Smart Apps For Android: REVIEW: Rock Hunt (science Android kids apps)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

REVIEW: Rock Hunt (science Android kids apps)

Bottom line: A geology app that helps children learn to identify different types of rocks by their look, feel, location etc.  50 rocks in 10 different environments are explored and remembered by trial and error learning.

Price: $0.99                         Size: 15.4MB                        Number of levels to achieve: 10


External links to the developer's website and to download the music soundtrack for free

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Available on Amazon Appstore

   FREE Lite Version                    $0.99 Full Version
Get it on Google Play          Get it on Google Play

App explained: Rock Hunt opens with a labeled explanation of what players need to do:
"1. To begin, check to see what you are hunting for.
2. Touch area you want to explore. It will turn from ¤ to ± once you've selected it.
3. Use the tools to run experiments on the area you have chosen."
Basically, players need to identify each rock according to results of experiments performed.

Once the player taps on one of the possible locations, "tests" are run on the rock to determine if it is the sought after rock or not. All the time, a clock is measuring the number of attempts and also the time taken before the correct answer is chosen. If a player is unsure if the results of the tests are revealing the correct rock, they can "Call Owly" and be given a large list of properties of the rock and a hint about what test needs to be performed to discover it.

Five rocks need to be  correctly identified to be able to advance one level. The app begins with only level one unlocked, and each subsequent level needs to be unlocked by identifying the rocks correctly. Every level is awarded up to three stars for the time taken and the number of clicks used before identifying the five correct rocks and each level can be replayed to improve the number of stars given, with the highest star count being the one that is recorded (so if a level is redone but takes more time and clicks, the stars are not taken away). Achievements are awarded for i) finishing all ten levels, ii) finishing a level is under 15 seconds, iii) finishing using the minimum number of moves and iv) finishing the game in under three minutes.

Pros/Cons: Without Owly to call on for help, there is no way children could ever complete this without totally guessing. To begin with, Owly will be called on a lot but over time, children will remember properties about rocks and be able to choose the correct rock with less tries/hints. Learning the properties of rocks this way, by trial and error, will not be an effective method for some students while others will lose interest altogether from having to try so many times incorrectly before getting it right.

This would be a good app for children to work on with a partner or in small groups as their collective memory may help find all the rocks more quickly. Rock Hunt is certainly presented well and fills a niche, however the technology is not used to provide innovative learning. There is no "easy" option to completing the levels and no way of customizing the app to suit individual student ability or locally found rocks. Although only one test is needed to correctly identify each of the rocks, players are able to perform all ten experiments on each rock, allowing students to explore the "What if...?" question.

Suggestions for updates: A kind of rock gallery where all the rocks could be displayed and sorted according to different properties. A way to add custom rocks according to the local area or according to an area being studied at school e.g. South Pacific or Antarctic. Experiments already performed on a rock could be highlighted some way so players know what they have already tried. An animation or a short video clip showing the experiments being performed on rocks would be a great visual tool for children to learn and remember the properties of different rocks.

Summary: There are not a lot of apps for children that focus on the material properties of rocks and Rock Hunt does provide a lot of information about a lot of rocks. The difficulty experienced by children in completing each level, however, may put off a lot of children, except for those kids who find geology particularly interesting. Definitely more suited to older children, and one that would more likely be used in the classroom rather than at home.

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One day Cas would like to pan for gold and find something other than "Fool's Gold"

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