Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Dream by Swipea

The Dream is an e-book by Chong Siang Kai. It's a fictional story that also aims to teach facts and about the Arabic world. It includes a bunch of mini-games too - currently its free, with in -app purchase options (mainly for the mini-games). Price: Free

Device Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.Requires iOS 4.3 or later.

Developmental Appropriateness: From the description, this e-book sounds great - and for the most part, it lives up to the description. It's a solid e-book that was definitely designed with learning in mind. I really like how it's a fictional story and then uses the interactive elements to teach about the Arabic culture and environment. For example, you can tap on the camel, and a definition will pop up and also give some facts about camels, or you can tap on a word, like Ahmad's name, and it'll give you what it means in Arabic. There's also a separate mode where you can just search through for the interactive elements, but it doesn't narrate the text - so more of an exploring mode and you can focus on just the story in the Read to Me mode. The activities are kept separate from the story. 

So why am I not more excited about this e-book? While the illustrations are nice and kid-friendly, I think I just didn't find the book as engaging as it could be. I guess this is for a few reasons... The text, especially with the facts are not overly complicated, but not exactly kid-friendly. Kids like a bit of humor, it helps to engage them, leading to better memory and learning. I also thought the interactive elements could have been better and taken it to the next step. First, saying what you are defining first is important! It just jumps into the definition without labels. Second, the definitions are just paired with a static picture. Some animation or videos could be used to highlight the definitions. Finally, I think the activities could be beefed-up. A couple do add to cultural knowledge, like the clothing and the food, but they are pretty one-dimensional games. The rest are more like ads. Rating: 4/5 (aim for around 7 years).

Balance: Overall, it's pretty simple, and not too much distraction. But when there is an interactive element, the narration for the facts will overlap with the narration of the story. Since there is a separate mode to find the facts, maybe the facts should not be on in the Read to Me mode, or at least not accessible until the text is read. Rating: 4/5

Sustainability: Like I said, I would love for this e-book to be more engaging. To me, but maybe others will differ, I didn't the tone of the e-book to be too kid-oriented. Rating: 3/5

Parental Involvement: Parents can obviously read with their child, and they might actually learn some facts too! This e-book is a great start to teaching starting conversations about other cultures. Rating: 4/5

Total: 15 out of 20 = 4 stars

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