By Warren Buckleitner, Ph.D.
Children's Technology Review
School Zone; the Michigan-based publisher known for higher quality flash cards, software and workbooks, now has its own digital platform, thanks to low cost Android tablets. The Little Scholar tablet is an adapted Lexibook (8)-inch tablet (www.mylexibooktablet.com) with 8GB of RAM and a Micro SD card. There are no surprises on the hardware aspects of this tablet: two cameras,a Micro SD card slot, headphone jack, 1 DC port, 1 Mini HDMI port, and Lithium battery; all housed in a rubber bumper.
Two things set this tablet apart from the swarm of similarly priced Android competitors: the overall ease of the out-of-box experience, second only to the Samsung Kids Tablet, and the quality and quantity of the pre-loaded content, that includes nearly the entire library of SchoolZone digital content that can function without Wi-fi, plus videos, e-books and songs. It's also turned School Zone into a video publisher: they've used the new platform to deliver a series of videos called Charlie & Company that feature a dog, with music by Brian Vander Ark.
We liked that there is no registration or credit card required at start-up; no apps to download; no upsells for buying more apps; no cartridges to lose; no lite or partial version apps; no ads and no worries. This is the anti-Tabeo and it succeeds in giving parents a solid non-Leapfrog, non-vTech alternative.
Weaknesses include no Google Play access (we see this as a big strike against any Android tablet), although additional Android apps can be purchased through the built-in School Zone Market which is provided by SlideMe (www.slideme.org). It is possible to download and install the Amazon Appstore; both require setting up an account, registration and a credit card. We were able to download and make accessible Netflix, YouTube and Angry Birds with no problems from the Amazon Appstore. This tablet is evidence that a smaller, passionate publisher can use partnerships with hardware producers to deliver gimmick-free content.
Details: School Zone Publishing, www.schoolzone.com. Price: $200. Ages: 3-7.
Platform: Android. Teaches/Purpose: school readiness, reading, writing. Rating (1 to 5
stars): 4.1 stars.