Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2014
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NYPL Biblion: World's Fair

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Dive deep into treasures from the 1940 World’s Fair

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Social Studies
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

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5 images

Pros: Great stories and essays give context, while startling, surprising images bring the past to life.

Cons: Language within the stories and essays might work better for adults than for kids, and it’s easy to feel lost in the vast virtual stacks.

Bottom Line: This digital glimpse into the NYPL’s holdings is a lot to take in all at once, but it’s a rewarding journey.

Teachers might have students use the text, images, and recordings in the app as their own primary sources for a research paper, a project, or an in-class assignment. Teachers might also assign students to explore different themes by reading all of the stories in a particular theme section. Working solo or in small groups, students might explore the app and present on surprising facts or explain the significance behind a remarkable image.

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NYPL Biblion: World’s Fair is the New York Public Library’s latest effort to make their vast collection accessible to a wider audience. Through the lens of the 1940 New York World’s Fair, users can explore more than 700 images, historical documents, videos, and audio recordings. These resources are organized into six thematic groupings that range from history and science to fashion and the future. Within those sections, users can read stories that give context and study critical essays that illustrate larger historical points.

Users can hold the tablet in both book view and gallery view, and each view mode offers its own color scheme and clear indicator for progress through a section. Users can also use the “stacks” view to get an at-a-glance look at the six themes, the stories included in each theme, and the different kinds of content represented in each story. In the same view, users can follow yellow “connections” boxes to discover the connections between different stories and different themes. Users can link out to the NYPL's main website through the app, taking their exploration further.

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The launch screen for this app boasts that this is the “Boundless Library,” and the developers aren’t kidding. Perusing NYPL Biblion: World's Fair at first feels like trying to drink from a fire hose. There's an extraordinary amount of information here, and it's a little disorienting to keep track of where you've been and where you're headed next. A few moments with the Introduction feature make a big difference: It makes it clear how exactly to use the many resources that appear on-screen at once. Teachers could also offer their own orientation and help students target the content that interests them most.

NYPL Biblion: World's Fair illustrates a larger metaphor about what libraries can be: They aren't dusty repositories of old things, but rather, they're rich glimpses into the past. Each story and essay is just long enough, offering surprising insights about the images and documents, and inspiring users to link to other stories to learn even more. With a tone that’s both authoritative and inviting, each text offers users a textured, multi-layered look into the fair’s most serious and most silly moments. This is a truly powerful tool for enlivening historical events: It's an extraordinary opportunity to access rare objects with expert guidance.

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Overall Rating

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

As with browsing the Internet, it’s possible to link endlessly between fascinating content. Unlike the Internet, this app's content is consistently reliable and high-quality.

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

Fascinating critical essays featuring rare objects from the collection show the power of primary sources to tell stories that cross disciplines.

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

The iOS’s built-in accessibility features, like text-to-speech, aren't effectively supported, but other features make a big supportive impact.


Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

Teacher Reviews

(See all 1 reviews) (1 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Jamey B. , Other
Other
A unique look into our past.

I like apps like this that allow users to just explore. At the beginning the layout can be confusing because there are no hard steps for users to follow. The opening screen has piles of photos that are labeled for the exhibit, but after that it can get confusing to navigate. But, I think that is part of the fun. For some students I use the website instead of the app.

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