Monday, May 27, 2013

Evaluating and reviewing book apps

As readers of my site know, I have been fascinated by multimedia book apps since the launch of the iPad and the first interactive books apps in 2011. I remember first reading the Pop-out Peter Rabbit that spring, and then The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore in the summer of 2011. I was drawn into these apps by the way they combined the visual delights of picture books with the magic of audiobooks. They had a bit of the allure of the movies, and yet book apps put the readers firmly in charge of the pacing -- pulling the reader in to turn pages, discover hotspots and interact with the story.

Perhaps it is my perspective as a children’s librarian that draws me to the story aspect of book apps more than the interactive features, but I firmly believe that it is this sense of story, along with the interactive features, that draws children back to apps again and again. After all, if children just wanted interactive features, they would choose games like Angry Birds. Children really do love stories and the magical world that stories create for us in our minds, and this is just as true for book apps as it is for printed books. To paraphrase Martha Parravano, a book app might be an intangible piece of computer software, but at its heart a book app is an experience that unfolds for a child as they are reading it (Sutton and Parravano, 2010).

But the question remains: How can we apply what we know already to evaluating this new media? Because book apps combine so many different elements, we need to draw on our knowledge of children’s books, learning theories, and online or multimedia teaching to understand how we as librarians can review book apps, what features we might consider, and why.

If you're interested in the different aspects I consider when I evaluate a book app, please take a look at my article Book Apps as a New Interactive Learning Experience: Evaluating and Reviewing This New Media, published in the recent CSLA Journal from the California School Librarians Association. The Spring 2013 issue of the CSLA Journal focuses on new media, and I was very happy to contribute my experience with book apps.

I am also excited for the work of the AASL Best Apps for Teaching and Learning task force to be announced next month at the ALA Annual Conference. Our committee has been working hard to select the top 25 apps for teaching and learning, and we have a great selection to share at the conference.

I value the work of my local, statewide and national librarian organizations in supporting my professional development. These communities of engaged professionals help further my own thinking, provide thoughtful sounding boards when I am struggling with my own work, and encourage me to grow in new ways.

I would like to thank Jeanne Nelson, editor of the CSLA Journal, for her guidance writing this article. I would also like to express my sincere appreciation for Michelle Holschuh Simmons, professor of library sciences at San Jose State University. Much of my original thinking was developed in her class on information literacy.

©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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