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In the December Wave: Library gets hands-on with technology
11/26/2013 1:34:40 PM

By Kelly Moore
Splash Contributor

The Liberty Lake Municipal Library is preparing kids for the future. Young children can take a modern approach to learning with some of the educational games set up on iPads available for play in the children's area. And older youth are also getting a look into Leap Motion technology that allows users to control a computer with hand motions. 

"It's great to see kids and their parents working together on some of the games," Library Director Pamela Mogen said. 

The three iPads are safely mounted at a table near the entrance to the children's section of the library and available anytime during normal hours. They don't have to be checked out. Children can simply sit down and start playing. 

Mogen said the library staff worked hard to make sure the tablets would be well protected and easy to use, but sometimes kids might have to ask for help with adjusting the volume. Internet access from the iPads is not available. 

All of the activities are pre-loaded onto the tablets and geared toward toddlers and pre-school aged children. The current games support early literacy and include things like matching pictures to sounds and constructing words. 

The iPads are available on a first-come, first-served basis and Mogen said children are encouraged to take turns and share. 

"We've seen a really good response so far," Mogen said. "The kids really seem to enjoy the games, and we can tell the iPads are getting a lot of use already."

Mogen also said the library is committed to expanding the iPad program to include options for elementary and middle school students as soon as possible in 2014. To help roll out program, the library is accepting donations of older tablets that could be refurbished. 

Throughout November, the library also held classes to demonstrate Leap Motion. This technology has a small unit that sits in front of the keyboard and has high-definition cameras to track a user's movements. The unit allows a computer user to do things like click a mouse and surf Web pages without touching anything and only making hand gestures in the air. 

"I'm always searching for new technologies and even though this is fairly new - basically in its infancy - there is a lot of excitement surrounding it," Technical Specialist Travis Montgomery said. "I did a little research and got us on the waiting list to order it. It's only been available to the public for a few months now."

Montgomery compared the technology to the futuristic scenes in movies like "Iron Man 3" and "Minority Report" where characters manipulate information on computer screens. 

"It takes a little practice, but it's not too terribly hard to learn," Mogen said. "It's a really intuitive program, and it's fun to try."

Right now the unit is still available at the library for demonstration purposes. Mogen said additional classes in December could be offered if enough interest warrants it.