Friday, December 16, 2011

Review - The Artifacts : an iPad storybook app

Slap Happy Larry has released The Artifacts, a interactive story book app ($1.99) designed with iPad toting middle schoolers in mind.  Or it is an interactive children's book for iPad grabbing curious kids as young as 3 or 4.  It works well both ways.

I celebrate this effort from Lynley Stace (illustration and story) and Dan Hare (code) for many reasons.  First, the concept of a book written entirely for the iPad environment is exciting.  In this particular case, animations are of course clever and generally hidden - meant to be discovered by the reader - but most iPad children's books contain this feature. What is new is the depth and number of animations hidden on a single page.  In some ways, this book reminds me of visual logo projects I directed a decade ago. The better students used every possible pixel to hide a triggered effect, at times having event trigger event, at times having a click or random timing do the same, and included layer upon layer of events. All senses are essential to the story of this boy who has only his own imagination and mind for company.  He uses both differently on every page. This switching up is a large part of the fun of The Artifacts.  Better yet, it makes for the perfect classroom text: it self-teaches.

Second, there is learning to be done here. On pages 9 (my new room) and 18 (brushing my choppers), tapping produces an endless stream of wonderful words that must be read.  Patterns can be discerned by the patient readers.  Page 15 (inside my head) produces a fireworks of dates and random facts that are the stuff of middle school. 

Third, there is something comfortably and familiarly Harry Potterish about The Artifacts.  Even the music seems to echo the opening theme of the Potter movies. The texts would be great twins.  Comparing the characters, the plots, and the visual effects would be a terrific and engaging exercise for middle school.  It is about time for Harry to surface again in the classroom library.  There are allusions also to The Little Prince, to fairy tales, to great sea tales, and to the stuff of horror and magic.  There is much here for a wide-ranging reader to muse about.

Last, a small point. The "credits" that end this little text contain a long list of sound clips from open sources.  That is a model for student creators.

Which is just right, as The Artifacts is a celebration of the power of individual thought and imagination. It is at the top of Bloom's triangle.  I highly recommend it for middle school iPads.

Read about The Artifacts

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