I’ve talked about video games as learning engines for . . . well, a while. The research is telling us that when used in appropriate ways, video games and simulations are great for the brain. And there are some very cool history learning games being churned out by mobile app developers.

One of the most recent games is a mobile app called Ansel and Clair Ride with Paul Revere. Part video game, part history lesson, the app does a great job of integrating the engaging elements of a game with historically accurate information.

The app creators use an alien kid, Ansel, who travels through space with his helpful robot Clair to learn more about life on Earth. Ansel and Clair have been here before – exploring Africa and dinosaurs. This time, the two are exploring Paul Revere’s ride and the causes of the American Revolutionary War.

Designed for kids ages 5-12, the app tells the story of Paul Revere’s ride as well as some of the different issues that pushed American colonists to separate from England. You also get a nice sense of the geography of the colonies.

There are many interactive bits throughout the game including mini-games and activities, a camera to take photos of important people and events, a travel log for recording information, and a handy-dandy map for navigating within the game. The photos provide a way for the app to display primary source documents and images. The game also occasionally asks multiple choice questions along the way. Part of me thinks that the questions distract from the gaming experience but they are a way to encourage kids to think a bit more historically so . . . maybe not such a bad idea.

The game is organized in way that encourages exploration but there is a tutorial on the home page that explains how the app works – there is also a page-by-page help guide.

I like the look and feel of the app. I like how teachers could use this to engage kids in thinking about the people and events of the period. And I like how geography is tied into the story. The game seems like a perfect fit for upper elementary / middle level US history teachers. Last time I checked, the app was priced on iTunes for $4.99 and is compatible with iPad 2 and later.

Have fun!

(Full disclosure – the Cognitive Kid folks provided a preview version of the app.)