Sunday, January 6, 2013

Smart Fish: Magic Matrix HD by Social Bug Labs

Education is not just about content knowledge - it’s about skills and processes too.

As a mother of a child with special needs and as an elementary classroom teacher, I have so many apps that focus on content; whether it’s the alphabet, idioms, math facts, geography, handwriting. What I am lacking is apps that reinforce comprehension skills such as classifying and sorting.  We need to teach children how to think for themselves and not facts that can be memorized.  

Teaching content knowledge is generally easier than teaching skills and processes.  Children on the Autism Spectrum tend to be very visual learners and often have a much easier time memorizing facts or data.  Years ago, my son used to memorize the number of grams of sugar in cereal and soda, the dates that movies were released, and other trivial data.  However directions involving multiple steps were always much more difficult for him.  In addition, he was always (and still is) very impulsive, which leads him to act quickly without thinking through the necessary steps in order to successfully complete the task.  

I was recently fortunate to come across an app that focuses on sorting and classifying skills which really impressed me.  The app is entitled Smart Fish: Magic Matrix HD and was developed by Social Bugs Labs.   What sets this app aside from others is that (to the best of my knowledge), I am not aware of any apps currently available that focus on sorting and classifying skills.  What makes this app a high quality app is that includes so many features and provides the user with a personalized learning experience.  

The app is geared towards ages 3-8.  In this story-driven game, children learn the concepts of tables and matrices while helping a whale friend and saving Happy Reef.  Kids sort objects by one and then two categories, filling up a game board in each level. The levels get progressively difficult, tackling subjects such as colors, shapes, numbers, emotions, nature and more. The game also helps children develop focus and attention to detail. In the engaging backstory, the child helps save a reef from ecological damage by completing each level, so not only do they enjoy the challenge in each level, they also have an ongoing challenge throughout the game. To quote the app developers at Social Bug Labs, “Frankly, we had a hard time tearing some adults away from this game.”

One of the many features that impressed me about this app was the feedback that it provided the user when he or she incorrectly classified a card.  At first, I thought the app was crashing which led me to become frustrated.  I immediately contacted Yael Gavish the app developer who was more than happy to help me figure out what the problem was.  It turns out that what was happening was intentional.  (I just did not realize this since I had turned off the sound.)  If the user makes a mistake by sorting a card incorrectly, instead of the app merely providing feedback, the app actually stops and re-teaches the concept.  How brilliant is that!  As the levels become increasingly difficult and involve multi-step directions, the app actually breaks down the multi-step directions into single step directions in order to ensure that the user fully comprehends the concept.  This provides the user with a personalized learning experience.  If only it would be so easy for us parents and teachers to provide our children and students with a personalized learning experience at home and at school.  This app is a “Win Win” in my book - your child - and the child in you - will enjoy it!

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