There are many computer and online educational programs available, and it can be difficult to choose one that is right for your children and your budget. When judging a program, some things to look for are ease of use, educational value, number of features, quality graphics, kid appeal, customer service and tech support, priced in accordance with all of the above.
The first thing I noted about ZooWhiz is that it helps out with the budget part of that equation by offering much of the educational content for FREE. More features for students and parents are available with the Premium subscription for $14.95. Children have access to 17,000 activities covering an age range from 5-15 offering incremental, comprehensive learning in math and language arts, including spelling, punctuation, phonics, grammar, reading, and word skills.
The child can sign in to their free account, choose an avatar, and get going. The parent also creates a management account, and can control multiple accounts for their family.
The first screen is, of course, a map of a zoo (shown below). The student can choose their activity by choosing a location on this map. Learn & Earn leads to the educational activities that provide practice of math skills, word usage, and reading. An ‘age floor’ is also chosen at this point to tell the program the skill level appropriate for that student. This prevents the questions from being too easy or too difficult. If the student is answering questions quickly and correctly, a warning screen pops up to let them know that they might want to have their parent change the age floor to make the content more challenging.
As each level is completed, ‘coins’ are acquired. Correct answer receive 20 coins, one incorrect try still receives 10 coins, but a third incorrect answer results in a deduction of 10 coins.
The ZooWhiz website is very informative for parents who want to learn all about how to use the program, with tutorials and videos, and provides outlines for specifics about the concepts that will be covered. For instance, the page outlining math activities indicates that the following areas will be practiced:
- Addition & subtraction
- Multiplication & division
- Fractions & decimals
- Chance, patterns
- Data & graphs
- Shape, space & geometry
Word skills include:
- Letter tracking, matching, sorting and recognition
- Spelling patterns & rules, including phonics
- Prefixes & suffixes
- Synonyms & antonyms
- Homophones, homographs, homonyms
- Nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions
- Regular and irregular verbs
- Word origins including idioms, clichés, metaphors, similes, etc
The Reading activities cover:
- Letters, phonics, and spelling
- Letter correspondences for all 44 phonemes
- Develops writing and word skills
- Illustrates the richness and diversity of the English language
These concepts were presented, drilled, and practiced in many ways for lots of variety and to maintain interest.
The navigation bar at the bottom and left side of the screen tracks the student’s progress and number of coins awarded. Coins can be saved, or spent at the Biodome, where the child can ‘buy’ animals for their zoo. After they choose from among critters like woolly mammoths, frill-necked lizards, bald eagles, and giant squid, they also have access to specific scientific information about it, such as the kingdom, phylum, class, etc. They can read interesting details about the animal’s known history, its habitat and diet, and if they are on the IUCN Red List of threatened animals.
The Arcade also offers a place for coins to be spent on unlocking fun arcade games- Goal Glory, Pattycake Panic, Bubble Plunge, Paint ‘n Play, TetRow and others. The age range for each game is noted, as well as choice of skill level.
These features combine to make ZooWhiz, fun, educational and rewarding for kids. A Premium account opens up more choices of animals at the Biodome, more detailed information about those animals, more arcade games, and for the parents, more ways to individualize learning and track the child’s progress. Additional features, such as reward certificates, will be available soon for even more value.
- Kenny, who is 11, had a blast with all subjects and levels. He enjoyed earning coins and REALLY got a kick out of building a zoo with the strangest animals that were available. The more animals he bought for his zoo, the more he wanted to learn about them, and the extra information provided sparked interest in animal classification and what it means for an animal species to be endangered.
- I had our pop-up blocker disabled, so while using Learn and Earn, screens would occasionally pop up offering information about Premium access and other products from EdAlive. We followed one of these screens and downloaded a free game called Maths Invaders. Kenny loved this game more than any other multiplication drill games he has ever played. His memorization and speed of multiplication tables increases every time he plays, and he really looks forward to starting his school day with this game.
- It is obvious that the makers of this program are Australian. Animals such as quolls and dugongs are used in the word and reading sections like American games use cats and dogs, and the audio includes encouraging exclamations of “Crackerjack!” and “What a beauty!”. I half expected Steve Irwin to pop up somewhere. But instead of being annoying or distracting, we had fun noting the difference in language usage and terms, as well as the animal life we take for granted. There weren’t so many mentions that it would confuse or prevent an American child from completing any of the exercises.
- For young earth creationists- some of the information about certain animals assumes millions of years.
- I would consider this program as helpful for reinforcement, drilling, and practice, but not necessarily for explaining concepts.
To use ZooWhiz as a homeschooler:
- Register for a free parent management account
- Create free accounts for the children who will be using the program
- You then have the option to upgrade to a Premium subscription for $14.95.
Whether you choose the free access or a Premium subscription, ZooWhiz offers responsive customer service, and a 14-day money back guarantee for paid subscribers.
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