GET Waggle - Smart Practice, Assess and InstructREVIEWS CONTINUED
[Website, Grades 3-8 (Triumph Learning (800) 338-6519)]
As its subtitle implies, this Triumph Learning educational website offers: Blended learning solutions in Math and ELA to help students in grades 3-8 achieve success beyond the test (Smart Practice); interactive, summative assessments using 'Coach' curriculum (Assess); and differentiated instructional tools for teachers, with Coach tests, quizzes, practice items, and instruction (Instruct). Waggle was recipient of BESSIE Awards in three categories, Upper Elementary and Middle School Math & Language Arts Website, and Teacher Tools - Online Classroom Management System.
Upon signing in, the Student Dashboard contains all information the student will need: A top toolbar with goals, games and assignments; a skills menu of assignments and due dates; and percentage of completion (a meter of 'feet traveled' showing the child's effort and proficiency).
Assignments, highly focused lessons, and strategy-based practice are scaffolded, and cover a broad range of key concepts. Students are encouraged to think through solutions when choosing from a list of possible answers, and have access to 4 or 5 hints. If answered incorrectly, the Reset button allows for do-overs and encourages a positive approach to learning.
Overall, Waggle analyzes student behavior and performance to tailor learning paths, and creates a safe, positive atmosphere for students to explore tasks beyond their reach.
For teachers, Waggle offers a comprehensive Teacher Dashboard with powerful tools for classroom management (creating/issuing assignments, adding/dropping students, grading written assignments), and in-the-moment student performance and assessment. Notably, a suite of instructional packages (Support Coach) for Mathematics and English Language Arts is available to provide professional development and support, e.g., Common Core Support Coach focuses solely and intensely on foundational math skills for all teachers who have students struggling with the rigorous new standards. Key concepts and skills are reintroduced that are a prerequisite to mastering grade-level content. With plenty of scaffolding, teachers can then guide students to succeed with the Common Core. More information is available on the company's website.
Far-Plane: Beyond Boundaries (Website)
[Triad Interactive Media (336) 686-2444]
Far-Plane: Beyond Boundaries (winner of the 2015 BESSIES for High School Leadership Skills Website) is visually gorgeous, incorporating a very high-tech blend of animation, live action, and graphics. A collaboration between Triad Interactive Media and the Center for Creative Leadership, Far-Plane is a role-playing adventure game designed to promote leadership skills such as critical thinking, alliance-building, recognizing motivation and character, and building relationships in a global society. It is based on a model called Boundary-Spanning Leadership.
While not exactly exciting, the story places the player on an Earth-like planet whose five nations are all facing some sort of crisis, from sandstorms to a pandemic, and the challenge is to bring together alliances and solve the crises, all in three levels of play. Using such techniques as buffering, reflection, managing boundaries, and discovering differences and similarities, the player must make the correct decisions to navigate successfully.
It's possible to play the game 'cold,' but Far-Plane seems designed to be used in conjunction with classroom material and with a facilitator - and that would be more ideal. We suggest that the continuity editor and proofreader consider making the content a little more seamless, and the typos less jarring (e.g., 'masculinity' does not mean the same thing as 'gender roles').
All in all, however, Far-Plane: Beyond Boundaries is a stunning example of how education and role-playing games can conjoin to create something compelling and wholly imaginative. Well done.