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Mammals by Tinybop
Pros: Great audiovisuals, ability to turn labels on and off, and accompanying handbook with instructional guidance.
Cons: No explicit instruction, no marine mammals; could be more accessible to students with visual impairments.
Bottom Line: Students will learn the most from this fun free-explore app when teachers follow the included guide and supplement with their own lessons.
Teachers can use Mammals by Tinybop as an important part of a unit on mammals. Using the handbook provided by the developers, teachers can guide students through the app's many interactive layers. As students explore each animal, teachers can help students make valuable observations and comparisons. Ask students to explain which mammals seem to be carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores. Have students compare and contrast two of the animals and make inferences about what physical attributes help them survive. The app doesn't track or report on anything that a student does, so formative discussions such as these are a good opportunity for assessment.
Of course, teachers could also just let students explore the app on their own. They'll certainly learn from it, but this learning won't likely be as deep as it would be with teacher guidance. Students interested in mammals will really enjoy this app, but some groups of students may need to be prepared for seeing anatomically accurate labels and diagrams.
Mammals by Tinybop is an iOS app that allows students to explore the major body systems of a tiger, bat, elephant, kangaroo, and sloth. Selecting a mammal allows students to see its outward appearance. Tapping icons on the bottom allows students to switch between muscular, cardiovascular (including the lungs and diaphragm), digestive, nervous, urogenital (urinary and reproductive), and skeletal systems. Within each system, students will be able to see all the major organs and other structures. Tapping in certain areas will have the animal move or eat, allowing students to see how each system functions. The app is strictly for consuming information, albeit playfully.
The app has the option to look at features unique to each mammal -- for example, exploring a bat's use of sound to find insects or a tiger's claw to scratch objects and capture prey. Students can also use the iPad's camera to see what the world looks like for each of the five mammals.
Mammals by TinyBop offers an excellent array of sound and animation to give students a basic understanding of anatomy and major body systems of mammals. Left to use the app on their own, most students would use it once or twice and move on. The included guide addresses this by providing the teacher with needed background information and several great tips and discussion questions. If teachers follow the guide and/or add their own lessons and assessments, Mammals is a worthwhile addition to the curriculum.
The app doesn't read labels to students. It would be great if, when students tapped a label, Mammals would read it aloud. The labels can be viewed in several languages, which is helpful for English language learners (ELLs).