This image is a screenshot from the fascinating iPad app “Strange and Wonderful World of Ants” by Amos Latteier with drawings by Melinda Matson. When the call went out from @ktenkely on Twitter for English and Science teachers to review this beautifully produced childrens ’book’ for the iPad, I jumped at the chance. This unique application has three reading levels, suitable from 7 year olds to adults and information to inspire the most curious insect lovers. A quirky little ant character, E.O. Ant (presumably named after the famous American biologist and ant expert, E.O. Wilson) appears on each page with an informative and humorous commentary.
At the beginners level, the app introduces the life of different types of ants and their relationships with aphids, fungus and each other. The advanced level discusses phermones, symbiotic relationships, the bivouac and trophallaxis, providing excellent examples and descriptions of concepts. My 11 year old daughter, who read the intermediate level, enjoyed the close-up, black and white drawings and learnt about some of the unusual ant behaviours. It was more difficult to get any feedback from my 13 year old son (you know teenagers!) but he seemed to like it, although I doubt it would be something he would install of his own accord. As a teacher of middle years science, this would be a great app to promote scientific literacy in the classroom and to engage students in project about insects. Students always bring their own knowledge and experiences to the classroom and I can imagine this app kick-starting discussions about ants that carry 50 times their own body weight, how they smell when you squash them and why they start running around before rain.
The app also has a message to readers about how humans could learn a lot from the way ants co-operate, create and communicate with each other. I would love to see more educational apps like this, and will be recommending this one to our librarian, although we are still waiting for the Apple bulk purchase discounts for school use in Australia. Congratulations to Amos Latteier and Melinda Matson for an excellent addition to the list of educational apps with a difference.