Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Review: Ooka Island Adventure



What is Ooka Island?


Ooka Island is an adventurous computer game that teaches early literacy to kids from Pre-K to 2nd grade.  It's fun and engaging without making any sacrifices on the academic side of things.

"Upon arrival on Ooka Island, children customize their own online avatar and embark on a compelling 3D hero-mission to save the Ooka Elves! As young learners follow the Ooka Island Adventure, they travel on their own unique path created by Ooka Island's READirect learning algorithm.  This ensures that they are on the fastest track to reading success!"

A Bit of Backstory


Ooka Island is based on the work of Dr. Kay MacPhee who developed a successful program for struggling and reluctant readers in the 1990s.  Her program, then known as SpellRead, was the subject of many intensive studies because of its effectiveness, but it was quite expensive.  It became an exclusive product for either the poorest of the poor (by way of government subsidy) or the children of top executives.  Dr. MacPhee noticed a huge gap in the middle of people who would benefit from her program were it accessible to them.  With the development of new technology and the widespread availability of the internet, Dr. MacPhee has been able to bring the product of her years of research to a wider audience!

This short video describes how Dr. MacPhee teamed up with Jim Barber to create Ooka Island.



Teaching Kids to Read


The 80 hours of fun and games in Ooka Island makes use of Dr. Kay MacPhee's 30 years of research and experience.  The Eye-Ear Reading Method she developed teaches skill mastery in phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension in a methodical way right from the very start of a child's literacy journey.



The child is guided through the Eye-Ear Reading Method by a learning algorithm called READirect.  This algorithm learns from your child, adapting to his or her strengths and weaknesses which keeps children working at a challenging pace without being overwhelmed.  The algorithm allows the game to guarantee mastery of prerequisite skills before presenting the child with a new skill to learn.


Online Progress Reporting


One thing I really appreciate about any educational game is the ability to log in and see what sorts of things my child is learning and to monitor the progress (or lack thereof) that is being made.  Ooka Island goes above and beyond in this area!  The Ooka Lighthouse is an extensive reporting portal for parents and educators.  There are many different reports:

  • The Report Card - provides a snapshot of progress in each foundational reading skill so trouble areas can be caught and reinforced early.
  • Reading Comprehension Report - provides a reading score for each book in the areas of comprehension, concept of word, and vocabulary.
  • Accuracy Analysis Report - provides a full breakdown of every question posed and responded to so you'll know right away which sounds your child is having trouble with.
  • Book Progress Report - provides the total number of books your child has read as well as the reading level he or she is currently working on.
  • Red Line / Blue Line Trend - plots a two-part chart of (1) the child's ability to comprehend what he or she is reading and (2) match the words he hears with what he sees.

Extra Goodies


As if the Ooka Island Adventure and Ooka Lighthouse weren't amazing enough on their own, there are a whole bunch of supplemental materials to bring the learning offline with items kids can actually lay their hands on!

  • Activity Pages - coloring pages that correspond to specific books in the Ooka Island Adventure.
  • Books - the book program has 95 leveled books (real paper-and-ink books, not more e-books)
  • Book Path - a printable chart for young readers to document their progress through the Ooka Island Adventure as well as take a sneak peek at the adventures that lie ahead
  • Reward Certificates - customizable certificates to present to young readers as they complete the three major levels of Ooka Island
  • Reward Books - free, downloadable books offered as a reward for completing a level and reaching the end of a portion of the book path
  • OokaTunes: Sing Along Songs app - eleven songs featured on Ooka Island in a free app for your iPhone or iPad! 


Pricing


There are several pricing options to fit your needs.


  • Individual (1 child)
    • Monthly $12.95/month
    • Annually $124.95/year (a 20% savings)
  • Family (up to 4 children)
    • Monthly $19.95/month
    • Annually $149.95/year (a 37% savings)

There are also pricing options for schools that range from $10 (500+ students) to $20 (less than 30 students) per annual student license.
Click here for 30% off your Ooka Island purchase!
Expires June 1, 2013.

Our Adventures on Ooka Island


Although Miss M is the right age for Ooka Island, she already reads at a level well beyond its scope.  She dabbled in the game a little, but it really didn't hold her interest.  Little Guy, on the other hand, absolutely loves it!  It gives him something that is uniquely his and many days when Miss M and I are sitting at the kitchen table doing her lessons, he says, "I want to do school too! I'm going to Ooka Island!"

Ooka Island works well on our touch-screen computer.
He is only three and a half, so sometimes he gets frustrated at having to follow the Learning Flow (20 minutes of guided curricular play followed by 10 minutes of reading the new e-book before getting to the Free Play portion).  He'll often only play for a few minutes at a time.  But since the game saves his progress and location when he quits, it starts him up right back where he left off.  He's put in over 8 hours already!

He is so proud of his progress and should a guest enter our home, beware!  He's likely to drag you by the finger to his book path chart and show you just how many books he's "found" and read.

Little Guy counting his progress on the Book Path (yet again!)
My gift subscription (granted for the purposes of this review) will be expiring at the end of May and I am quite certain that I'll be purchasing an extension. I believe this program will give Little Guy a strong foundation in reading that will last him a lifetime!
Come make some new friends on Ooka Island!


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