GeekMom: ‘Tappity’ Your Way to K-5 Science Learning
App and software makers are always trying to find new ways to engage kids with educational material. The educational software market is incredibly huge, and those publishers that adhere to national education standards often find their way into classrooms or are assigned as homework. Tappity is potentially one such app.
What Is Tappity?
Tappity is an educational iOS app for kids in grades K-5 that hopes to engage kids through interactive videos, quizzes, games, and storylines all centered around science topics. “Developed by educators and storytellers,” kids use Tappity on their iDevices to learn, play, interact, and immerse themselves in astronomy, geology, machines, the human body, and more. And Björn Jeffery, the founder and former CEO of the fabulous Toca Boca, is an advisor for Tappity, which is a mark in their favor.
What Does Tappity Cover?
The app covers Space Science, Life Science, Earth Science, and Physical Science topics. The app seems to be entirely lacking in Chemistry topics, but everything else is well covered. You can read a list of covered topics here. Parents can tweak the difficulty of the app’s questions for their kids by selecting an age when they create profiles. Parents can choose 5 and under, 6-8, and 9 and over.
The app isn’t just full of passive videos to watch or irrelevant games to play. It is completely interactive, with thousands of short interactive videos, over 1000 science trivia questions, a science journal that gets filled in as kids (AKA Tappernauts) learn, science experiments to control, and plenty of discussion questions for parents to talk about with their kids. The Tappity folks add new content regularly, including four live-streamed Tappity Live interactive science shows weekly. You can see their schedule of new content here.
Kids work their way through lessons, story arcs, experiments, and participatory videos as they cover material. In much of the content, Haley the Science Gal is the kids’ companion. She explains the science facts and topics, leads science experiments, and keeps kids motivated. There is a larger cast of characters—including the President of the World, an animated robot, and a villain who they must contend with—that guide kids through some of the activities. Kids read, listen, and tap their way through the material, and everything is narrated, so it’s easy even for those kids not yet comfortable with reading. As kids “help out around the lab,” answer questions, and go on adventures, they earn points and achievements, and they level up, with their badge changing color at higher levels.
What’s It Like to Use?
When you first engage with the app’s content, there is an introductory video with the extremely enthusiastic host, Haley. This video also acts as a tutorial, with interactive elements that help kids learn how to use the app. Kids move the video along by making their own choices and decisions. They unlock “Chip” who is a live potato and also acts as a guide. The app takes your kid’s photo for their in-game ID badge, and kids can also choose which type of Tappernaut they want to be.
When kids start up the app each time, they’re presented with a list of featured topics, new topics from the last 30 days, the Diploma Series of lessons, upcoming topics that your kids can look forward to, and a list of all topics. Each of these has a decently large number of lessons, some of which must be done in a sequence.
The interactive videos require enough interaction that kids really do need to pay attention to what’s going on, and it keeps them engaged with the material. Material is presented in such a way that kids will probably enjoy themselves while they learn, and the story arcs within the lessons are interesting. Anything kids have already completed is marked with a checkmark.
Quizzes, drawing exercises, and experiments are all integrated into the content. And, importantly, the app periodically asks kids to share what they’ve learned with their parents, calling them over to look at the device’s screen. The app tells parents what their kid has just learned, and gives them ideas of how to engage with their kid about the material. This feature is a perfect launching off point for parents to learn together with their kids.
One big plus of Tappity is that there are no third-party ads in the app. Additionally, it can also be played offline, so it’s useful on trips or in places without any wi-fi. It’s a very big app (1.8GB at the time of testing), though, and additional downloading happens as you play (though it is possible to download content in advance for off-line use), so make sure you have room on your device.
How Good Is Tappity?
My takeaway is that Tappity is a fun, science-oriented app with immersive adventures that kids can really feel a part of. The human and animated guides are quite enthusiastic, the topics covered are pretty varied within the areas of science they cover, parent involvement is integrated into some of the lesson paths, and there are no pesky ads.
Tappity‘s science is solid, and kids will learn many things by playing with the app if they are patient. I wouldn’t say it was a replacement for more conventional science instruction in the classroom or for homeschooling, but it would be a great supplement.
One improvement I would make would be to add runtimes to each lesson. There is no way to see how long they are, to see how much time is left, or to skip ahead within a lesson. There are also a few continuity issues at various spots in the video playback, but those don’t really get in the way of learning.
How Do I Get Tappity?
You can download Tappity in the iOS App Store for free to try it out. If you’re not sure if this is the app for you, they do offer the first 30 lessons free. That’s enough to figure out whether this app is a good fit for your kids. Then you’ll need a paid subscription. If you love it, subscriptions come in the form of in-app purchases and have monthly, quarterly, yearly, and lifetime plans. See the app page for details.
Once you’re up and running, you can use the app on any iDevice and can include profiles for multiple children under that one account. The lessons in the app are also aligned with NGSS standards, for those who are concerned with such things. Parents can receive notifications of their kids’ progress in the app, and they can be sent the aforementioned discussion questions in advance so they can help their children learn while learning alongside them.
Note: I received access to the full app for review purposes.
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