Thursday, May 30, 2013

WWF Together - brilliant app for animal lovers, young and old (ages 9 and up)

So what actually makes a book app? Is it that you turn pages, like in a traditional book. Nope - that's not it. Some fantastic apps, like Bats! and Bobo Explores Light have readers exploring information by swiping up, or pulling down tabs. But I think that's the key -- book apps are ways for readers to explore information and stories. They combine text, graphics and interactive features to engage readers in this exploration. One of the most dynamic, engaging apps I've shared with my students this spring is the World Wildlife Foundation's free app: WWF Together.
WWF Together
developed by the World Wildlife Foundation
released January 3, 2013
current version 1.2
available on iTunes
preview video
currently free!!
ages 9 and up
WWF Together features eight interactive stories about endangered animals around the world. Each of the interactive stories includes beautiful images and videos, facts about the animals and their habitats, and the threats to each of the animals. Readers choose a threatened animal to learn about, and then explore the information within the app. The photographs are indeed amazing, but what sets this app apart is how it engages readers in the discovery process.

Each animal has six to nine screens of information on it arranged in a tile pattern. But each screen presents information in a different way, essentially asking readers to discover how to uncover the information. In one screen, readers might swipe up the photograph to reveal facts on the threats facing the animal. On another screen, you explore a feature of the animal. Readers trace the length of a snow leopard's tail, discovering a different points key facts about it.

This app makes these key facts memorable by requiring readers to find information in different, unusual ways - integrating pictures, text, movement and interactive features. Which is more effective: telling readers that gorillas have different nose prints, or having readers swipe to change just the nose print on a gorilla's face, experiencing how different they can be?

And if my love for this app couldn't grow any more, it has maps! And you can spin them, seeing not only where the animal lives, but where you live! I'm only 995 miles from bison's territory, but over 8,000 miles from gorillas. This interactive map reinforces key terms such as habitat, but also lets students compare population sizes if they want to. For example, there are nearly 120,000 gorillas in the wild, but only 1,500 giant pandas. That's a pretty staggering difference.

So let me look briefly at the criteria I set out in my paper on evaluating book apps:
  • Audience and purpose: WWF Together works well for 3rd grade to adult. Its purpose is to inform readers about endangered animals around the world. It firmly keeps to this purpose.
  • Story, plot, information: The information is clear and engaging. The chunks are easy to read, but provide depth beyond a simple introduction. 
  • Navigation: It is easy to move from animal to animal. But the app keeps the content fresh by having readers explore the information in different ways. 
  • Narration and audio options: There is no narration, but the music is pleasing and not distracting.  
  • Pacing and chunking: The information is chunked well - brief enough that readers are continually drawn in to interact, and yet deep enough to really teach readers about the animal. 
  • Interactive features: Although there is no "game" component, this app has engaged a class of 3rd graders both as a whole group and individually. The interactive elements and the high-interest topic combine to make readers want to keep exploring information about the featured animals.
The review copy came from our home library collection. This really is one of my must-have apps of the year. And did I mention, it's free! Please support the World Wildlife Foundation and tell a friend about this amazing app.

Review ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

1 comment:

  1. Great app. Thanks for sharing! When I first saw your title I was a bit concerned. I was sure WWF had something to do with wrestling, but I'm not an expert by any means. LOL! I couldn't figure out where you were going with that. :)
    Brandee @ Creating Lifelong Learners