Bobo Explores Light: Great Learning Experience for Kids on iPad

| In-Depth Review

Bobo Explores Light (US$6.99) by Game Collage is a wondrous, and (dare I say it?) magical educational app for the iPad that is a full unit course on the science behind light, taught by an engaging robot named Bobo. This app is so good that I can see it selling even more iPads just to run it. 

One of my pet peeves with educational apps is that they often provide no instructions and leave kids frustrated right from the start by not knowing what to do.  With first impressons being incredibly important when trying to get kids to buy into anything educational, it’s critical that a positive first impression is provided and very quickly. Bobo Explores Light really delivers on this by offering a whimsical tutorial where the young learner is introduced to Bobo, a quirky robot who, with his 3D holographic beam and his friendly smile, serves as a guide to an adventure through space, land and sea, to learn all about the science of light. 

This author has a background in instructional design, and I was really impressed to see how well the tutorial was designed. A key piece of computer aided instruction is practice and feedback, without which it’s never clear if any learning is taking place. In this tutorial, information is chunked and after the chunk is presented the new skill needs to be practiced. The tutorial teaches and has you proactively move Bobo and pull down three curtains with rope pulls that contain added information, such as videos or topics complementary to what is being covered. You’re also presented with Bobo’s 3D holographic ray that you can engage in many screens giving the learner another perspective on the covered topic.  And so the journey begins.

The start of journey

The first module puts Bobo in a space ship that you launch, taking him on a quick trip through the planets. He lands on Earth, but the animated trip traverses the galaxy. The iPad can be twisted and turned to avoid collisions with planets that never really happen. At the end, any planet can be touched to see a bit of information about it. This serves to get the learner into the habit of touching, twisting and playing with everything on the screen. At the end of the trip through space you’re left at the sun which starts the exploration of the subject of light. When finished with that you get to the next screen via the right arrow on a navigation bar that appears at the lower right of the screen whenever appropriate. 

Table of Contents

Anytime the navigation bar comes up, tapping its center brings up the Table of Contents which using a projector and gear metaphor, gets you anywhere. Without this the app would become far less usable since so many topics are covered. A hidden benefit, from a design perspective, is that since each module is a separate chunk of curriculum that can stand alone, the Table of Contents provides a quick review without having to go through a linear storyline. There is a nice flow of topics, but after they’re gone through once, quick access is a boon.

Each of the 21 included  topics is covered in a new and clever manner that lets kids interact and get their digital hands dirty. This is far better than having learners just read about something. It’s widely believed that intuitive learning far more easily transfers from short term to long term memory than strict presentational instruction, and we believe that Bobo Explores Light strikes a perfect balance between the two. 

The Reflection Module

A good example of this can be found in the reflection module. There are no more than a few sentences about reflection on the screen but what you do get is Bobo showing you how he can turn on a laser, and move mirrors around so they reflect its light to bounce from one to the other and back again. Then Bobo gets out of the way allowing the learner to turn on the laser and move mirrors anywhere. He or she may notice that Bobo’s antenna is blinking. Tapping on it turns on an incoming and outgoing angle display showing numbers and the corresponding color coded angles marked on the beams. The numbers are always the same for outgoing and incoming. The next module is about refraction where light bends as it enters water. The antenna displays the same angle panel but the angle numbers differ between incoming and outgoing values. Nowhere is this mentioned in print. It needs to be discovered intuitively. And that’s one of the beauty parts of Bobo Explores Light. Quite often you’re not given a concept but need to find it yourself. Luckily these are quite easy to find.

 

 On a Reflection Screen Pulldown

Still on the reflection screen, if you pull down one the three curtains or screens marked “Drive a Mirror,” you’ll find a story about a mirror covered Mini Cooper. Does it have a lot to do with science? Not really, but so what? It’s a neat little tale and it’s related to the subject at hand. These related stories, some more science oriented than others enhance the subject dramatically. On the screen about auroras, there are two wonderful videos on pull-downs. One tells you something about them, but the other is better. After a spoken sentence or two the narrator gets out of the way and the user is treated to a two minute or so video showing auroras against night skies backed up by great music. That’s it. Words don’t get in the way of the wonder, and Bobo brings a lot of wonder to the table. 

Fire!

Other screens, such as this one about fire, are a bit less interactive, but still totally charming. The caveman grunts and growls when prodded. He’s a stick figure and as the screen appears or vanished into the next screen, he folds down or pops up as in a pop-up book. He, as many characters in Bobo’s world, is spring-loaded and bouncy. This spring loading has been used to death in children’s books for iOS, but it seem new in this context. Turn on Bobo’s holographic display, and you’re treated to shadow dinosaurs. That and the caveman’s shadow makes it natural to have a pull down explaining shadows. In all of these text heavy pull downs, the child is never talked down to. Instead, the text by Craig Fusco sound like it speaks to kids as another kid would. The words complement the impeccable brightly colored graphics by Dean MacAdam whose extensive portofolio can be seen via a link found on the credit pages. The whole ball of wax was concieved and executed by Juraj Hlaváč, who deserves the highest commendation of them all for putting this together.

 

Thomas Edison Explains It All To You

I may be gushing a bit, but from a talking Thomas Edison looking like he stepped right out the 1964 World Fair to a drop-dead gorgeous interactive fireworks display at the end of the Journey, Bobo Explores Light is a real treat. Outside of being a well researched and totally valid slice of curriculum, it’s a lot of fun, and should be a model for other educational apps of the future. 

I’d love to see Bobo tackling other areas of science in the future.

He’s that good.

Product: Bobo Explores Light

Company: Game Collage

List Price: US$6.99

Pros:

Wonderfully immersive, talks to kids in their language, beautiful graphics with engaging sound, offers practice and feedback at every stage, videos are appropriate and well produced, lots of play value. Will sell even more iPads

Cons:

Not a thing.

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Comments

Kidsapps Buyer

GREAT REVIEW - very in depth. Good to know all the things that you can do with the app before you purchase it and even after you purchase it. Some apps have so much that a lot of times you don’t even find everything out.

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