Play Super Spin: HERE
Today I am going to be reviewing the educational game Super Spin (LeapFrog, 2012). This game is a free online game accessed through the Leap Frog website, and focuses on mathematics through repetition of equations. The player can select which set of tracks (levels) they would like to play on, the difficulty, which is based on grade levels from pre-k to grad 4, and then chooses the individual track. At the start of the level, a mathematical equation will show up, and the player will be asked to either match the number in the centre to numbers on the track, add the number in the centre to a number on the track to complete the equation, or multiply the centre number with a number on the track to create the appropriate total to complete the equation (LeapFrog, 2012).
I decided to choose this software to review for a few different reasons, the first and most predominant of which being the accessible nature of the game. Goyne, McDonough, & Padgett note that an educational game must be “…accessible to students” (2000). The accessibility of this game is two-fold; if the educator has a computer/computers, as well as access to the internet, the game can be played with no additional cost. However, the initial cost of the computers and the continual cost of the internet could be an ongoing cost that becomes too burdensome. That being said, this game is a great choice because of a feature wherein a voice narrates the instructions, as well as what specific icons and buttons say and do. This allows young players who do not yet have the reading comprehension skills necessary to navigate the game and play. There is a downside to this, as players who have a hearing impairment may have difficulty playing the game if they cannot yet read.
Another reason for choosing this game is the potential that online games serve to assist in the development of young learner’s mathematic skills over traditional classroom games. “Children’s interaction with educational computer games reflects not only their game-playing expertise but also their knowledge and skills about embedded educational content” (Fisch, Lesh, Motoki, Crespo, & Melfi, 2011, p.88). Playing educational games should be fun, as Goyne et al. have stated “… enjoyment is an important design [element] that should be judiciously built into instructional programs to trigger interest, enthusiasm, and intrinsic motivation” (2000). This does not mean, however, that games cannot or should not also contain educational value or merit. In fact, one of the benefits of this game is its ability to challenge the player. “[A child’s] mathematical reasoning may begin at a fairly basic level but become more sophisticated over the course of a game, when necessary to respond to the game’s demands” (Fisch et al., 2011, p.91).
(fish in a bottle, 2012)
With all of that being said, ‘what are some other benefits of this game for young learners?’ you may find yourself asking. Allow me to shed some light on the subject. Apart from the pros mentioned already, this game has other benefits. One such benefit is the variety of multimedia used to engage the player, including pictures, audio clips providing guidance, support, and praise, and the visual effects of the game itself. “This multisensory approach promotes information storage and retrieval (both visual and auditory coding into memory networks), fosters motivation (provides more enjoyment], and accommodates students with diverse learning styles and preferences” (Goyne et al., 2000). Another great feature of this software is the feedback provided to the child as they play. While a child is playing, if they solve approximately 3-4 equations in a row correctly, the character of that set of tracks will provide positive feedback, including phrases like “fancy footwork” and “tip top” (LeapFrog, 2012). “Feedback that is timely, encouraging, and provides a feeling of “high error tolerance” creates a safe learning environment that enhances motivation” (Goyne et al., 2000). The game also provides the player with the opportunity to replay levels over-and-over, allowing the child to drill-and-practice each equation as much as they want. “… [D]rill-and-practice is still an important component of the learning process. Cognitive research has shown that through extensive practice, information becomes automated for the learner.” (Goyne et al., 2000).
With all of those great aspects of the game outlined, there are still some limitations. One of the largest limitations is the lack of social interaction required to play this game. “The American Psychological Association’s learnercentered psychological principles acknowledge that learning is social in nature and that shared thinking is valuable to the learning process” (Goyne et al., 2000). This game, while fun and engaging, does not require nor benefit the student directly from interacting with others. Mind you, a student could ask another student for help if they are having trouble with a level, for instance, but there is no direct need to speak to communicate to others. Also, this game does not provide a realistic context for the problem. It is unlikely that a student will find themselves in a real-life situation where they will need to fire giant balls at corresponding balls to accomplish their goals. “Research shows that students are very interested in, and therefore motivated by, authentic learning activities” (Goyne et al., 2000).
With all that being said, this game is a valuable tool for use in the field of Early Childhood Education. If educators wish to utilize this resource in their classrooms, it would be of great benefit to the children to set up a more social aspect to this game. For example, perhaps placing two chairs at the computer, and encouraging students to work in pairs while playing, can stimulate children to teach each other how to play the game, and explain what they have seen to their peers, thereby creating some social interaction and “…shared thinking” (Goyne et al., 2000). Also, providing “… headphones so that the noise does not disturb others” (Goyne et al., 2000) will help other children focus on their own play, while providing the students who are using the computer to better focus on the game. Furthermore, set aside some time either during or after a child has finished playing this game to discuss with them about what they did. This again builds a social component into this experience, and allows the child to contextualize what they have done and learned. Doing this with a group of children together will provide an opportunity for all of the children to have some exposure to the game vicariously, and will potentially incite interest in other children who may be less technically savvy and unsure about the game.
All-in-all, I thought that this was a fun game that was engaging and beneficial to the player. I would be lying if I said that I did not enjoy the game as I played, and the review of mathematic concepts was something that I needed. I am sure that my learning curve was a bit slower than other players, but it was a great experience and worth trying.
Fisch, S. M., Lesh, R., Motoki, E., Crespo, S., & Melfi, V. (2011). Children’s mathematical reasoning in online games: Can data mining reveal strategic thinking?. Child Development Perspectives, 5(2), 88-92. Retrieved on November 19th from http://web.ebscohost.com.library.sheridanc.on.ca/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=8&sid=905a86c4-0acf-4d35-9387-68d1095907bd@sessionmgr15&hid=9
Fish in a bottle. (Videographer) (2012). Leap Frog Super Spin gameplay by fish in a bottle [Web]. Retrieved from http://vimeo.com/46088813
Goyne, J. S., McDonough, S. K., & Padgett, D. D. (2000). Practical guidelines for evaluating software. The Clearing House, 73(6), 345. Retrieved on November 19th from https://docs.google.com/document/d/1zz11UpsJbdemjt_Q29tW28CG96-O1dO76i27Aaq-pv4/edit?pli=1
LeapFrog. (2012). Leap school: Super spin. Retrieved from http://www.leapfrog.com/gaming/online-games.html