Friday, January 20, 2012

i Learn with Poko: Seasons and Weather!

i Learn with Poko: Seasons and Weather is a science game created by Tribal Nova for preschool and kindergarten. In general, I think we focus a lot on reading and math, so it's nice to see something for some basic science knowledge. Price: $1.99 for iPhone, $2.99 for iPad
Device Requirements: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad; Requires iOS 4.2 or later

Developmental Appropriateness: Seasons and weather are very popular themes in preschool and kindergarten curricula. So that is one major check. There are 3 levels or games - which I think are pretty clever ways of teaching this material. 

In the first game, kids are given clues (i.e. find the two pictures where it is snowing) and they need to pick out the pictures that fit, eventually narrowing it down to one target picture. This game is definitely better on the iPad with the bigger screen then the iPhone to see all the details in the pictures. A few things I noticed that can be improved: 1) You can start tapping on the pictures before the clue is given, which then stops the clue from being heard. 2) On the same note, it would be helpful to have written clues instead of just oral clues. This can help kids start to learn and recognize key words such as snow and winter. 3) Although it registers the picture selections quite fast, I thought the pacing of this particular game was slow. 

In the second game, you are shown pictures and need to find the items that don't fit (i.e. wearing mittens in a summer scene). I like this game - I'm a total sucker for picture games. However, some of the items here are really subtle and hard to find! The snow boots are not that different from the rain boots or regular shoes, or not everyone likes to wear flip flops in the summer - it's ok to wear regular shoes. And who really wears matching jackets and snow pants in the winter (maybe if you're skiing)? 

For the third game, you have to match pictures of activities to the day of the week by weather. So if it tells you it's raining on Tuesday, you would find the indoor activity. This is a good way to get kids thinking about the weather and what's appropriate. I like that if you tap on the activity, it tells you what is happening, but I think there needs to be a better way to distinguish wanting it labelled and actually choosing it as your answer. (You can tap on all the pictures and the correct one will just fly into the target spot because you tapped on it.)

For all three games, there is a monkey character that is suppose to provide support. Honestly, the monkey is kinda useless. He just repeats the items, and does not really provide any new information. Finally, the games are suppose to be adaptive - adjusting the level according to when you get right and wrong answers. I'd like to see more about how it adjusts. Rating: 4/5 (aim for around 4 years of age)

Balance: There isn't really much outside of what I've described for the games, so I think kids will stay on task. As I already mentioned, it could use a few tweaks with some of the features (being able to interrupt the directions; making the monkey more useful). The pictures are pretty colorful and cute, but I think they could benefit from some animation. These are scenes - they are suppose to be active. So if you're flying a kite to show that it's a windy day, let's see it (honestly, some of the sunny scenes are pretty similar to the windy scenes minus a kite). Rating: 4/5

Sustainability: The adaptive nature of the game seems like a good feature, as it will move a child along when he/she has mastered a task - look like there may be three stages to each task (again, I'd like to see more information on how it is adaptive and what is needed with each stage). I was surprised not to find some sort of album feature where you can see all the pictures you've successfully completed or chosen.  These seem like games that could easily have a plot line or goals to achieve to keep kids coming back. Rating: 3.5/5

Parental Involvement: I think this app has much potential for parental involvement. Weather is such a common topic. It would be easy for parents to talk about activities they've done during various weather and seasons. Perhaps one way to make the monkey more useful to for it to ask questions like, "What do you like to do when it's raining?" and act as a prompt to both child and parent. As is though, there's no evident role for the parent. Rating 3.5/5

Total: 15 out of 20 = 4 stars

Disclosure: I received this app for review for free from the developers.

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