App Authors: Closing the App Gap II, builds on our previous planning grant Closing the App Gap: From Plan to Project I. 

girlpencilThat planning of the overall Closing the App  was built on the need to close the youth app gap, the division between those young people who regularly have access to tablets and smartphones and those who do not.We found a wonderful partner in Champaign’s Douglass Branch Library, a longterm friend of GSLIS that serves a predominantly minority and low-income community.We focused on preteens, young people approximately eight to twelve years old, and found this age group was excited by apps and poised to work more deeply with tablets.

We assessed nearly 200 apps for children based on the following criteria:

Diverse representation of children and adults
ease of use
engaging/interesting to child
levels of difficulty
custom settings
feedback/corrective features
content accuracy
appeal to learning objectives

We brought our apps and tablets to the Douglass Branch over lunchtime for three days a week throughout the summer, to the considerable excitement of kids who loved to follow the adventures of Red Riding Hood or fist-pumped with excitement at the chance to play Chicktionary.

We learned that kids are definitely interested in using apps but We were also struck by the young people’s collegial approach to app use; rather than finding tablets a solitary diversion, our subjects leapt immediately to collective exploration and sharing of successes.  The kids enjoyed checking up on one another’s progress or sharing what was happening, and they also loved reporting their triumphs to our adult team or just getting them to share play.

We also noted that existing apps for young people disappointingly lacked diversity (out of our nearly 200 apps evaluated, fewer than 15% presented non-­‐ white people in any significant roles); our young subjects, who were almost all African-­‐American, clearly noticed this lack and responded with particular enthusiasm to apps that featured people who looked like them.

Our second phase, App Authors: Closing the App Gap II, is building on the information we garnered in the first phase. We’re committed to continuing our research on young people and apps; we think it combines opportunity for access with educational and programming possibilities.