Review by Shaun Langevin, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2019

Tinybop Schools

Collection of STEM simulations that students will love to explore

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Science

Skills
  • Character & SEL
  • 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.
K–8
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Pros: High-quality audiovisuals, a breadth of concepts that are well simulated, excellent paper supplements.

Cons: No built-in text-to-speech; younger students will need extra modeling and support.

Bottom Line: Tinybop Schools offers meaningful scientific exploration to students, particularly when partnered with good teaching and discussion.

Teachers can use Tinybop Schools to introduce and explore a variety of scientific concepts with high-quality models and simulations. Educators might have students work individually or in pairs exploring a specific system of the human body, the water cycle, the solar system, and so much more. As students work through the experience, teachers can facilitate class discussions. For younger students, teachers could project the simulation or conduct a class activity, and then have students try it on their own. Tinybop will display some questions or hints on what to click, but the design of the app appropriately emphasizes exploration, not explanation. It's up to the teacher to help students make meaning from their observations.

Tinybop provides great thinking questions and has created excellent handbooks and worksheets for students to complete. The simulations stand on their own, so these handouts aren't necessary. These pages are a great option for teachers who want to provide a little more direction or obtain a more concrete form of assessment. Teachers who use them will no doubt appreciate the quality of these printables.

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Tinybop Schools is a web-based tool for modeling an array of science and engineering concepts. Until recently, Tinybop apps have been available only on Android and iOS. Tinybop Schools allows students on Windows, Macs, Chromebooks, and other devices to have the opportunity to use these apps. These web simulations are similar to if, not the same as, their iOS and Android counterparts. 

The full suite of titles available on the web platform includes Human Body, Coral Reef, Weather, Space, Simple Machines, Mammals, The Earth, Skyscrapers, and Homes. Each one of these has several simulations that students can investigate by clicking or clicking and dragging. Of course, touch-compatible devices will work as well. All of the simulations have labels, which can be switched from English to many other languages. The main text throughout the app (titles, descriptions, questions, etc.) is in English only.

The teacher dashboard is minimal. Teachers can create classes and add student accounts. It doesn't display any information on what students have completed, time spent in simulations, or any other data. The app doesn't have any built-in assessment data such as short answers or multiple-choice questions -- the focus is on student discovery. 

Some teachers may be frustrated that Tinybop Schools doesn't collect any assessment data. While that feeling is understandable, it keeps the student focus on exploring and interacting with the simulation. Even without direction, students will learn lots with Tinybop Schools and most will thoroughly enjoy discovering on their own. If teachers have some specific concepts they want students to walk away with -- or if they want to make sure to correct any misconceptions -- they should use the provided worksheets or supplement with their own activity or discussion. 

The design is simple enough that any student willing to click around to see what happens will figure it out. The app doesn't have built-in text-to-speech, but the device's text reader should be able to read texts for students that need it. Being able to read isn't essential for using the app, but younger students will need more support and modeling. Younger students may not be able to understand everything in the app, but they can make observations -- such as what happens when light shines on the human eye. 

Teachers should be aware that biological processes are appropriately represented. Mammals will demonstrate how a fetus grows in an animal and is born through the vagina. This also means things will eat, digest, and poop. In Skyscrapers, students (as engineers) will see the impact of clogged toilets, which people will continue to use. The toilet use isn't very graphic but involves some noise. This shouldn't steer anyone away from using the website, but some teachers may need to prepare students for these experiences.

Overall Rating

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

With high-quality design and lots of opportunities for discovery, students will be thoroughly captivated by each simulation.

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

Through these models, students will explore science and engineering concepts on their own, but a teacher will need to make the concepts explicit.

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

Tinybop provides strong supplemental materials such as handbooks, worksheets, and discussion prompts.


Common Sense Reviewer
Shaun Langevin Technology coordinator

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