Little Scholar Learning Tablet & Accessories
Like most things, learning tablets can be beneficial or harmful, depending on the person controlling them. For example, while many adults at church find them a portable and convenient alternative to bringing a print Bible to church, I see many children playing games on them instead of listening to the sermon. And, because children seem especially attracted to electronics, it can be tempting to use them as virtual babysitters when you're tired or just want some peace and quiet. However, properly controlled, they can turn otherwise wasted time into learning opportunities. I find my tablet especially handy on a trip especially a long car trip with small children. My grandchildren have enjoyed finger-sliding pieces into puzzle outlines, "finger-painting", and playing simple memory games even before they could read.
We chose this tablet because it is loaded with trusted, educational software and wholesome videos and music from School Zone, is reasonably priced, and has great parent-controlled protection that is easy to use. But, it's also a fully-functional tablet that mom can use to check her email, find a coupon code while shopping, and play Scrabble® with an online friend. Plus, parents have the option of downloading any additional educational applications that they choose. Today you can find apps to practice handwriting, work puzzles, try out science experiments, learn to read, drill math facts, study maps, learn a language, etc.
I had the good fortune of enjoying a lengthy demonstration of this tablet at a recent Ed Expo convention. Let me say, first, that I am a fan of School Zone software. It works well (not buggy), it's heavily educational, but still graphically entertaining - but not so overwhelmingly distracting that the lesson is lost. The Little Scholar comes loaded with 70+ applications. Skill areas include early concepts, reading readiness, early math, vocabulary, creativity, logic, and memorization through applications like flash cards, Spelling 1-2, Sort It Out, Clickity-Clack Alphabet, Pencil-Pal Kindergarten, Word Search Jr., and State of Confusion. I threw that last one in because I remember it being pretty advanced for a young child's application (first graders don't usually tackle states and capitals). In fact, several of the first grade applications can be enjoyed by somewhat older children. Also included is an educational video series called Charlie & Company. Charlie is a golden retriever who, along with Miss Ellie, embarks on educational adventures. While the engaging footage I saw was live action, the description says the series includes some animation. A whole library of Start to Read books is also contained on the tablet. And did I mention the music? Our School Zone rep seemed convinced that many of our customers would recognize the name Brian Vander Ark from the Verve Pipe. I confess to never having heard of him (or Verve Pipe) until now. He is the "music man" for the 87 original, "toe tapping" songs pre-loaded on the tablet. He reminds me of a young-looking Mr. Rogers and has a pleasant voice. The first album listed in the brochure contains such classics as, "Counting in the Kitchen", "Cool Zone Fire Station", "It Counts to Exercise", and "Animal Farm". All in all, this tablet comes preloaded with a plethora of apps, eBooks, songs and videos. Children can also take digital pictures with rear- and front- facing camera, play around with special effects, and save pictures on the tablet gallery.
A password-protected parent section allows you to manage apps and Wi-Fi access (children can be totally blocked from internet access), download additional (non-School Zone) applications through the custom app store, and run an A+ Report app that tells you which programs children are using and how much time they're spending on each. You can even customize which apps, music and e-books are active to further tailor your children's learning needs. There is no account registration to set up the Little Scholar, and there are no hidden costs. Warren Buckleitner of Children's Technology Review had this to say, "Two things set this tablet apart from the swarm of similarly-priced Android competitors: the overall ease of the out-of-box experience and the quality and quantity of pre-loaded content."
I have witnessed first-hand only a handful of young children who use tablets on a daily basis (alternated with playing videos on their mom's smart phone, playing games on game systems, and watching TV). I'm sure I lead a fairly sheltered life, though. My summary feeling after going through the demo with our rep was that the content seemed, well, too wholesome for the average child today. So I thought, "perfect for the homeschooler!" - Linda