A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this app.
Ease of Play
The display is beautiful, with high-quality images and smooth transitions. You cannot see a full table of contents; instead, you must scroll through the main screen to see all the chapter titles. The instructions for moving between the table of contents, chapters, and inset images are explained well in the introduction, but eager teens might skip ahead and miss the demo. Two finger spreading will expand images and graphics, but it is a tad annoying to keep a finger on a graphic in order to see its extra images and information. The ability to map where any picture was taken is a nice perk. The app can only be viewed in landscape, and common e-book functionality (searching, highlighting, taking notes) is not included.
Violence & Scariness
One image includes a gun being held by a soldier. Specific military conflicts are mentioned as consequences of dependence on foreign oil as well as increased migration and environmental pressures due to climate change.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The ability of women to choose the number and spacing of their children is discussed, including abortion policy. One picture shows a diagram of a naked woman and her internal reproductive organs. A commercial excerpt shows athletic, scantily clad men and women drilling for coal. A fable also mentions in passing the concubine of a Chinese emperor.
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The word "damn" is included in a quote on the first page of the introduction. Overall, the vocabulary is geared toward adults, addressing scientific, economic, and political issues.
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Products & Purchases
All profits go to a nonprofit organization founded by Al Gore. There are mentions of specific brand name products, such as a Toyota Prius.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The decline of smoking rates in the United States is given as an example of how public attitudes toward a common threat (like global warming) can change. Driving under the influence (DUI) arrests are mapped in one graphic.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Our Choice is a book by Al Gore about climate change policy with beautiful images and animated graphics, but that it is generally written for an older audience. The app updates his 2009 book of the same title, and all profits go to a nonprofit organization founded by Al Gore. The content focuses on big-picture issues such as world population, the economics and science of various energy sources, and the politics of making governments take action. There is one chapter on recycling and energy efficiency at home, but this text emphasizes what we can do as a group more than individual steps. While some parts read like a textbook, there is a deliberate agenda and a political tone. The text is accompanied by many high-quality pictures and animated graphics with a wealth of information, particularly about the United States. For example, teens can see their state's capacity for geothermal, solar, or wind energy. The app uses adult vocabulary, including specific scientific and economic terms. Some sensitive images and issues are mentioned, including abortion and war. Despite the emphasis on girls' education, almost all of the voice-over speakers and profiled innovative thinkers are men, which may reinforce stereotypes about women and science. Because of the app's size, you will need to download it while you have access to a WiFi network or from your iTunes account.
Is It Any Good?
OUR CHOICE is an innovative improvement on standard textbooks and e-books, with a relatively easy interface. By presenting an e-book as an app, Al Gore can include stunning photos, graphics, and videos that present tons of information in creative ways. For example, teens will connect with the videos like the one about William Kamkwamba, who built a wind turbine with spare parts when he was 14 to power a single light bulb in his home in Malawi. Compared to other apps, though, this is heavy on one-way transfer of information by an author/narrator, rather than true two-way or networked interaction to facilitate learning and response. (One exception is the memorable wind turbine graphic that spins in response to blowing on the iPad microphone.) The information is very current, including a photo of the nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan.
If you and your teen are interested in climate change, this is a great app to explore together as there will be a lot to learn for both of you. However, while the author is up-front about his agenda, the political tone may deter some learners. Also, some standard e-book features like searching are missing. However, the platform seems like a good sign of things to come.
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Our Editors Recommend
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