Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The magic of interaction

Richard Dawkins has a new book out at the moment, it's called the "Magic of reality" and deals with scientific explanations for some of the "big" questions, like "what are we made of" and "how did we get here". The book is aimed at younger children (ideally I reckon about 10-14) but is actually easy for anyone to read and get something from (I did). The format of the book is consistent throughout, each question has it's own section and each section consists of one or more attempted explanations from mythology followed by the actual scientific explanation. So for example for the question "what is the Sun" we have myths about golden chariots flying across the sky and aboriginal fire gods culminating in the real explanation, i.e. that the Sun is a very hot ball of gas like all other stars of its kind in the universe, it works really well. As well as the book there is a more interactive iPad version which is the full text of the book plus some interactive games, movies and audio content; throughout both there are many colourful cartoon illustrations by Dave McKean.

In the interests of true scientific exploration I thought I would try the iPad application out on my own lab rat 10 year old, we sat and read through some of it in place of a bed time story last night, the reaction was really positive in fact we got into it so much that in no time it was 9pm (way past bed time!) A couple of things really grabbed our attention, firstly the humour, lots of laugh out loud moments, particularly around the fabulous illustrations (the porcupine wrestling with the beaver seemed to tickle a funny bone) and secondly the interactive features, it's one thing explaining about the wavelengths of light in words and pictures, but then to be given a virtual light bench that allows you to play with lenses, slits and prisms right there and then really solidifies the learning experience and helps capture imagination.

All in all a thoroughly recommended little educational app; suitable from about 10 upwards I'd say; some of the words used are what I would call "advanced" and perhaps not sufficiently familiar to children for them to comprehend fully on their own but with an adult assisting it's probably fine for even younger people.


Chairman Bill said...

Thanks for that. I'm looking for some written words that will engage my 13 year-old.

Steve Borthwick said...

CB, Its quite a short book but very wide in scope, a starting point for further reading around topics that grab interest, would probably be how I would characterise it.