by Janice Binder
As a mom with a smart high schooler stuck at home during this COVID-19 crisis, I was looking for something that would keep my child’s brain functioning and lure him off endless hours of Minecraft. I found a couple of educational game apps to keep him occupied. I said I would try them first to make sure they weren’t totally “lame” and beneath his abilities. As I have taught writing at the community college level and have done professional scoring for standardized tests in areas such as reading, writing, and ESL, I decided to try language learning and vocabulary game apps.
The language game I tried was DuoLingo learning Spanish. I studied Spanish and now my son is learning it also. DuoLingo first assessed my language level and then let me into its learning modules. I was able to easily navigate through the modules. Cute graphics popped up to reward my progress. However, DuoLingo seemed less like a game and more like a digital school lesson that I am not sure my son will use without me making him. I also noticed a misspelling on one of the assessment buttons and, for “games” that had you put words in the right order, the first word of the sentence in a list of words to choose from was always capitalized, therefore giving away part of the answer. I also had a hard time understanding the Spanish audio, which could be because the native Spanish speaker spoke very quickly.
Next, I tried the Magoosh Vocabulary Builder. Basically, it seemed like digital flashcards where you had to pick the best multiple-choice definition for the word given. It went back to words you missed, and some you got right, in its sequences, which was helpful. What I didn’t understand was that at the end of each level it said you could then play a game with those words. However, I found that all I could do was go on to the next level of words. No games, no fun.
Finally, I tried Vocab Victor, an English word learning game. This app seemed much more game-like, with different modes and levels to navigate through. I also thought the wordsearch puzzles of related words was a very clever way of reinforcing vocabulary as I found myself saying the words in the list over and over to myself as I looked for them. My least favorite game was one where you had to tell a bird carrying a word which related word mailbox was correct. There is also a timed word matching game. I usually get anxious with timed games, but I found that I was able to match the word pairs in two minutes without an issue, even though it had me quickly choose the related word without a category such as synonym or antonym. I thought this would be a good exercise to prepare my son for the SAT and ACT since you have to work pretty fast on those tests.
Overall, I think Vocab Victor is the educational learning game that I will be able to get my son to stick with over this enforced quarantine.
Guest blogger Janice Binder is a lawyer, editor, and youth advocate living in Iowa. She is also the mother of three sons, two stepdaughters, and a strong, smart step-grandaughter. She listens to about three audiobooks a week while playing games on her phone.