iNaturalist Review

App review: Your job is to find an app or tool that you’re unfamiliar with and try it out. Then, in a blog post, provide an overview of the tool as well as a review of the tool, including its strengths, weaknesses, and potential for teachers’ use in the classroom. Where might its usage fall on the SAMR model?

This week I did a review of the app called iNaturalist. The reason I chose this app is because I have to use it for my job and I have little to no experience with it, which may be a problem over the summer. This way I was able to kill birds with one stone: do an app review for EDTC 300 and also train for my job. I used it almost every day of the week and I have become much better at using it than I was at the beginning so I was successful in my trials.

Essentially iNaturalist is an app that allows you to identify plants, animals, and bugs through an online database as well as the opinions of experts around the world who use the app. First, you have to download the app and sign up for an account. After that, the app takes some figuring out. Once you are logged in and ready to go the app has five main directories listed at the bottom, in order from left to right they are: Explore (compass icon), Activity (bell icon), Observe (camera icon), Me (silhouette icon), and the More icon (three dots). Each of these icons has a specific function. The explore icon will take you to a satellite map of the area you are in. You may see a bunch of different coloured pins if you click on these pins these are observations that other users have made. The green pins indicate plant observations, red pins indicate bug observations, and blue pins indicate an animal observation. The activity icon will take you to your notifications screen where it will show you any notifications that someone has identified something you have observed. Up next is the observe icon which is the most useful part of the app. It will take you to a camera screen where you will take a picture or “observation” to upload to the database. If you have data or internet when you take the photo it will immediately offer you a “best guess” based on the photo you took (it is usually pretty accurate) and then upload it for others to be able to confirm its identity. If you don’t have data or wifi you can simply take the picture and it will save and upload once you do have data. the Me icon will show all of your observations. The more icon will take you to either projects or guides. Both of which I still need a bit of help. I know I will be using the project category because where I work we create a project where users will have a competition to see how many things they can observe on iNaturals. I have no idea what the “guides” function does, that is perhaps something I can explore a bit more as I use the app a bit more.

Overall, this app is very good. It is perfect for being able to identify observations quickly, especially if it is something you don’t know. Not everyone can memorize or even drag along a field guide every time they go hiking. I also love how it can help out scientists because you are tracking species for them. It also allows people to interact and help each other from anywhere in the world. Lot’s of experts use this app so it is a great and accurate resource. The only thing I would say is negative about it is that without data it really is useless, sure you can still make the observation but nothing can happen until you have wifi or data.

Additionally, this is a perfect resource for teachers in the “outdoor” classroom. It is completely unrealistic to expect teachers to be a field guide and be able to identify every single species that kids may wonder about so it is a resource for those teachers who may need the extra help. It is also great because it gets children excited about discovering new things on their own while also teaching them to identify them and their scientific names.

On the SAMR model, I would say that iNaturalist in it’s most basic function is substitution because it is replacing typical field guides, but, when you use it to its full potential it is augmentation because it is allowing for collaboration at a level that was not possible before. I would definitely recommend this app to teachers, especially those involved in outdoor ed or who simply enjoy utilizing the outdoor classroom a lot.


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