Friday, December 17, 2010

Bing, Bong, Tiny Planets Coming Your Way - a TOS Product Review

My Tiny Planets, Limited (MTP),
formerly Pepper’s Ghost Productions, Limited (PGP)
United Kingdom 
Buckingham House, West Street, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 1BE, England.
Company No. 03037450 
 Phone  (44) 1932 213072

Ages 4-12
Mostly Free website
"KEYS" are available to purchase for using additional sections of the site, but not required.  (purchase when needed or monthly allotment option)

Our latest excursion on the internet took us to My Tiny Planets, a free internet site, which I was asked to try out and review for the TOS Crew.  (This is one you can check out too!)  Here's a short overview:

The Makers

My Tiny Planets Ltd. is a children’s entertainment company and creator of the Tiny Planets online entertainment platform and the Tiny Planets animated television series and companion website.   Tiny Planets, from Pepper's Ghost Productions, is an award-winning television series co-produced with US based, Sesame Workshop (yes, the Sesame Street guys).  (The online adventure game of My Tiny Planets contains CGI images and animation from the Tiny Planets series. The animation of the series and website has led to several awards, including two BAFTA awards and a Silver at the 2002 Hollywood World Animation Celebration for “Best Animation Produced for Educational Purposes”.)

What It's All About

*space exploration and discovery, designed for youth ages 4 to 12, following the adventures of Bing and Bong, two aliens traveling the Universe of Tiny Planets together on their gadget-loaded plush sofa. (The focus is that children will hopefully take care of our planet and learn about space. This is an interactive website where children can learn and play.)

 *online community and virtual world based on science and space exploration which combines social elements and gaming.  (Children create an avatar (“Space Cadet”), solve galactic missions, play mini-games, adopt and care for their own planet, and take care of  plants in a biodome, while gaining achievements and special badges.)

Sections Include:

Tiny Planets Fun -brainy puzzle games (fractions, sound and seek, symmetry), coloring books and comics.

 Tiny Planets Books - interactive story books for younger children featuring Bing and Bong, their friends the locals and the flockers, and the planets in the Universe of Tiny Planets. 

Tiny Planets Learning - site for parents, homeschoolers, and educators (lesson plans including educational activities and science experiments, episode learning goals)

Tiny Planets Labs - "playground for things to come"  (The company participates in several EU University research projects. When new games are created this is the test site where you can provide input.)

***Kids can also adopt a planet of their own, name it, and take care of it. They grow plants in their planet biodome, releasing oxygen to keep their planet healthy. They choose landscapes, skies, etc. and play Trash Blasters to eliminate junk from the universe 

***Kids communicate with other players by using emoticons and speech bubbles that contain fun phrases programmed into the game. And, your child chooses his cadet name and planet names from the auto name generators.  (I must admit, I was not terribly impressed with some of the random names generated, but that's what random is I guess.)

***A lot of the site is free, or you can buy KEYs from your family account to unlock "special goodies" on all the Tiny Planets sites.  (Some of the content is for a fee, like various episodes on Tiny Planets TV or premium avatar accessories in My Tiny Planets. You can “go pro” on mini-games (which puts your top score up on the leaderboard), convert your asteroid to a planet with its own location in space, and acquire "spiffy spaceships")

To buy KEYs, you set up a parent account and link it to your children's player accounts. With your parent account you can purchase KEYs and then allocate them to any of your children, ensuring purchasing control by parent not child. 

This site is cute, fun and educational.  I felt that it was geared a little younger than indicated, but worth checking out.  We did have a tough time getting on the site features from our "dial-up" at home, but "high-speed" elsewhere worked fine.  We really liked the CGI features, definitely "eye candy" for the kids.  I wasn't real sure how this might fit for people who aren't TV watchers since it feels like educational TV. 

As mentioned, I was a little concerned about some of the random names generated for the "space cadets", but on the whole, the site seemed kid-friendly and fairly easy to use. 

The free part of the site was fun to check out even if you choose not to purchase KEYS.  This site is worth checking out to supplement science curriculum or just as a fun break.

I was asked to provide an honest review of this site as a part of the TOS Homeschool Product Review Crew.  The opinions and observations here are my own, and I received no compensation for them.

To visit the My Tiny Planets site click here

To read other TOS Crew reviews about the site click here

Monday, December 13, 2010

Aleks - Assessment & Learning in Knowledge Spaces - TOS Review

ALEKS Corporation
15641 Red Hill Avenue, Suite 150
Tustin, CA 92780
Email: contact us at

Our latest homeschool adventure has been to check out ALEKS, Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces, a great Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system. Through adaptive questioning (basically a short online quiz) the program determines what your child knows and doesn't know about different areas in math. ALEKS then instructs on the topics your child is most ready to learn.
While working through a course, ALEKS periodically reassesses the child to make sure that topics learned are retained. This one is designed for individual use, no textbook and not a lot of parent "hands-on" time with this one.  Another feature, ALEKS QuickTables, is a fact mastery tool for multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction for grades 3 and up.

After the initial assessment quiz the students abilities are put into a pie chart.  Assessment of what is known and what still need to be learned is shown on the chart.  The student then picks a section of the pie to work on.  The chart adjusts as the student masters topics.

ALEKS has been used by millions of students in more than 50 academic subjects ranging from Basic Math to Precalculus at thousands of institutions throughout the world.  This program is available for homeschoolers, public and private schools, and individual use.  Coverage includes K-12, higher math including algebra, precalculus and trigonometry, and college prep business math, accounting, and statistics.  With the advantage of one-on-one instruction, 24/7 you can work through problems almost anytime and anywhere if you have a Web-based computer.  English and Spanish are both available.  Another great feature about this program is that it will work for Macintosh or PC.  It also works with a number of different browsers.  Although Internet Explorer should work, we had to do a quick download of Mozilla Firefox to get access.  In addition, your browser must have Java enabled. The last thing you'll need is the ALEKS plug-in installed on your computer, a relatively short download, even on "dial-up".

Example of a screen shot:

To get started you sign up for a Student Account and a Master Account.  The Master Account allows you to monitor and direct your child's learning.  User Guides, additional reference material, reports and announcements are available.  There is also the possibility of ACE credits for completion of materials.

This program is really easy to use and reasonably priced for the coverage available.  This one is great for K-12 and College Prep.  This would definitely be a great way to get a refresher on those upper math topics before teaching and/or helping your kids tackle them. 

We really like the variety of topics and the fact that you don't have to do 50 of the same type of problem.  Once you feel you have mastered a topic you can quit doing "practice" problems and move on to the next section, at your pace.  We also like that you work for however long you choose, whether that is 10 minute segments or a full hour, and still feel like you've accomplished something.  This program helps you find and fill those gaps in your child's abilities.  Thumbs up for a great product!!

  Subscription prices for 1 student are $99.95 for 6 months or $179.95 for 12 months.  Family discounts which increase with the number of your students are available for 6-month and 12-month terms.

Try before you buy, click here to get your free trial.

For other reviews of this product by the TOS Crew click here.

I was provided a free month subscription to Aleks in exchange for an honest review of the program.  An additional 2 months was provided in appreciation of the review.  No further compensation was received.  Observations and opinions are my own.

Some Great Links

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