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Digital Mysteries: Alcohol Prohibition in the USA (History)

By Reflective Thinking

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Digital Mysteries: Alcohol Prohibition in the USA is a unique app for 14-16 year olds which allows pairs to work simultaneously on one iPad, to answer an open question together on this topic. They must discuss and collaborate along the way.

The task is mapped to the history curriculum and can be used to support the topics of American History, Law, Society, Economy and Politics.

Students are provided with several slips of illustrated information, different opinions at the time of Prohibition and asked one main open question: “Why was Prohibition felt to be necessary in the USA in 1919, and then repealed in 1933?” The students must read and sort through the slips to come up with an answer. They work together the whole way through, on one iPad, and can also be encouraged to bring in their prior knowledge on the topic. However, the mystery can also be an ideal way to introduce this element of American History, in a fresh and engaging way.

Users move through an easy-to-follow, three stage process – they must first read through the slips, organise them into groups, then move to the final stage where they lay out the slips in a chain and use sticky tapes and notes to help make sense of everything. Although the question is open-ended, students learn lots of useful information along the way, all while developing key skills of collaboration and problem-solving.

This mystery explores the reasons for the introduction of Prohibition in the USA in 1919, and its eventual repeal. It is intended to support studies of the 14-16 age range – including controlled assessment – of the USA in the inter-war years, and raise themes including social reform, economic and political pressure and the question of Federal Government as opposed to State legislation and local practice and circumstances for the more able student.

It is, of course, important that students understand why two such opposing arguments relating to the question of the legality of alcohol could be so compelling to their respective supporters, and have a clear understanding of the circumstances in which this debate had taken place. Once the historical context and specific conditions in which the law was passed are understood, the more able may then be in a stronger position to relate the issues to the present day, and current debates about the legalisation of banned substances.

After the students have went through the problem-solving process, they can then go through the Reflection Stage. This allows them to play back what they have done, discuss their choices and share with others what they thought during the process and whether after reflection, they still think the same. This can be done alone, in their groups, with their teacher or as a whole class. A PDF report is also generated as a summary of the session, and is available to print or share.


There are 14 slips of information in the basic level of the mystery (the app starts by default in ‘medium’, but this can be changed at any time in the settings). There are 22 slips on 'medium'; the additional slips require more able students to consider the ‘grey areas’ around the issue, i.e. the failure of the authorities to enforce the law, and the complicity of ordinary Americans who continued to consume alcohol, and ‘turn a blind eye’ to illegality. On ‘hard’, there are 26 slips. The most able students should be able to link the tensions and issues raised by the attempt to stop the consumption of alcohol, to other debates about the state control of illegal substances.

How can I try other mysteries?

At the bottom of the 'app details' tab, tap ‘Developer Apps’ to view our current range. At the moment, there are apps for computing, history, geography, maths, science, citizenship and two bundles: Shakespeare and primary computing. Many more are coming soon (see for future tasks - contact us to request a specific mystery).

What's New in Version 3.5

Minor bug fixes

iPad Screenshots

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Digital Mysteries: Alcohol Prohibition in the USA (History)
View in iTunes
  • £1.99
  • Category: Education
  • Updated:
  • Version: 3.5
  • Size: 17.2 MB
  • Language: English
  • Developer:
Rated 12+ for the following:
  • Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References

Compatibility: Requires iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPad.

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