Tablets for Toddlers and Families proposal: The frugality angle

imageFree iPads or other tablets for low-income families with young kids? Not just for reading to toddlers but also for delivery of content and services in areas ranging from childcare advice to nutrition?

My further thoughts, especially on the tablets as family literacy promoters, are on the way. What kind of reading software might be best, for example? The image is from the International Children’s Digital Library, one of the apps I’ll be mentioning.

And meanwhile, here’s a point I don’t want to be lost amid the others, given the current focus on frugality in the public and nonprofit sectors. I believe that the experiment could be cost effective if:

–It started on a small scale in rural and not-so-rural locations.

–Only motivated families qualified—with sufficient interest in children’s healthcare and nutrition being a key indicator. I know: it’s tough, given the two or three jobs that many low-income parents must hold. But the experiment should begin with participants most likely to succeed, with adjustments made later to accommodate others. Another indicator would be willingness to participate in person in library-related activities and others advancing children’s well-being.

–The experiment remotely tracked usage to assure that the hardware wasn’t simply used to play Angry Birds. A fraction of the time is okay.

–Ruggedized tablets were used—break-proof through their original designs or else use of products such as OtterBoxes—to reduce losses.

–Various measurements of results were undertaken by qualified experts. Remember, the outcomes would be not only literacy related but also health related and other kinds.

If you’re thinking, “Isn’t the tablet just one of the details?”? Exactly. Let the emphasis be on results and integration with existing government and nonprofit programs, such as Reading Is Fundamental, as opposed to technology for tech’s sake. People ahead of gadgets!

Whether or not the Digital Public Library of America forks into separate organizations for public and academic libraries, this experiment definitely should be on the plate. Given the benefits of preschool learning, the potential upside is too big not to try it.

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2 Comments

on “Tablets for Toddlers and Families proposal: The frugality angle
2 Comments on “Tablets for Toddlers and Families proposal: The frugality angle
  1. One thing that might be skipped in this reading debate is that even lower income class children view a game boy or some other portable gaming as a necessity. The DS costs about $100, and frankly the Nook Color can do almost everything the DS can and a lot more for $150. Any program for kids needs to be adequate for some kind of serious gaming. As loathe as I am to admit it, but an ebook reading sytem for kids needs to be a gaming platform first and a book reader second.

    • Thanks, Robert. I myself would prefer that schools and libraries try to use reading clubs and other social activities to get the kids and parents interested in recreational reading. It’s the books, not the machines per se, that count most of all. But, hey, if they can scrape up the money for games machines, then let ‘em. Of course, libraries themselves offer games on-site.

      I’d welcome thoughts from others on these issues.

      Happy holidays,
      David

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