By Peter Magers on Thu, 12/20/2012
In an age when overstimulation and processed pop culture pervade every aspect of children’s lives, it can be difficult to use new learning technology without overwhelming little ones with commercial messages. Art ABC is a beautifully designed educational experience that takes the high road.
Instead of relying on licensed characters or overwhelming flashes and over-stimulating action, Art ABC engages and educates using fine arts. The app is an elegantly simple introduction to the alphabet and phonetic associations. Children page through the alphabet, learning each letter one at a time, illustrated by fine art from some of the greatest painters who have ever lived.
The intuitively designed interface relies entirely on a tap-to-touch forward icon, another which returns to the beginning, and open-ended exploration of each background to reveal hidden objects and effects which illustrate each letter. For example, the letter A is presented with a traditional painting of an apple tree. However, apples themselves are in grayscale until touched. Upon being tapped, the apples come to vibrant life as the narrator says “apple.”
Art ABC is a rare find. Early educational apps are, due to their purpose, typically simple in execution—as they should be. Unfortunately, this simplicity seems to lend itself to shabby creation, as quantity rather than quality seems to be an all too common App Store theme. The clarity of the narration, the polished presentation of the artwork, and the soothing tones of the background music in Art ABC, however, demonstrate a care and thoroughness on the part of its developers. The use of fine art paintings as backgrounds and their interactive nature are notable as well. Stock alphabet images and toy marketing disguised as education are everywhere; the edifying educational value of learning to engage with sophisticated artwork at such an early age can’t be overstated.
The iPhone’s Retina display is a gorgeous way to present these beautiful works from Van Gogh, Monet, and many others. The pleasing background music provides another appeal to the senses while still encouraging concentration on Art ABC’s educational purpose.
Art ABC is an elegant way to enrich children’s early learning experiences. It promotes quality time between parents and children as they explore the app and the alphabet together, and it’s simple enough for kids to play with on their own if they’d like to review. Available now in the iTunes App Store, Art ABC is only $0.99.