What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that ZooWhiz is a virtual learning playground wherein kids complete math and language-arts learning activities. As they work through lessons, they'll earn coins that can be spent on animals for their personal zoo or used to play games in the site's arcade. Kids must create an account using a parent's email address, but ZooWhiz is private and has no social sharing aspect. ZooWhiz keeps track of your kids' responses to generate performance charts for parents or teachers to see. Kids get rewarded (with coins) for completing learning activities. Though ZooWhiz advertises in abundance that it's free, the free version offers limited access and customization capabilities and a lot of heavy promotion to purchase the premium version. ZooWhiz is made by an Australian company, so some terminology might be new for anyone not from there (and videos have narrators with Aussie accents!).
What kids can learn
Language & Reading
- letter or word recognition
- reading comprehension
- text analysis
Engagement, Approach, Support
The zoo premise is creative, and execution is charming. Kids will have fun collecting animals and playing games, but the actual learning drills are a bit less appealing.
Games and educational activities are separate, though some arcade games do have embedded learning goals. Not all learning activities are of the highest quality, but customization options are great for targeting content at the right level.
There are videos for learning how to use the site, but there's no in-game help for trouble with the learning activities. Kids keep track of progress with coins and can see graphs of how well they're doing in each learning subcategory.
What's it about?
ZOOWHIZ is a comprehensive math and language arts website with a zoo theme. Kids choose an avatar and go to \"Learn and Earn,\" where they (or a parent) choose a subject (math, words, or reading), an age level, and specific learning topics (for example, numbers, calculations, and problem solving) before starting the learning activities. Kids earn coins, which they can use at the store to buy animals for their zoo or at the arcade to play games. Parents set an \"age floor\" so activities are not too easy, and both kids and parents can always see progress in each specific learning topic in a learning chart.
Is it any good?
ZooWhiz boasts a fun, creative, and appealing premise that offers a welcoming learning-themed environment. Kids will be motivated to complete learning activities so they can populate their zoos or have fun at the arcade. The learning activities are mostly drill practice or quizzes, which make them more useful for review than for learning something new. Unfortunately, the fun (buying animals and playing in the arcade) feels separated from the learning. For example, learning activities have graphics and sometimes present silly situations, but they still just feel like jazzed-up drill practice. Also, with 17,000 learning activities, they can't all be good! Some are clever and right-on, but others lack clear instructions or have ambiguous educational value. Sometimes quality is better than quantity. The options for customization are really nice. They allow kids to really focus on areas that are relevant to their personal learning needs.
Families can talk about...
Talk about the different animals your kids purchase for their zoos as well as all the math and language lessons they've been learning.
Discuss with your kids how learning can be fun, all on its own, without the reward of playing arcade games. Would they want to do these activities if there weren't rewards to look forward to? Why, or why not?