Friday, April 10, 2015

iPads in the Library: What I've Learned So Far

As I mentioned in my "Resolve to Rock" post, one of my goals for this year has been getting iPads in my children's area. We've had them a little over two months (long enough to discover and work out a few kinks in our system) so I figured it was about time to share.

A little background information:
  • These iPads are the 16 GB iPad Air 2. They were purchased thanks to the generosity of our Friends of the Library. Thanks Friends!
  • I've decided the goal of these iPads would be to promote early literacy. To get this point across more clearly, I have arranged our apps by the "Every Child Ready to Read" early literacy practices: Reading, Writing, Singing, Talking, Playing.
  • They are mounted on our children's tech center using this MacLocks security stand. These stands seem to work well, and I would definitely recommend them.
  • To set up the iTunes account for the iPads we used an old library gmail address we created when we first got our Facebook.

Here they are:

This half of our kids tech center includes our iPads and an AWE station.

A closeup view of the iPad.

It's All About the Apps:

There are so many apps to choose from, at first I didn't know where to start. I knew I wanted to start off with free apps only and build from there, but there are still so many to choose from.

Lisa Mulvenna of Lisa's Libraryland was nice enough to share some resources to get me started.  Based on a list of apps she provided I sorted out the free options and organized them by literacy practice. Here is the initial list of apps I came up with. 

Setting Restrictions:

The majority of restrictions you will need to set are found in the Restrictions tab. It is found under Settings > General. These restrictions will prevent children from downloading unwanted apps, deleting apps and generally doing things you probably don't want them to be doing. In order to access the restrictions you will need to set a four digit passcode.

Here are the restrictions we have set:

Purchasing/Downloading New Apps

To purchase new apps, I bought an iTunes gift card. I figured this way no credit cards would be involved. With only two iPads it has been relatively easy to download new apps individually to each iPad. The nice thing is that this can be done wirelessly, so the iPads don't need to come out of their cases. The only hiccup is that I discovered I needed to change the "installing apps" restrictions temporarily in order to do so.

The first new apps I chose were various Dr. Seuss book apps (on sale for his birthday!). Since then I've also downloaded a few of these apps Brooke recommended at Reading with Red.

For additional app suggestions, including reviews, there are several other places you can look. Little eLit is a great place to start. Digital Storytime also provides reviews and information on available deals. There is also a section of app reviews in each issue of School Library Journal.

What I've learned:
  • Keeping the iPads plugged in and unlocked during the day seems to work well. The stands we use allow easy access to charging and headphone ports, which allows this to be done pretty easily.
  • The restrictions you have set will get in your way when making changes. See my "installing apps" example above.
  • We found that iTunes Radio doesn't always filter access to explicit music. In order to prevent access to iTunes Radio, you must log out of iTunes and the App Store. This can be done once you "allow changes" to your account settings. This setting can be found towards the bottom of the restrictions tab. Don't forget to log back in next time you want to download apps!
  • Changing the passcode is more difficult than I expected. There is a restrictions passcode and a passcode to unlock the iPad. You can change the unlocking passcode under Settings > Touch ID and Passcode. The restriction passcode is harder to change. You need to disable your restrictions, set a new passcode and reset all restrictions.
  • Kids will change the names of folders you create on the iPad. This has only happened a few times to us, and I have not figured out a way to prevent it as of yet. 
So far, our iPads have been a big hit. Now that we have worked out the initial setup, they have been pretty low maintenance overall. I will definitely keep you updated on anything new I discover. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions.

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