Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Classical Kids

Classical Kids was created by The Children's Group. It's a series of stories that mixes music, history, and storytelling. There's actually a students edition that initial comes free but you have to purchase each story and a teachers edition that comes with all the stories and also notes for teachers on how to incorporate the stories into their lessons. Price: The in-app story purchases are $3.99 each and the complete teachers edition is $49.99.

Device Requirements: Compatible with iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later.

Developmental Appropriateness: In this day and age, learning about Mozart and Bach is kinda lost in our curricula. Music classes in elementary school where kids learn to play instruments are hard to come by, so learning about great composers and their life stories is practically non-existent. So Classical Kids is a great idea that can help fill a void in our education system. The original stories were written in 1988 and have sold well as recordings. The question here is, does it work better as an app? I'm afraid my answer is no. It's not that the stories aren't appropriate or that it's worse than the recordings - its just not any better. It does not take advantage of the affordances of a tablet and its interactivity. Each story is about 45 minutes and kids listen to it like a track while looking at static pictures that don't really tell a story on it's own. That's it. There's no text to follow, interactive elements relevant to the plot, animation, nothing. Again, that's fine - but when you consider the length, I'm not sure this will hold a child's attention. If you think about it, most kids' shows are around 20 minutes plus commercials, or if they are longer shows, they are broken up into many independent segments. Yes, the stories here are broken into mini tracks, but the story from beginning to end is pretty long. I think in it's original conception - kids listen, teachers ask questions - it works fine. It's just that the app version doesn't go beyond that. There was great potential to add a great visual elements and interactivity - especially since classical music probably isn't the most popular topic among children. The pictures here aren't the best. The kids look way older than their age and other things just don't match like Bach's wife died at the age of 35, but the picture shows an old woman with gray hair. Details matter, especially when there's nothing else to do but look at the pics! I'm glad to see that they've switched up the pricing a bit, cause otherwise, it may have been better to just stick with the original recordings. Rating: 3.5/5 (aim for around 8 years).

Balance: There were some attempts made to incorporate some extra features. But those too fall short. First, there's a quiz, but it's really like a fill in the blank worksheet meant for teachers to print out. Kids cannot actually fill in the answers on the device. There's a metronome, but no instrument to play. There's a recording, but again, not music to make. Yes, obviously, it's meant to be used in class with real instruments. But why not both? What's the point of putting it on an iPad then? Rating: 2/5

Sustainability: I would love to see kids more interested in composers. Does this app make that happen? I'm not sure. The stories themselves are nice - they are told in a very conversational way and make a great audio book (which honestly, is what I basically ended up using it as) - but I'm reviewing this as an app, not as the original audiobook. I think kids now have a certain expectation for an app and the iPad. And this does not fulfill it. Unless kids have been assigned to listen to the story as homework, I don't see kids returning to this one on their own, given their other app options. Rating: 2/5

Parental Involvement: The teacher notes is great. It breaks each story down and gives plenty of discussion questions. However, it only comes with the teacher's edition, which is quite pricey. Improvements to the quiz section would also make this better for parents, especially those who may not have the time to carry out a "lesson." Rating: 4/5

Total: 11.5 out of 20 = 2 stars

Disclosure: I received this app for free for review purposes.

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