Review by Dana Villamagna, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2013
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BallFallDown Deluxe

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Design Rube Goldberg style marble runs with engaging app

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Teachers say (1 Review)
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Grades
K-5 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: So many choices to combine that the possibilities are nearly endless.

Cons: Some of the pieces may be difficult for younger users to re-size and move.

Bottom Line: This digital marble run maker can help kids learn to experiment with construction and motion.

If you're teaching kids about engineering or design, BallFallDown Deluxe may be the perfect app to introduce the subjects in an absolutely absorbing, kid-friendly way. This is also a fun tool to help kids learn about concepts related to motion, such as momentum and trajectory. In addition to observing the cause-and-effect actions seen on the app, discuss ways that momentum affects daily life (in sports, bicycles, cars). Discuss how designing different marble runs can show different ways of how motion works. When talking about how forces act upon objects to cause them to move, address how this app's teleporters, spinning stars, and iPad-tilting affect the way the balls move on the screen. Consider making a real marble run out of materials gathered in the classroom.

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BallFallDown Deluxe is a virtual construction toy that combines building and motion to equal lots of fun. Kids can create marble runs and other designs for play on this spinning, bouncing, and rolling, open-ended play app. Pull down the tab at top of the screen to view all of the options for pieces, including ramps, tubes, gears, flippers, teleporters, and more. Choose a piece and place it where you want it. For some pieces, use two fingers to rotate or stretch. Once you place a number of pieces, choose a ball or balls -- marbles, ping-pong balls, golf balls, and more -- tap the "Play" icon, then tilt the screen to move the balls around. Reorganize obstacles as you play. Simply tap the reset button to clear the play area completely. Save as many play areas as desired.

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Kids can learn about momentum, velocity, trajectory, and more about motion by constructing and playing with their creations on BallFallDown Deluxe. Kids can also learn (experientially) about design and engineering. This is an innovative digital translation of the marble run concept that can help kids learn to experiment with construction and motion. Kids can learn through making their own decisions, deductions, and predictions, assessing what they've made according to their own vision, and then adjusting as desired. While older kids can use BallFallDown Deluxe to create complex Rube Goldberg machines, younger kids are more likely to just free play and some may have difficulty with some of the resizing and moving of certain pieces. Still, most kids will likely find the combination of constructing with fun pieces and moving the balls irresistible.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

Kids are in full control of creating an endlessly engaging game, as they choose which pieces, backgrounds, and balls to use, as well as how to size and place each piece. Younger kids may have difficulty manipulating some pieces.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

Kids are empowered to decide which pieces and balls to use, how to size and place those pieces, and more. Explanations and extension activities could add to the experience.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

Even though this is a free-flow-play experience with no levels or points, there's helpful information to get kids started, including a brief instructional video, and some settings to adapt the basics of play to a kid's preferences.


Common Sense Reviewer
Dana Villamagna Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

3
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Featured review by
August D. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Ridgewood Elementary School
Eureka, CA
3
Endless fun and creativity, but lacking in concrete educational value.

"A nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there" comes to mind when thinking about this app. While BFDD does offer creative design and construction in a limitless "sandbox" setting, it resides largely in the category of entertainment. That said, for the worthwhile price of the deluxe version, players are rewarded with engaging and thoughtful entertainment. The addition of construction challenges, maybe with a STEM influence or a budget with which to "purchase" items, would propel this app solidly into the education realm.

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