Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Freddi Fish and the Stolen Shell

Freddy Fish and the Stolen Shell is a game from Atari. Many of you may recognize Freddy Fish and even this particular story as this is a "reboot" of a series from the 90's from Humongous Entertainment. Let me first say that this app is not marketed as an "educational" app on iTunes, but it does on the press release say that it helps critical thinking, problem solving, and memory. After my post on how to define an educational app, I've had a couple of conversations about skills that are important, but may not be as explicitly taught - like critical thinking. I think most will agree that critical thinking is something important that kids have to learn to do well, particularly for standardized tests and college entrance exams - the new SAT no longer has a "Verbal" section, but rather a "Critical Thinking" section. But, at the same time, it's not like there is critical thinking class like there is math class. When I think of how to measure critical thinking, I think of the horrible passages you have to read, like in the SAT, and then answer endless questions by inferring/deducing/interpreting from the passage. But how do we measure and teach critical thinking to beginning readers? Do games like Freddy Fish really help teach critical thinking skills? Price: $2.99 

Device Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.Requires iOS 3.0 or later

Developmental Appropriateness: I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed playing this game, and I think elementary school kids will too. It does actually require critical thinking skills, some parts more than others, and maybe I need to improve mine as I feel like it took me a long time to solve the mystery! Overall, it's pretty intuitive to navigate. Getting Freddy to use a found object can be a little tricky though so maybe Freddy could give some more directions on that. Some parts are less obvious than others, and some tasks are harder than others. So there seems to be a bit of a range. While Freddy Fish does provide some critical thinking prompts and clues, they are usually as secondary conversation (i.e. you have to click on the Freddy a few times). It would be nice if Freddy reinforced the critical thinking more. For example, after solving a specific problem, Freddy could say, that's right, if you did (blank), it would (blank)! This way, even if you by chance stumbled upon the answer, you would think about what just happened. Making strategies and thought processes explicit helps the learning process. There's also a lot of other implicit lessons that range from bullying to music and a touch of math spread throughout the story. While I like that this is not marketed as educational, I think it is safe to label this as "edutainment." Kids will have fun and in the process, maybe pick up a few things. Rating: 4/5 (aim for around 8 years)

Balance: There's a lot to click on in the game, but it is after all a game. Part of it is as distractors for finding needed objects. But even so, I could do with a few less just for fun hotspots. There are also screens that don't really forward the plot very much, but that may just be because you can go through the same mystery with different clues and so sometimes some screens are more useful than others. Rating: 4/5

Sustainability: Since you can go back and resolve the mystery with different clues and different outcomes, this game gets an A+ for sustainability. It will be easier to solve the more  you do it, but the characters and humor in the game make it worth going back. There are also games that could be pretty independent of the plot that you can play repeatedly. One being the organ where you can record your own songs. Rating 5/5

Parental Involvement: This is for the most part a one-player game and it's almost like watching a mini-tv show with interactive parts. Parents can watch along and help in terms of usability and reinforcing the critical thinking skills. Parents may even be surprised if their child solves something before they do, so it might be a fun activity to do together. But given the older target age, kids may want to solve the mystery on their own. Rating: 3.5/5

Total: 16.5 out of 20 = 4 stars

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