Thursday, May 31, 2012

i Learn With Boing: Ice Land Adventures!

i Learn with Boing: Ice Land Adventures! was created by Tribal Nova. It is a literacy app targeting preschool and kindergarten. It has three activities targeting Letters, Phonics, and Words. I was looking forward to checking out this app because I previously reviewed iLearn with Poko: Seasons and Weather, which was a solid app and has now (along with other apps by the developers) been updated to include a parent center that tracks kids progress. So how this Ice Land stack up? Price: $2.99

Device Requirements: Compatible with iPad.Requires iOS 4.0 or later.

Developmental Appropriateness: The developers have clearly given thought to the design through an educational lens. Are the activities appropriate? Check. Is there leveling for each activity? Check. Is the leveling adaptive according to performance? Check. Is there instruction/tutor? Check - in the form of Boing, the character. Are the games engaging? Check - in general, yes, and one of the games even has a two-player mode to launch "snowballs". This is all great. 

Now here's me being critical and possibly nit-picky. First, is it me, or do some of the phonics pronunciation sound a bit off? I am not a phonics/speech expert, but I have some experience administering literacy assessments that include phonics and I feel like some of these are not quite right. For example, "e" here seems to always presented silent - which yes, there is the "silent e", but not always. How would you say "sh" or  "ow"? Second, there seems to be a wide range of vocabulary here - which is good, but it's kinda randomly presented. Figuring out the phonetics of "yogurt" is way harder than "sun". There's a progression not only for vocabulary, but letters and phonics and I don't get the sense that the level of difficulty within these domains were considered. The first point of the pronunciation concerns me quite a bit, and for that, I have to give a lower rating than what I thought initially. Rating: 3 out of 5 (aim for around 4 years).

Balance: Everything looks cute, yet simple at the same time. The phonics game, where you launch snowballs can get a little distracting as aiming and timing them correctly can be a little tricky! Also, not sure where to mention this, but my second player froze up during play. Rating: 4/5

Sustainability: So as you play, you collect rewards. These rewards can then be used in a connected app where you can make your own avatars and "play" in this other planet. It's kinda neat. However, while you are doing the activities, it may get repetitive. While you do collect rewards as you go, the activity remains exactly the same as you progress through the levels. This may bore some as there's not much to break up the activity play itself, since the reward system is a separate thing. Rating: 4/5

Parental Involvement: A great addition to Tribal Nova apps is the parent center. Like other apps that have also started including a parent center, this one allows parents to review their kid's progress within the app an then makes recommendations for other apps that target other subject areas. This one includes a comparison of their kid's accuracy rate with the general population's. There's also a nice kinda guide for parents, explaining the activities and what's available in the parent center. Like I've said with other parent centers, this is a wonderful start for parents to stay connected. Perhaps there could be different packages for parents depending on the level of information they'd like. 

One thing I'd like to see (not specific to the parent center) is some sort of setting so parents (and kids) can set the levels within each activity. Some kids might get bored with having to get past the initial levels that may be too easy for them. Rating: 4/5

Total: 15 out of 20: 4 stars

Disclosure - I received this app for free for review purposes.

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