Tech Tuesday: WWF Together for iPad

This week, I’m featuring the World Wildlife Fund’s free app, WWF Together.  WWF’s mission is to protect species and conserve places.  Started in 1961, it has been working for over 50 years to protect our world.  The app is an interactive way to teach students about WWF and its important causes.  It has a selection of animals to explore – from polar bears to sea turtles to elephants.  It is completely interactive – it features many simulations of conditions these animals actually experience (as demonstrated within the means of an iPad).  As a bonus, it won the 2013 Apple Design Award at the Worldwide Developers Conference last June.

I used this app during a mini-unit on polar bears.  I used it in conjunction with the Learn with Homer app, which has an interactive text about polar bears as well.  It could be used whole-class, in partners/groups, or 1-1.

To begin, you select the animal you want to discover.  Each animal has a different word associated with it – for example, the polar bear’s word is “endurance.”  As a class, we discussed what it might mean to endure and how a polar bear endures.  It provided an ELA framework and set a purpose for our exploration (something I’m finding becomes more and more important as I refine my practice).

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Then, you get to dive into the polar bear’s world.  Each animal has at least 6 different pages to explore (polar bear’s have 9).  What makes this app different is how interactive and meaningful each page is.  For example, on one page, the use spins a clock round and round while a real polar bear swims underwater.  At 12 days, 16 hours, and 48 minutes, it stops and tells us, “Polar bears have been known to swim for up to 12.7 days and up to 426 miles.”  By manually spinning the timer and watching the time increase, my students were able to better grasp that that meant a lot of time.  It was so much more powerful than simply telling them, “Polar bears can swim for a great amount of time and over large distances.”

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Another page the students really enjoyed was the sea ice page.  The user has to “move” blocks of ice to read the text below.  This was a powerful way for students to see what the polar bear’s habitat looks like – and how it is in danger.

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There are other pages we explored as well.  Each animal has a stats page that shows where the animal lives, their size, and how many are estimated to be in the wild.  There is a photo gallery, which featured beautiful full-screen photos of polar bears.  The kids especially liked the ones with polar bear cubs.  Another page, “FaceTime,” has a recording of a man who saw a mother polar bear and her cubs exiting their den.  Hearing his descriptive language and the awe in his voice was definitely a powerful learning experience.  Of course, WWF includes threats to the polar bears AND what the WWF is doing to help the polar bears.  As a class, we talked about the threats and how we could help (by using less energy).

What I truly love about this app is the truly endless opportunities for classroom integration.  I especially love the new vocabulary it introduces.  By pairing an animal with a word, students are forced to think critically about why the WWF would use that word with a particular animal.  It can be used in conjunction with a science unit or as a stimulus for writing activities.  As an integral part of the app, geography is a focus.  There is a feature where you can spin the globe and see where many different animals live.  There are also opportunities for math connections as well.

The one downside is that there are only 16 animals you can study in-depth.  That is a good amount, but I’m hoping they add more soon, as we’ve explored a lot of them already.  I’ve had this app since October and I have not seen a new animal added since that time.  For now, there are plenty!  I highly recommend downloading this app.  I think it can be used for any grade, depending on how you use it.

Overall rating: 5/5

Get it here for iPad.

PS. The World Wildlife Fund’s website has more great resources to use as well.  If you’re looking for something comparable to this app, check out their species pages.  It’s awesome!  I discovered it while writing this article and can’t wait to use it.

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