Bottom line: Unique app that provides some great visuals and interactivity to assist parents and teachers in explaining how the earth’s position in space determines how we measure time.
Jeffy’s World uses 3-D animations to illustrate the earth’s position relative to the sun, thereby helping to explain concepts like – day and night, month and year, what the seasons are and why our weather changes with each season.
If you’re a parent or teacher trying to explain these concepts to elementary age children this app will provide some visual supports that kids will find appealing, together with some interactivity for them to play with. Jeffy is a cute little character who is funny but also a little cranky (a typical six year-old in many ways then). The animation is crisp, well-done, and has a very unique look. I wasn’t fond of the ambient music but it can be turned off. I like the humor in the app - for example, if you turn the earth the ‘wrong’ way you get the message:
“You cannot rotate the earth this way! You are going back in time!”
Like any kid, or most people actually, Jeffy typically wants what he doesn’t have – if it’s winter he’s longing for the sun, if it's spring he yearns for the leaves of fall. In the short animation sequences things generally blow up in his face (in one case, literally). He’s basically the kind of little kid that makes you laugh (especially when he’s not yours).
I really love the idea of this app – letting children play with the earth’s position in space seems like the perfect way to illustrate how we measure the passage of time and why the weather changes depending on the time of year it is and which hemisphere we are in.
There are, however, some things in the app that need tweaking:
* I strongly advise the parent or teacher to go through the How to Play section at the beginning and then play with all the sections of the app in order to familiarize themselves with the content. Not everything in the app is intuitive, so many children will need help.
* According to the developer the app contains 12 short animations. For the longest time I could not work out how or why these were popping up – it seemed to be completely random. For your reference, in the Day section, as you move the earth, Jeffy will exclaim things which appear as phrases in a pop-up balloon.
Let’s use the example of him asking if it's lunchtime yet. If you touch the balloon, it disappears and nothing happens. If you leave the balloon alone and rotate the earth a little further, at lunchtime, a short animation shows Jeffy eating lunch. An explanation of this in the How To Play section or even pop-up instructions on the screen that you could turn off once understood would be a helpful addition to the app.
* Additional information on each section is provided via a pull-down tab. This is a great idea but at some points it seems like the additional information provided is on the wrong tab. For example, information about the seasons is provided in the Year section and information about what a year is and why we have leap years is detailed on the pull-down tab for the Day section. This is one of the reasons why I think it’s a good idea for the adult to familiarize themselves with all the content of the app prior to playing it with a child.
* The written explanations on the pull down tab are either non-existent or pretty complicated for a six year old. Even if the information is intended for the parent or teacher to help answer a child’s questions, I still think sections like this are a little obtuse: “By astronomical convention, the four seasons are determined by the solstices – the point in the orbit of maximum axial tilt toward or away from the Sun – and the equinoxes, when the direction of the tilt and the direction to the Sun are perpendicular.”
In the Day section, the times and the animation don’t seem to be in-sync. Jeffy looks like he’s in Europe (which makes sense, the developer is Dutch). I set the time to my time, let’s say, Feb. 24, 2012 at 3 p.m. EST). Jeffy’s earth view at that point was night-time which again made sense as it would be 9 p.m. in the Netherlands. But Jeffy is saying things like “The sun is too bright! I can’t sleep!” and when I turn the clock forward 3 hours, on Jeffy’s earth view the sun is just coming over the horizon...at midnight?
* On the pull-down tab for the Day section, everything is shown from the perspective of the Northern Hemisphere only.
* In the Seasons section, the user is presented with a view from both hemispheres but the south view is simply a mirror of the northern one. In addition, the change in seasons can be a little arbitrary and oddly timed. On April 1, Jeffy is shown smiling at butterflies flying around a tree in bud then two days later the tree is in full bloom, Jeffy is in sunglasses and the sun is red-hot. In June, Jeffy is sunburned (see the next point for my thoughts on this) and the tree has wilted. July brings rain and falling leaves and by August, all the leaves have fallen and mushrooms are growing. There’s snow in October.
* On the Seasons pull-down tab Jeffy is holding a bottle of sunscreen. The SPF factor changes depending on the season. I think this was an awesome choice of visual, however, the factor goes from 2 to 20 when every recommendation I’ve read for kids is to use a minimum of SPF 30 or higher. This may seem to be a very picky point but skin cancer is a real and increasing threat. In my view, showing kids as sunburned and wearing completely insufficient sunscreen protection is just not appropriate in a children’s app.
* Lastly, there are a number of typos which need fixing:
- The calendar shows “Januari” and Februari”
- Jeffy’s phrases include:
- “Mjum (sic) I’m hungry for fresh chestnuts”
- “Falling leafs (sic) are boring, take me to spring”
- “Spring is far to (sic) green, fall has cool storms”
- The pull down tab for the Day section includes the sentence “the Earth takes 365.24 days to revolve around the Sun.” This information has presumably just been copied from somewhere as it appears to include the footnote.
All of these things could be resolved in an upgrade and I hope they will be. The app is only 99 cents and the things I like about it, I like a lot. It’s not a standalone app by any means but it would provide a unique visual support for a discussion of the passage of time, the seasons, and how this is all determined by the earth’s position in relation to the Sun. I’d definitely recommend you take a look at this app if your child has questions regarding these issues or if they are in your lesson plans.
If you would like to purchase Jeffy's World HD please use the links provided. The cost is the same, but Smart Apps receives a small percentage. Thanks for your support!
This review was written by Deanne Shoyer who is happy she doesn’t live in Jeffy’s World where it starts snowing in October. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.