Friday, March 25, 2011

BigIQkids

Admit it, we all want our kids to be successful in school--whether our kids are taught publically, privately or at home. If you are looking for a way to enhance your child's skills in math, spelling, vocabulary or US geography, I would encourage you to try BigIQkids.

According to BigIQkids.com Founder, Debra Marcionette,
"BigIQkids.com presents a unique learning method designed to help each child develop the skills needed to perform to his/her full potential. Our award winning programs are designed for students in grades K-12 and promote spelling efficiency, vocabulary building, math fact mastery and US geography knowledge via multimedia reinforcement and independent learning."
Here's a video to help introduce the program:

BigIQkids offers both free and paid versions of the program. According to the website, here are some of the key differences between the free and premium versions:
"The primary differences between the BigIQkids FREE and PREMIUM programs are the ability of the PREMIUM program to monitor the progress of the student and advance that student only when mastery of the subject matter has been achieved. Additionally, PREMIUM members have their progress tracked, saved, problem areas identified and these findings are reported via email toparents and/or teachers. The PREMIUM program offers students customized buddies, full game page access and the ability to save game coins and gaming high scores. These functions help double the fun while mastering core academic subject matter. The PREMIUM program has veryLIMITED advertisement and no ads are displayed during lesson interaction."
If you visit BigIQkid's Free vs. Premium page, you can select on any of the four programs and see exactly what features are included in the paid (Premium) membership.

One aspect of the Premium membership is that parents receive e-mails following every activity done by their child. The parent knows when their child reaches mastery and progress to a new level. Quiz scores are also e-mailed to parents.

As premium members, my kids were able to customize a "buddy" that represented them. For any given subject, there were computerized "guides" that explained what to do and directed students from task to task. The guides also provided positive feedback throughout the activities.

Here is a screenshot of one of the spelling activities. It's sort of like hangman because when you type a letter, all of that particular letter gets filled in. Students can either use their mouse to select keys from the virtual keyboard or they can just use their computer's keyboard to type the letters.

As lessons are completed students earn coins to purchase game time. Parents can make adjustments for when games can be played (e.g. you might want your child to only access games on weekends) and for what period of time. For the premium version, students can keep saving coins to be used at a later time.

There are also online books. Within the book are links to vocabulary words plus comprehension activities and quizzes. My kids never even noticed the link for the e-books; I would recommend parents preview the titles before showing them to their kids.

My Kid's Thoughts
User #1: My 13 year old son had already started using the free portion of BigIQkids (I'd stumbled across the website prior to this review) primarily focusing on US Geography. Earning game tokens to play games was a motivation to him. Once we received the premium version, he really enjoyed being able to bank coins and use more at once later on. Math was his least favorite aspect of the program.

From Teacher Mom's perspective, it was nice to be able to enter customized words for vocabulary. That way your child isn't wading through words they already know (or trying to juggle two different spelling lessons at once--the BigIQkids one and their normal lessons).

User #2: My 11 year old daughter spent time on BigIQkids almost daily. We entered her specific spelling words so she could get the extra reinforcement working with her current program. She also enjoyed US Geography and was pretty determined to gain mastery in that area. Overall, she spent the most time in those two areas. I think the variety of the activities within spelling, vocabulary and geography made them more enjoyable. The spelling activities were a nice alternative to her normal spelling workbook assignments.

Both kids expressed some frustration that some games didn't always load properly. But there were so many games to choose from that there was always something else they were able to choose instead.

Program strengths:
  • Being able to enter your own spelling lists
  • Customizable vocabulary lists (words not in their program can be added by users)
  • Ability to focus on specific math operations and facts
  • Ability to print off worksheets (e.g. print off the math to be done with pencil instead of online; answer keys are provided)
  • Student progress automatically tracked and communicated to parent
  • Ability to use the program any time and anywhere we had internet access
  • Ability for student's to work independently
  • Ability to create spelling contests with friends and family
  • Lots of free resources
Areas for Improvement:
  • Allow a student to complete a whole spelling test and be able to review the words once more before the quiz/test is scored
  • Less "computerized" voices (and lower the voice slightly on the highest pitched girl)
  • Clearer word enunciations; some words on our spelling tests were difficult to understand or final syllables got snipped off
  • More thorough instructions for the games (my daughter struggled with the Pirate game)
  • Easier way to enter numbers on math drills
I think BigIQkids.com offers kids a fun and painless way to build spelling, vocabulary and US geography skills. It also can be a help in sharpening math skills (although we found that aspect of the program the least appealing). For the math portion, when you multiply and have to carry numbers, boxes are shown above (where you can fill in the carried number). One suggestion I would make is that once you enter your digit below, that the curser automatically go to the upper portion (where you would carry). I thought it was confusing to have to manually direct my mouse to enter the number above (default was to move to next larger place value).

In spite of some of the glitches and minor frustrations, the company does provide feedback links for users to communicate problems they may experience. I must say that their customer support is excellent. When we initially set up our subscription, we e-mailed them with some questions and received prompt and helpful responses.

A few other neat FREE aspects include:
When your kids have tried the free portions of the program, you may want to consider paying for a month to use over the summer to keep skills sharp between school years. And if they really love it, then sign them up for premium memberships for the school year. You can check out complete pricing details here.

For a number of other opinions on this product, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog and read reviews from homeschooling families. You can read testimonials here. You can also join BigIQkids on Facebook.

Contact Information
Website: www.bigiqkids.com
E-mail: admin@bigiqkids.com
Phone: 443-266-7267 (hours 9am-5pm US Eastern Time)
Address: Synergy1 Group, Inc., PO Box 192, Glenwood, MD 21738

Disclaimer: I received a free trial Premium Membership to BigIQkids for the purpose of reviewing and blogging about our experience. No other compensation was received.

2 comments:

Wendy R said...

Great review! Enjoyed reading it; it's thorough! It also helped me remember to include the contact information in mine! ;-) Am now following your blog. I hope you'll come follow mine, too.

Jill Stanish said...

Thanks for stopping by Wendy! I enjoyed your review and am following you now as well.