Friday, December 17, 2010

TOS Review - Tiny Planets Website




You might remember the 'Tiny Planets' television episodes with Bing and Bong. Floating around in space on their fancy white couch / sofa, they visited different planets helping out where they could. Bing and Bong now also have their own website.

The creators fo this site suggests that it is appropriate for ages 4 - 12.


What the site offers:

Tiny Planets TV episodes
Tiny Planets Books to read online
Online Games

and more...

Your first port of call is to visit the PARENT's SITE over HERE for lots of detailed information on each page.
  
You will find some lesson plans HERE for preschoolers. My kids are older so we did not use this.

There are also some science experiments for older kids (which is Tinyplanets blog). You can find it HERE.

One area of the site requires LOG-IN. This is the My Tiny Planets area where you register as a 'Cadet' and are able to create your own planet. My Tiny Planets (MTP) where 'Cadets' can create and look after their own planets. Here they can make and meet new friends. A safe social network type page. The Cadet get some missions to do and they gain stars. I don't like social networking sites for kids, but on this site kids choose from predesigned greetings and questions without being able to type in their own messages. You fly around space and can upgrade you space craft and clean up space by shooting at the rubbish.

To register you click on "Create a Cadet" in the top right-hand side of the page. It then gives you a black window with green writing and a Cadet Name. If you don't like the name you click on the "Try Again" button until you are happy with the name it offers you. You then decide on a password. You HAVE REMEMBER THESE else you won't be able to log in. It's important to write it down somewhere - because you don't get asked for an e-mail address (to make it really safe for the kids), you don't get a confirmation letter with Log-in details for the cadets. Parents sign up for their own Parent Account where you can add & delete cadets, change passwords and purchase KEYS.

Most of the site is free, but there are some Books, TV episodes and upgrades to space crafts (under MTP), which require you to purchase KEYS to unlock it. KEYS can be purchased once you are logged in.

At the time of writing this review, the cost of KEYS were from NZ$2.77 for 10 keys to NZ$70.82 for 600 keys.

Although the site suggests it is appropriate for ages 4 - 12, I'm not sure that the older kids would necessarily enjoy it. My children are 7 and 10 and although they initially enjoyed playing on Tiny Planets they seemed to have lost interest in most of the games fairly quickly. The part they did enjoyed for longer was My Tiny Planets.

My son (7) found some of the games very frustrating, either cause it only had a couple of levels which just repeated or it was too tricky for him to navigate. Games he enjoyed included Tic Tac Toe, and the Building Game  (3 levels).

I am sure that younger kids would enjoy the site with leaning activities, books, tv episodes and games. The graphics are fun and some of the games do require problem-solving skills.

DISCLAIMER:  As part of the TOS Crew I was asked to review this website in exchange for my honest opinion. Although access to most of the website is free, I was provided with free access to all the information for review purposes. I received no other compensation.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: I am one of several people who reviewed this website so what you read here is only one opinion. See what my fellow crew mates think of this website, by going HERE to read their reviews.

Monday, December 13, 2010

TOS Review - ALEKS (Math)


ALEKS - "Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces is a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system that uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course." 


FIRST IMPRESSIONS (OF THE WEBSITE)


I get really frustrated when I look for something on a website and can't find it easily ... or not at all. Well, this was NOT the case with the ALEKS website. It seemed that there is an answer (or video) for every question I could possibly have about ALEKS. I haven't looked at it all, but wish I spent a bit more time 'learning' about the 'how to's' only cause my kids could have maybe gotten even more out of this program! 


FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE PROGRAM


"This could be good". But it wasn't .... it was sooo much better!!!


OVERVIEW OF ALEKS


You can watch a 2min. video HERE to learn more. 

HERE is an overview of ALEKS.

HOW do you use ALEKS?

Ok, so for those of you who haven't watched the video or read the review by visiting the links ... the way ALEKS works is this:

First there is an assessment of approximately 25-30 questions based on the level that you sign up for.



Based on the assessment the student is told which topics they have mastered and which topics need to be mastered. This is visually shown on a pie-chart. The chart is divided into two areas: a dark area which indicates the mastered topics and a lighter area which indicates the topics that need to be learned. As the student masters new topics the dark area of the pie-chart gets bigger. This is a great incentive for the student!



When the student is introduced to a new topic they get a question to answer, they have an option to answer the question or to press the "Explain" button and learn how to solve the problem. If they answer the question incorrectly they are asked to try again or they could get it 'explained'. The program requires the student to answer a specific amount of questions correctly before it will be added the the pie-chart as "Mastered".



There is also an area called "QuickTables" which is an area where the children can practice their math facts. We unfortunately did not spend a lot of time here so did not get the full benefit of this. More information about QuickTables can be found HERE

When you sign in next you are taken to a REVIEW page to answer some more questions on topics previously added to your pie-chart to make sure that you have truly mastered them.

WHAT DID WE THINK?

The assessment was very detailed (and in my opinion brilliant) but it did feel a bit lengthy for the kids as they asked me 'how many more questions'. In saying that my youngest is only 7. I explained to them that it needs to be a decent assessment so that the program assesses where they are and exactly what they need to learn and they were happy with that.

I signed myself up as a student as well, and spent some time on this program ... realizing how much I need to relearn!! :(

The kids spent approximately 20 - 40 min. / day on this program 3-4 days a week for a month. Neither of them complained about it being 'too long' or 'boring' or "I don't want to do that right now". They both were thrilled with their achievements. Everyday! The pie-chart is a great incentive for the kids. They just LOVED watching the pie get bigger on a daily basis as they achieved / mastered new topics.

I like the review of the last work done!

I can HIGHLY RECOMMEND this program to anyone and everyone!!

My daughter in particular takes a bit longer to grasp certain math concepts, but with ALEKS I have seen her confidence increase in a short space of time.

The BOTTOM LINE

So how do you get access to ALEKS?

In short, you subscribe.

Each subscription comes with a student account and a parent (master) account. As the parent you get weekly reports e-mailed to you.


When you subscribe, two ALEKS accounts are created:
  • Student Account: This is the account students will use to access the ALEKS Student Module which will serve as an interactive tutor.
  • Master Account: With this account, you can monitor student progress through automated reports, assign quizzes, manage student accounts, and much more.

Information on what and how you can manage your child's learning can be found HERE

So how much does this cost? ... and is it worth the money?


At the time of writing this review, subscriptions to ALEKS are:
  • $19.95 per student, per month, or (NZ$26.20)
  • $99.95 every 6 months, or (NZ$131.20)
  • $179.95 every 12 months. (NZ$236.20
Information on their Family Discount is available HERE.

There is a FREE TRIAL HERE

In my opinion the benefit of this excellent program is WELL WORTH THE MONEY you will spend on it. I will be signing up for ALEKS for both of my kids when my free subscription officially runs out.
    SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

    For ALL system requirements on PC and MAC for all their courses go HERE. You will find a DETAILED description of what you need to run any course.


    DISCLAIMER:  As part of the TOS Crew I was given a one-month free subscription to the website to use the product for review purposes and give my honest opinion about it. I did not receive any other compensation.

    You can also see what my fellow Crewmates think about this product by going HERE.