Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2012
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Explore the world's nuts and bolts in this fab interactive info hub

Subjects & skills
  • Arts
  • English Language Arts
  • Social Studies

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (3 Reviews)

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Pros: With the range of information available, kids are sure to learn something new and interesting.

Cons: Some bugs in the video podcasts so what you click is not what you see.

Bottom Line: Interesting, well-researched articles make this free resource a gem.

In English classes, choose interesting articles to share in whole-class instruction to model informational reading strategies. Use the articles as examples of compiling research into an informal paper, and show the references included as an example of citing sources. This is a great place to talk about appropriate sources, and why documentation is important -- just because it's online doesn't mean it's true. With the variety of topics, every teen will find something of interest, so use it as free choice non-fiction reading.

Other content areas can use relevant articles, videos, or podcasts to introduce topics in the classroom -- science, history, arts, culture, and more -- it's all there!

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HowStuffWorks for iPad is a huge resource created in conjunction with the Discovery Channel that covers virtually every topic, from technology and spirituality to cooking and investing. In addition to telling you how all different kinds of stuff works, this app answers even more questions for the curious-minded, like "Can our brains see the fourth dimension?" Similar to its sister website, this app allows you to simply use your fingertip to select the desired subject matter, which is organized into 6 sections; Articles, Video, Shows, Quizzes, Facts/Quotes, and Search. Kids can listen to podcasts, browse articles, or take interactive quizzes to test their knowledge as they absorb all this new information.

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The articles are concise and well-written, with an informal style that will appeal to kid readers. Sources are well-documented, too, which serves as a great example for teens beginning research. HowStuffWorks for iPad offers easy access to engaging non-fiction, informational texts, which teens may find more accessible in these short chunks as opposed to textbook study. It's important for teens to explore a reliable resource on the Internet; with all the misinformation out there, this is a place with real answers. Video and audio podcasts give kids a few different ways to absorb info beyond just reading.

Some funky stuff: Some videos are buggy and don't pull up the correct video to play. Keep an eye out for mature content ("10 Ways to Get Sexual Satisfaction" and "How Meth Works" for example), and while this awesome app is free, it's ad-heavy, with a banner ad across the bottom of the screen and video ads playing before selections play.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Gives teens immediate access to a wealth of knowledge, offering incredible breadth and depth of topics. Free, ad-supported app a gem. Shows and video podcasts load quickly and run smoothly. 

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Learning happens via the massive collection of articles, videos, and audio podcasts, 40,000 strong. Users can gain meaningful understanding of concepts due to excellent presentation and depth of topics.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Bits of interactivity in the form of quizzes, but more would be better. Every article lets users tag it as a favorite and share it (through email, Facebook, or Twitter) or wirelessly print the piece. 

Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

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