Wednesday, September 14, 2011

TOS Product Review: Big IQ Kids

Big IQ Kids is an online learning website that is designed to be customized for your K-8th grade student.  The free version focuses primarily on Spelling and Vocabulary.  With Premium Member status, though, Math and US Geography are covered as well and student progress is saved and tracked. Initially, I thought the website was very colorful, cheerful and kid-friendly.  For the first week, I had my sons (ages 9 and 11) start with the US Geography activities.  They could choose from a variety of tasks related to the States, such as locating it on a map, spelling it, giving the abbreviation or identifying the capitals.  I have actually looked online in the past for a program that does just this sort of thing with US Geography, so I was really pleased to have the opportunity to review Big IQ Kids, even if it was just for the states program.  But there is much more to see on the webiste.

Your child can practice his own spelling words based on a list that you type into the database, or practice one of the pre-loaded word lists.  They give you unlimited space to type long word lists if needed.  Big IQ Kids can also be used to load your vocabulary list for the week and do a variety of games and lessons with these words.  I was impressed to find that nearly all the words I typed in the system were accepted and the program had the correct definition and sample sentences to go with them.  Even words like "runes" (an ancient alphabet system) and "fjord" were there.  Can you tell we're studying the Vikings? 

Math is also a part of Big IQ Kids Premium and has progressive activities (don't forget to set the grade level up or down, depending on the math abilities of your child).  I like the way that the problem the child is working on is highlighted, but the rest of the problems are still visible.  I have a child that likes to go quickly if he's confident in the material.  This way, he can see the next problem and can get ready to type it while the computer transitions to that problem.

While I was impressed with the intention behind the program, I did find it rather hard to navigate through the Spelling/Vocabulary screens.  There are arrows and buttons everywhere.  I had to stop and really think about what I should do next to load word lists, select certain activities and then proceed.  I found myself going round and round three or four times just to get started with a new word list.  Also, when the activity is presented, it comes up in a new window, which doesn't have a side bar to move up and down.  Sometimes the top portion of the activity seems cut off from view.  I found myself test-driving some of the lessons to find out why my kids were so frustrated with the Spelling and Vocabulary lessons and I can see where some technical tweaking would help in these areas.

My sons did, however, have a ton of fun with the States activities.  Jake and Alexis are the hosts of this portion and provide a lot of comedy for us around our house.  At first, their voices were like fingernails down a chalkboard.  Then we started talking like them, pausing in strange places in our sentence and emphasizing the wrong syllable.  What started out as a "con" became a "pro", because my sons wanted to play Big IQ Kids every day for some portion of their school day, even if it was just to get a laugh from the robot-people.  I like the games for the States program a great deal, but there are a few issues.  When the student is working on "spell the state", one robot voice starts giving fun facts about that state, while an overlapping robot voice is saying the letters aloud that the student is typing.  This needs to be fixed.

I think the main draw for the program for kids will be the opportunity to earn game coins to play "fun games" after their lessons.  I'll have to admit the games ARE really fun and there's a variety to choose from, including the chance to make a Buddy that stays on your screen and becomes your avatar.  You can design him/her and dress them any way you want.  My children really liked the way the Buddy made it personal for them.

I have to confess that one evening (okay, several evenings), I logged on and tested out the SAT Prep portion and also the Spelling.  I set the level to "Adult" and tried my hand at the Spelling Bee feature.  It was fun and challenging, but it is over when you miss the first word.  Also, the screen tends to do the same thing as with the student Spelling lessons.  It cuts off the top portion, which is the important part--it tells you the correct spelling of the word you missed.

Premium Memberships are between $7.99 and $9.99 per month, depending on the subjects that you choose for your subscription.

Overall, I think Big IQ Kids is, without a doubt, on the right track.  They get an A for effort.  When some of the technicalities are worked out, I think they will get an A+ from me.

**Disclaimer:  Big IQ Kids provided me with two Premium Memberships to use with my children.  I received this in exchange for an honest review, which I have provided here.


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