Monday, April 4, 2011

GoGo Kabongo

GoGo Kabongo is an online world created specifically for 4-7 year olds to help develop cognitive prerequisites for reading. Some of these skills include:
  • Attention and focus
  • Memory Skills
  • Processing
  • Planning
  • Visualization
  • Comprehension
The activities within the site won't seem like reading activities at all but they do target skills your child will need for reading. The world of GoGo Kabongo is made up of three "habitats." Each habitat has three different games to choose from. One habitat is Twister Top:

Within Twister Top, users can select Design-A-Door (reproducing a pattern), Desert Dash (hear and rehearse letter sounds to be found in a certain order), or Crazy Maze (direct a letter through a maze to spell a word).

Or a child can explore the habitat Laughter Lake:

At Laughter Lake, students can select Critter Sizer (discrimination of size), Scuba Dude (collecting items in a specific sequence), or Going Buggy (listen to a story and demonstrate comprehension by placing pictures into the scene when prompted).

A third habitat is called Galaxy Gardens:
In this habitat, the game choices are Photo Safari (find and photograph animals and help them find lost items), Rocket Racer (space adventure finding targeted letters), or Robo Bobo (puzzle activity). You can read a full description of all 9 games here.

Children will meet a host of interesting characters while using GoGo Kabongo. Their personalities are as colorful and unique as their appearance:
You can read a little about each character and their job description here. When beginning the program, children are directed to customize their own wacky avatar from a choice of various heads, torsos and legs. I was a bit disappointed with the torso selections; two of them had skull images which I didn't think appropriate for the target age of 4-7 years old.

As a child completes activities, he'll be given rewards such as a sticker to use in creating his own comic book or items to decorate their treehouse. After a child spends time on GoGo Kabongo, an e-mail is sent to the parent indicating what activities were done and what skills were reinforced.

Our Experience
We had some initial difficulty setting up my children's accounts but the company was extremely helpful in response. Margaret was able to walk me through the process over the phone. The program is in beta so some glitches are to be expected. The company seems very receptive to feedback and seems to genuinely be working toward ironing out the problems that arise.

Off and on we experienced some glitches with Robo Bobo and the Photo Safari. In the former, we were getting blank screens. In the latter game, sometimes the program scored an action incorrectly. Either it was scored incorrectly, or my son did not know what he was doing wrong. Some re-instruction or verbal hints would have been helpful. I e-mailed a representative and she said she would let the tech department know.

We had three children trying GoGo Kabongo. My 8 year old son, although already reading, enjoyed the site and used it with the most skill. He was a bit frustrated when some of the games didn't quite work but managed to jump over to other activities when that happened.

My 6 year old daughter also enjoyed the program. I appreciated the feedback by e-mail on the levels each child had worked through and how they were progressing. Occasionally, the reward options weren't showing so you'd hear a prompt to select a reward but nothing was visible--that was mildly annoying to my daughter.

I also had my 4 year old daughter try using GoGo Kabongo but with very limited computer experience, she was not able to do things independently. With the help of a sibling or parent, she did enjoy selecting her avatar and wanted others to play games for her so she could watch. More computer savvy 4-year olds could undoubtedly use the program quite successfully. I was pleased that rewards were given at very early stages so even the youngest user can feel a sense of accomplishment almost immediately.

From a parent's perspective, I wish there were a way to turn off the music without losing the narration. Something to consider in further development. While children are in the treehouse (sort of an "entryway" to the game), the Duffy character kind of chatters on and tells jokes and makes small talk. My teen noticed that one joke that got cycled through was about vampires and werewolves. I guess I would prefer that the conversation of characters be more age appropriate (actually we avoid that subject for all ages in our household).

Aside from those few suggestions for improvement, the program was definitely enjoyed by my children and the activities served a cognitive purpose without boring the user. GoGo Kabongo has compiled a very thorough Learning Skills Chart so parents can know exactly what skills are targeted. We used the game as a reward after finishing other school work.

Program Strengths
  • Kid friendly
  • Bright & colorful
  • Imaginative characters & customizable avatars
  • Parent communication
  • Rewards available right away
  • Fosters cognitive development in a fun way
Program Improvements
  • Age appropriate humor
  • Skip the skeleton-inspired clothing choices
  • Provide a way to turn off the music but keep narration
Try it Free
New users can register and try out one of three demo games here. Registered users have access to one free habitat. Being able to try part of the program free is a wonderful way for parents and children to benefit from the program and decide whether it meets their expectations. You can purchase an additional habitat for $4.95/month per child. System requirements are spelled out here.

You can meet the creative team behind GoGo Kabongo here. You can also read parent and teacher testimonials. And be sure to read what other homeschool families thought about GoGo Kabongo by reading reviews at the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog.

Contact Information
Address: Kabongo, Inc., 5801 Christie Ave., Suite 470, Emeryville,CA, 94608
Phone: 1-866-420-9149
E-mail: support
Join GoGo Kabongo on Facebook

GoGo Kabongo is currently seeking individuals to join their team; you can read job postings here.

Disclaimer: We received a free trial to GoGo Kabongo for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

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