Super School – a Great iPad App, But Not for Any of the Usual Reasons

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Super School app for iPad

Super School is a new app for the iPad, that’s inspired by the award-winning documentary ‘Waiting for Superman’ – that focused on the crisis in American education. The Waiting for Superman project site outlines its mission as follows:

Fixing America’s public education system won’t be easy — but together, it’s possible.

The Waiting for “Superman” social action campaign has one primary goal: to ensure that every child receives a great education. The campaign seeks to build public awareness, ignite personal involvement and inspire real social change.

The campaign’s four core initiatives are:

Setting academic standards that are on par with the world’s best
Recruiting and rewarding great teachers
Creating and nurturing excellent schools, and
Increasing literacy rates
The following pages are your toolkit for educational reform. Learn more about the Waiting For “Superman” initiatives below, and find ways to take action with our “Help Your School” and “Fix the System” tips throughout this site. Help our students get the quality education they deserve. Our country’s future depends on it.

And every child deserves a great education.

The Super School app aims to assist in achieving these goals. For me, that immediately makes this a hugely appealing app – as I believe this is an enormously important and worthwhile cause.

Super School app based on Waiting for Superman

Here’s a portion of the app’s App Store description:

Inspired by the award-winning documentary Waiting For “Superman” – Super School invites you to come play, and make a difference in a child’s education.
Take a seat in our virtual classroom and see how you score in some old time favorite games. Answer trivia questions about education in the US, and get tips on how YOU can make a difference.
Earn game points to build a schoolhouse that you can post on Facebook to show you care about what’s happening in our schools today. This handheld simulation will get you up to speed on the education crisis in the U. S and give you the power to become a superhero to students and teachers in America.
WE HAVE MADE THIS APP TO HELP SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT EDUCATION IN THE US! You can help by sharing the app with your friends, fellow parents, concerned citizens and everyone in your community. The education of America’s children affects everyone – even those without kids

Honestly, the app itself is far from great. It’s quite clumsy and awkward to navigate around. It offers portrait mode only, has various places where there are Previous and Next buttons that do nothing when tapped, pages that show a web address bar that cannot be tapped or used for entering a URL and seems to serve no purpose at all, and has pages where it’s suggested that you go to a specific web address but offer no links to do so, and so on. It also features annoying background noise when you go to some of the virtual classrooms (that sounds like a room full of unruly kids) that cannot be turned off.

So, definitely not a very polished app or one that’s going to garner praise for its UI.

And I really don’t feel that fussed about any of that, and feel happy sticking with the app – just because of its purpose, though I wouldn’t feel the same with nearly any other app.

Super School app based on Waiting for Superman

I spent very little time with the games within  the app. They do a good job of highlighting some of the serious issues in US schools, but I really didn’t get the app to play games. The heart of the app for me is in its ‘Learn More’ and ‘Take Action’ sections – which do just what their names suggest. In particular, the Take Action section makes it easy to do a little something to help, in various ways. Super School app based on Waiting for Superman

In this section you get big links to write your elected officials (with some editable suggested text), write your school board or sign a petition on Facebook, write your governor, or donate to a classroom project via the site.

I signed the petition this afternoon, and even shared it to a number of Facebook friends, something I very rarely do.

Super School app based on Waiting for Superman

The DonorsChoose site loads nicely within the app’s inline browser, and lets you browse through tons of worthy classroom projects from schools all over the country.

Super School app based on Waiting for Superman

You can sort the view by urgency, by lowest cost, highest poverty, fewest days left, and more. You can also view projects in your own town. There were 48 projects listed for my hometown, Austin, when I looked today – and I quickly found one to donate to, and made a donation within the app. The DonorsChoose site accepts payments via credit card, PayPal, and Amazon Payments.

There’s also a section in the app where you can buy the ‘Waiting for Superman’ DVD, Blu-Ray, or book (via Amazon). You can also get the book in the iBookstore.

So … as my post title gave away, I honestly think this is a great app. Not because it is terribly well executed or boasts any amazing iPad-like features. It serves what, to me, is a great purpose though. It helps keep us informed on what’s going on with education in the US, and lets us do something about supporting initiatives across the country, at grassroots level.

If you have kids in the US school system, or think you will one day soon, or just consider education in the US an important topic in its own right, you should really give this app a look.

Here’s an App Store link for Super School; it’s a free app.

Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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