iPads: more than just games and the internet

I’m excited to share the iPad from the SPLAT Idea Lab with you today! The iPad can do a lot, from connecting patrons with e-resources to playing games to facilitating art and creation. Below, I’ll be covering a couple different uses for the iPad: as a tool for coding, as an interface for robots, and as an opportunity to turn your reader’s advisory skills into tech advisory skills.

Coding with iPad Apps

An iPad makes a great tool for learning about coding. There are lots of apps to get you, your patrons, and your students started. I personally really enjoy Lightbot. It’s cute, not too difficult, and makes a great starting point. Additionally, it has two apps targeted at different ages (4-8, and 9+) as well as an online version through Hour of Code if you don’t have access to app-friendly devices. For other ideas of fun coding apps, you might try this DIYGenius’ list of coding apps or MacWorld’s list of where to start coding with kids. Not surprisingly, there are several crossover apps on these lists.

Interfacing with Robots

Lately, I’ve been using our iPad to teach people about robots and coding. The Boise Public Library has purchased some Dash and Dot robots to use in programs and to introduce coding as a fun and playful concept. These robots connect with Bluetooth to any device that uses apps, such as an iPad. The free app Go then allow users to control the robots by driving them around, changing the colors of their lights, and playing sounds. After gaining some comfort with the robots, the free Blockly app lets users begin to code the robots with drag and drop programming, much like Scratch.

We’ve used the Dash and Dot robots in pop-up programs in our youth services department after school, out in the community on Idaho Day when we took them to a local donut shop, and in more structured programs like our Teachers’ Tech Petting Zoo where we connected with teachers from across the school district to talk about making technology fun.

Tech Advisory

Another opportunity for using an iPad is to start doing research on different apps. Most of us are familiar with the idea of reading up on reviews and taking a few minutes to read bits and pieces of books (or even whole ones when we’re lucky) to be able to make recommendations to our patrons. We can sometimes forget that we can and should be doing the same with apps. There are a lot of great (and not-so-great) educational apps out there, and many of our patrons are hungry for recommendations from professionals they trust (that’s you!). And while reviews for apps, like those for books, can be fantastic, they don’t always tell the whole story. It’s worth downloading that app and really trying it out for yourself. If you’re not sure where to start, try this presentation on how to evaluate apps and use them in storytime. Or, like some of my colleagues, you might contemplate putting together an app-a-week advisory program to make regular recommendations to your patrons.

Ready to Get Started?

Want to use an iPad in your library? Contact the SPLAT representative from your area to borrow any of the items from the Idea Lab. They will be happy to coordinate delivery and can provide hands-on training to get you started!