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Da Vinci - History
Pros: A solid story, cool images, and detailed biography text bring Leonardo's world to life.
Cons: With few ways to interact and no way to save progress, engagement potential is limited.
Bottom Line: A solid, visually appealing introduction to the legendary art figure.
This app's activities would fit right into a lesson or unit on the Renaissance and its art or a day in science class focusing on famous inventors. Students can either read or listen to the biography, and the info here could be a great jumping-off point to learn more about the time period or to do a brief research report or presentation. You could also assign kids to create their own invention or piece of art in the style of Da Vinci.
Da Vinci - History features a kid-friendly biography of the Renaissance artist that includes an interactive storybook, some brief games, and lots of images. Tap one of seven options on the main menu (Story, Portraits, Sketches, Games, Paintings, Languages, and About Us) to explore the artist's life, works, and contemporaries.
The app doesn't indicate which option to choose first, but Story (featured front and center, via the artist's portrait) is a clear place to start. The sparsely animated, vividly illustrated Story traces Leonardo's life from childhood to adulthood, focusing on his passion for creativity and invention. After viewing the story, Kids can view the four sketches (including the Vitruvian Man and Leonardo's take on a tank), four paintings (including the Mona Lisa and Virgin of the Rocks), and a gallery of sketch-style portraits of 10 of Leonardo's male contemporaries. The Languages option toggles the app's text and narration between French and English. The four games include a Quiz (on facts from Leonardo's life), Cards (where users pick the right name to fit figures from the portrait gallery), 7 Differences (where users spot differences between illustrations), and 10 Mona Lisa (where users find 10 images of the Mona Lisa hidden in an image). A simple, early music-inspired soundtrack accompanies exploration and gameplay and can be toggled on and off; users can also turn off narration, but keep in mind that there are no subtitles.
Art, history, and a simple biographical story bring the original Renaissance man to life. Kids will love the story that traces Leoardo's story as an art-loving child to a man with a fascinating life; his story may encourage kids to view their own learning and creative ideas in a new light. The visual style is engaging too: Leonardo's story comes to life like a graphic novel, and his works look even more vivid in this cartoon context.
That being said, this is mostly a read-only experience with only limited interactivity. The quizzes are interesting, but even the most die-hard art history fan might question the learning value of some of the matching games. It's neat to have kids learn the names and faces of da Vinci's contemporaries, but there's little opportunity for deep engagement. Also, it's frustrating that there's much more description given to Leonardo's contemporaries than to the paintings and sketches. As it is, there's a lot more info here about Cesare Borgia than about the Mona Lisa or Vitruvian Man, which seems like a missed learning opportunity. More interactive or reflective features would make a big difference: Giving kids an opportunity to hone their own brand of da Vinci-like creativity through sharing their impressions would be a welcome addition. The app could be improved by adding a feature that allows kids to use their own creativity on the app to encourage multiple play sessions. Once the content is exhausted, there's not much to do here. Overall, this is a neat tool to introduce kids to Leonardo's life and his world, and it's best used in conjunction with art history expertise. That way, kids can go beyond what Leonardo did and who he knew and focus more explicitly on why he still matters.