Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Little Monster at School

Little Monster at School was created by Wanderful, Inc. and is based on the book by Mercer Mayer originally published by Living Books and may already be familiar to many of you. It follows Little Monster and his day at school, the lessons he learns there and shows you his friends. It includes a fully functional Spanish version (any text in the illustrations change to Spanish too!), with possibly more languages to come, making the price a little more understandable. Price: $4.99

Device Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later.

Developmental Appropriateness: This is a really cute and relatable story, with some great interactive features. Kids can really take part in the "lessons" at school with Little Monster. When they work with numbers and letters on the chalkboard, kids can tap on the numbers and letters to hear them labeled and practice right along with the class. Aside from the functional interactive features, kids can also follow along with the text highlighting and also tap on individual words to hear them repeated. They've really added some great touches to bring the story alive and give it a different feel from the print version.

Where I do wish there was more is for it to provide prompts or a review at the end for deeper learning. (While it may seem unfair to criticize for this as I've rarely seen this done in e-books, it's time to raise the bar!) The story actually covers a lot here - routines, school lessons, helping friends out, being different, etc. Some of this may not come through with just the story itself.
Rating: 4.5/5 (aim for around 4 years).

Balance: This is really where I was impressed. First, there are two modes - a let me play mode where kids can tap their hearts out and a read to me mode - standard where you just follow along and the some of "interactive parts" automatically go and it becomes a bit more like watching a tv show. This is actually one of the recommendations we (Cooney Center) made after our e-book report. It allows parents and kids to have two different experiences depending on the purpose of the book reading. In addition to the two modes, there are a bunch of settings so parents can further control the type of experience. One of the settings addresses my personal pet peeve of where the tapping on things can interrupt the text reading or overlap with other interactive features. You can actually turn this off so that nothing overlaps. It'll also highlight where all the hotspots are if you want too. In terms of all the features, there actually are a lot. Most are functional and relevant to the plot, but a few aren't - like finding a hidden object on each page. But, that being said, given the modes and settings, at least the distraction level can be controlled in a way. Rating: 4.5/5

Sustainability: This is an award winning story for reason - it really is a good story! I usually try not to comment too much on the quality of the story because I don't consider myself a children's story expert, but I did really enjoy it. And I think the two modes will really stretch the usage of this app. Rating: 5/5

Parental Involvement: There's a big plus and a big minus here. The plus is that some of the "deeper learning" I mentioned earlier is available through a teacher's resource guide that provides extra activities that go along with the story. You can take a free sneak peek but the full guide needs to be purchased. The minus is that you can't turn off the narration! Children's books, to me, is a great and easy way for parents to spend time with their kids. With the narration here, it kinda takes away from that. Sure, parents can still read along, but it's not quite the same. Could just be a simple setting. Rating: 4/5

Total: 18 out of 20 = 5 stars

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