April 26, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Ancient Civilizations Up Close | Touch and Go

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For sneak peeks of the apps reviewed today, visit the Kids Discover website. You’ll find a trailer and “learning tools” for both Ancient China and Incas.

Journey back in time to Ancient China (iOS $1.99; Gr 3-6) with Kids Discover’s high-interest app. Based on the popular informational magazine by the same name, this production employs text, high-resolution photographs,and computer-generated illustrations in covering a variety of topics related to the culture, including engineering feats, inventions, medicine, traditions, and the Silk Road,

Screen from 'Ancient China' (Kids Discover)

Screen from ‘Ancient China’ (Kids Discover)

The concise text offers a few basic facts on each screen and in some cases, additional bits of information can be found behind pull-tabs and icons. For example, when tapped, icons on a painting depicting a Chinese village provide a glimpse into the culture’s class structure through descriptions of each person’s job and social status. Children can also view a panoramic scene of the Forbidden City (and a quick virtual view of one of its plazas) and circle (by 360 degrees) a computer-animated image of one of the thousands of terra-cotta statues found at the tomb of Shi Huangdi. Other elements include a time line that reveals each Chinese dynasty from 221 BCE to AD 1912, an interactive diagram of the Chinese zodiac, a video snippet of silkworms at work, and how-to instructions on using chopsticks. The final chapter connects China’s past to its present culture with a look at topics that are likely to be familiar to contemporary students such as fireworks and martial arts.

The few simple activities that are included in a separate chapter are geared toward a younger audience. Overall, Ancient China will satisfy students looking for some basic information.Cathy Potter, Falmouth Elementary School, Falmouth, ME

Interior screen from 'Incas' (Kids Discover)

Interior screen from ‘Incas’ (Kids Discover)

An imposing, animated view of Machu Picchu, perhaps the best-known of all of the ancient South American sites, greats viewers on opening Incas (Kids Discover; iOS $3.99; Gr 4-6). Clear, color photographs of a variety of locations and  artifacts, video clips, and 17th-century drawings, along with text and an illustrated timeline, tell the story of a highly organized empire that at its height ruled millions of subjects in an area that extended from modern-day Ecuador to central Chile. Hallmarks of the culture, including its extraordinary textiles, monumental architecture, extensive network of roads and bridges, agricultural methods, accounting system, as well as its beliefs and traditions (naming, marriage, etc.), are all briefly addressed. The history of the empire is one of conquest and expansion, but it was quickly toppled by a small band of soldiers in the company of Francisco Pizarro (1532-3). Over the next century, the native population was decimated as the result of “overwork, lack of food, and disease” under Spanish rule. A paragraph of information is provided on most screens and viewers are encouraged to tap images or icons for more details. Doing so yields another fact or two, a captioned image, or a 360-degree look at an artifact, such as the ornamental earlobe plugs worn by nobility. Weblinks to additional information will be appreciated by researchers. This generously illustrated app touches on many of the unique aspects of this extraordinary civilization and its legacy. Useful as an introduction and a review.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

For additional app reviews, visit our Touch and Go webpage.

Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek dgrabarek@mediasourceinc.com is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.