Thursday, October 17, 2013

Early Literacy iPads– Which apps are best?

Interested in our initial planning for the iPads? Check it out here. All the final details and improvements can be found here. Once again, I have to thank all of the great librarians who helped me with this process.

Picking Apps

This was definitely the hardest part of the process, but it was also the most fun! Deciding on apps can be extremely overwhelming. There are so many to choose from and you don't want to waste your money on horrible ones.

We decided that we wanted to lock the iPad on one app a day. This made it a bit more staff intensive by having us set it up each day, but it was definitely the right decision for our library. We have a huge issue with children staying on the AWE computers way over our time limit. Then, when parents make them leave they throw huge fits. We wanted to avoid this at all costs with the iPads. We really wanted it to be an item that was interesting for about 10-15 minutes, and then they would move on to something else.

I started by going to the Darien Library website and pouring over all of their resources. I then went back to Kelsey over at Library Bonanza and begged her for her list of apps. A similar begging email went out to about 5 other librarians.

Once I had all of this data compiled, I went through the list and looked up each app on the iTunes store. I didn't want to be stuck with apps I hated, so I tried to do as much research as possible before actually buying them. Sometimes though, it was still hard to tell if it would work for us, and I just took a chance and bought it.

I also looked at various app review websites for some additional purchases. Little eLit is a great place to start. They have great information and a truly ridiculous amount of it.

I also browsed though random "Free Apps of the Day" websites. For me, this proved to be a waste of time. I would usually download 1 or 2 each day, but only 1 of them made it into the final app rotation. There's usually a reason they're free. There are some really good free apps out there. You just have to sift through all the junk to find them. 

We made an initial app download of 48 apps. Some of these were free or discounted when we bought them, but others were full price. Once we did our bulk app purchase, I went through and personally played each game. I wanted to make sure the content was appropriate for our age range, and that the apps didn't have in-app purchases. I also checked each app to make sure it could be played horizontally. Since we wanted the iPads as secure as possible, we decided to permanently mount them horizontally.

The biggest surprise to me was that two apps just completely didn't work! One wasn't compatible with our iPad 4 and the other was simply broken. Luckily, iTunes refunded our money completely on those. After all of the above, about 12 of the apps were not useful to us. Some couldn't be played horizontally, and some were just too hard for our target age range. Two we got refunds for, but the others were just lessons learned.

Next, I made an app schedule for both branches and Main. I wanted our initial app purchase to last us until January, so I made sure apps didn't repeat on the same day of the week. That way a family who always came on Mondays would be getting a different app each week.

Here is a list of the apps I downloaded with a short description on each one. The bold titles are ones that did not make it into the final rotation.

Check back on Monday for what actually happened when we put all of our careful planning in action and unveiled the iPads to the public!

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