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NAMOO - Wonders of Plant Life
Pros: Beautiful artwork, intuitive interactivity, and solid, factual content.
Cons: Though the content is rich, it's too easy to go through it quickly; no extended activities or online content exist.
Bottom Line: This educational plant app illustrates lessons and engages students much better than any textbook or video.
Teachers can use NAMOO in any part of their lesson flow. It can be assigned to students as an introduction to or reinforcement of lessons on how plants work. Or teachers can create larger lessons around the topics covered in it, taking students on a tour of the plant kingdom with a superior visual guide. Teachers can also create videos of these lessons so students can replay them, which is especially useful if they don't have access to a device themselves. If students do have access to devices in the classroom, individuals or small groups can play with the app after the lesson as well.
Students take on the role of naturalist in this life-of-plants app as they water roots, pollinate flowers, and "blow" carbon dioxide onto leaves. NAMOO includes nine chapters of plant interactions including roots, root tips, leaf anatomy, plant cells, photosynthesis, flowers and fruits, trunks, and stems. Each of these chapters is an interactive lesson in plant biology, allowing students to turn item labels off and on, zoom, and change atmospheric aspects to spur the plant's processes.
Students tap and swipe to participate in the story of how flowers turn into fruit, how roots help plants grow, how roots absorb water, how leaves address photosynthesis and transpiration, the anatomy of a leaf, the organelles in a plant cell, what the rings in a tree trunk tell you about a tree, and how water and nutrients travel through a stem. In each of these sections, students can affect the environment by adding or subtracting water, pollen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, daylight, temperature, and more. Each section includes text with plenty of illustrations explaining the vocabulary and the processes in more detail.
This engaging and immersive app is an interactive experience first and textbook second, with most of the text hidden away on a secondary screen; this way students can gain context for their learning before reading somewhat heavier content. Throughout, NAMOO demonstrates plant processes in a way generally not taught in schools, and students will grasp the concepts and retain that information much more easily than just by looking at pictures and reading text. Students may rush through the app, however, so it needs to be grounded in enough context to cause them to slow down and really think about what they're doing, seeing, and reading.
These interactive 3D simulations are a multilayer journey where students can play, experiment, and read in-depth text about what they're learning. Students not only can interact with the plant's processes, they also can affect environmental factors such as daylight and temperature to see how that affects a plant's response. NAMOO is less a game than an interactive mini-encyclopedia; it would work well as a context for larger lessons.