Cool to be Clever: Edson Hendricks is a wonderful biography for iPad that tells the life story of Edson C. Hendricks, the brilliant mind behind the design of the Internet.
This is a very nicely written application, narrated effortlessly by Hendricks himself, who has a wonderful speaking voice which reminding me of a less flamboyant Spaulding Gray making him a great talent in re-telling his own story.
Although written by another author, Leanne Jones, the words presented on the page and spoken in the first person ring utterly true as they guide readers through Hendricks’s early life as a child, being bullied for his intellect as well as for his red hair color, through his groundbreaking work with computers at MIT and beyond as he worked to design a method of connecting the world's computers, sometimes misunderstood by those in authority at this workplace.
I do really enjoy this story of how the technology for the Internet was born, as I do Hendricks's personal story, growing up and feeling an outcast until he found his place in college - a relatable experience for many.
Hendricks's method of delivery is modest and humble, always remaining very much of an everyman including his lovely delivery of his life story to his interviews, which are also included within this application.
I find it interesting that Hendricks is widely regarded as a genius yet never uses this word himself, and I wonder if children will fully understand how unique an experience it is to be a self-taught reader or how difficult admissions to MIT is - topics that parents or teachers may feel the need to touch upon.
I also appreciate how this application also includes moments of drama and suspense during a chapter that goes into detail about Hendricks and a friend sailing through a hurricane on their way to Bermuda, Hendricks being depressed at the time over an invention that was not well-received and how having to fight for their life helped put things into perspective.
Another interesting section of this app includes an anecdote about a peculiar cat that I also was impressed by regarding how this story is tied to the rest of the app in a most thoughtful way.
Please do not expect many interactions as this app is primarily a recorded book and a terrific learning tool that not only teaches about the history of the Internet but may also whet the appetite of children for other biographies or interesting people.
I really enjoy how this app combines the written story narrated by Hendricks as well as other sections that include much other information about the Hendrickses' family life, the Internet and other scientific topics, also including moments of Hendricks giving wonderful advice to programmers as well as to children who feel different.
This app also includes a lengthy section about bullying in schools and what can be done about this very serious topic. The music used throughout this app is also touched upon in a separate section - a nice touch.
It is easy recommend this application for children who have the attention span to listen to this lengthy, interesting audio-book of an iPad app keeping in mind that Hendricks notes a particularly dark time for him that may be not appropriate for some younger children.
Illustrations are included which are equally well done, but at times when Hendricks is describing the computer room in college where he worked, it seems like a missed opportunity that the illustrations do not represent what is being described as this could have helped children visualize these most outdated computers and other hardware being discussed. Also, an image of Woodstock is incorporated into the text - an event that Hendricks experienced firsthand, yet it is only 1965 in the timeline of this story, with a jog into the future while discussing other scientific achievements to come. This may be a little confusing for readers, especially those who think of 1969 when thinking about Woodstock - possibly less of an issue for children not familiar with these dates.
The production value of the audio recording of Hendricks’s story is a little rough - something that I found mildly distracting yet not something most children will pick up on, I am sure.
This app is not only great for children, teens and interested adults, but for teachers as well, as this app has a very nice section about dealing with bullies in school and how this could have helped Hendricks possibly fit in better in school.
This application is thoughtfully written and includes a lot of information children can feel inspired by, from the design that led to the Internet to Hendricks's personal story of overcoming bullies as well as touching on the difficult yet very real topic of depression that Hendricks also includes as part of his life story.
Equally interesting are the interviews with the author of this app, Leanne Jones, who discusses her experiences as a teacher, how she discovered Hendricks’s story, and what she learned from writing this biography - all interesting notes that add to this app’s overall experience.
Cool to be Clever: Edson Hendricks reminds of me the It Gets Better Project for Gay and LGTB Youth, yet here this app articulates that life can get better for those bullied during their childhood years, making this a story worth telling in homes and schools, especially within gifted classrooms.