The cleverly designed Disney American Presidents app (Disney Learning, October 2012) invites users to peruse “The Unofficial Oval Office Scrapbook.”
A scrapbook-like spread devoted to each president features the man’s portrait, birth and death dates, signature, and awards received. A “bookmark” sidebar provides his presidential number, term(s) served, corresponding historical era, party, vice president(s), and birth state. Several interactive icons, when tapped, trigger additional pop-up fact bubbles.
The most substantive element of the app is its 3-5 minute video profiles of every president, taken from the Disney Educational Production series The American Presidents. These mini-documentaries cover the men and their eras in an entertaining, accessible way (e.g., facts about Washington are presented as a quiz show called “Who Wants to Win a Million Pictures of George Washington?”). Presidents’ accomplishments, pitfalls, strengths, and weaknesses are also explored in a balanced manner.
The videos, though playful, do offer solid information and historical context, supported by interviews with historians and political commentators. The jokey tone subsides, appropriately, when discussing moments and issues such as the Trail of Tears and the War on Terror. There’s overlap in content between the videos and scrapbook pages, but the interesting trivia and engaging presentation are worth a little redundancy.
The app is user-friendly, with a visual tutorial accessible at any time. Easy navigation allows users to view the presidents chronologically or skip around. Two musical selections for each era are provided; music or all sound can also be turned off entirely.
Disney states that the app’s content “maps to Core Curriculum Standards for grades 3-8.” In addition to that educational element, this app is just a fun way for kids and adults alike to learn (or relearn, as the case may be) about the presidents.
Available for iPad (requires iOS 4.0 or later); $3.99. Recommended for intermediate users and up.