Bottom line: Great concept and gorgeous-looking app that’s well-worth a look but a bit expensive and missing a few key learning features.
This review was completed by guest reviewer Deanne Shoyer, who blogs at smallbutkindamighty.wordpress.com, and has two history degrees that were both earned without the use of an iPad.
When I was a kid my grandparents bought me a rather grandiosely-titled book called A History of Civilization. It was a hardcover book with big pages full of glossy pictures and, like this app, it had a timeline which started at the very beginning (always a very good place to start) and ran until the present.
Back in Time seeks to provide users with a similar resource but in the form of a multi-media app. It uses a 24-hour clock to represent the passage of billions of years in a way that is easier for us to conceptualize. The day starts with the Big Bang and proceeds through the hours, noting along the way certain key events like the formation of the solar system, the beginning of life on Earth: plants, insects, dinosaurs and mammals. (Human history only begins in the last few minutes of the day.) Each landmark event can be explored further by drilling down to a brief written outline, trivia questions, illustrative pictures and a detailed timeline of the period.
The app looks sumptuous and not just the representation of the arc of history from the beginning to the present but the illustrative pictures are well-chosen and imaginatively presented. The animation is understated but nicely-rendered and the music enhances the overall effect of the app.
What the developer is going for here is the multi-media equivalent of a coffee-table book. A glossy, user-friendly app of this nature would be a great way of giving our kids both a narrative of the past and (hopefully) hooking them into wanting to learn more.
I have two suggestions for improvement if the price is going to stay $7.99 iPad, $4.99 iPhone, which is relatively high for non-special needs educational app; the first of which is, I believe, crucial. An element missing from this app is a way for the user to explore topics further if they choose. Hyperlinks to other resources would provide access to contextual and more detailed information on a person, theme or event. For example, on a picture depicting The Battle of Britain a caption states “Churchill would say: “Never was so much owed by so many to so few," but the app does not explain who Churchill was, or provide any way to learn more about one of the most interesting characters of the 20th century. The Encyclopedia Britannica apps do this very well with less breadth but more depth.
Less crucial but preferable would be for more landmark events to be included and for the focus of each event to be on what the app does very well - pictures, animation and interactivity, rather than text. If this were combined with a way for the user to explore topics in more detail, Back in Time would be a must- have app.
If you would like to download Back in Time please use the links provided. The cost is the same, but Smart Apps receives a small percentage. Thanks for your support!