★★★ Open House ★★★
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© 2014 Tinybop, Inc.

CTR Review
Rating: 84%
Ease of Use
Design Features
Reviewed using the Standard Rubric
For ages 4-up
For grades P, K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
$3.99, iPad, 198 MB
Teaches: social studies, geography, language, anthropology, language
Tagged for: Geography, Montessori
We had a love/hate relationship with this third app in the Explorer's Library Series (the first two being Human Body and Plants). But overall, it's worth the download because of it's honest, authentic presentation of information -- in this case the way other children live, sleep, eat, and play in four households from different cultures.

There's a brownstone in Brooklyn, a ger in Mongolia, an adobe home in Guatemala, and a tower house in Yemen. Content includes 20 rooms to explore, each with about three items that can be explored in depth. The idea is to illustrate such things as architecture, building materials, plumbing, electricity, household goods, and livestock.

You can listen to music of the region, see yourself in the mirror, or cook a meal using a recipe you find in a book. The app comes with a Homes Handbook in 12 languages plus background information about each country and home. Print labels in the app can be toggled between English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, French and others, and it is possible to set up individual profiles for each child.

Weaknesses include a navigation system that puts you through some small but non-intuitive steps, in order to move between rooms or zoom in/out on an item (why not just pinch/pull?). Also, because you only see the world map from the main menu, it's easy to forget where you are in the world. It would be nice to have better geographical context on the screen. Testers noted that there's a lot more to do in the USA home than other parts of the world; and that there's no overarching game to be found, for example one could easily imagine an scavenger hunt play pattern using this content. But this "non-game" design is also one of the strengths of this app. Its a bit like a specialized type of reference that is ideal for supporting social studies.

Despite these issues, this app is admirable for it's authentic representation of sites and sounds not normally found in any textbook or app.
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