Product Review of Tinybop Schools
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 learners 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 learners 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 learners 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.
Teachers can use Tinybop Schools to introduce and explore a variety of scientific concepts with high-quality models and simulations. Educators might have learners work individually or in pairs exploring a specific system of the human body, the water cycle, the solar system, and so much more. As learners work through the experience, educators can facilitate class discussions. For younger learners, educators could project the simulation or conduct a class activity, and then have learners 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 learners make meaning from their observations.
Tinybop provides great thinking questions and has created excellent handbooks and worksheets for learners to complete. The simulations stand on their own, so these handouts aren’t necessary. These pages are a great option for educators 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.
Some educators 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, learners will learn lots with Tinybop Schools and most will thoroughly enjoy discovering on their own. If educators have some specific concepts they want learners 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 learners that need it. Being able to read isn’t essential for using the app, but younger learners will need more support and modeling. Younger learners 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, learners (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 educators may need to prepare learners for these experiences.
Overall User Consensus About the App
With high-quality design and lots of opportunities for discovery, learners will be thoroughly captivated by each simulation.
Curriculum and Instruction
Through these models, learners will explore science and engineering concepts on their own, but a teacher will need to make the concepts explicit.
Tinybop provides strong supplemental materials such as handbooks, worksheets, and discussion prompts.