Bridging the App Gap: PBS KIDS and CPB Bring Mobile Apps to Communities

by Joy Loving, Station Products and Innovation

On March 8, 2012, PBS KIDS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) began distributing two free mobile learning applications for children as part of the Ready To Learn Initiative:  “All Aboard the Dinosaur Train!” for iPad and “Dinosaur Train Camera Catch!” for iPhone. These apps, inspired by Jim Henson’s Dinosaur Train, help develop math skills in children between the ages of 3 and 5. Stations are invited to work with partner organizations locally – such as Head Start centers, schools, libraries or community organizations – that have mobile/tablet devices and serve low-income populations. Once stations have recruited partners for the program,  they will be able to request free download codes for two new Dinosaur Train apps to be used at partner organizations and/or distributed by partner organizations to educators, parents and caregivers in low-income communities.

Debra Sanchez, Senior Vice President, Education and Children’s Content at CPB says, “This unique partnership with PBS and Head Start gives children a new way to engage with trusted public media content through mobile devices – one of the most popular technologies in their lives today.”

I can relate to the children who do not have access to the technologies that most take for granted.  As a child growing up in a rural area in the 1990s, my family was one of the last to get cable or the Internet, so analog television was as good as it got for many years! These were the days when TVs still had antennas on top of them inside the house AND outside in the back yard (or on the roof). The kind of antennas that one person stayed inside while the other went outside and adjusted it:

“Yes! Oh, wait, wait—turn it back to the left! I can almost see through the static!”

I vaguely remember watching Barney (yes, Barney), Mathica’s Math Shop (who else remembers that one?), and Captain Kangaroo (classic!). I even tried to paint with Bob Ross occasionally. While other kids in my neighborhood were able to watch shows whenever they wanted, I could only watch certain shows at designated times. I also had one of those fake kiddie computers with a few games on it, and my mother insisted on getting me those children’s encyclopedias with the pictures. Exciting.

Okay, this wasn’t the worst situation—it helped mold me into the bookworm that I am today and made me appreciate good educational tools.  However, the world is changing and keeping up with technology has become a necessity. I think that if the technologies that we have now were available to me as child, especially educational applications, it would have only increased my desire to learn.

Participating Stations 

To bridge this “app gap” in today’s society, PBS KIDS and CPB hope to reach children in communities who do not have readily made access to tablets, smartphones, or even computers. Many local PBS stations are participating in this campaign, including Iowa Public Television and Vegas PBS. These two stations are working hard to recruit other partners to help distribute the applications.

"As Iowa's largest classroom, Iowa Public Television knows the importance of using all available technologies to help children learn,” says Terry Rinehart, Director of Educational Services at IPTV. “The PBS KIDS App Distribution Project will assist us in our mission to help Iowa's youngest residents learn math and literacy skills by opening doors to new learning technologies previously out of reach for economically disadvantaged children."

Jessica Carroll, Literary Specialist for the Ready To Learn initiative for Vegas PBS shares that the station “will be conducting family literacy workshops this summer at various library sites in the community to demonstrate the [PBS KIDS Lab] Lab as part of the as part of the Las Vegas library district." Vegas PBS conducts family literacy workshops throughout the year at more than 80 Title I pre-k program sites. They will also be distributing this year’s apps to Acelero Head Start and the After-School All-Stars.

Other stations participating in the campaign are: WGBY (MA), Detroit Public Television (MI), Thirteen/WNET (NY), Eight, Arizona PBS (AZ), and Ideastream (OH).

Pictured: Children from Iowa Public Televsion (photo 1)  and Vegas PBS (photo 2) communities playing various educational PBS games.

About the Apps

Dinosaur Train Camera Catch!” works by having kids move their iPhones around to take pictures of flying dinosaurs. The children must “catch” the dinosaurs according to designated patterns, improving recognition ability. For a demo of this app, go here.

“All Aboard the Dinosaur Train!” is a game in which children must seat dinosaurs on the train, matching them by size and shape, before the train takes off.  This game allows two players to play at once, a great way for children to play with a friend or parent. Use this link to see a demo of this app. 
PBS KIDS and CPB will continue distributing free applications codes to Head Start centers and low income communities nationwide through September 2012. “All Aboard the Dinosaur Train” and “Dinosaur Train Camera Catch!” are available to the general public through the iTunes/App store for the price of $1.99 each. Funding for the Ready To Learn Initiative is provided by the US Department of Education.

If you would like for your station to be a part of this program, please do one of the following:

1) Go to and register. Once you are registered, please complete the online form to request codes for your partner organizations.

2) Encourage your partners to request codes directly on If you decide to have your partners request codes directly, please email a list of those organizations to Tracy Williams at

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