- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 21, 2002

I can directly attribute my ability to read to my parents gleefully buying any book I pointed to, favorite teachers having contests to see who could digest the most literature, and my all-consuming appetite for science fiction and comic books.

Unfortunately, today's overstimulated youths share their book time with hundreds of television channels, video games, DVD movies and the Internet in a quest for constant entertainment.

Numerous companies have been born to help junior get an education by sneaking learning into fun software programs and Web sites. One of the leaders in language and literacy software continues to build upon a successful Web presence with a variety of activities that "stick like goo" on the younger demographic.

Game Goo

Site address: www.earobics.com/gamegoo

Creator:

GameGoo comes from Evanston, Ill.-based Cognitive Concepts Inc. The company, known for its Earobics Literacy Launch software, integrates technology, scientific principles and proven instructional methods to offer effective learning solutions and training for educators, specialists and families.

Creator quotable:

"GameGoo.com, the home for our award-winning, standards-based Internet games, provides students with the opportunity to practice outside of class the early literacy skills they are learning in class," says Andrew S. Morrison, CEO of Cognitive Concepts Inc.

Word from the Webwise:

Gelatinous characters, episode-based games and enough sound effects to put the Three Stooges to shame greet visitors to a Web site espousing the importance of mastering the English language.

Cartoon clowns that resemble a melding of Weebles, Silly Putty and Teletubbies moderate and introduce games that fall into three categories: beginner (primarily for kindergartners and first-graders), intermediate (for first- and second-graders) and advanced (for first- and second-graders). Each category has about four games and offers interactivity similar to using stand-alone programs for the computer.

Beginners are exposed to recognizing upper- and lower-case letters, alphabet order, rhyming, and distinguishing fact from fiction. In a typical game, the player enters Paw Park to clear up a case of kangaroo confusion. A joey has lost its parent, and the player must match the lower-case letter on the small hopper with his mommy or daddy wearing the upper-case equivalent. In another game at Paw Park, the player uses alphabetical order to put bears wearing T-shirts in the proper cars on a roller coaster. Get it right and the furry fellows take a ride.

Intermediate challenges explore letter-sound correspondence and correct usage of nouns and verbs. The area includes an alien scavenger hunt, in which players control an extraterrestrial who sucks all sorts of items into his ship using a vacuum hose. Each item has a letter or combination of letters on it. An audio clue says a word, and the player must choose correct letter combinations to hear the word repeated back to them phonetically and in real usage.

The advanced level concentrates on spelling, classifying and analyzing words. "Wizards and Pigs: Poetry Pickle" is among the cooler games. This cute role-playing challenge has students guide a sorcerer through a castle, running into big goblins along the way. The beasts spit out a sentence, and the wizard must guess whether it involves rhyming or alliteration. A correct guess turns the goblin into a pig, and the player collects a key and continues the quest to find the dragon's lair.

Ease of use:

Cognitive Concepts wisely provides an opening screen asking visitors to choose whether they're using a low band width or high band width to capture as much of a surfing audience as possible. Visitors will need a 56k or faster modem, version 5.0 or higher browser and the Macromedia Flash 5.0 plug-in.

Don't miss:

Not everything has to lead to an education in the Game Goo world. A Fun Goo section features screen savers, wallpaper, a music maker and some time-wasting challenges found under "Gooey Game."

In my favorite, "FrankenGoo," a mad doctor's apprentice can design a squishy creature by selecting facial features, body type, colors and hair. Click on the switch and the blob comes to life with moving eyes, mouth, electrical bursts and the occasional grunt.

Family activity:

As part of the Earobics Literacy Launch, parents can check out some activities to enjoy with younger students (found at the main Earobics Web site, www.earobics.com). In addition, under the Fun Goo section, the obligatory printable coloring sheets of favorite Goo-beings and Earobics characters are offered.

Cybersitter synopsis:

A decent selection of amusing and brain exercising games combined with bizarre characters will keep children very busy, with no reason to wander out of the site, for many hours.

Overall grade: A

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).

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