Families Rush to Check Out Educational Tablets from Maryland Libraries

A tablet pilot for young children will increase access to learning apps and devices.

by Sarah Hainesworth, The Capital, Annapolis, Md. / August 25, 2015
Maryland libraries are experimenting with educational tablets for children. Shutterstock.com

(TNS)  — Once upon a time, Harry Potter books flew off library shelves like his snowy owl Hedwig.

But with each generation comes a new favorite — and now it's technology that has kids sprinting to the checkout.

Playaway Launchpads, educational tablets for children ages 3 to 7, have been added to the offerings at the Brooklyn Park, Eastport-Annapolis Neck and Maryland City county library branches.

The 7-inch, touch-screen tablets, which use the Android operating system, come preloaded with 10 STEM, language, art and music apps. They are void of Wi-Fi and camera capabilities to ensure a controlled experience.

"The idea was to test them out as a pilot program," said Christine Feldmann, county public library communications manager.

"If they are as popular as we believe they will be, we'll order more so each branch will have them."

Feldmann credited the library system's materials department for adding the devices.

"We thought this was a good way to even the playing field for families who may not have access to a tablet in their home," said Robbie McGaughran, head of materials management.

The devices, which are sold to only libraries and schools, are easy to use.

"They pick it up, they turn it on, they tap on one of the apps and they get started," McGaughran said.

Each of the three branches carrying the product has 35 tablets with 35 themes such as monster theme "I'm Not Scared!"; popular kids characters theme "I Know You!"; and a marine life theme called "School of Fish!"

"They are great learning tools, and kids don't know they're learning," Eastport-Annapolis Neck branch manager Michele Noble said. "It's sneaky learning."

Quentin Gould, a 5-year-old from Annapolis, was busy doing just that at the library branch Monday morning.

Gould sprawled out on the library's floor with a launchpad in his hands.

"I love this game," he said, as he played "Learning Games for Kids: Educational Preschool."

The launchpad recited numbers that Gould had to press on his screen. Each time he answered correctly, he got a star. At the end of the game, he could touch the stars to see a fireworks show.

"Look, I'm counting," he said. "I can't wait to do the fireworks again!"

Though the launchpads are housed at three library branches, they can be placed on hold and picked up at any branch.

The launchpads can be checked out for seven days and renewed up to five times (a 30-cent-a-day fine is applied to overdue devices).

Visitors to the Eastport Annapolis-Neck branch had already checked out 24 launchpads by last Thursday, after they had been at the library for only three days.

Janet Breckenridge, a nanny for a 3-year-old who resides in Annapolis, checked out one of the tablets last week.

"I like the way it teaches learning with games and stories," Breckenridge said. 

©2015 The Capital (Annapolis, Md.), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.