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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

OOKA Island... A Learning Resource Review

I found Ooka Island after I received an email from my mom one day about an episode of Dragon's Den, which gives exposure to new business in Canada, similar to the Shark Tank show in the U.S., and sometimes funding in exchange for various different forms of investment and involvement. I approached Ooka Island for an opportunity to review the program and showcase a learning resource that would help children learn to read with confidence. They agreed to give me the chance to try the Home Edition of their game program out with both my kids, 5 and 3, for 2 months, in exchange for a review here on the blog.

What Is Ooka Island?

Ooka Island, is a learning to read game geared at kids between 3 and 7 years of age.  They are from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Ooka island was founded by Dr. Kay MacPhee and Jim Barber and with the Ooka Island team have hit the road to better learning full tilt. Ooka Island is available in 3 editions: Home, School and Homeschool. Each with their our processes and purpose that serve the needs of the children involved in a setting that is both progressive and technologically advanced in the use of computers in the classroom.

The Ooka Island approach to learning is science-based reading using technology to making it fun for kids and enticing them to want to learn more. It is a learn-to-read game geared for Pre-K to Grade 2. The adventures played out on the game teach phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. The child is unable to move on to the next level until the present level has been accomplished. Ooka Island uses Eye/Ear Reading method, a scientifically based learning method which allows each child to learn the 5 basis of learning to read: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. The basis around which the Eye/ Ear Method works is to use the child's visual cues paired with auditory skills in order for children to achieve the ability to read. This Eye/ Ear method to learning to read has been embedded throughout the Ooka Island game through the activities in phonic, a built in e-reader, and the levelled and sequential e-books. There are a total of 85 e-books that used in Ooka Island's learning to read game. The words are being learned in the game with the introduction of their individual sounds and blending them to create words. And the end result is the child learning to read through the use their eyes and ears.
Ooka Island uses ReaDirect™ in the program's game, which makes use of algorithms created for the best learning processes to lead the child making use of the Eye/Ear method. It adapts to the needs and learning stages of each child based on their strengths and weaknesses as they go through the game. ReaDirect™ makes Ooka Island a phenomenal learning experience which is unique and one-of-a-kind learning for each child. The pace of learning for each child is at their own pace and it creates positive self-esteem and motivation as well.

Ooka Island has a way for parents to track their child's learning progress. They use a section called "Lighthouse" where access can be gained through online account (created when you setup your program and download your game) as well as by clicking the lighthouse on the map of Ooka Island in the game. Lighthouse creates online reports based on reading comprehension (scores comprehension and vocabulary learned), accuracy analysis (breakdown of every question posed to the child during game time and how the child responded), and book progress (number of books read). Lighthouse gives parents a real-time look into their child's reading abilities, with a score that based on correct responses in the game during present activity level. The scores meaning are: 75% or below shows the child needs more practice; and 75% and above shows the child is on the right track and doing well.

The Learning Flow Cycle for Ooka Island is

Guided Play: this is where skills are built with a play- phonetic activities
E-reader: the game centres around word concepts, vocabulary, fluency, and reading comprehension in   the activities.
Free Play: this is where the child takes the reins and uses the activities accomplished thus far in the game and plays around the island.

Ooka Island is laid out in an Island map where the child progresses around the island in various levels of learning activities and does not get advanced into the next level until the present level is achieved in the game. They are motivated with cheers and awards in the Mist Mart with points. The characters on Ooka Island are also motivating and helpful in their roles.

In the beginning, entering into the game your child will create an avatar of themselves, then meet Miss Kay, Zobot, and the Ooka Elves; and after a certain level Zopet is unlocked to play with in the Pencil Playground. 

When the child reads 5 books in the Popcorn Library, they free an Ooka Elf to also join them in the Pencil Playground. As well as the e-book characters, twin siblings, Kayla and Jayden, and their friend Boo the bear; who are in the first 15 e-books of Emergent I.
All the activities in the game are point and click and available for Mac and PC. There are also iTunes downloads of sing-a-long songs from the game to make it easy to take Ooka Island on the go, called Ooka Tunes, the pdf lyrics are available HERE

I am complete awe of principles behind Ooka Island game, the fact of using entertainment to enhance the skills of reading amaze me. But as the weeks passed and I watched my kids with this game, I saw the confidence of Princess, once a reluctant reader and now a confident lover of the word. Monkey is starting to gain enjoyment in the game and at almost 4 he will be starting to use Ooka Island more as the 
school year approaches. I was so amazed by Ooka Island, we purchased a year subscription. Princess' improvements have been noticed by her Kindergarten teacher. She is very confident in reading various written forms, be they books or signs. 

Above is Princess B choosing her next book for the popcorn Library to read as Cheeky Monkey observes. 

Reading her book #16 of the second level of the Emergent I 

Playing 'Pop Drop' activity associated with the book #16 she just read.
A great reinforcement to comprehension of the e-book.
'Pop Drop' is a wonderful way to see if there is reading comprehension of the e-books from the Popcorn Library. The achievement of the next book for reading is a huge happy movement for Princess. She loves seeing how many books she has read.

This is the activities about matching and word recognition where Zobot
calls out words in a sentence and clicking on the correct word.
Shells are associated with where the book was found in the sea.

This is the Matching game you play against Zobot
the words are from the same sentence of this entire activity
from the book. And the game is part of vocabulary and recognition.

Princess really enjoys the activities in Ooka Island. And I really like the progression of the game which doesn't allow advancing until the level is accomplished correctly. In the beginning, Princess was just starting the reading process and was very much a reluctant reader. She hated reading because it was taking time out of her play time. She stalled reading and would always ask me to help her even though she knew the sounds of the letters. But since starting Ooka Island, I can say she enjoys reading very much and reads with confidence. She has lately been reading things I was surprised she is reading at a level 6 reader at school at the beginning of May, right on target for where she needs to be for Grade 1. The words I am surprised she is able to recognize are 'follow', 'river', 'princess'... and she is getting better every day at reading. 

Monkey playing the Alphabet Mountain,
learning his ABCs
I am thoroughly impressed by the fun she has while playing and learning! I also love the  fact that she wants to learn- play with great excitement. It has become the alternative to her off school days and will be wonderful for her when she is in her French Immersion program. I love that it has made her want to read with great intensity to where she reads to me and her dad and Monkey.

Monkey has been a little slower at starting Ooka Island, he has been showing less interest right now with the game, he would way sooner play with his trains and cars. But we will be making use of it over the summer for sure to prepare him for the school year.  He really liked watching Princess in the beginning as she went through the activities he kept her company. He also likes the Bubbly Trubbly fountain activity. He is really good answering the Pop Drop questions about the books he reads in the popcorn library. 
Monkey in the Cave of Sounds,
learning phonemics and phonics
On a side note: Hubby and I decided to purchase the year subscription for the kids for many reasons: Princess is starting French Immersion in the Fall; Monkey is beginning Junior kindergarten in the Fall; they really loved playing the game and watching each other play the game; and it is a great educational game that has the potential to expand their learning potential to make them well prepared for school.

Princess' thoughts on Ooka Island: "I like it when I unlocked Word Ball!"  "Ooka Island is Fun!" 

Monkey's thoughts on Ooka Island: "I like playing the bubbles and in the roller coaster"

Ooka Island has graciously offered our readers a discount link to get the game for your self. Please check out the game if you have a reluctant reader because from experience with Princess, it makes a huge difference in a little over 2-3 weeks. Mind you she had already started reading in school but the difference is amazing. Her reading is no longer robotic like with stops and starts, it has become fluid and smooth and should she have to sound out a word she rereads the entire sentence to make her reading smooth with practice.

Here is the link to get a 30% discount off the Ooka Island... click here (Valid until June 1st, 2013)!!!

Thank you to Ooka Island for the opportunity to try out  your game and tell people about the wonderful program you have!!!


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