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Listserv rudeness

I posted something yesterday on the ALSC general listserv, asking people to “like” readImagine‘s Education Nation pitch (Go do it, now, if you haven’t already! Closes tomorrow!)

I got this rude response from someone:

Hi Cen,

I think that replacing the experience of reading a book with a child with an audio/video feed, in solitude, is a bad idea.

I think that kids (and families) want and need the slow pace, the interactions, the bonding,  the physicality, the challenge and the adaptability of reading a  book together.  I think that what you call “crazily-brilliant” might be destructive to writing and story and more dumbing down.  I don’t think technology is a solution for everything, especially when it comes to the emotional, social and intellectual development of children.

My values don’t leave much room for tech (“media”) companies like yours to make much money.  But I think it would be crazily-brilliant if everyone put kids ahead of money, all the time, every time.

So I responded with the following:

Hi [person]!

I agree with you completely that replacing reading with “an audio/video feed, in solitude” is a bad idea.

readImagine, the group of students from Stanford that I’m helping (I am a librarian at a public library, not an employee of a “media company”) is developing a tool within a number of California library systems, plus the California Library Association, to bring kids back to the library. They are developing good quality digital books (we NEED something better than BookFlix and Tumblebooks to compete with the content that’s available through the App store!), integrating ILS systems so kids can see what’s on the shelf at their local libraries, bringing in off-copyright content to be accessed directly through the portal, establishing teacher/parent/child analytics with a COPPA compliant social media and content creation platform, and working with libraries and schools to do educational research on the reading habits of children. Paper books are included in this project, and readImagine is signing authors to create original and adapted content, because frankly, publishers don’t know how to play nicely anymore with public libraries.

The more the child (aged 5-10 for now) reads, from whatever the source, the better. There will be back-end access for librarians to localize the content and provide reader’s advisory and highly details statistics about how a child is improving in their reading skills. The monetary gain ($100,000 from Education Nation if they win) that comes from this contest will go to ILS integration, content creation and pedagogical research with the partner libraries. They are working with a number of library systems already and are giving the product away for free because it’s an innovative research project, not a money making project. They are even developing an algorithm that can calculate the child’s reading level according to their interaction with the app, and corresponding adaptive text.

This endeavor is akin to the ebook hosting/distribution efforts of Library Renewal, Califa and Douglas County, only it’s for interactive media for children (in fact, many of the active players in those projects are also assisting in this project: Michael Porter, Sarah Houghton, Paul Sims and Derek Wolfgram are all helping in some capacity).

This is innovation, creative collaboration and technology used intelligently. That’s what libraries are about these days.

Please vote for readImagine’s pitch if you think any of this is a great idea! It closes tonight!!!



Pitch Video

readImagine, the start-up from Stanford that will revolutionize the children’s publishing industry from within libraires and schools, is competing in NBC’s Education Nation challenge.  They put together a one-minute pitch along with Pathbrite and NoRedInk, and the pitch with the most “likes” wins the social media component of the challenge.  Please listen to the pitches, agree with me that readImagine’s is the best by FAR, and vote for them by clicking “Like.”

By doing this you will help launch a brilliant new literacy tool in public libraries and schools, and your karma will be so good it shines.

readImagine on NBC

The little start-up that will is going prime time. readImagine is a finalist in NBC’s Education Nation. They’re going to New York this week to show the world that the future of reading takes place……. at your library.

Here’s the press release.

Librarians Developing Apps

I missed the worst possible Children & Technology Committee meeting today. They talked about apps for storytime and librarians who are developing apps. So this is the conversation I started in ALAConnect.

Are there any librarian app developers? (question asked at last C&T committee meeting)

by Cen Campbellon Wed, Sep 12, 2012 at 07:36 pm

Yes, there are librarian developers, and there are librarians like me who are working with developers to create book based apps for kids that don’t totally suck. I’m working with a group of students from Stanford University who are creating original content (Pixar quality animation, Caldecott/New York Time Bestseller quality books), plus an app distribution mechanism, ebooks, ILS integration, reading metrics, teacher/parents interface and just damn high quality stuff for kids aged 5-10 (for now; expansion forthcoming).The project is readIMAGINE (there’s not much there right now; this is startupland) and it is launching in public libraries. We are hopefully partnering with the California Library Association next year on a Summer Matters initiative to send out a metric ton of iPads throughout California, and we’ve got pilot projects set up in a number of libraries in the US and Canada.

We are looking for more partner libraries/schools to get this product into the world. These Stanford kids are brilliant and I would love to have the chance to speak to everyone who is reading this post about launching in your library (they don’t pay me to say this stuff; it’s just totally revolutionary what they’re doing and we need as many eyeballs on it as possible). If you have staff and/or public iPads in your libraries, or you would like to partner to seek funding to develop a circing or mounted iPad program, let me know. I’ll help you write grants or convince admin or whatever it takes to get this thing out into libraryland. I need your library!

If you want to beta test at your library, the first two books come out in December and can be downloaded from the library’s website and authenticated against a library card. The portal will hopefully be ready next year. You can have the content for free; just help us with some surveys so we can make it smooth for delivery in libraries. Ping me asap and let’s get this party started! @littleelit or cenlibrarian at gmail dot com.

Of course the C&T meeting I couldn’t attend today was the WORST one I could have missed (my son didn’t nap; for those of you who don’t have kids, this means the poo hit the fan). I had also hoped to talk to some of y’all about developing a virtual storytime app to go along with my digital storytelling project, but I didn’t get any responses after the last meeting.

I run a blog that specifically deals with developing digital storytimes in libraries.

Let’s talk. Stuff’s a-changing.


There’s an App Developer for That

At ALA recently I spent a lot of time going around to vendors asking if they had a model for distributing apps.  I got a lot of blank stares and “Hm, that’s a good idea.  I think I might know a guy in Tallahassee who might do that….” I was getting frustrated.  I’m not a developer/codemonkey/tech person, so I don’t really understand the inner workings of DRM (a necessary evil, for the time being, which allows libraries to share digital content) and why it can be applied to some types of files and not to others. In my head, if you can make eBooks available through the library, why not apps? It’s not being done.  And apparently no one is working on it. All I need is a prototype, a precedent, a really great idea.

That really great idea is readIMAGINE.

A little while ago I wrote an Early Literacy Grant for the Palo Alto City Library (don’t know yet if we got it) wherein we asked for a bunch of iPads to start introducing the community to some really great apps for young kids.  Jenny Jordan, Library Services Manager in the Children’s Library was very supportive of my vim and vigor for apps and early literacy, but I hadn’t heard much from her since we submitted the grant.

Then last month I got an email from her introducing me to a person by the name of Chiara McPhee. Chiara is an MBA student at Stanford and she’s working with a group of students who are developing some story apps and a distribution platform.  Would I be interested in meeting with her to see what they’re working on?  Ok, sure, let’s see what they’ve got.  I’d been approached by app developers before, so this not was entirely unusual.

Chiara met me at a coffee shop in the Graduate School of Business complex at Stanford and told me a little bit more about the project, and about a seriously big-name publisher that’s interested in their model. At that point I was still thinking, “This is nice.  But what’s it got to do with me?” Chiara introduced me to LeeAnn Parker, a 2nd grade teacher in a private school in Washington D.C. who did the initial classroom research. Then we went upstairs and it was time to see some of the work in progress.  I met Phat Phoung, head of creative  and 10 year Pixar veteran, and Mikhail Kushnikov, the tech guru.

I was FLOORED by this operation.  They have access to a media lab at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and I was introduced to 6 digital artists and animators, all piecing together two gorgeous apps. They showed me the concept artwork, some incredibly cute characters, and visual representations of the dashboard of their app.  Chiara is the business rep in this venture, and she’s a firecracker. She has done her homework, she’s a consummate professional and she is doing this work because she loves it.

These students have their ducks in a row.  They have gorgeous artwork, pedagogical field research that’s already been started (the apps aren’t even finished yet!), thorough market research, connections with animators, authors, philanthropists and developers, and some initial seed funding. They are developing an algorithm to determine reading level so the text in the story will be tailored to the child’s reading level. There is a content creation component (libraries are all over that these days) and kids will be able to submit feedback which will determine the plot for the series. They have a beautiful portal which will be customizable within the app to keep track of the art, stories and characters the child has created or interacted with. They are creating a whole virtual world with the capacity to serve as a new model for publishing AND a distribution mechanism.

readIMAGINE  has vision.  Revolutionary, beautiful, big-picture vision. And they want to launch their product in libraries.  I’m going to help them.