Saturday, June 23, 2012

Reading Rainbow iPad App Review

(Used with permission (c) 2012)
I thought I would follow up my last post on my discovery of the Reading Rainbow app for iPad with my reflections of the app itself.  I got the chance to work with it a little bit last night and my feelings are mixed.  For some basic cursory information on the app, check out the post that I published just previous to this one.

(Used with permission (c) 2012)
First, the app looks very promising.  It's a free app that's easily downloadable from the Apple App Store.  It's colorful and interactive.  It begins with a short opening akin to the original television show.  It then takes the user to a short introductory video of LeVar Burton, the creator of Reading Rainbow, explaining how to get started using the app itself.  Next, the user is guided through a series of steps to personalize the app by creating an avitar of themselves by entering their age, and several subjects of books they like to read.  After the beginning personalization is complete, you come to a page that invites the child user to enter their parent's email address so that parents can keep track of what and how much/often their child is reading on the app.  This feature is pretty neat.  However, unlike the free public television sponsored TV show, it also gives the option to subscribe and create your Membership with payment options.  These options are either to pay $9.99 monthly to read unlimited books, or pay for six months (introductory offer) for $29.99.  You can however choose to bypass at first and receive one free book to add to your "backpack".

(Used with permission (c) 2012)
Being the college student on the limited budget that I am, I opted for this route.  I was then guided in my hot air balloon to view five different islands that I could explore.  After clicking on the first island, "Action, Adventures & Magical Tales", I was taken to a new screen that looked much like most other electronic book shelves, such as iBooks or Newsstand.  Here you can browse through children's books that have to do with, you guessed it, "Action, Adventures & Magical Tales".  Below the books are a set of educational videos that are narrated by LeVar, much like the short segments in the original television show.  I chose a book called The Searcher and Old Tree.  After clicking the book, the app brought up a new screen showing the book and giving a short description asking me if I wanted to "get this book?".  Upon clicking yes, the book was added to my backpack.

In my backpack there was room for five books.  If my backpack ever became too full (more than five books), I could click and drag a book to the "Book Return", just like at a library.  Then I would free up more space to download more books from the various islands.  I decided to read through my new free book, The Searcher and Old Tree.  I had the option to read it myself, or to have pre recorded narration guide me through the book.  I had LeVar read the book to me.  On most of the pages, there were things to click on that would bring part of the illustration to life.  This was pretty cool.  Kids at home and students in class would love it.  I had the option to turn of the narration at any time, and I could also close the book and return it to my backpack at any time.  Along with each book is corresponding games, videos, and activities.  My book had a corresponding game of concentration or matching which was creative and fun.

Applications for the Classroom: I could see this app being very useful in the classroom in a 1 to 1 setting where students are connecteted with iPads.  Another neat way to use this app would be to pair it with another app/technology such as the Splashtop Streamer.  This technology pairs Splashtop and allows the teacher to "splash" a duplicate copy of his or her iPad screen onto a projector screen wirelessly from anywhere in their classroom.  This would allow the entire class to experience the books, videos, and activities together.  In addition to the books and games, LaVar takes kids on educational electronic field trips.  With school budgets as pinched as they are, electronic field trips can be a very affordable alternative.

(Used with permission
(c) 2012)
(Used with permission (c) 2012)
The "Pros" of this app are its creative approach to reading.  It gets books into the hands of children through a medium that is exciting and interactive.  We live in a digital age where electronic books have outsold hardcopy books.  It makes complete sense to encourage our kids to read using apps like this one.  The "Con" is that this app is not truly 'free'.  However, a $9.99 membership to an expanding set of interactive books for children is certainly not unreasonable.  It's less than most children's books are at your local bookstore, but more expensive than a trip to the public library.  Personally, I really like the app and hope that LeVar Burton and friends continue to expand the app to include more and more educational materials.  I grew up loving the show and loving how exciting reading became.  I encourage everyone to check out the app for yourself and soar off to new exciting islands of "Action Adventures, & Magical Tales".  But you don't have to take my word for it!

*All images used with permission: All photos submitted by author

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