Review by Debbie Gorrell, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2015
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Journeys of Invention: Science and Technology from Past to Present

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Stunning images, lots of reading highlight science/tech history

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Science
  • Social Studies
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
7-12
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Pros: Kids can explore fascinating objects and learn about major discoveries in science.

Cons: There's no opportunity to assess learning, which could be disappointing at such a high price point.

Bottom Line: It's loaded with great content including beautifully designed, interactive graphics, but the science is still delivered fairly traditionally, and is tuned to fluent readers.

Since such a wide range of topics are covered, this app is best suited as either a research tool or as an occasional supplement to lessons throughout the school year. If used as a research tool, have kid work in pairs or small groups to read and take notes about an invention. They can extend their research by finding more information from other sources. Or, kids can research an entire journey and create a timeline of the journey. If used as a supplement, you can incorporate different discoveries and inventions into appropriate lessons. Have kids read and summarize what they learn.

Teachers should also look into how to get kids doing science and making their own inventions. Have kids find an invention they particularly like, and then try to put a modern spin on it. Each of the inventions could also be paired with lab work that helps kids experience the thrill of discovery of scientific phenomena discussed in the app.

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Journeys of Invention: Science and Technology From Past to Present is a rich resource for information about great inventions and scientific discoveries with a virtual museum-like feel. Kids explore over 80 objects at their own pace, or they can select from 1 of 14 journeys on the home page that draw connections, historically and conceptually, between inventions. For example, kids can choose Journey 6, Secret of Life, to explore scientists, objects, and discoveries, beginning with Galvani's battery and ending with Tracy, a transgenic female sheep. This journey focuses on the mystery of life. All journeys are interconnected, which is interesting but tricky to navigate. Kids may find themselves straying easily from a journey, losing a sense of the journey's timeline.

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It offers a compelling mix of history and science, teaching kids about major inventions and discoveries. Inventions include the Edison light bulb, sandglasses, Hooke's microscope, the Apollo 10 module, and much more. Each discovery or invention includes an interactive object and a brief history about the object. Some include additional graphics that kids can explore. The information is both comprehensive and fascinating. However, kids will need to be motivated enough to read a lot and might be disappointed that they can't test their knowledge through game play or informal assessment. This kind of informational delivery, while useful, is also missing the experimentation and exploration so crucial to modern science education. Nonetheless, they will gain an appreciation for the advancements made in science and technology over the years. 

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Overall Rating

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

It's gorgeously produced, and many of the graphics are interactive with fascinating information. But there's a lot of text to read and interactivity is mostly limited to rotating and zooming in on objects.

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

Kids are empowered to explore technological connections at their own pace, but it's mostly passive learning some clever interactive supports. Pre-set paths through images demonstrate historical connections between inventions.

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

Navigation is intuitive but a little tricky. Audio support is lacking, which limits the app to kids who are fluent readers.


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