Monday, August 20, 2012

Butterfly HD

A couple months ago, I reviewed Plants HD  by Sprout Labs which aimed to teach kids all about the plant life cycle. While I saw lots of potential, with it, it ended up with 3 stars, with room for improvement. When I notified the developers of the review, they told me they had a new app, Butterfly HD that had already incorporated some of my suggestions. Given the big push to translate textbooks into the digital world, I definitely wanted to see what the improvements meant for the app.  Price: $1.99

Device Requirements: Compatible with iPad.Requires iOS 5.0 or later.

The main improvements that are included in Butterfly HD are:

a. Added videos on each topic to enhance the learning 
b. Added additional large size HD photos to reinforce the text
c. Made all the Questions related to the topic covered in the text

Since the features of both Plant HD and Butterfly HD are pretty similar, I'm going to include my comments from Plant HD and compare the differences. The new comments will be in blue.

Developmental Appropriateness: 

PLANT: Overall, I think Plants HD provides a lot of great information (total flashback to science class for me!). For each stage of the cycle, it provides a lot of text (which can be read aloud), some fun facts, some photos, and a quiz. The "play" part is arranging all the stages in the correct order. Actually, before I move on, here's what the main page looks like: 

My first instinct, and I think any kid's, would be to hit play. But play just means that all the pictures drop down to the bottom and you're to assume that you have to put them back in order. While I think that this is a good activity, it should come after kids have learned all about the stages and should be presented separately, or at least not as the first thing and without any instruction. So points off here for usability.

BUTTERFLY: As you can see, the main page is still the same, so same issue here.

PLANT: So back to the content...

So, yes, lots of info - but I don't think it really capitalizes on what it could offer. You can see that there's a lot of text (it keeps scrolling down too!). It'd be sooo much better if it could show a video or a series of pictures that go with the text. There are a lot of new vocabulary here for them, so that really needs to be highlighted somehow. The photos that are provided are usually just examples of whatever stage generally, and don't go along with the text. Given the amount of text, it's important to have some visual that keeps kids engaged in it. Instead, they could just be flipping through the photos or the fun facts at the bottom and not listen to or read the actual text. Up top, you can choose to take the quiz - but not all the information you need to answer the questions are provided in the text. You earn coins, but no scores are kept, and nothing to review for teachers/parents. Rating: 3/5 (aim for around 8 years)

BUTTERFLY: Butterfly now includes more pictures and also videos. You see in the picture here that you would tap on the icons on top to see the media. More here is nice, but more does not necessarily mean better. I think that my comment that it needs to be related to the text still stands. The pictures and videos seem to be just a collection from youtube or whereever - while related to the topic, it doesn't connect the information from the text to the information from the video and pictures. It's that connection that makes the difference. That being said, the pluses are that the videos do add some engagement factor and also the quiz now relates to the text and gives you a total score at the end. Rating: 4/5 (aim for around 8)
PLANT:  As mentioned, I think kids could easily not pay attention to the text. I'm not saying that there's too much going on - I like the photos and I like the fun facts. But maybe something could be done about how they access these other sections and what can be added to keep focus on the text and to reinforce their understanding of it. Rating: 3.5/5

BUTTERFLY: Again - I think this is still true. The text still feels very separate from the pictures and videos. Rating: 3.5/5


PLANT: I guess I need to view this a little differently as I can see this being used in the classroom as a supplement to the lesson. Still, I think the addition of videos and making the text more engaging would make this app go from oh, something a teacher is making me look at that is more interesting than a text book to something kids really want to use and even ask for. Rating: 4/5

BUTTERFLY: Yes, there's the addition of videos, so that should add a bit of oomph. But again, I'm sounding like a broken record, that it still feels disconnected, so while kids may want to go to the videos, the text is really where the info is at. Rating: 4.5/5

Parental Involvement: 

PLANT: Again, the quiz feature is nice, but there's no review of it, not even a saved score. And, maybe if there were definitions section or vocal highlighted in the text, teachers could more easily relate it back to their lessons. Basically, although I can see this in the classroom (or at home with parents guiding the way), I don't feel like it was designed with that in mind. Rating: 3/5

BUTTERFLY: And addition I didn't mention is that there's an icon that leads to a breakdown of how the app content relates to curriculum standards. This is nice, but a bit hard to read for someone not used to looking at standards. A more friendly version - especially aimed at parents rather than educators would be nice. Rating: 3.5/5

Total: 15.5 out of 20 - 3 stars. The improvements bumped it up from an ok 3 stars to a high 3 stars.

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