Monday, November 7, 2011

Review: Ooka Island

PhotobucketNow that we’ve set the stage for my little non-reader, I thought I’d let her start this review off for you.

Esmé’s Review:

Ooka Island is a game about learning.  You learn reading.  I have learned how to read. 

The part I like best is reading the books.  There are 8 pages to each book.  I wish there were 100 pages, because I L-I-K-E books.

What I don’t like is doing stuff over and over again.  I don’t like wasting time.

[Insert mother clearing throat here.]

The Ooka Island Adventure is a downloadable hero-mission in 3D designed to teach young children how to read fluently and well. The Ooka Island Adventure combines the highly engaging components of a state-of-the-art virtual world with the scientifically proven OokaMethod that builds literacy skills.
Carefully embedded within the Ooka Island Adventure are dozens of interactive instructional activities that captivate the child and motivate them as they learn essential pre-reading, reading, spelling, and writing skills. After completing the Ooka Island Adventure, children will be on their way to reading fluently and well for life.
Ooka Island Inc. is an educational company that offers online, independent, reading curriculum for children in Pre-K to 2ndGrade. Ooka Island is for the 21st Century early learner on both the PC and Mac and effectively combines entertaining gaming theory with scientifically proven reading methods. OokaIsland is based on the literacy methods and research of its Founder, Dr. Kay MacPhee. MacPhee's initial literacy intervention program was rated #1 in Reading Comprehension by the US Department of Education in 2008.
Features Unique to Ooka Island:
  • An online, independent, reading curriculum that blends print concepts, phonemic awareness, phonics and language based reading. The Ooka Island Adventure ends with children reading at a 2.0 reading level.
  • 85 leveled and sequenced Ooka Island books digitally embedded online. These books are also available in print to supplement the Ooka Island Adventure.
  • Progress reports and detailed dashboards available in real-time. Since the Ooka Island Adventure is connected online, the administrative, district, school, classroom and parent level can monitor every click of the mouse.
  • Adaptive learning.  Each child goes through a unique learning path embedded with learning algorithms that guide the child through MacPhee’s reading matrix in the most effective way.
Recommended Age:  Pre-K to 2nd Grade

To Purchase:

You’ll also find a 14-day free trial and lots of video clips if you’d like to get a better feel for the software.

For More Reviews: TOS Crew

What Mom Liked:
  • Fun graphics and games = fun learning experience. Ask Esmé if she’d rather do a workbook or play Ooka Island, and she’ll pick Ooka Island every time.  A relatively effortless way to learn.
  • Independent learning time.  It gives her at least a good 1/2 hour of relatively independent learning time – yeah for Mom!
  • Different order of learning sounds.  The program started covering letter combinations right away:  “oo”, “aw”, “sh”, etc.  I appreciate this variation from some of the other reading programs we’ve done – it strengthened Esmé’s skills in those areas.
  • Books. Esmé’s favorite part of the program is the library.  Unfortunately for her, you’ve gotta play the games in order to unlock more books, but catching new books is always exciting for her. (Incidentally, she always chooses the option where the book is read TO her.)
What Mom Didn’t Like:
  • Technical Difficulties.  The software took 11 hours to download – in part thanks to CenturyLink – but just a warning that it is a BIG download for those who have lousy internet service.  Once it was downloaded, I ran into a few glitches:  windows that didn’t open, objects that didn’t show up, etc.  These were resolved by running a bunch of updates on various things: graphics driver, etc.  Also, the parent dashboard was not available for our use yet.  The good news:  Technical support from Ooka Island via email was prompt and efficient.  Once the software was downloaded, running speed was just fine.  And my computer got updated…
  • Repetition.  The first run-thru of the game was grand!  Esmé loved it – there were lots of new things to explore and discover.  But then you go through the same series of games for each sound – granted, with a couple of variations thrown in or added along the way.  You listen to the same detailed instructions before each game.  What was once Esmé’s favorite (the cave of sounds) became her most disliked, simply because of repetition.  Repetition works for some kids, but not Miss Esmé.
  • No Skipping Ahead.  The program is meant to run from beginning to end and uses an algorithm to plan the learning path.  Not only can’t you skip ahead, you can’t even avoid certain games.  If your child already knows the basics of reading, or likes to give wrong answers just to see what the computer will do, this may be a problem for you.

This is a GREAT program for kids with little reading experience and/or those who don’t mind repetition.  And we’ll continue to use it ourselves as we have time (or when Mamma needs independent learning activities) to help build a stronger foundation for reading. 

But we WILL supplement it with additional material so she can move at her own pace.  After all, she, um, has already learned to read.  When she feels like it.Photobucket
Thanks to Ooka Island for providing a free subscription and to TOS Crew for coordinating the review.  We are not being paid for this review, and all opinions are our own.