Thursday, July 19, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: HearBuilder Following Directions

Super Duper Publications makes fun educational materials for kids.  These products are perfect for just about any child and are very special needs friendly.  In fact our speech therapist has used and recommended some of their products in the past. Because of that, I was super excited when I chosen to review their new HearBuilder Following Directions computer program for PreK-3rd grade (ages 4-9).

HearBuilder Following Directions is an interactive computer program that helps children improve their auditory processing and following directions skills all while playing a computer game.  In HearBuilder each child is building their own Toy Factory and are working towards becoming Master Toy Makers.  There are 5 stages in making a toy and in each part of the process the children practice a different skill.  Each time you enter the game you choose which door you wish to enter. As you can see, the doors actually tell you which skill you will be working on.

While playing the game your child will improve their auditory attention, auditory memory, and auditory processing of verbal directions. The meter above the door keeps track of the how much they have completed.  There are multiple levels of difficulty and they must master each level before going on to the next.  However, there are 4 settings of game play to help place your child in the appropriate level.

Play All is the default setting and is good for most players.  It starts at level one and plays all the way through.

Beginner also starts at level one but only plays through the basic levels of the program so that younger children can actually be able to complete the game.

Advanced begins at the intermediate levels so older or more advanced students who are ready for the higher levels of play.

Expert starts like the advanced level but offers extra challenges and increased difficulty by adding in background noise.

We started at the default Play All level because while Gess is at the top age bracket for this game, since she has special needs I knew she may have some areas she still struggled with.  This allowed her to build on each skill at her own pace.  As you can see from the photo above, she has already mastered the first Tool Room which covered Basic Directions.  While we opened each door and did an activity or two to see what they are like, Gess likes going in order so she is now on sequential directions, which is probably the one she needs the most work on.  She is doing fairly well and just mastered level 6 yesterday.  Here is what she has to do.

Below is the toy maker machine's panel.  You see all the steps required to make the toy and then you are given audible instructions on not only what you need to do, but in what order you need to do them.  This is the level 6 screen.  Level 1 starts with only one or two actions and you build up more each level.

Now the audio instructions do not follow the order of the panel.  Sometimes you will choose the color first and another time you might have to chose the action first, so it is important that the child listens carefully.  There is also a repeat button if the child needs it.  Gess uses the repeat button almost every time but I am alright with that.  I am just thrilled that she is getting as far as she is. 

Here is Gess making some toys.  She listens to the instructions and then chooses the correct order.

Note the chewing of her fingers in this next photo.  That is an indication that this is taking some major concentration.  That is because this skill is difficult for her.  By the end of the level she is relieved to be done with this particular activity. 

After all that work she is excited when she has success. (She also gets frustrated if she gets it wrong.) Here she is checking out the guitar she just made.

Here's what the actual screen looks like.  This time she had correctly made a rocket.  (If you were not successful you get a product that is not complete and looks like a bunch of jumbled parts.)

The motivation for this level is actually making the toy correctly. Other levels have different ways to reward and motivate like playing a short game.

Gess has Down syndrome and so even though this game is targeted to younger kids, it is good practice for her.  She did seem to enjoy the game when she played it, but it wasn't something she chose to play without me asking her to do so.  I even made a short cut on the desktop to encourage her to play it on her own, but she still never did.  However, that may be because Gess is a little older.  She may have liked this much better when she was younger.  Still, she is getting practice in some skills that are very challenging for her which is great.

I had trouble with the way the game seemed to only function from the CD ROM.  I actually had trouble finding a way to start the game without having to go clicking in My Computer to start the game from there.  The other option was to open and shut the CD ROM drive so it would come up automatically.  Young kids are not likely to want to do all that.  My husband came and made a short cut on the desktop for me though, I just like when games automatically give you an option to do that.Other than that the game ran well for us, it was intuitive and also came with some good tutorial videos you can access from the start screen.  There are also Handouts available online that give you ideas of other ways to work on the various concepts with your student or child.

HearBuilder Following Directions is available in both a professional and home edition.  The home edition that we used sells for $69.95 but currently they are offering a 30% off if you use coupon code BLGFD30. (Offer expires 8/31/12)  While I think it is wonderful that this game focuses on important auditory processing skills that many other educational games overlook, the price is simply way too high for me.  Even with the discount I would not pay that much for a child's computer game, no matter how educational or therapeutic it is. (Of course we do not buy the expensive adult games either until they have been on the shelf for awhile and go down in price.)  However, if your budget is not as tight as mine and you are willing to pay that much, these games may be might be perfect for you.  There really are not many games that work specifically on these skills.

Super Duper Publications also has a new HearBuilder Auditory Memory game for kids in grades K-8 that should be really good too.  To learn more about either of these games visit their website or why not see what other members the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about them by clicking on the banner below.


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received a copy of the HearBuilder Following Directions game for giving my honest opinion and assessment of the product in my review.
Note: All pricing is current at the time of posting and is subject to change.  Discount Code expires 8/31/12

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