or after) that first letter, and so on. As you may know, when you touch a letter in the game, it makes the letter sound. So, when I touched the letter, I had the participants make that letter sound with me, and told them they could even use their hands to show me what they think the letter sound looks or acts like. Once we put all the letters back in place, we cheered ourselves on a job well done, and then we listened to what the meaning of the word was. I shared with the participants some language I may tell parents. “By asking your child questions about which letters go where and having them repeat the silly sounds, you are helping them build letter and sound knowledge and the order sounds go in to make up a word. You can also have your child play and act out the word meaning to help build their vocabulary!” And that was our first APP-tivity.

Then we started in with the slides. I gave everyone the big picture of tablets in society. From there, we took a look at the different tablets that are available, and ones you may consider buying for programming use. Starting with the Kindle Fire, we discussed the different models, and how having access to Kindle Freetime Unlimited would make this tablet great for a digital literacy station. Going into Android, I highlighted the specialty “kid” tablets and spoke about Android tablets in general. Now that the newer Androids have the ability to create custom profiles this is a huge draw; however, they still don’t have the content that Apple does in their App Store, but they are growing. That led us into Windows 8. Not a whole lot to offer in terms of how we use them in libraries with children. Maybe someday.

From there, it was all about the iPad, the various models, the pluses of all the app content that is available, and how to evaluate apps in the App Store (I live demoed that piece). From there, the discussion led to how iPads can be used in the library with young children, the most common use being implementation in Storytime. I shared other ideas, things I’ve done or seen in other libraries, stuff that other libraries could potentially do. Then we went into the big picture of how and why the Librarian should be the media mentor (SPOILER: it’s so the PARENT in turn becomes the MEDIA MENTOR) 😀

I did another APP-tivity with everyone, using Sago Mini Forest Flyer and how to “think outside the app”. I taught everyone how to make a flying bird friend using their fingers and taught them this song:

I’m a little birdie,
Flapping through the forest,
Looking to see what I can see.

So they flapped along as I moved the bird on the screen and then placed her on one of the animation spots. When the bird started to interact, I would say, “What’s this? Our friend Bernadette (what they named the bird) smashed her face right into the cupcake! How silly, Bernadette! She must really love cupcakes!). Now, we are going to sing our song and fly again with our friend, but this time I want someone else to talk and tell me what Bernadette does.” And we did a few rounds of that.

At the end, I gave them language to tell parents like, “Through talk, singing our song, and play, you are helping your child build Vocabulary and Narrative Skills.”

We concluded our workshop with tips like Know Thy App (when you use it the first time, after each app update, to the point where you could do it in your sleep), Extra Tech Prep Time and Have a Backup Plan WHEN (not if) the tech does fail. And toIntegrate Naturally as it relates to their specific community (ie. slowly build it into storytime, survey parents first, etc.).

The workshop was well-received, questions throughout, and overall the CATS Workshop was a hit! Lots of great presenters, STEAM-related content, yummy food and friendly fellowship.

View the presentation slides here:–androids

Stephen Tafoya works as a Technology Trainer for a library district, and he partners with Youth Services Coordinators to engage kids and teens with technology in library programming.

Tablet Shopping for the Kids, by Stephen Tafoya

One of the many daunting challenges parents face is Christmas Present Shopping. All the choices. The different prices. What’s hot, what’s not. And what your children actually want for Christmas. And that’s just TOYS! But as you may know, tech toys–especially tablets–are one of the HOT items this holiday season. And like toys, tablets come in so many varieties and configurations that, if you are not up on the latest-and-greatest in tech land, you can get lost in the swarm. Luckily, we are here today to discuss tablet shopping for the kids.

What to Look for in a Tablet for the Family

If you have not had the chance to try or buy a tablet, there are some very key questions you should ask yourself before you buy the first tablet that comes across your radar. The first question being:

Who will primarily use this tablet?

In this scenario, we are assuming you are buying for your child, but there’s nothing that says it has to be their tablet only. Much like the home computer that is shared among family members, you could have a tablet that is shared amongst everyone. This question alone can determine which way to go.

LeapPad2 Power Learning Tablet

LeapPad2 Power Learning Tablet

If the tablet is for the child only, there are a slew of Android-based (Google’s operating software) tablets that are customized to make them kid-friendly, mommy and daddy approved. Meaning, they are restricted from access to ALL the apps in the app store with limited (or no) access to the internet. Instead, they are pre-loaded with pre-approved (by you) educational apps and games. Tablets that fall into this category include the Nabi 2 and Nabi Jr, the LeapPad, and the VTech InnoTab. There are more kid-only tablets out there, but these are the HOT ones this season!

If you are looking for something shared, tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Kids and the Amazon Kindle Fire should do the trick. In this situation, there is a bit of a learning curve for how to switch from “kid-mode” to “adult mode” to do everything you want to do, and vice versa. What’s pretty cool about the Kindle Fire is Amazon’s content option, called Kindle FreeTime Unlimited, which offers unlimited access to all of its kid-friendly books, apps, and games on a subscription basis starting at $4.99 (or $2.99 if you are a Prime Member).

iPad Mini

iPad Mini

Outside of the kid-friendly tablets, you do have traditional offerings. You can always buy a general Android, Windows 8, or Apple iPad tablet. Going this route can be trickier in terms of securing your tablet so as to prevent your child from accessing areas they are not supposed to be in. Or in the case of one family, pushing buttons and racking up a LARGE app bill on the parent’s bank account. This is not to say an iPad or Android tablet is not safe (we here at Little eLit are big iPad users!). You will just need to spend some time learning how to adjust the appropriate controls in each device to suit your family’s needs. Also, having a full-fledged tablet grants you access to ALL of the content in the app store, so really it grows with the child as they move on to more age-appropriate apps.

Once you have decided who will be using the tablet, you want to consider such things as:

  • Tablet size (7 or 10 inch category. Consider little hands and their ability to grasp the size and weight of tablets in each size range)
  • The Drop Test (and sticky finger test, and the Poke-the-screen-with-hard-toy test…) Basically, is the tablet you are purchasing durable enough for your children and the way they play?
  • App Store (which apps are you looking for? Educational only, or are you looking for a game the kids already LOVE and MUST HAVE? The iPad tends to have a wider variety of quality apps for kids than a full-fledged Android tablet, though the kid-friendly tablets are working to change that)
  • Parental Controls (though we discussed this already, it’s important to reiterate in doing your research to find a tablet that meets your standards of tablet security)

All this is typically what I recommend to parents asking about tablets for their kids. There are a handful of articles out there that discuss all these topics and even go into details about the tablets, so instead of reinventing the wheel, I will just link you to two similar articles HERE and HERE.

Also, if you live near a store such as a Best Buy or Micro Center, take an hour to go and test out each of their demo tablets. Pick them up. Look at the screen from all angles to see if it has a good screen. Feel the weight. Push buttons. Ask the sales rep questions. Let your kids try it too if they are with you! See how easy (or hard) it is for them to interact with the tablet. If you don’t live near those kinds of stores, check your local library to see if they have a tech kit that serves this need, or ask a family member or friendly neighbor if they would be willing to let you test drive their device.

Whichever tablet you choose, make sure to make it a learning experience for both you and your children together as you explore the wonderful world of the tablet frontier.

Stephen Tafoya works as a Technology Trainer for a library district, and he partners with Youth Services Coordinators to engage kids and teens with technology in library programming.

Tech Together, by Melissa Depper

The Tech Together program at Arapahoe Library District was designed to provide an opportunity for parents & caregivers of preschool children to learn about age-appropriate digital experiences, ask questions, and explore tablets & apps.

In creating the program, we relied heavily on reports from other libraries who have tried similar programs, and are grateful to have had that input.

For this pilot, our tablets came from a variety of sources. We were able to borrow the three iPad minis that are available for children and teens to use during our Library on Wheels bookmobile stops. In addition, we purchased two 7” Nexus tablets with funds from an internal program designed to support innovation, and we used personal devices (iPads & Nooks) from our department staff to reach our goal of 10 tablets. The program was open to ten adult-child pairs, with two staff presenting.

One of our hopes in using a variety of devices was to see if we had strong preferences for one kind or another. If we are able to continue this program as a regular offering, we will probably purchase a set of iPad minis, largely because we preferred the selection of apps on iOS over Android, and the mini size was adequate for pairs to share at a more affordable price than the full size iPads.

We were fortunate to have Lisa Guernsey present 2 programs in August 2013, one open to library patrons and the larger community, and a second event tailored to staff only. We timed the Tech Together pilot to run immediately after her visit, over 10 days of a post-summer-reading-program storytime hiatus. We were hoping to capitalize on interest generated by Lisa Guernsey’s appearance as well as use the storytime hiatus to help our patrons differentiate between the Tech Together programs and our regular storytimes. We held one program per day at each of our 8 branches. Attendance varied from just one family at our smaller branches, to 5-7 families at our larger locations.

We wanted to let our families know that when it comes to sharing technology with children, the best digital practices are related to the best analog practices: interacting, engaging, conversing, and sharing. We started our time by looking at a print copy of Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton together, modeling dialogic reading and inviting the children to become involved. Then everyone had a chance to explore the same book on a tablet while the staff wandered the room and checked in with each family.

Then, we set aside the tablets and built a truck out of felt shapes on the flannelboard, and we used that activity as a springboard to talk with the adults about active versus passive use of technology. The tablets came out again and we invited the kids to explore a paint program and keep making and creating, just like they had done together with the the flannelboard.

During the free play time at the end of the session, we talked individually to the adults about how to choose apps, making connections to the Every Child Ready to Read five practices that we also talk about in story time.

Our feedback was very positive. One nanny said, “I really appreciated that the program was nanny-friendly and explained how apps could benefit little kids and aid in development.” Another parent said, “This was wonderful! Great explanation of how to talk to your kids while using apps. Now it’s just about finding the right apps for my kids–you gave me a great start.”

Our goal is to use our experience with this pilot to develop and offer more sessions, so we can continue to be forward-thinking and mindful of supporting parents and caregivers with best practices for using technology with their young children.

For a list of apps used in Tech Together programs, check out Apps for a Preschool Tablet Program.

Melissa Depper is a Librarian in Child and Family Library Services with Arapahoe (CO) Library District. She is a 2013 Library Journal Mover and Shaker, and she blogs at Mel’s Desk.

The Droid Divide, by Jacki Fulwood


You’re a librarian who believes firmly in the use of new media to further early literacy, and you often model best practices for using it by sharing your favorite children’s apps in storytime using your library’s iPad. Your storytimers love these apps, and their tech-savvy parents gratefully jot down (or text themselves) the apps’ names so they can add them to their personal tablets and use them at home. Way to go! You’ve just helped families find great digital resources. Except for one little problem…

At your next storytime session, you have a few parents expressing confusion. They couldn’t find the apps you’ve been using. Puzzled, you whip out the iPad and open the App Store, only to have the parents say, “Oh, we can only shop in Google Play.” What just happened? You just met an Android user.

Librarians have talked about the digital divide for years. Now, welcome to the Droid Divide, the phenomenon of developers creating apps for Apple devices and not developing an Android version, developing an Android version with fewer features, or releasing the Android version long after the Apple version hits virtual shelves (ahem, Instagram).

Consumers purchase Android tablets over Apple tablets for many reasons, but often the decision boils down to price. At the time of this writing, the basic Kindle Fire, Amazon’s Android-powered tablet, sells for $139. A 32GB Nook+, the top-of-the-line Android tablet from Barnes & Noble, will set you back $179. Compare that to iPad’s $399 starting price, and the Android tablets start looking pretty attractive. Even if you’re serving an affluent area with families who can afford iPads, some might prefer the Android interface or wind up with an Android tablet as a gift. Only after getting the tablet does the owner realize Google Play doesn’t contain the same goodies as the App Store, and in the case of the Kindle Fire, users are limited to apps available via Amazon, which cuts the selection down even more.

For perspective on apps for Android versus apps for iPad, consider the following. ALA’s Best Apps for Teaching and Learning list suggests 25 apps, but only 8 of those are Android-available. For the math-minded among us, that’s fewer than 30%. Little eLit maintains suggested app boards on Pinterest, and only 11 of the 93 apps pinned are available in Google Play. The issue in both cases is not an iDevice-centric approach on the part of the curators, but a lack of equality in offerings between the two platforms.

So what’s a new media-supportive librarian to do? First, don’t panic and feel like you’re waving awesome apps in front of people who can’t have them. Remember that you’re sharing resources with children who might not otherwise experience them. If your library lends iPads with early literacy apps installed, remind caregivers of that service.

Above all, be aware of the discrepancy and be ready to address it. Read app reviews. Know which apps are multi-platform, because they’re out there. Book apps from Loud Crow and Oceanhouse Media spring to mind. Ask co-workers, family, or friends who use Android tablets with their children to recommend favorite apps, and to test drive them if possible. If you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll discover great resources for both platforms. Now, if only someone would develop an Android flannelboard app that actually works!

Jacki Fulwood holds an MLIS from the University of Oklahoma. A transplanted Okie, she is now Youth Services Manager of Latah County Library District in Northern Idaho as well as a reviewer for Shelf Awareness. Find her online at Storytime Hooligans.

Android Woes? Have No Fear!

I got this email recently and I thought I’d answer the question publicly since it may be useful to others:

First off, thanks for the inspiration!  I’m getting myself up to speed in incorporating digital resources into my programming, and you’ve been a great resource.

Quick question – are you aware of any buzz on whether developers will start designing for Android as well as IOS?  We purchased Samsungs rather than iPads, and I’m finding that all the “cool” apps seem only to be offered for IOS.  Major bummer.  Wish I had found you before we made the purchase.

As I wade through Google play etc., I’ll start a Pinterest board for Android apps and send you the link in case there are others in my boat.  Although maybe I’ll be too busy writing a grant so I can get some iPads as well! LOL!

Michele Timbly
Children’s Librarian
Niagara Falls Public Library

There are a number of bigger developers that produce content for iOS and Android, like OceanHouse Media, Loud Crow and Nosy Crow, plus review sites that review Android apps as well. Common Sense Media’s maintains its Best Android Apps for Kids and Digital Storytime reviews for various platforms. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that you can access Nook or Kindle Books through their respective apps (and you can even sync your devices!). While there may still not be a ton of native book apps for Android, your storytelling or public use collection could include a whole slew of great picture books in eBook format (check out the Caldecotts that are available digitally ). To be honest, I generally prefer using eBooks in my programs over apps, though I don’t have a mirroring mechanism for any of my Android devices. I can’t wait to see what you come up on Pinterest (When you have that set up, I’ll add to to our list!), and it would be really great to see if you find a device that works for projecting or mirroring in your programs.



Device Review: Polaroid 701i Android Tablet

We recently bought a 7 inch Polaroid 701i Android tablet at Big Lots for $89. We wanted an inexpensive tablet for our son; one that we could let him use without any anxiety about damage.

The sale price was great, but you definitely get what you pay for. Other reviews have gone into more detail on the various specifications, but the two main issues for a casual user are the screen resolution (which isn’t good, but good enough for my son’s purposes), and the touch screen interface. The touch screen simply isn’t as responsive as the iPad and can be a little frustrating to use, especially in ebooks when there are a lot of pages to turn.

Although it runs on the Android operating system, the Polaroid inexplicably comes without the Google Play marketplace installed, and adding it is a bit of a chore. I found good instructions online and since the tablet comes pre-rooted it’s not too challenging, but it’s a little frustrating if you’re used to Apple products and being able to play right out of the box. Installing the Play app lets you download Flash, which is necessary for some sites with video. My son can now watch Peep and the Big Wide World videos on the PBS website, which he can’t do on the iPad.

Also, because the tablet is smaller than the iPad and the casing is cheap plastic, it’s lightweight and a little easier for young kids to manage.

This tablet is definitely the low end of the market, but if you’re looking for a a cheap alternative to the iPad for your kids to use it’s one to consider.

Digital Storytime has Expanded!

I’ve been on the hunt for great apps that are available on the Kindle Fire or for Android, and I see that Digital Storytime now has the option of sorting by apps for Android, Kindle, iPad or Nook.  You can still sort by age, rating, length, and, my favourite, quality.  The quality setting includes the overall rating, and also individual ratings for animation, audio quality, interactivity, re-readability,   bedtime, educational, originality and games/puzzles/extras.

I’m so glad that there are so many more apps out there for Android, because while I love Dr Seuss and Sandra Boynton, there still aren’t nearly as many good quality apps and eBooks available for anything other than the iPad.  Many other review sources only review content for Apple products, and it’s nice to see that the market for non-Apple apps is getting strong enough that developers are putting effort into making their products available for a number of different platforms.

eBook Review: The Going to Bed Book

The Going to Bed Book
Loud Crow Interactive
$1.99 on iTunes
$3.99 on Amazon, B&N

Sandra Boynton vs eBooks: Sandra Boynton wins!!!!! (That’s a Dinosaur vs Bedtime allusion for any of you out there who didn’t catch it…..)

We have the board book version of this, and we loved it the way it was, but Loud Crow has added about 9 different flavours of awesome to make this eBook a truly fun experience. The animals all wiggle and make cute noises, the background music is soothing and the narrator sounds like a bespectacled, good natured grandpa with a cup of tea steaming on the side table. Taps turn on and off, creating pop-able bubbles or condensation that you can rub off. You can fling an entire drawer full of jammies across the room, pop buttons off the rhino’s shirt, open and close windows, toss towels around,  catapult the animals up the stairs, and make fish jump out of the sea. As exciting as all of this sounds, it’s actually quite a soothing experience.

Check out the YouTube trailer and Touch & Go Review

Children’s Books Online: The Rosetta Project

The Rosetta Project (not to be confused with the Rosetta Stone language learning software- that made me think for a minute) doesn’t exactly qualify as a source for eBooks, but it does contain many beautiful, digitized versions of antique children’s books.  This is similar to the original Google Books Library Project which scanned a metric snotload of books from libraries all over the world.

Their books are arranged by age, language (there are translations into many different languages) and area of interest.  There’s also an index and pretty decent search capability.  I tried using this website on my MacBook Pro as well as the Galaxy Tab, but the experience is not really conducive to snuggling with your little one and sharing some old-time literacy fun.  This is more of a resource for those interested in the history of children’s literature, or for someone who is looking for some really cool antique images to print up, frame and put on the nursery wall.  Do take a look though- there is some really beautiful artwork in there.  It is a volunteer-run project and they have some cool t-shirts for sale in their store.

A Closer Look at Kirkus iPad Reviews

I’ve been looking around for more Apps/eBooks to read with my little guy, and I discovered that Kirkus has a number of useful lists within their iPad Book Reviews section.  We don’t have an iPad (yet!) but many of these apps have Android compatible versions too that I found by searching by author in the Android Market.  I just downloaded Boynton’s The Going to Bed Book (review forthcoming) for the Galaxy Tab.

Take a look at some of these lists the next time your toddler asks for Sam-I-am again and you know that if you have to hear that narrator talk one more time you’re going to snap:

For the Very Youngest Readers: Best Kids’ Apps of 2011

Apps Based on Printed Books