- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 26, 2011

Reviews of some of the latest games and apps for Apple’s iPad.

Ansel & Clair’s Adventures in Africa (Cognitive Kid, $4.99)  You had better believe the iPad can act as a portable edutainment center, and this continental adventure starring a pair of space aliens offers the perfect example.

Geared toward 4- to 9-year-olds, this fact-packed, multimedia presentation features Ansel (an intergalactic photographer) and Clair (a fact-filled robot) from the planet Virtoos. The duo are on an Intel mission while at the same time trying to recover parts of their spaceship that have fallen across Africa.

They, with help from the child, explore the Nile, Serengeti plains and Sahara Desert through touch spots on beautiful, slightly animated illustrations leading to interactions with animals, ancient ruins and environments, and access to games.

Each location features about a dozen places to touch as children learn about topics such as the Sphinx, scorpions and the difference between cheetahs and leopards. Games include matching fur to the right animal, dragging numbers to rebuild a clock and maneuvering though a pyramid maze by tilting the iPad.

The child also uses a camera to take pictures of animals and objects (drag the camera over an area to take a shot) and he places the images in the proper slots in a scrapbook.

Learning is reinforced with Clair talking the entire time about every item or animal touched with an occasional pop-up screen that follows an even more detailed dialogue about a topic between Ansel and Clair.

Parents worried that junior can tear through this adventure too quickly can anticipate that the spinning 3-D globe used to access Africa will certainly lend itself to additional downloads to visit other continents.

The Civil War Today (History, $7.99)  Let’s really get serious about an affordable educational opportunity. Amateur scholars can learn about the war between the states with this fantastic mobile resource.

Via an interactive format built specifically for the iPad, owners receive daily updates for the next four years that cover the entire Civil War.

Journey back to the 1800s to examine digitized content, including original photographs, newspapers, letters, battle maps and diary entries that shed light on the conflict. Each day, a newspaperlike presentation appears with all of the events, easily swiped or touched to dig deeper into the date.

For example, look at May 3, 1861, to understand President Lincoln’s Proclamation 83 to expand the Army and Navy by 82,000 soldiers. Look at images of artillery, a recruitment poster, Wyld’s military map of the U.S., a political cartoon, and a lithograph of Elmer Ellsworth, the war’s first casualty.

Every date also offers incredible newspaper coverage, such as being able to read nine pages from an 1861 edition of the New York Tribune.

Readers can carefully zoom into each article to read the pages.

Additional features include the ability to follow 15 individuals during the war, including Lincoln and Mary Boykin Miller Chestnut (wife of Sen. James Chestnut Jr. of South Carolina), clips from History Channel documentaries, a daily quiz and color images embedded with touch spots (and subtle sound effects and music) to explore the U.S. during the 1800s.

For those looking for information quickly, a biography index, glossary and checklist from each day lead to immediate facts. Teachers can use the iPad 2 video-out option to connect to a projector and supplement their courses.

The Civil War Today offers a time-consuming and rewarding experience for student and history buff alike.

* Visit Zadzooks at the The Washington Times’ Communities (https://communities.washingtontimes.com/) or on Twitter.

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