I talk a lot about the educational benefits of the iPad to young kids, and I have seen my own children learn so much from it. However, when I’ve been asked to recommend educational apps for older kids I have up until now struggled to find anything. So when the makers of the Wonders of the Universe app asked me to take a look at their latest offering, the Wonders of Life, I jumped at the chance.
Somehow, despite the presence of Professor Brian Cox (a personal hero of mine), I had never tried out the Wonders of the Universe app, so I came to the follow-up Wonders of Life app completely new. In this app, the press release promises, you will see Professor Brian Cox take you on an awe-inspiring 3D tour of the Earth’s most disparate climates and creatures. It uses content from the BBC2 documentary series by the same name to show you the science behind the origins of life. And you know what? It really delivers. The app is absolutely beautifully constructed with gorgeous graphics. Information is presented in a variety of ways – video (from the TV series, starring Professor Brian Cox), pictures and plenty of text. Navigation is perhaps not 100% intuitive, but not clumsy either – whilst I’ve struggled to get either of my kids interested enough to work it out, I think slightly older kids (and adults) would be fine.
The app is not comprehensive by any stretch of the imagination – it couldn’t possibly cover all life all over the planet, so it very sensibly doesn’t even try. It picks a good selection and variety and focuses on covering those really well. I was a little disappointed that only three of the 5 continents were covered, and surprised that, for an app produced in conjunction with the BBC, Europe was not included. I suspect there are simply more interesting examples to be found in the 3 featured continents (North America, Africa and Australasia).
One thing to be aware of – the video content in this app is streamed on demand over the Internet rather than stored on your device. This is good in one respect because it means the app requires less storage on your device than otherwise (it shows as taking just 348Mb on my iPad mini), but does mean that you can only view the videos when an Internet connection is present. Text and images are available offline, and I suspect most people have their devices online most of the time these days, so this shouldn’t really be an issue.
The app is almost 100% family friendly – there are no in-app purchases and no advertising. You can access almost all the content without needing to pass over any personal information, but if you want to view Brian’s Tour of Life (which apparently contains over 10 additional videos and loads of additional information) you need to either log in with Facebook or create a HarperCollins account.
I have absolutely loved exploring the Wonders of Life app, and will definitely be adding it to my list of recommended educational apps for older kids. As I mentioned before I couldn’t get either the 6-year old geekdaughter or the 3-year-old geekson interested in the app, but there is probably simply too much reading and too many difficult concepts for them. I think this app would be perfect for secondary school kids and older. I rate it as a 4 star app – it loses one star for the not-entirely-intuitive navigation and the requirement to login to access all the content.
The Wonders of Life is a Universal app for iPhone/iPad and iPod Touch, and is available in the App Store (affiliate link) for £3.99.
Disclosure: I was provided with pre-release access to a free copy of The Wonders of Life app for review purposes. I receive a small commission payment on purchases made from the App Store after clicking on my affiliate link (this doesn’t cost any more to you).