Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Dig-It! Games Review

We're year-round homeschoolers, and while summertime means that our workload is light and our schedule is flexible, the kids know that they have some sort of learning activity each day. It's exciting though when I tell them, "You have to play a game today." And when that game is played on the iPad or the computer? Well, that's a real treat.

Dig-It! Games is a company that focuses on game-based learning. In 2005, Suzi Wilczynski, founder, began to create fun, interactive learning experiences for middle school students by using her education and archaeology background. Not only are children naturally drawn to fun and games, but these games have "the potential to enhance learning by encouraging persistence, valuing effort over rote performance, and rewarding success without punishing failure." Depending on the game, they also learn important facts along the way. We've been learning the last several weeks by playing Roman Town (iOS App) and Mayan Mysteries (Online Game).

Roman Town is set in the ancient city of Pompeii. It is your job to help catch Ladrone, a master thief, by using strategic thinking, spatial reasoning, memory, logic, math skills, and problem solving. On your quest through the city, you play game with people you meet along the way. If you win the game, they give you a clue to help solve the case. 

Along with learning facts about Pompeii, you'll also learn about Roman life, experience ancient Roman games, and play 35 unique puzzles. The game teaches social studies, math, and literacy skills.

Jake, my 9-year-old, tested this app for me. He was thrilled to play the games and find the clues. Had I not put a limit on his game time, he probably would have completed the entire game in one sitting!
There were a couple times when he asked for my help (like the Roman numerals game), but otherwise played it by himself.

Mayan Mysteries is an online game in which Ladrone is back on the loose. You along with Professor Alex Quinn, Fiona, and Charlie make Team Q and try to figure out who is digging up Maya sites, looking for ancient artifacts. On your mission to save the mythical city of Ich'aak from looters, you'll discover 7 Maya sites and play more than 25 challenging puzzles.

The game teaches skills in social studies, math, language arts, geography, critical thinking, and reading enrichment. It is historically accurate, aligned to National Standards, and offers built-in assessments.

Since this game is best for grades 5-9, Jake played this one, too. He's actually a tad young for this, and it showed in both his understanding and enjoyment of it. There is a lot of information involved. You can either read the text yourself or choose the option to allow the characters to speak aloud to you. If Jake read it, he lost interest; if he listened, he stopped paying attention. The game is very fact-heavy. That can be a good thing for learning, but it just frustrated him. Every day after playing for a while, he'd ask, "Can I be done now?" It was a very different experience from Roman Town.

This conversation sums up his feelings about the games:

Me: What did you like about the Mayan game?

Jake: Nothing really. There were too many quizzes and so much information that you needed to remember.

Me: So, it didn't really feel like a game?

Jake: Not at all.

Me: What did you think about the Roman game?

Jake: Oh, that one was awesome! That had a lot of fun games.

I was in contact with customer support several times because of both a game-related issue and a user-caused issue. Each time, the service was prompt, helpful, and extremely understanding. I was very pleased and confident in the company.

Both games are full of historical facts and bring a fun element to learning. Jake might appreciate Mayan Mysteries as he gets older, but his 9-year-old self loves Roman Town.

You can connect with Dig-It! Games on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to see how other homeschool families used these games, you can read more reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog. 

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