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 Spelling City

A screen shot of spellingcity.com

Website: www.spellingcity.com

A+ CONTENT:
Spelling City is an interactive website whose content is designed to provide both the educator as well as the student various aids designed to enhance the spelling and vocabulary experience. Using such training aids as training videos, customizable data presentation and support forums, educators are provided with a multitude of resources to choose from to help them with their own lesson plans and goals. Students are also aided by such elements as live voice for word pronunciation and sentence usage, spelling /vocabulary testing and interactive word gaming.

A AESTHETICS:
Spellingcity.com is a website with an enormous amount of data and teaching aids presented in a colorful fashion throughout the initial homepage. The color scheme is pleasant to the eye and does a nice job of sectioning off the navigation to many of its resources. However, the enormity of the project is such that there are so many resources, finding what you are looking for can, at times, be a bit daunting due to a lack of a more cohesive routing method.

B+ ORGANIZATION:
The website does aid any interested visitor by providing sectioning of student/teacher/parent on the homepage of the site which is a welcome navigational method. The various color blocks for some of the different sections is a plus as well. The designers of the site do their best – given the large amount of data available – to groups as much as possible to take advantage of the site.

A REVIEW:
The website is, first and foremost, a resource tool of varying strengths for the educator, student and parent. With such a daunting task to as provide an “all-inclusive one-stop-shop” for anyone interested in spelling and vocabulary, it gives anyone a multitude of avenues to achieve whatever goal they could possibly want – be it creating lessons plans, using varied multimedia presentations or just simple testing. If you can get past the navigational shortcomings the site can be an enormous resource tool for everyone and anyone.



 ABCya!

A screen shot of abcya.com

Website: www.abcya.com

A+ CONTENT:
ABCya! is a free interactive educational website geared towards elementary school aged children.  The website makes use of games and activities that have been created by teachers in the areas of math, social studies, reading and more.  The website also introduced basic computer skills.  The website is consistently updated with new information and games.  The games and activities are all content based.  The website also offers a section of educational apps to be used with the iPad, iPhone or iPod.

A AESTHETICS:
ABCya! has many sights and sounds for children to interact with.  At times, the readable area is very narrow due to large advertisements bordering the text.   However, when the child enters a “game page”, navigation becomes easier with an increase in readable area as well as less advertisements.  The games are age appropriate in each area.  The lower grade levels offer audio instructions rather than text instruction.

A ORGANIZATION:
The website is child-friendly in its organization.  Children can pick a level, kindergarten through 5th grade, and be directed towards grade level games, activities and stories.  Navigation may be tricky, however, once engaged in an activity or lesson, navigation becomes easier.  The website is very quick in its loading of images and plugins, making navigation and transitioning between pages a bit smoother.

A REVIEW:
Overall, this website is a good website for the child who needs enrichment in certain areas of their education.  There is little teaching done on the website, but there is a lot of practice available.  This would be a great site to use over vacations or summer break for retention of academic skills.  ABCya is appropriate for computer-savvy students to use independently.



 Out On A Limb

A screen shot of urbanext.illinois.edu/conflict/

Website: www.urbanext.illinois.edu/conflict

A+ CONTENT:
Out on a Limb provides offers online exercises for children to learn about conflict resolution. There is an added teachers’ guide that provides supplementary lesson plans and activities to enhance the website.  The website also can be converted from English to Arabic or Spanish.  Rather than just changing the content to the chosen language, the character voices are also changed; thus eliminating the need for subtitles or captions.  This website is gauged towards children in the elementary grades.

A AESTHETICS:
Out on a Limb utilizes voices in their lessons that are realistic.  The voices speak with inflection and tone.  The videos and simulations are free of visual distractions- they focus on the speaker’s face.  The website, overall, is attractive and appealing with colorful animations and large, easy-to-read text.  There is a use of animated characters in slide show format to align with the short text on the screen or the audio.

A+ ORGANIZATION:
The website is child-friendly in its organization.  Pages can be changed by clicking on a large blinking arrow rather than having to click on links.  The teacher section has a more advanced navigation system, using links and hot buttons.

A+ REVIEW:
This site is extremely interactive.  Children will enjoy the “choose your own adventure” feel that they will get when choosing a solution to a problem.  Children will be able to explore their options in a safe environment before generalizing this skill to the real world.  The goal of the website is to promote healthy relationships and to teach three basic conflict resolution styles. The students learn that they can handle conflict in ‘the loud style,’ ‘the soft style,’ or the ‘think and share’ style. Examples of each style are presented after each scenario. The students also learn about communication skills, how to listen to others, and how individuals perceive things differently.  The situations that are posed are realistic and probable.  Out on a Limb uses examples of conflicts that children may experience daily to promote their message of tolerance of varying points of view, individuality and diversity.  I feel that the examples will promote discussion, making this an appropriate small group or adult and child activity. The home page of Out on a Limb engages children right away by asking questions like, ‘Have you ever gotten so mad you stomped away?’ Overall, I am impressed with this website and wish that I had found it earlier!



 Starfall

A screen shot of starfall.com

Website:  www.starfall.com

A+ CONTENT:

Starfall  is a free website that is created to teach children to learn to read as well to improve existing reading skills.  The website is geared those in the 1st grade.  However, the site is appropriate for those in preschool through second grade.  Starfall teaches phonics and phonemic awareness through the use of games, animated stories and activities, movies and music.  This site would also be appropriate for English Language Learners (also known as ELL, ESL or ELD). The website’s method of teaching students to read is to focus on letter-sound relationships, word recognition skills, and reading comprehension strategies.  Children have the opportunity to share their opinions after each story and activity with a simple happy or sad face.

A+ AESTHETICS:
Starfall makes use of colorful graphics that are child-friendly.  Text throughout the website is consistent and easy to read.  Various cartoon characters are featured throughout the website in the interactive stories and activities.  Voices are easily understood and Have a high degree of clarity.  The music appeals to a younger audience.  It also appears to set a pace or rhythm to reading.

A+ ORGANIZATION:
The website is easy to navigate for computer users of all ages.  Text links are paired with visuals to help guide children through the website.  Activities, games and stories are grouped into four distinct categories according to reading level (ABC’s to I’m Reading!).

A+ REVIEW:
I believe that children will enjoy this website!  Starfall is frequently updated with seasonal activities and stories.  Stories on this website expose students to a variety of literature; non-fiction, poetry, fiction, folk tales, humor and comics.  The website is accessible through an iPhone, iPod or iPad, so children may take this website “on the go”.  Starfall has also recently released various apps that can also be accessed through these devices.  Children will definitely get a positive message about reading with the titles of the reading stages such as: It’s Fun to Read! and I’m Reading!  The website is ad-free as well, however, parents can buy supplemental teaching materials at Starfall’s online store.  There is also an active bulletin board discussion for parents who are teaching their kids to read.  Starfall boasts that their method is based on numerous studies and educational research. Overall, an A+ experience for all!



 Hooda Math

A screen shot of hoodamath.com

Website:  www.hoodamath.com

A+ CONTENT:
Hooda Maths approach to teaching math and math related concepts relies on gaming as the interactive tool to present data. It uses various clever methods to teach specific goals from addition and subtraction to geometry and even the quadratic equation. Grouped into four main sections: Games, Tutorials, Worksheets and Movies, Hooda Math uses a straight-forward approach to providing resource tools for both the educator and the student alike.

B+ AESTHETICS:
Colorful. The first thing that any visitor to the site notices is the blue border (amongst its many other colorful elements). It has a very simplistic appeal to it and, depending on whether or not you favor this, does not try and overwhelm you with its content navigation or presentation.

B ORGANIZATION:
Hooda Math is somewhere hampered by the advertising that appears throughout the site. Some of the actual advertising and seem to be part of the content when trying to navigate and a visitor can go astray before they realize this. However, divided into four sections for Games, Tutorials, Worksheets and Movies does allow a quick trip to a specific section if you already know what it is you are looking for.

A REVIEW:
While the website does provide any visitor with direct links to specific sections, a user can get lost within the advertising as it is shown throughout the site in rather large and domineering methods. But, as a learning tool for both the educator and student, Hooda Math does give a visitor an enormous amount of resources at their fingertips with which they can approach specific goals. While the site begs for a more refined method of data presentation, this does not take away from the fact that the site does cover a varying amount of subjects from Physics to the Quadratic Equation.



 Infinite Learning Lab

A screen shot of infinitelearninglab.org

Website: www.infinitelearninglab.org

A+ CONTENT:
Subject matter centered around the growing issue of Internet safety can be both overly technical and vastly dark but Infinite Learning Lab does a marvelous job of employing the Garfield characters throughout as a mean to explain topics in a more pleasant presentation without losing the seriousness of the approach for which the site is intended.  A wide array of categories from cyber bullying to various forms of media to materials assisting both teachers and parents can be found easily from the home page of the site.

A AESTHETICS:
Very colorful and pleasant to the eye. The use of the Garfield characters can peak the interest of any youthful visitors and can be appreciated by adults as well.

B+ ORGANIZATION:
While the potential for overload is certainly possible due to the growing technical and factual data available, the site does a good job of sticking to the core of its intention and that is to provide easily accessible information to assist any visitor interested in Internet safety. Categories are easily identifiable and the section for educators and parents is a plus as well.

A REVIEW:
Infinite Learning Labs approach to presenting information on a very sensitive subject matter is unique in its approach to employ the popular Garfield characters as representatives to explain various topics of interest.  The potential to make light of the sites message could have been a problem when using such characters but the novel approach makes discussing the different topics less daunting and not so dark – thus keeping visitor interest.



 Miamiopia

A screen shot of Miamiopia.com

Website: www.miamiopia.com/index.php

A CONTENT:
Miamiopia is an educational website geared towards learners of various grade levels.  Unfortunately, there is no way to gauge the level of difficulty prior to completing an activity.  Links are provided in the lower right hand corner of each game to allow children links to practice the targeted skill.  Children play games and complete lessons to earn coins to use to trade in for accessories for their character.

A+ AESTHETICS:
Very colorful and pleasant to the eye. Though the website presents higher level thinking activities, children of the middle school and older age may not prefer this website due to it’s cartoon elements.  The ability to pick your own character’s attributes can be motivating to children.  Miamiopia is brightly colored, child-centered and easy to use.  There is an option to listen to educational-themed music while completing the activities.  More advanced users can choose from a playlist. Miamiopia is a “virtual world” where children can create characters and then use these characters as they explore, play educational games, and solve puzzles and other challenges.  The students can earn coins the more they play and learn. These coins can be used to purchase accessories, such as virtual clothing, wigs, jewelry, belly stickers, homes, and home decor.

A ORGANIZATION:
Once in a game, the tools are extremely easy to use and well marked. Once familiar with the website, children will be able to independently navigate through the pages.  Buttons are large and contain a picture to aid in more accurate selection. Each game has clear and consistent instructions that are provided prior to the game. Once the children have mastered one game, they are then able to quickly learn how to play the others. Every game and activity uses similar controls for consistency.  Miamiopia provides similarly located clues that children can learn to locate and open.

A REVIEW:
Overall, the website is a fun experience for children to practice their skills.  Games are offered in the areas of: astronomy, biology, dinosaurs, geography, geology, history, math, memory and spelling.  As stated before, the levels within these games vary, progressing from lower elementary skills to middle school level.  Children may access the games and activities without proceeding through the lessons.