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Friday, March 25, 2011

Big IQ Kids, a review

bigiqkidslogo

I have a love/hate relationship with my computer.  I love instant access to information and the infinite possibilities for learning.  I hate the way the bright, pretty screen sucks you in and keeps your attention away from other more important things…like living life.  I think there’s a place in my homeschool for educational computer programs, but there’s a careful balance to be maintained…so I approach all kid’s programs with my twaddle sensors on high alert.  Big IQ Kids sure looks colorful and pretty…but does it pass the twaddle test?

Big IQ Kids is a educational website designed for grades 2-5.  The site features activities in math, spelling, vocabulary, and the 50 states.  Some areas are free, but additional material can be accessed with a subscription.  Here’s video explaining the key difference between the free and premium areas of the site:

We received premium access for 2 kiddos, David (5th grade) and Mary (1st grade) to Big IQ Kids.  While the optimal age range for this program is 2nd to 5th grade, it can be used with younger and older students, depending upon their abilities.

First things first, how’s the recordkeeping?

First, while you do not have a parent account where you can access records of your children’s progress, the site does save each child’s progress and send you periodic reports when they finish a level of an activity.  To access their progress reports, you’ll see a little button at the bottom of each topics menu marked “Progress Reports.”

bigiqkidsspelling menu

Here’s a sample of David’s 50 states progress:

bigiqkidsstates progress

I like that I can access these records, and that I can easily print them to add to my own records, I just wish there was an easier way to get a clear complete picture of how my child is doing in each section.  You’ll notice that each aspect of that section needs to be viewed separately.   So I can’t see at a glance how well he knows his states overall, I have to first look at his location mastery, then his spelling mastery, and so on.  This is true of the other subjects as well.  I think the recordkeeping part of the program could be improved, if  only by emailing out a complete monthly progress report for each child.

And how about the educational part?

First, I like that most of the activities can be printed to do away from the computer, or for extra practice later on.  The few I tried printing out, however used color ink, which really wasn’t necessary (it was purely text, no graphics, no emphasis added by coloring a particular work or anything like that).  I’d like to see more ink conscious worksheets.

A word about the interface:  it’s easy to find your way around Big IQ Kids.  All instructions are audio, so kiddos with reading difficulties can still benefit from some of the program.  The audio is computer generated.  If you’ve ever used the “read to me” function on your computer or e-reader, you know what the instructions on Big IQ Kids sound like.  Since the inflection is not like normal speech, some children might have difficulty understanding it.  The instructor avatar’s (lower left in the pic below) mouth and eyes move (semi-animated) when speaking, but the rest of the face does not.  My kiddos thought this was a little creepy at first, but seemed to get over it.

The math section is primarily facts practice.

bigiqkidsmath

 

Love the work space on the right, though my ds just used it to doodle.  The default for the math worksheets is 50 problems, but these can be customized for number of problems, as well as types of problems (you can set percentages of addition, subtraction, etc.).  It would be nice to have a parent account that would allow me to set up multiple worksheets ahead of time and then assign them.  Instead, I have to manually customize the worksheet in the program each time I want to change what he’s doing. 

Big IQ Kids will only present one set of math facts in each type of problem at a time (notice the pic is of the 2 x facts).  When your child has shown mastery of that set, they’ll be moved on to the next set on the next worksheet.  There are timed tests as well.

Answers can be typed in or your child can use the little on-screen keypad.  This aspect was a little glitchy for us.  As ds got to the bottom of the screen, the keypad would disappear under the footer of the screen, with no way to scroll it.  Since he could type the answers, not a big deal, but something to look out for.

The other parts of Big IQ Kids are a bit different, but similar in the use of either the computer keyboard or an on-screen keyboard for inputting answers.

The spelling section starts very gently by presenting the words on the screen and having your child spell them.  As she progresses, the words will be removed from the screen and she will have to spell from an audio cue.  Spelling activities vary from word scrambles, to spelling bees and a final test.

bigiqkidsspellingbee

The vocabulary section presents the words with definitions, synonyms and antonyms and features activities like matching definition to word and completing sentences with the correct word.  There’s also tests to show mastery.

bigiqkidsvocab

The states section provides informational tidbits about the states and teaches your kiddo state location on a US map, spelling, capitals and abbreviations.  Instruction starts gently by showing your child the states location and spelling.  With each level, he we be given fewer hints until he reaches mastery.

bigiqkidsstates

Of course, most online educational programs have some sort of award system.  As your child completes each lesson, he will earn a game coin.  Coins can be spent to play games from the sizable game menu.

bigiqkidssgames

What did we think?

The children liked Big IQ Kids well enough.  The vocab and spelling sections are a bit beyond Mary’s ability, so she primarily worked on the states and addition.  The vocab and spelling were a bit below David’s ability, so he was drawn to these (he tends to take the easy path, that one).

I was not particularly impressed.  I found a number of errors (some typographical, some otherwise), particularly in the vocabulary section (dubious definitions, an inaccurate antonym and so on).  Since I can’t always be at my child’s elbow to catch these things (part of the reason I use computer learning programs at all), this was disappointing.

I don’t like that for every activity they complete they get a game coin, no matter how well (or poorly) they do on the activity.  And most of the games only require one coin to play.  And my my son is a gamer…depending on the game, he can play quite some time on one coin.

In other words, I found that he was spending much more of his time playing games than learning anything. 

Overall, I recommend the free aspects of the site (there are also some measuring and time activities you can access for free) and would suggest you try that out before subscribing.

Big IQ Kids is a free site with premium options available through subscription.  You can check out the pricing here.

For more reviews of this product by other homeschoolers, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog.

Disclosure:  I received premium access to the site (free of charge) for review purposes.  I received no compensation.  The views expressed here are my own and I was not in any obligated to write a glowing review.

1 comment:

  1. The inaccurate antonyms drove me crazy! I'm so glad that I am not the only one who noticed.

    ReplyDelete

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