Saturday, February 07, 2015

App Review: Middle School Science Bundle

The MIDDLE SCHOOL SCIENCE apps bundle from Sprout Labs take an innovative approach to science instruction by allowing users to select a learning style that best fits their interests and needs.
The Middle School Science bundle includes six apps including Forms of Energy, Electricity/Magnetism, Forces in Motion, Light/Sound, Heat, and Elements. Each app is divided into two or three sections exploring key concepts related to the topic.
For each section, students can select from five different approaches. However, the content varies slightly from section to section, so students can easily miss things if they only complete one section.
“Read and Learn” presents users with text featuring key concepts. An option is provided for audio narration. This section would be more effective if the paragraphs of text were placed on separate pages rather than a long scrolling text box. Headings and subheadings would also be helpful. Across the bottom of the screen, trivia and other facts are presented in a “Did You Know?” area.
“Touch and Learn” provides images with hotspots that students can click for text or a video. The hotspots are easy to see so students won’t miss important ideas. However in many cases, content from slide to slide doesn’t flow smoothly as a narrative.
“See and Learn” features high-quality images with descriptive text. Although interesting, this section only provides a surface level exploration of the topic.
“Watch and Learn” display educational videos. These are the same videos used in the Touch and Learn section.
“Quiz and Learn” challenges users to answer multiple choice questions with increasing difficulty.
The apps would be useful as a supplement rather than as a replacement for the textbook and classroom instruction. They would also be useful for special needs students. Although the content is displayed in an interesting way, it lacks the breadth and depth necessary for middle school science students. It would be helpful to provide a clickable glossary to help youth review key terms.
While the audio narration is a useful element, the sound effects and short music clips distract rather than contribute to the content. Happily, these sounds can easily be turned off.