App Name: Disney American Presidents: Unofficial Oval Office Scrapbook
Available Platforms: iPad (iOS 4.0 and up)
What does this app do? Pop quiz: Who was our 19th president and in which era did he serve? How about this one: How many of you knew that Chester A. Arthur, our 21st president, was nicknamed Elegant Arthur?
These are a few of the facts you can learn through the “Disney American Presidents: Unofficial Oval Office Scrapbook” app. The app, released in early October, gives users the chance to flip through a digital scrapbook in order to learn about the lives and times of our 44 U.S. presidents. (Full disclosure: Disney is also the parent company of ABC News.)
Andrew Sugerman, executive vice president of Disney Publishing Worldwide, says the app, born out of “The American Presidents” DVD series and mapped to national social studies curricula for grades 3 through 8, is a way to bring the use of digital and mobile devices together with education, especially as children are learning about the elections.
However, it’s not for children only. There are adult sensibilities here too. One of the contributors to the app, Chris Regan, is a comedian who used to write for the Daily Show.
Open the app by swiping to the left and page through, one by one, to see each president in chronological order. On the top left the app displays a portrait of the president, and on the top right you can view video content that provides narration and expert interviews. We see Richard Norton Smith, presidential historian, for example, explaining the significance of John Adams’ decision not to go to war with France, and Mo Rocca, political commentator, expounding on the Alien and Sedition Acts and how this related to Adam’s unpopularity.
Each page offers its own possibilities—tap on an icon to learn how the British invaded Washington D.C. and burned down the White House during James Madison’s presidency. Tap another button to change the background music from theme songs to songs for each era.
Is it easy to set up? Purchase the app from the iTunes store, download, install and go.
Should I try it? Definitely. There are others, such as American Presidents for iPad, which does a clever job contextualizing presidents in history with a visual timeline and essays. However, Disney’s new app shines with original video content, and experts ranging from historians from the Library of Congress to political insiders to reporters such as Sam Donaldson make it an engaging and elegant way to learn.
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