Product Review of Mammals by Tinybop
Mammals by Tinybop is an iOS app that allows learners to explore the major body systems of a tiger, bat, elephant, kangaroo, and sloth. Selecting a mammal allows learners to see its outward appearance. Tapping icons on the bottom allows learners to switch between muscular, cardiovascular (including the lungs and diaphragm), digestive, nervous, urogenital (urinary and reproductive), and skeletal systems. Within each system, learners will be able to see all the major organs and other structures. Tapping in certain areas will have the animal move or eat, allowing learners 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.
Teachers can use Mammals by Tinybop as an important part of a unit on mammals. Using the handbook provided by the developers, educators can guide learners through the app’s many interactive layers. As learners explore each animal, educators can help learners make valuable observations and comparisons. Ask learners to explain which mammals seem to be carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores. Have learners 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, educators could also just let learners 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 learners may need to be prepared for seeing anatomically accurate labels and diagrams.
Mammals by TinyBop offers an excellent array of sound and animation to give learners a basic understanding of anatomy and major body systems of mammals. Left to use the app on their own, most learners 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 educators 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 learners. It would be great if, when learners tapped a label, Mammals would read it aloud. The labels can be viewed in several languages, which is helpful for English language learners (ELLs).
Overall User Consensus About the App
Excellent sound and animation will be engaging for learners, but it’s the teacher who will make learning meaningful.
Curriculum and Instruction
The app itself is free to explore with minimal guidance, but the handbook provides all of the information educators need to enhance learning.