National App Day is observed annually on December 11. “App” (short for software application) first found its way into print in the 1980s. By 2010, it was named word of the year by the American Dialect Society. Today there are over 2MM apps across Apple and Android platforms with thousands more introduced daily. Apps have changed how we work, live, learn, and play. Central to this constantly evolving technology is the question of a library’s role in providing digital access to children.
Educators acknowledge apps can be a powerful tool for even preschool learning when they are used by adult and child together. Children’s librarians incorporate apps into story time, let families work with iPads, selectively load tablets with apps for loan, and disseminate information on recommended apps, digital literacy, and app review websites.
PBS has a long history of creating award-winning children’s media and has published a wide range of free educational apps. PBS stations often seek organizational partnerships for help in reaching families with the free digital resources they produce. One such collaboration is between WGBH and ALSC as we together introduce a new series of apps developed with National Science Foundation funding. These PEEP Family Science apps feature characters children love from the Emmy Award-winning preschool STEM series on public television, PEEP and the Big Wide World—combining brief, animated stories with playful, hands-on science for families to do together. Far from being an app solely offering STEM games, PEEP Family Science incorporates videos and tips for parents, modeling how to engage children in science learning. Adults are integrally involved in the navigation, prompts, and activity how-to. It’s a parent guide in digital format.
“PEEP Family Science” is on Google Play and the App Store. There are four apps to choose from (shadows, sound, color, and ramps) and each is available in Spanish or English. Here is the shadows app is shown:
WGBH developed the apps with the Center for Children & Technology at the Education Development Center. They were designed for parents and children, especially those served by home visiting programs—programs in which educators visit homes to give parents the skills and tools needed to foster children’s healthy development and school readiness. The apps were tested over a two-year period with nearly 200 diverse families from long-established home visiting programs, HIPPY USA (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters) and AVANCE.
Research revealed families overwhelmingly enjoyed the app, that it conveyed important science content and vocabulary, and gave parents new ideas for helping children with science. Critically, parent and child actively explored science topics together. They learned science is all around them to discover and that they can do investigations with very simple materials. Families who were initially skeptical also discovered technology can be a real learning tool—and that PEEP Family Science actually brought their family together in a shared learning experience.
If you are inspired to check out PEEP Family Science, please consider whether it makes sense to provide on your library’s tablets or in your preschool programming. For more information about the effort, visit peepandthebigwideworld.com/peepfamilyscience or contact Gay_Mohrbacher@wgbh.org
Collaboration Note: ALSC Board approved a partnership with WGBH in October 2015 to further the strategic goals of Advocacy and Learning and Development. Sharing information about “PEEP Family Science App” aligns with ALSC’s aims of demonstrating librarians’ expertise as media mentors and providing examples of digital media resources for young children grounded in parent-child interaction.
Today’s guest blogger is Gay Mohrbacher. Gay is a Senior Project Manager in the Education Department at WGBH Boston. She presents workshops and online trainings on preschool science. She can be reached at Gay_Mohrbacher@wgbh.org
If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at email@example.com.
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: II. Reference and User Services and IV. Knowledge, Curation, and Management of Materials.