Xperica is an educational iPad application targeting high school students and teachers, launched today by IL&FS Education & Technology Services Limited (IL&FS Education). The free version of the application, which we tried, features four interactive science experiments; the paid app is priced at $3.99. Xperica is available in English on iPads running iOS 3.0 or higher and all iPad 2 devices (iTunes link). IL&FS does infrastructure projects in Public Private Partnership formats in India, and has done projects on Technology enabled Learning in the country, including on mobile enabled English learning, and Voice* based Sex education tips.

We played around a little with the all four experiments – Specific Heat of Water, Oscillations, Law of Moments, and resistance in series, and Xperica really is impressive – it’s the iPad 2 equivalent of a science lab, and takes experiments out of labs…though the purists may argue that ambient and measurement device issues might yield slightly different results, which students also need to be aware of. However, a significant limitation of the app is, that you can do the experiments, but there is no way of understanding what you’re doing. It doesn’t go beyond the experiments. I don’t remember much of Science class in school, and the application doesn’t tell me why I should learn about the specific heat of water, and what the implications are. Unless it moves from experiments to learning, it will remain just a teaching aid.

The apps are fairly intuitive, IL&FS says that they’ll add experiments from other science fields periodically, but the one thing that does stand out, is the quality of the design, and the interactive nature of the app – for example, we couldn’t start the experiment on the specific heat of water without moving the heater into the tumbler.

Suggestions

– Open approach: We don’t quite understand the “closed” approach to the app – the experiments are just experiments, and not a substitute for helping students understand their purpose, or the implications of the results, or showcase examples of real-life applications. There is no link out to online resources, that might help students understand the context of experiments better. This is perhaps where the “linked web” is different from Apps ecosystem. Perhaps the mandate of Xperica.com can be expanded to go beyond just providing information about the app.

– Fun: I’d like to see a few gaming components as well, that could make this fun – for example, the old Gorillas game, as an example of projectile motion. Additional information that introduce students to ‘games that use this theory’ would be interesting. Agreed that there would be limited games related to Chemistry experiments or “Resistance in series”, but that shouldn’t stop them.

Another thing – make it more life-like. For example, in the specific heat of water experiment, I chose a power rating of 150 W, and the temperature of 100 gm of water rose to 100% in four seconds, after which the experiment stopped. Would have been more fun (and life-like), if at some point, the water would have been shown to be boiling, and beyond a limit, the container would burst, with a warning. People try crazy things in science class – it’s all a part of learning. That’s just my take on it, though.

*Corrigendum: Sparsh, IL&FS’ sex education initiative, is voice based. We’d incorrectly reported that it is SMS based.