Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: ZooWhiz

I am always looking for ways for Gess to work and learn independently.  Since Gess has special needs I try to find games that not only let her work at her own pace on various subjects, but that also let me view her progress later.  This month I was able to review a product that does just that.  ZooWhiz is an online educational game for kids ages 5 to 15 that focuses on math, reading, word skills, punctuation and grammar.  Kids can become a Zoo Keeper for FREE or upgrade to become a Premium Zoologist for a small fee.  In order to get animals for your personal zoo you need to buy them.  You can earn coins by completing Learn and Earn activities.  Each time you complete a section you are awarded coins that can then be spent on more zoo animals or to play games in the arcade.

You start by choosing an avatar for your Keeper or Zoologist.  This can be changed at any time.

 Then you enter the zoo.  Here is the map that you get to explore.

It has four basic areas, the Learn and Earn section where you do educational activities and improve your educational score, the Biodome where you take care of all your zookeeping (purchasing and reviewing what animals are in your zoo), the Arcade where you play games (just for fun) with coins you have earned, and Milestones which keeps track of your progress.

I think the educational content is fairly well done here.  There are three categories: Math, Words, and Reading.  The activities are challenging but presented in a fun and engaging way.  Here are what some of them look like.

After about every 10 problems you complete a section and are rewarded with a silly celebration.  Here is an ape throwing Gess a party after she completed a section in Math.

Parents and children can use the Milestones section of the map to view the child's progress which looks something like this.  You can explore it further and even see the lesson that they struggled with (though you can't see what they actually did wrong with it).  You will eventually get to see this and set their content from within the parent dashboard online but those are not yet available.  For now you can log in and do this in game.

I really love that you can choose the age floor separately for each category.  That is very beneficial for kids who have special needs! Gess was on a completely different level for math than she was for reading and being able to do that kept her from being frustrated.  Even her Reading and Words category were slightly different. 

Our biggest disappointment with the game was the reward system for learning.  It's fairly easy to get coins but there is very little to spend them on.  Oh there are tons of animals in the zoo to buy and some of them can be quite expensive but once you buy them there is nothing to do but look at them and read about them.  While they set up some categories to help you choose animals there is no incentive to make your zoo larger or bonuses for having animals in each category, etc.  It was fun for Gess to get animals at first but not being able to see them in a zoo, care for them, or have any guidelines at all in what she needed to purchase made her tire of it rather quickly.  Playing arcade games is a fun incentive but there are currently only seven of those and some must be unlocked as you progress, so Gess only had access to four of them.  She has 3750 coins and plays games that only cost 50 so she gets bored with that too (especially since some of them are puzzle games that she doesn't care for).  I also could not find what the educational score meant or did. 

Still, I think that the educational activities were very well done and enjoyable.  It was a great way for Gess to get some review in while I was busy doing other things.  However, I had to make Gess play, she didn't just choose to do so.  I think if they improve the zoo to make it something that the Keeper and Zoologist help build up and care for she would like it more.  I know she would also love more games to choose from.  If they had better games she would willingly go to earn more coins.  For now, there just isn't enough for her spend them on. 

However they do mention that they are only in the early release stage 2 so maybe some of those changes will be coming.  Hopefully the helps in the parent area will be up soon as well.  Because they are still in early release they are offering a great deal right now.  For a limited time you can upgrade to become a Premium Zoologist for $14.95 a year which is 75% off the original price. Premium members get more arcade games, zoo animals, more detailed information about animals, targeted learning, and more. 

To learn more about ZooWhiz visit their website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about by clicking on the banner below.


Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received a year Premium Zoologist Subscription to ZooWhiz for giving my honest opinion and assessment of it in my review.
Note: All pricing is current at the time of posting and is subject to change.

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