Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review: Ooka Island

How about if I give the bottom line first?

We LOVE Ooka Island!

What is it?  A computer based world that teaches reading for PreK-2nd grade levels.  Let's grab a video to get a better idea:

So, let's talk a bit about our experience with Ooka Island.  As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a 6 month subscription for one of my students.  The first step is to download the program.... and it is BIG.  On my molasses-slow rural "high speed" internet, that took about an hour.  Installing wasn't quick either, but it wasn't too bad.  But you do need to know up front that this will take up around 3 GB of space.  That's a major downside for me, as my hard drive is about maxed out.  I made room though.

Then the parent logs on, which allows the child to log on.  The child passwords are pictures.  I LOVE that.  They don't have to remember a word to type it.  As long as I am logged in, Trina can get in easy-peasy, just by remembering to click the bubbles (that's her OLD password, btw).

When you do get in, you are presented with a quest-like game scenario.  You have lots of little things to accomplish in the path towards accomplishing the overall goal.  I love this.  Because it does feel like a game, only the kids are actually learning things along the way.  This "quest" idea with educational games is something my family has discussed at length, and we really think it is the way to go. 

And it adapts.  If the kids do well, they advance.  If they are struggling, the program will have them "move on" but really continue to work on the skills they haven't mastered, using different games.  This page talks about the OokaMethod, and describes why they do what they do far better than I can.

The program directs them... which I LOVE... from one task to the next.  For 20 minutes.  After that, they get 8 minutes of "free play" where they can do anything they've "unlocked" or they can change their "guy" (avatar... but it is always "guy" in my house) or spend the in-game currency on stuff.

One problem I've had in the past with other programs is that while the overall game may provide great activities, my kids would find something they were good at, and do that over and over.  They would earn points or whatever, but they weren't really learning.  Ooka Island doesn't give them that chance.  It directs them from one activity to another so they have to do the activities where they aren't as strong, but they also get to do the ones that are easier for them.

This page talks about some of the various activities and what each is designed to do.  

And it works.  My daughter is learning.  Ooka Island is far more patient with her than her regular teacher is <ahem> and the repeated work with combinations like aw, oo, or sh means that she is grasping these.  She is reading.  On her own.  Outside of Ooka Island.

And we really aren't that far into the game at this point.

Richard, my 7 year old, desperately wants to be doing Ooka Island as well.  So far, I haven't done anything about that... but I probably ought to.  One concern I have with starting an older child is whether or not the program will advance them through it fast enough to keep their attention.  For Trina, a near-beginning reader, the pace was great.

One disappointment I have with the program as it currently stands is that there is NO reporting.  That function is planned... and you can visit the "Ooka Lighthouse" and see where it is supposed to be... but I can't actually figure out just what Trina is learning, or where she struggles, or anything I can do to support her.  At least not yet.  This is a brand-new program, though, and I am sure they will get to it.

Ooka Island is a subscription-based service.  You can pay for it month-by-month ($12.95 for one child, $19.95 for a "family" of four logins).  Right now, though, you can save 30% on the monthly subscription by using the code:  LAUNCHSPECIAL30, which would mean about $9 for a single users, or about $13 for a family.   Six month or one year subscriptions are also available, as are classroom, school and district subscriptions.

This is something we will undoubtedly renew when our review subscription expires.  And maybe at that point, I will add Richard. I love the methodology.  I love that the kids can work on their own.

You can read what other TOS Crew Members have to say about Ooka Island here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive a six month single subscription to Ooka Island in exchange for my review of the product.  All opinions are my own, and receiving complimentary products does not factor in to my opinions.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.


Erika@RaisingLeafs said...

My son loves Ooka Island! I love that he's enjoying reading. :)

Candi said...

The 7 days leading up to Christmas eve we each get a day to select whatever we want for dinner, -it gets very creative and sooo much fun!