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STEM: All Hands on Tech – App Evaluation and Selection with Tools You Can Use!

What goes into selecting an app on the iPads available at the Library? We treat apps and any new media just like the books in our collection. Each selection on our iPads undergoes a rigorous review process informed by policy and research with child development, literacy and learning in mind. While the app store may seem like the Wild West with developers making claims of educational value, we have a toolkit developed by educators and pediatricians we can rely on when selecting apps to enhance our programs and activate different learning styles. Check out some of our STEM book lists to engage in conversation about technology in their lives.

A child and librarian explore an app on the iPad.

When the Library began integrating iPads into our programs and spaces we started with the following guidelines:

  • If available, reviews or information from professional journals are preferred.
  • Reviews and recommendations from reputable sites are also acceptable. Such sites should offer clear information about the credentials and/or experience of the individual reviewing the apps and disclose any and all affiliations.
  • Both the cost and the value of the app should be considered. Is the price reasonable for the features included? Does the app provide unique content or functionality?
  • Factors related to use that should be evaluated include the level of interactivity, ease of use and flexibility.
  • Ease of purchase and acquisition is also considered.

While we still use these guidelines, the digital world and children’s engagement in that world changes rapidly. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center offers parents and educators a wonderful guide for evaluating apps with these three questions:

  1. “Does it connect different experiences?”
  2. “Does it allow your child to learn and grow?”
  3. “Does it encourage communication?”

With the expert guidance of policy-makers we are able to evaluate technology and utilize technology to support learning and development. We do our best to select apps that do not advertise to children, guard privacy of users and do not collect information. Below is some of the research we use when evaluating apps for children:


Kristin is the Digital Learning Lead Librarian at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. She enjoys embroidery, feminist children’s literature and strong female protagonists! When not corralling robots at the Library you will find her hanging out with her dogs Iggy and Fritz.


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