- Now, today’s review…
Title: Knights & Castles
Series: Encyclopeadia Britannica Kids
Produced by: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.
Developed by: Concentric Sky
Content Selection by: White-Thomson Publishing LTD
Platform: iOS, iPad, iPhone, requires 3.2 or later
Gr 4-8-How does an app differ from a specialized database? Britannica’s Knights & Castles strikes a somewhat uneasy balance between these two formats, combining a useful menu of short, clear articles about aspects of medieval life and the Arthurian cast of characters with photos, activities, and a map.
In a school setting, the resources will be perfectly serviceable for research, but the activities, which include a jigsaw puzzle, a magic square, a memory match game, and a brush-off (rubbing off a top layer to show a picture underneath) would be a distraction; a multiple-choice quiz tests recall only. These interactive elements do not surprise, intrigue, or draw users more deeply into the content. It’s unlikely that students would spend much time with these activities outside of school, as they don’t enhance or connect with the content in an engaging way.
The easy-to-use wheel at the bottom of the screen allows viewers to move between the app features in any order, so they could, for example, begin by looking in the 78-image gallery and tap a link to an article or start with an article and tap an image to enlarge it. Articles include in-text definitions of difficult vocabulary, are no longer than three paragraphs, and have clear, helpful titles. Some general prior knowledge of the Middle Ages would be useful as the articles all address specific topics. Solid information, but the interactivity doesn’t live up to its potential.–Chris Gustafson, Whitman Middle School, Seattle, WA