Monday, November 7, 2011

OOKA Island Books

Littlest (4 years old) has increased his circle of interest from numbers (Which have been on his brain for some time) to letters and words. So, when I was asked to review a new online children's literacy program for grades PreK-2(Ages 3-7), I was happy to oblige. Enter Ooka Island.
Ooka Island is an imaginary land inhabited by a friendly robot named "Zobot", "Auntie Kay" (The Narrator) and Ooka Elves, as well as the mischievous Fliggs.

Zobot accompanies your child's character through a 20 minute "Customized learning path" to various locations on the map. This is followed by 8 minutes of "Free Play." Each activity is designed to engage your child's interest and incorporate learning at the same time.

Here is a video which will give you a tour around the island:

My 4 year old has enjoyed Ooka Island. The first couple of days he wanted to play non-stop, and we had to limit his time. We have settled into playing for one session at a time, although sometimes he asks to play again later on.

I appreciate the gentle manner of this game, in regards to achievements and mistakes. Although Littlest gets annoyed with himself if he misses something, which sometimes affects his attitude (He has decided that the Cave of Sound is something to "endure" in order to get to other portions of the island... due to a few mistakes one day. Silly boy~ that is one of MY favorite places! :D), the game itself provides reassurance, and support to try again.

After a couple of days he was able to identify the letters that say /m/, /s/, /sh/, and /oo/, AND he was excited about that ability. He has moved on to other letter sounds by now, and his general letter recognition is getting pretty good, thanks to Alphabet Mountain.

Littlest is also motivated to finish each activity because he earns "Ooka mist" (Ooka Island currency) which can be spent in the Mist Mart on items to add to his wardrobe, or accessories for the Pencil Playground. What fun to be able to "Spend" and make choices! :) Here's another set of  motivational tools to utilize ~ Printable "Bookpaths" to chart progress, Reward certificates, and Bonus "Reward" books to download after a level is completed.

A few words about "Support"~ The folks at Ooka Island are very responsive and helpful when the need arises. We actually had to "Reset" my son's level, as he had been "helped" by a well-intentioned family member~ but the games quickly became frustrating because he was beyond his current ability. This was fairly easily accomplished by contacting Ooka Live Chat support(Which must be done through the website, not through the game which you download on your computer).

Now for a few Pros and Cons:
  • Engaging, colorful and pleasant
  • Progressive Learning (Unless someone is "helping".. :)  This is great because it keeps the child from getting frustrated.
  • Positive Reinforcement with variations on a theme in the various activities
  • Encouragement when mistakes are made
  • Not totally intuitive (Areas on the map that are "locked" should show that somehow, either by being grayscale until opened, or even with a "Lock" image over them. My son found it somewhat frustrating, and we couldn't understand why. (I would like to see a sequence, so that I could give him some idea of when other activities would open up)
  • The Ooka Elves aren't really "interactive", they just run around the Pencil Playground. I think we were expecting something a little "more" there~ maybe in the future? Just a little disappointment.
  • Volume isn't always consistent, so sometimes I am surprised by a fluctutation in sound, but it's not nearly as bad as "Ad" fluctuations on the radio or TV, I'm just being a little nit-picky here, but if you have someone who has audio difficulties, this could be an issue.
  • Requirement to download software to my computer, in addition to needing to access the program online during play. I prefer not to fill up my hard-drive with too much stuff, so would prefer the program to be either entirely internet based (Which wouldn't help those with slow or limited connections), or DVD based, but again, that is a nit-picky comment. (The download is also very large, and you may have to try a couple of times before the download completes correctly)
So, the final nitty-gritty~ How much does it cost?  Check out the chart to the side. If it looks interesting to you, you can try it out with a 14 day free trial (Click here)

For other opinions and perspectives (including some from Crew Members who have children who are further along the path to reading than my littlest), please be sure to visit the Crew Blog.

As Always, I hope that this Review has been helpful to you as you choose where to spend your Homeschooling Dollars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the TOS Crew Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


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