Bottom line: iBiome-Ocean, the follow-up to the popular iBiome-Wetlands app, allows kids to explore the open ocean, kelp beds, tide pools and more. A great educational supplement to a classroom unit on the ocean, biodiversity, ecology and a variety of other subjects.
If you'd like to purchase iBiome-Ocean by developer Springbay Studio ($3.99, iPad only, iOS 6.0 or later), please use this handy link:
It's Eclipse Day in the United States -- the first time since 1918 that a total eclipse has been visible coast to coast. I'm in the 90 percent area -- not the much-hyped "path of totality," but a chance to see some pretty cool stuff nonetheless. So I've spent the last several weeks trying to get my ten-year-old to be as excited about this event as I am. And you know what's worked better than any speeches I've given her? Apps. She's fascinated by some of the apps out there that allow her to interact with this cosmic event.
So, as a parent who's spent a few days seeing just how valuable apps can be in promoting science with my kid, let me introduce you to iBiome-Ocean by Springbay Studio. Full of more information than you can imagine about the ocean, the app is a follow-up to iBiome-Wetlands and is aimed at kids in grades 3 through 8. Both apps are destined to be go-to tools in science classrooms for years to come.
Your journey through the ocean is led by Professor Bio, a friendly animated chap who talks to kids about biodiversity, ecology, climate change and so many other topics. App users learn how human activity is affecting the ocean, how the food chain works in different areas of the ocean, and what they can do to protect the ocean from overfishing, pollution and more. It's more than just lessons about the ocean -- it's teaching kids critical thinking and experimentation, and what happens when they change their biome.
The app was built in conjunction with scientists from organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and includes top-notch information that teachers and parents can be sure is factually correct. It's also presented in a way that is kid-friendly and not too over the head of even the most unscientific parents.
The app won't tempt your kids with any ads or in-app purchases, and the developer promises that the app does not collect or share any personal information. There are a few external links, but they're in a parent-protected area (your kid has to know your year of birth to get in, and I guarantee mine would be shocked to discover I was born post-1900). Be sure to check out the parent section, as it contains videos and other resources you'll want to explore with your child.
This app has a great environment-friendly message, beautiful graphics, and a wealth of knowledge. My only issue with it is that its interface isn't particularly intuitive. It uses what it calls the "crazy web" to allow kids to build food chains, for instance, and it took me a minute to figure out what I was supposed to be doing. Once I figured it out, it ran smoothly enough, but my first few lessons were a bit garbled as I used trial and error (mostly error). The directions for each trip to the crazy web say "shake to test." But beyond that first time, you're not "testing" it -- you're just using the app as intended. I found that language confusing. There are also a couple of minor spelling and grammar errors, which disappoints me in an app that's this high quality. Overall, I think the app is better suited to classroom use than to stand-alone learning. As a supplement to a classroom lesson on the oceans, it would be fabulous. As something for my kid to sit down and play on her own, I found it less useful.
My complaints with this app are minimal -- on the whole, it's beautifully done and well worth $3.99. Don't tell my daughter, but I enjoyed learning about the ocean, too, and played my way through the tide pools section without her.