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App of the Week – Jeffy’s World

By Matthew McDonnell:

All children are naturally curious and their favorite question is invariably, “Why?” Sometimes, the questions are simple, but every once in a while every adult gets stumped by a doozie. The trouble with the big questions isn’t so much that most adults don’t know the answers, but that it’s really difficult to explain them to children in a simple way that they’ll understand.

Jeffy’s World answers three of these big questions in a remarkably easy to grasp fashion.

1.    Why do we have night and day?
2.    What causes the seasons?
3.    What is a year?

The app answers these questions with a powerful teaching tool that allows users to actively manipulate several variables in order to understand how the earth’s motion causes the surface phenomena that we all experience on a daily basis.

Fortunately, Jeffy’s World delivers excellent entertainment value as well.  It turns out that Jeffy is extremely imaginative, and mischievous. So if you don’t keep him busy, he’s likely to suggest all sorts of activities, like lighting a firework or jumping on a trampoline. The user can cause Jeffy to engage in these activities by moving the earth to the appropriate time of day or season.

What makes Jeffy’s World such a rare app is that its intention isn’t merely to convey factual knowledge (which it does ably), but to develop an understanding of fundamental scientific principals. Building an app with this intention was certainly a tall order, but the folks at Qlvr really deliver here.

The real brilliance of this app is to place an animated child at the center of it. When a child uses this app and sees Jeffy standing on the earth in the Northern Hemisphere or spinning around the sun it makes the necessary inferential leaps much easier for the user to make. By rendering complex concepts in a tactile, visually oriented medium, Jeffy’s World moves those concepts out of the realm of abstraction.

If you don’t appreciate how hard this really is, just try to explain to a young child why it’s winter in London when it’s summer Sydney. You’ll have to start with a geography lesson, and explain what a hemisphere is before you even begin to answer the real question. Jeffy’s World allows you to skip over some of these distracting details.

This app is not meant to be “played” in the sense that the user just progresses through challenges. It’s designed to conduct experiments. This makes it an excellent platform to bring adults and children together around a tablet or mobile device. Plus, Jeffy’s World is structured so that only one variable can be changed at a time.  This imbues the whole app with the scientific method and teaches it to children as a way to understand the phenomena they observe in the world; a much more meaningful endeavor than the rote memorization of 10 steps in a science text. The systematic and methodical investigation of our world is just about the most important intellectual skill a child can develop. Jeffy’s World is an excellent tool to achieve that end.

Jeffy’s World is recommended for Kids and Tweens (Ages 5 to 12) for elementary and middle school learning concepts. Find screenshots, reviews, and family-friendly ratings for Jeffy’s World and more of the best iPad apps at Famigo.com.

Developer: Qlvr

Compatibility: iPad (iOS 4.0 or later)
App Category: Education

Price: $0.99

Famigo Family Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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