Category: Science »
Peapod Labs has developed a favorite series of educational ABC apps and has recently added two new titles - ABC Aquarium and ABC Bugs, each terrifically educational and including exceptional photography to allow children to view these different creatures in a way that highlights all of their unique attributes.
Each of these apps, now eleven and counting, features a wide amount of content, including terrific, detailed photos of each subject as well as narrated fun facts, curated videos gathered from the Internet and simple, intuitive interactions which young children will enjoy a great deal.
A menu of contents is featured prominently as here one can choose from many words associated with the chosen from this series - each arranged alphabetically.
To choose a word, simply tap in order to be taken to a page dedicated to this animal or object, be it a sea horse, dolphin, ladybug or louse, as one has the chance to explore the interactions, gaze at the wonderfully detailed photographs, watch short video clips or read along as interesting facts are narrated.
Do note that one can jump to another letter with a tap from the available letters that make up the word in question as seen at the bottom of the screen - another fun way of working one’s way through this app as well as spend a little time on letter recognition.
I also appreciate how many of these words include multiple images, videos and facts that go into further details about each subject as well as showing what a variety of related creatures may look like such as different kinds of eels, coral, or butterflies.
I have enjoyed each of these apps, but I must admit the photos found in the new ABC Aquarium and ABC Bugs apps may be my favorites as the colors and details found on these creatures really pop off the screen of my iPad such as the star fish or anemone found in the aquatic app or the harlequin beetles from ABC Bugs.
I have learned a lot from these apps, and I enjoy how beavers and frogs are included in ABC Aquatic as well as other fish and marine mammals found in the oceans, as well as including bugs in ABC Bugs who are not true insects such as a millipede or scorpion. I have become smitten with creatures I never gave much thought to until now such as the charming and handsome Beluga whale.
It is also nice to say that the detailed facts found within these apps are upbeat and child-appropriate. Although it is hard to avoid the topic of predators when talking about certain fish such as barracudas, it is done so with grace, and I was pleased to see how non-confrontational the included information is, such as how wasps help farmers or that the Brown Recluse spider has six eyes instead of the typical eight. Although the educational videos do go into more depth about these characters, such as the venomous stings of some spiders, this info can easily be curtailed by turning off the Internet connection, disabling the videos if a parent feels the need.
Even with no Internet access, there is a tremendous amount one can look at, learn from and interact with as children of varied ages can enjoy this app in different ways, with the very young simply swiping the pages looking at the different images and hearing the names of each animal or other subject narrated.
One can scroll though from A to Z while older children can use these animals or objects of interest to springboard their own research.
It is impressive how these apps have been improved from their earliest inception, now including Spanish as a language, with the included facts fully translated into both Spanish and English as well as the included narration.
A simple notation is also made naming the source of each tidbit of information - a nice touch that will aid older children in possibly doing their own research online.
Also new to these two new apps is how an adult will need to enable Spanish as a language choice for use in these apps, presumably so toddlers will not turn on the other language by mistake - which could be confusing to these young app users.
When installed, however, the switching back and forth between these languages is effortless - great for teaching both Spanish and English to older children as well as adults.
Also new is the ability to create multiple users' accounts so different children can explore this app at their own pace, as the words from the menu that have been opened will then be marked with a thumbnail image of these words as well as further label pages which include videos or interactions - fun discoveries each child can now make on his own, progress that can now be in sync between one’s iPad and iPhone.
I look forward to the new themes that may be included into this series. I greatly appreciate the consistent updates these apps have received, making them even more engaging with added content and other tweaks based on user feedback - something other developers should take note of.
There is a new series of educational apps for iPad that parents and educators should be aware of - namely, Leo’s Pad.
These apps - three that are currently available - are unique as they star interesting historical characters as children, specifically a young Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilei and Marie Curie allowing this trio to be apart of unique science-themed interactions such as color mixing to create fuel with the help of Marie as children help assist Galileo build a rocket or help Leo work on interesting contraptions such as a catapult or unique vehicle, the gyro racer that has both elements of science fiction as well as a fun representation of the inventive ideas da Vinci is known for - much to the amusement of adults as well as children.
These appisodes are full of interactions that always further the storyline and are never distracting and include activities also found in other apps such as drawing, tracing or sorting, yet these tasks here are used to keep children fully immersed in the world that has been created within Leo’s Pad.
The look of these apps is marvelous, with computer generated images that rival CGI games geared towards adults, including the look of these characters, their hair and facial expressions - elements not always well realized in 3D computer-generated images such as this, with a resolution quite fine as well as bright and colorful, also including many moments of wonderfully lush landscapes further creating a world within Leo's Pad apps.
I must admit that I was a little hesitant regarding the idea of Leo’s Pad including child versions of these great scientists, to me reminiscent of the Muppet Babies, to me a lesser show staring animated Muppets that toss away the history of the Muppets characters meeting for all of them to conveniently be babies together, applicable here as it is obvious that in terms of time periods and location, that it is impossible for these three scientists to have been childhood friends - an adult concern that I let go of when I saw the overall quality of this app. Parents, however may want to explain who these characters are based on as well as the historically accurate time periods in which the characters lived.
The first of these apps is free, with the rest of these apps available for in-app purchases - add-ons that I am not typically keen about, but this is a rare time when this format works well. It also includes free glimpses of paid appisodes allowing parents to get a feel for what they are purchasing.
Parents and educators also may be interested in the free Parents' Pad section of this app which analyzes the progress made in these apps for each child's account, as multiple children can have their personal data saved within.
A lot of information is offered within the Parents' Pad and can be overwhelming at first glance. Do take the time to fully explore what this section has to offer, being an area that teachers will also find helpful for keeping tabs on the progress of their students within Leo’s Pad.
It is nice that children’s social intelligence is also touched upon here as seen in an area where the child, Leo, and Leo’s pet dragon all paint together, each with his own easel but sharing the paint brush, asking children to wait their turn. Although this section means well, I don’t think it translates as children are left staring at their blank canvas as others paint at the corners of the page - simply not engaging and also setting them up for frustration.
I would prefer watching others paint pictures directly as this is more interesting and gives children a chance to empathize with their painter working hard on his project so as not to steal the brush back. I simply could not help thinking during waiting my turn that Leonardo da Vinci has multiple easels to share but only owns a single paintbrush? I also am not a fan of making children share in general, preferring to set time limits and then pass along the toy or item in question to other children when ready.
Even with this note, there is an undeniable level of top quality within these apps and an obviously high level of work that has gone into Parents' Pad as well. The ability for difficulty of the tasks within this app to adapt to the ability of the user is quite interesting and makes these apps worthy choices for children of varied ages.
It is worth noting that the developers at Kidaptive have plans for 25 of these appisodes in the future, with appisode number four to be released soon. I am interested to see what new adventures these apps will bring, and look forward to more of these apps in the future.
Pettson’s Inventions Deluxe is a unique and highly engaging problem solving puzzle app for children as well as adults.
Meet Pettson and his cat Findus, and help them build fantastical contraptions while keeping in mind the laws of physics as players add different parts to the machine-like cogs and belts as well as unique items such as a ramp made out of cheese or a flower pot.
It is tempting to compare Pettson’s Intentions to a Rube Goldberg machine, and although I think this comparison has some merit, I do not believe it is spot-on as Rube Goldberg device solve simple daily problems such as turning on a light switch with the use of a convoluted and over-built invention. Here, however, there is more of a sense of nonsense as one may devise a way to open and close monster cages as the creatures when loose may scare an animal making it run, pulling a lever behind them, watering flowers to make them instantly grow which may lure a cow to graze, as well as tasks that could include washing a pig or making it snow around the house with the use of an ice cream cone and a windmill.
This deluxe app consists of the content of Pettson’s inventions 1 and 2 and includes six new puzzles as well as the ability to race the clock to play against someone as the screen of the iPad is then split and users play head-to-head on the same device.
It is worth noting that this app has a few really important options, as one can get a visual hint of how to solve the problem at hand by not just being told the object, but by also seeing a visual clue allowing users to see what it looks like to make a dragon happy instead of just hearing the description. Another option is to having only the parts needed for the specific invention or including other items that will not be needed for the puzzle, thus increasing the difficulty of these sections.
When ready to work on these puzzles, one will note that certain clues are given throughout, as pins to attach gears may be included, or there may already be gears within the invention that one needs to attach a belt to as well as pipes in need of being fitted or pulleys which take shape when dragged onto the invention area of the page, center screen, as all the items to be used in these contraptions can be seen lining the perimeter of the page.
As one becomes more familiar with these puzzles, the tools one can add to the inventions will become more familiar as they work consistently the same way from puzzle to puzzle, also noting that there is some color coding that is also included - a nice touch.
I also appreciate how the power to these inventions can be turned on while building to see how the plans are working so far, allowing players to see what more needs to be done.
For the most part, I find the level of difficulty in this app good, and I have been able to solve the majority of these puzzles on my own without too much frustration.
It is nice to know that one can find walk-throughs of much of this app on line if needed, as I did for a scene where one needs to suspend a weight in mid air, and I could not find the sweet spot from which to hang the anvil. It would be nice if the app had help like this within the app as well for children who may feel stuck.
Pettson’s Inventions Deluxe is a wonderful app for logic and problem solving. The inventions one creates are highly creative, and I am quite fond of all the quirky details found within.
Colours! is an interesting, interactive color theory app that children and their adults will enjoy.
I honestly did not expect much from Colours! as teaching children how to mix primary colors to create secondary shades is not an uncommon topic, so I was pleasantly surprised how complex this app can become.
Colours! allows one to mix red, yellow, blue, white and black to form any color possible. A sponge is also included to use as an eraser - a nice touch.
In Learn, tap a color and drag to paint within a circle seen at the top of the page. Slowly the circle will take on the desired color. Note how when painting, the test tube left of the circle is seen being filled with color drops. Tap the test tube to see 36 drops of color as they represent the proportions of different colors when new colors are added to the circle as seen when a new color is chosen and painted into the circle.
I must say I have spent more time with this app than I expected. I enjoy watching the colors change and checking to see what color parts make up a new specific shade that can be saved to investigate later.
In Play mode, a new, sometimes sophisticated color is offered at the top of the circle, allowing players to match this shade by mixing colors together. This may be easy, such as mixing yellow and blue to make green, but it can also be quite hard, such as mixing different shades of navy blues with red hiding within - a color I would be stuck at if I had not played around in the earlier section and discovered this shade for myself.
In Yours, the colors created in the first section are kept secure in the palette-like area. Tap on a color to see the different parts needed to create this shade.
The look of this app is pleasing, with a paint-splattered background and realistic looking paint cans to choose from. The primary blue color looks a little light with its white base showing through to seem very “true” in terms of being a primary color, and I noted how the blue shade seemed to turn darker - closer to almost navy the more one painted this single shade, compared to the red and yellow shades which were bright and primary-looking from the start.
Another observation I have made is how the color may disappear against the white background although other color parts are still in play in the test tube. I do wonder if being able to choose one’s own background color would mediate this problem as well as add to the visual interest of these colors, as they may seem to change color next to another shade. Relatedly, do point out to children how the top color within the Play mode seems to change in comparison to the bottom color as it too changes with every new color added.
I would also love to work from the test tube side of the Learn area, seeing how the color changes when adding very exact measurements of colors would transform colors when flipped back to the painting mode.
Colours! allows adults and children to dive deeper into color theory more than I thought. Children can have fun just mixing away, but this app can be used in school and at home together with a color wheel to teach about blending colors in a way most infinite.
I remember when my son was young and was given paints for the first time. I really wanted to show him how to achieve green, orange and purple, but my paints were quite less than true, and even with equal proportions mixed, the perfect secondary colors were never achieved. Others may have less of this issue, but from my experience, I can see how this type of app can be quite valuable, as the paint used to create the never-ending shades one can blend here would be mostly wasted in real life - as well as quite a mess.
Colours! is an app worth checking out. Adults, including those with an art background, will enjoy this world of color without any cleanup, but I think it would be a nice inclusion if one had a blank page to paint on with the colors they had created and saved - just a thought for a future update.