App review by Debbie Gorrell, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2016
Earth-Now
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Earth-Now

Enticing display of climate data updated regularly

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Grades
6–12
Subjects & Skills
Science, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Students can view recent climate data and events on an engaging visual platform.

Cons: A lack of comparative baseline data makes it difficult to analyze some of the data sets.

Bottom Line: There's a lot of potential in this visually stimulating resource tool, but teachers will need to do some serious legwork to make the data meaningful.

While it is not content-rich enough to be a standalone instructional tool, Earth-Now could be a great supplemental resource in the classroom. Use it during an earth science unit to track climate data. Assign students to a specific data set and have them record observations for several weeks. As they track data, students can do research to learn more about climate change and the implications of the data they're tracking. It could be fun to have kids create a digital representation of their findings to share with the class or on social media.

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Earth-Now is a hub for recent climate data gathered from Earth satellites. The data sets are visual color scales that cover a 3-D model of Earth, and students can rotate the model and zoom in or out. A color-coded legend shows the relative weaknesses or strengths of the data sets, which include surface air temperature, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, gravity field, ozone, sea level, sea surface salinity, and water vapor.

Kids select a data set from a drop-down menu, and then the most recent data is displayed. By tapping on a "Details" icon, students can read about the data set. They can also tap on an arrow to view animations of the data displays, which may show changes over time. For example, the ocean-surface-salinity animation displays several data sets from the past 10 months. According to the developers, images of large curated events, such as storms and fires, are updated two to three times per week.

Students can learn about recent climate data, which encourages them to think about potential global issues. Brief explanations of each data set teach kids the basics about the data sets they are viewing. The app includes external links to NASA websites that provide more information about climate change and future NASA missions. While these links are useful, it would be great to have more of this information, as well as baseline data, embedded in the app.

Overall Rating

Engagement

Most students will enjoy the interactivity of spinning the virtual model of Earth and viewing the climate data maps. Supporting information is minimal, so they may lose interest before learning details of what the maps indicate.

Pedagogy

Browsing a visual climate database will likely pique interest in topics related to global climate. Some comparative baseline data could improve the learning experience.

Support

Navigation is intuitive, but user support is minimal.


Common Sense reviewer
Debbie Gorrell Educator

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