Isopod, now for NOOK, Kindle and all Android devices

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Isopod: Raves and reviews

Isopod: The Roly Poly Science game was released in August 2012 and to this day maintains a strong presence within the educational app ecosystem. It’s been particularly wonderful to receive so much positive professional feedback, thank you all. Here’s a short list of awesome reviews:

**5 out of 5 stars! Appsforhomeschoolers.com

**5 out of 5 stars! Smartappsforkids.com

**”Unlike many of the apps labeled “Education” on iTunes, Isopod is one app that truly delivers for that category.” engagetheirminds.wordpress.com

**Teachers and parents of kids in third or fourth grade will love this app. 4 out of 5 stars. PadGadget.com

**CYBILS Literary Award nominee, 2012

Not to mention:

**Apple: “What’s Hot” edu/ipad Sept/Oct

**Apple: New and Noteworthy for August and September!

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Game play tips!

Some helpful tips on playing the game. It’s not easy for everyone (at first) but once you get the hang of it, I promise you will be having fun (and learning a lot about science!).

The interactive game itself is not touchscreen, but uses the accelerometer in the ipad to turn the device into a “tilt-physics” control mechanism. So idea is, tilt the ipad in the direction you want the roly poly to move, and bump into the “good” bugs while avoiding the “bad” ones. It takes some practice.

To start: Smooth, controlled movements are a good, don’t tilt too much too quickly until you are comfortable with how the game works.

Env 1: Beetles will come to you if you can stay in one general area. Bumping the blue butterfly means you can go anywhere quickly without a problem but make sure you are not behind an ant line when the power runs out.

Env 2: Follow the yellow butterfly as much as possible, bump whenever you get a chance and free as many gladiators as you can in your enlarged and invulnerable state.

Env 3: Learning to bump twice is easy enough, but when multiple katydids are on screen a good strategy is to bump each one once, and then come back and bump again later, if you can move fast enough.

Env 4: When the millipede stops, get far away…the cyanide gas has an extended reach. Also, wait until a group of 8-10 fireflies appears all at once before bumping the female glowworm power up, that way you can free a bunch in one fell swoop!

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Welcome

Thank you SO MUCH for giving Isopod: The Roly Poly Science Game a try.

There’s a lot of content in this game, so let’s break it down into points.

• 24 photorealistic, interactive creatures inhabiting their natural environments. Each location was designed to be “plausibly real”, so yes, all the creatures would likely run across each other in real life.

• Over 24 natural science topics of study, authored by a variety of industry professionals.

• Over 60 pages of educational content within the app, including beautiful photos, vocabulary, Q & A, links…and more.

•  Over 50 pages of separate, downloadable and printable curriculum, sourcing data from within the app. This is a pdf filled with activities directly from the app, crossword puzzles, quizzes, games etc, supervised by Karen Morris Parisi, MA, homeschool teacher of 17 years.

• Age range: Gifted 3rd graders on up. There is some complex scientific content here, but nothing too technical. Data pages can be “auto read” if desired.

• Classic arcade-style gameplay that immediately puts a smile on your face, without compromising educational content. If you like “marble/maze/tilt-physics” type games, this will be a lot of fun for you and your family.

• Integrated Pinterest board with over 170 pins of support material, covering all topics within the app. This takes the depth of study even further, with tons more video, websites and gorgeous photos not seen in the app. An amazing resource for a complete educational experience. http://pinterest.com/xylemandphloem/

• For homeschool families, this is a 4-6 week unit of study your kids will never forget!

• More videos on our Youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/xylemandphloemgames, and you can also follow us on twitter https://twitter.com/Xylem_N_Phloem

 

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Can edu-games really help change the system?

Confession: I have a love/hate relationship with games being used in an educational context. Despite my long history of creating games for entertainment, I feel uneasy about the possibility that a child’s first formal education experience would be through a video game. And to that extent, I won’t design games for kids who are less than about 10 years old because they should be learning through direct experience and not an app, regardless of how wonderful that app may be.

That much said, after some long discussions with my wife (homeschool teacher of 17 years, Waldorf trained) I may be one of the best suited game designers for this exploding segment of the industry, BECAUSE I’m such a skeptic. What I tried to do with Isopod is create an experience that, A: Builds a relationship to the subject matter through gameplay, based on fun and curiosity,  and B: Creates an opportunity to fulfill that curiosity with an expansive body of data that continues to draw new levels of inquiry. In this context, both the heart and mind are engaged, and my hypothesis is that when used correctly, this method can better hold a student’s attention, as well as keep retention very high.

This, unfortunately, this is what a lot of classrooms look like:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Isopod was the course of study, and regular “game breaks” were taken in class to break up the more traditional teaching methods, what would happen? What I’m saying is, if students where allowed to play a game during class, that helped them build a relationship with the subject matter, how would they benefit?

This is what I’m guessing:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So let me be clear on this, I’m not suggesting kids should take regular breaks with just any kind of game during instruction. What I am suggesting is that games that are integrated into a unit of study, that cover the material, and are in a rich format that kids respond to, could be used as a way to keep interest high. If the child remains engaged, everything else falls into place. We can’t assume technology is going to fix the problems we face in education, but if the tool is used correctly and, most importantly, *designed* correctly, then there is potential.

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Isopod: Teacher’s vs Full versions.

Once you download Isopod you have a choice to purchase either the Teacher’s Version or the Full Version. Of course, you could also be content with just playing the first environment, but if you enjoyed Santa Cruz, you will love the rest of the game.

The “Teacher’s Version” of Isopod has everything the Full Version has, all the levels, all the critters and all the fun. However, the Learning Center topic articles and all the playable levels are fully unlocked and therefore easily accessible. This is primarily for educators who wish to use Isopod in the classroom, allowing them to review the material before the topics are unlocked. Even if you are not teaching someone, you may just prefer to have all the data unlocked upfront. It’s a bit more expensive, and I hope those extra few dollars won’t discourage any educators. The point is to steer kids to the locked version, and let the design experience of the game unfold as intended. The best part of Isopod, in my opinion, is that you have to work hard for that knowledge (by winning levels), which makes learning just ever so much sweeter.

If you purchased the Teacher’s Version to check it out, and then want to buy the Full version for a student, there is no need. Just go to the options panel and lock the topics/levels. The game will reset to the beginning, just as if you purchased the Full Version.

 

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Of pillbugs, tiger beetles and preservation.

When my son was born a few years back, the land-dwelling “roly poly” isopod was one of his first deep fascinations with a living creature. I also noticed many other young children experience the same thing…it seems that people have a natural curiosity for roly polys, and perhaps everyone has loved these little round wonders at some point. For me, I guess that love kicked in as an adult. Creating a game that captured the spirit of the roly poly, along with a strong message to understand more about natural science, biodiversity and how insects contribute to healthy ecosystems became a personal obsession.  After work, during weekends, whenever I could spare a moment, I’ve been making this app with the intention of creating a unique science game that stands out from the crowd. What if it was possible to create a educational game that was so fun, kids would intentionally choose it over the endless stream of junk being hurled at them from every angle? I had to try.

It made sense to start things off by creating a situation where a “famous” local insect could be the centerpiece of the first environment, my home, Santa Cruz California. While it’s true that in real life the Ohlone Tiger Beetle would likely eat the isopod for lunch, the title of “California’s Most Endangered Insect”  made for a perfect first level character. The rare, metallic green critter named for it’s ferocious attitude, is in need of a lot of help as there are less than a thousand of them in the whole world.

My first recollection of discussing the Ohlone Tiger Beetle happened back in early 2002 when a local Santa Cruz newspaper featured the little guy as the center of some fairly big controversy. Being that I had been a dedicated mountain bike rider all the way up to a helmet-crushing crash in 2001, it struck me as particularly ironic that the remainder of this rapidly declining endangered insect population was being threatened by people like myself: Outdoor enthusiasts who simply do not notice that they were smashing these diminutive creatures under foot. Or, in my case, under tire. After the article, I don’t think I rode those particular trails ever again.

But accidental human predators weren’t the only contentious issue surrounding the green tiger, the real issue, one that effects us all, is why do we put forth so much effort to preserve endangered species? The argument is, it’s a waste of time and money, and that species appear and go extinct all the time. So why bother? There are many, many reasons why we work hard to save species from going extinct, but the most important reason, in my opinion, is because we need to know how. The better we are at studying and preserving species on the verge of extinction, the better we can be at preserving ourselves.

But Isopod is not a game about endangered species, it’s a game about about discovering a fascination with all things arthropoda. It’s a game about revealing the connection between biodiversity and ecosystem health. It’s a game about our interactions with the critters we often take for granted. They all play a role in a much bigger picture, one that requires our respect and attention.

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The Icon of Isopod

Creating the perfect icon is tricky business. Quite consistently, successful app creators credit a great icon as an integral component of “the winning formula”. For this important piece of the app market puzzle, Xylem and Phloem went straight to one of the best natural science illustrators in the world, Keiji Terakoshi. Check out his amazing work here:

http://www.terakoshi.com/Enindex.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Put down that game and go flip a rock!

I’m often asked “Who is Isopod’s intended audience and what is their age range?”. The simple answer is, 5th to 7th graders. But really, that’s not exactly what I had in mind when making this game. My general rule of thumb is, if your child does not play video games, then this should not be their first. Keep them outside, in nature, exploring the wonders of the world in the same way that all great scientists have throughout time: Learning via first-hand experience. And really, considering the depth and variety of information they contain, books are still much more important than digital media. Build your child’s library and make it an oracle for their rapidly expanding thirst for knowledge.

On the other hand, if your kids are already immersed in digital media, then Isopod is exactly what you want. Every single interactive element in the game has scientific value, and that value is immediately accessible. Play is a powerful conduit for learning, and Isopod is designed to create both big smiles and a sense of wonder, with real data ready to be explored with just a touch of the screen.

But even if everyone in your family has their own personal ipad, don’t forget to go outside and turn over some rocks. This is where the real magic happens, were the authentic love for natural science is born. As amazing as these new devices are, no tablet or computer can replace the real thing, at least not yet.

So go outside and start practicing, International Rock Flipping Day is only a few months away!

http://rebeccainthewoods.wordpress.com/2011/09/11/international-rock-flipping-day-2011/

 

 

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Yes, we have spiders.

Arachnophobics beware, Isopod has spiders. Not many, only two species to be exact, but if you are not a fan of these critters you may find yourself a little nervous playing the game. Was including spiders a bad idea? No way! Spiders are an important part of keeping ecosystems in balance, and are getting a lot more attention recently for their role in pest control. Did you know that global spider density ranges from 10 thousand to *millions* of spiders per acre? What would happen if the spiders went away? We would be infested with all kids of pests!

We are sharing our day-to-day life with these creatures, in our yards, our homes and everywhere else. And while there are over 37,000 species of spiders out there, only a very few of them are potentially harmful to humans. And hey, of those 37,000 species, Isopod only has TWO, so perhaps if spiders make you nervous, playing the game might be the first step to loving your eight-legged neighbor.

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