How I Use It
This app can be implemented in less than 5 minutes but I strongly discourage such a use, especially with younger children. It is attractive and user-friendly but the content is variable.
I went through all the levels and took notes on the areas of ambiguity and error prior to letting my students use it in class. I then used it as a short-term tool for basic categorization in some areas. For example, I did have my students classify animals as vertebrates, invertebrates, as having exoskeletons, and as having endoskeletons. The social category was also helpful as this is a 3rd grade NGSS standard. Other categories, elaborated upon below, could have led to misconceptions so I was very directed in how I had students use it. I did have students discuss some of the questions about categorization, and had them evaluate this app (with support) as a learning tool. It runs like a stand-alone activity but it should not be used as such, at least not with students who don't have the background to recognize the errors.
There is additional text that students can read once they earn an animal card after passing each level but it is very easy for them to skip over this. The prompts to complete each level are minimally helpful.
I think that this product can be used advantageously by teachers with enough science background to recognize and teach around the sometimes fuzzy and occasionally incorrect categorizations. Here are some of the categorizations that I found to be problematic:
Seaweed was categorized as a green plant. Seaweed is not a plant, it is algae. In the higher level of this activity, seaweed and giant kelp are correctly categorized as Protista. As fond as I am of the kingdom system, with everything changing now because of our ability to use DNA to analyze and create cladistics systems, I’m not so much hung up on listing algae as Protista as I am in being clear that it’s not a plant. It would have been more accurate to say, “Uses Chlorophyll.”
The category of "living things without backbones" included plants. This is correct, but I think it is perhaps not the best choice, as NO plants have backbones. I would have preferred the label: "animals without backbones".
Also, "Living Things That Lay Eggs" was used, of course, for animals that lay eggs externally. As all animal life begins with an egg, I would prefer this label to read, "Living Things That Lay External Eggs." It is misleading to state it this way, even though it’s traditional, because the implication is that there are no eggs involved in the process of mammalian reproduction.
In the category, “Animals That Use Camouflage,” penguins were marked as animals that do NOT use camouflage. This is incorrect. Penguins black and white coloration is a type of camouflage known as countershading. Please go to the New England Aquarium site for further information: http://penguins.neaq.org/2010/09/penguins-are-masters-of-disguise.html
Butterflies are listed as an animal that hibernates. I find generalizations about entire groups problematic and best avoided. Many butterflies migrate.
There are 3 levels, and these comments are based on the first two. Any issues I had with the advanced level were repetitions of the problems encountered in the lower levels.