Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated December 2012
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The World Factbook for iPad

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Explore a wealth of dry global statistics, but expect no thrills

Subjects & skills
  • Social Studies

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Data, metadata, and details galore about countries around the world.

Cons: With no pretty design or presentation, it lacks engagement -- just the facts, ma'am probably won't be enough for all kids.

Bottom Line: Kids can easily use legit CIA data in their research projects, but presentation-wise, it's not too exciting.

Put this app in kids' hands for research projects, and use the Comparisons section as an example of ways to present information graphically as well as to teach kids to draw conclusions from data. Maps are easily accessible and can be used in whole class discussions, with small groups, or individuals. You can let kids explore on their own to research a project of their choice, or, probably more effectively, assign a topic and see how kids do with researching here.

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The World Factbook for iPad is a reference app compiled by the CIA providing info on all the world's countries. Choose a country on the left side of the screen and read the profile info on the right. You'll see all kinds of data organized into nine categories: introduction, geography, people, government, economy, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues. Whew! Use the Comparisons feature to view individual subsets of data for all countries; for example, the birthrate for all countries from highest to lowest. Maps are also a big part of the site, including global regions as well as individual countries.

It does a fine job presenting the CIA's remarkable database of information in a mobile format, but fine is the operative word here. The good: It's a gold mine for research, and all info lives in the app, so you can access it offline too. Curious kids could spend hours reading about global history, government, health care, and transportation systems –- and they would've only scratched the surface of this impressive database.

Not-so-good: there's not much engagement for younger users. The heavily text-based design is okay for self-motivated kids (especially the ones who like thumbing through the dictionary or reading Wikipedia for fun), but without a specific assignment or goal, kids may not have an incentive to dig too deeply here. Also, not all data is necessarily current; be sure to check when things were most recently updated. If the site were more interactive, guiding kids to build concepts or recognize patterns about key cultural, geographic, and political phenomena, they could connect with this great info in a more powerful way.

Overall Rating

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

Bland presentation of amazing data may not be appealing to kids; black background, tiny white text, and few pictures don't do much to grab kids' attention.

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

If kids are able to dig deeply into this info, the global knowledge they gain can transfer to a well-rounded worldview.

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

Data is easy to navigate but is text-driven with no explanations; it's hard to figure out where to begin. All info is contained in the app so it can be accessed offline as well.

Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Scott M. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
American Canyon High School
American Canyon, United States
Credible information easily accessible
A credible source for updated information on the various countries of world.
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