Pocket Penguins

24/7 live cam of African habitat would benefit from extras

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Price: Free
Platforms: Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Kindle Fire, Nook HD

Pros: Cute penguins are fun to watch preen, waddle, and swim; biologists offer a bit of bird info.

Cons: The novelty can wear off quickly.

Bottom Line: Neat tool for penguin observation if teachers supply the context and goals.

You could have kids use Pocket Penguins to collect data on penguin behavior or simply as a way to practice observation skills. The penguin habitat live cam is a fine starting point for more extensive learning activities, but on its own it doesn't offer a deep learning experience. It's a supplement for sure, but it can be a good one to accompany a lesson plan on animals or different climates.

Pocket Penguins is a live video stream of the African Penguin habitat at San Francisco's California Academy of Sciences museum. Viewers can watch penguins doing their thing at any time of day. App installation and setup is simple. If the screen is dark, it may just be because the exhibit is asleep at night. Penguins are active during the day, and students can watch them swimming and hanging out; they can also watch the live feedings at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. PST. To switch between the three cameras (main, underwater, and biologist), simply tap the camera icon. The stream presents a live feed of the African Penguins as fast as your network can handle. On slower connections the stream may have a lot of interruptions. In case of streaming problems, the app offers an informative prerecorded video of a penguin feeding. A button allows you to donate to the Academy of Science by SMS.

On a slower network, or when the app is unable to detect wireless, kids can watch a prerecorded feeding session. Kids can also link to the Cal Academy website to find additional information about the penguins, including descriptions of common behaviors, details about life in a penguin colony, and updates on the status of African Penguins in the wild.

Kids can observe these adorable waddlers 24/7 both above and below water, although at night the exhibit is dark and the birds aren't very active. Aside from the ability to switch camera views, there's no way to interact with the app. Still, watching the penguins preen, waddle, swim, and eat is fascinating for any nature lover, at least for a while. Streaming problems may affect the ability to use the app during class time, but the backup video is great.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating
Penguins are especially cute at feeding times. Some kids might want to revisit, but the charm could wear off quickly for others as the penguins aren't always active.
Simple live cam with no bells or whistles is limited for deep learning. However, used in conjunction with adult-created or kid-initiated research, lessons, or materials, it could boost learning potential.
Limited support within the app, but kids can visit the Cal Academy of Sciences website to learn more about life in a penguin colony, penguin behaviors, and penguins in the wild.
Common Sense reviewer

Community Rating

Penguin cam gives view of habitat, but without sound or extra info

Pocket Penguin is a nice way for students to get a closer look at one species of penguins and how they move and interact together. The app provides students with an opportunity to observe and document penguin behavior, both on land and underwater. Unfortunately, the app has no sound and aside from the real-time camera views, it does not provide any explicit information about penguins or interactive aspects for students to engage with in the app. The app also has a highly prominent “donate” button that could easily cause problems with students accidentally or purposefully trying to leave the app and contribute money to the organization. The app is also limited to the iphone, which makes it harder for larger groups to view the images.

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