App review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2016
Blue Apprentice - Elementary Science Adventure Game By Galxyz
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Blue Apprentice - Elementary Science Adventure Game by Galxyz

Immersive but uneven science adventure helpful for reinforcement

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Editorial review by Common Sense Education
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Grades
3–8 This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Subjects & Skills
Science, Critical Thinking
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Pros: Admirable game-based model with a solid science base.

Cons: Unpolished audio, slow-moving action, and few options for deviating from the script.

Bottom Line: Game-based learning hits many topics, can get students thinking like scientists.

Blue Apprentice is best used by individual students or, at most, in pairs. Since it's a time-consuming game, it isn't a good replacement for a base curriculum but will reinforce and extend science topics in all areas; the game claims adherence to the NGSS in life, physical, and earth science for students in the third grade and onward. If budgets are tight, one subscription can be purchased for the class or perhaps one per device. The game includes three profiles, so more than one student can play through each installation at a time.

The developer suggests that a future school version of the game will include features such as teacher/student communication, analytics on study patterns, time spent playing, student answers, graphs, and subject matter covered, which would be helpful to track student progress.

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Blue Apprentice is a subscription-based science adventure for iOS and the web. Players act as Thalo, the last of the Seruleans, who were explorers driven by science in an alien galaxy. Students use a tap-to-move mechanic to move around in the game, as well as tapping and dragging to complete tasks for quests. Thalo has the guidance of Grit, a Chipku who mentors Thalo throughout the adventure. It's their mission to collect a series of Meridians scattered through the galaxy before the evil King Dullard can get to them first. The Meridians are necessary to give Thalo's ship power. Locating and retrieving the Meridians provides a series of hands-on science-based quests such as balancing a food chain or building a liquid oxygen "freeze ray" to combat evil forces.

As Thalo and Grit start their adventure on Serulea, kids begin by learning about physical science concepts, such as using the Periodic Table of Elements to craft new materials, and then move on to other branches of science on other planets. Quizzes and assessments, with immediate feedback, are included in the game for students to show their knowledge before moving on to new levels. Once students progress far enough in the game, they can unlock new, deeper content on already-visited planets. The game includes 21 episodes of gameplay and four open-world sandbox levels.

Acting as Thalo, students go through the same processes that scientists use to investigate scientific ideas. They are taught this sequence of steps: Observe, focus questions, design experiments, gather evidence, make claim, and model (which includes graphical representations). Students use these steps to make sense of what they're seeing and experiencing. Very specific scientific concepts from all branches of science are taught, and students then get to implement them; they include breaking down compounds into their individual elements and recombining them into new materials, balancing food chains, and using Newtonian physics, conservation of mass, and properties of matter.

The science concepts and gameplay speed start out too simplistic and slow for older grades, and some of the game mechanics might be too advanced for the very youngest grades. In those cases, pairing students might help them overcome any challenges. Since the game is self-paced, each student can learn at her own speed. 

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

Kids who like to explore and engage with characters and objects will love it. The storyline is slow in places, and the audio isn't very polished, but kids will want to go on to solve the next problem.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

Students learn all branches of science through practical problem-solving and the scientific method. They experiment, perform actions, and answer questions to demonstrate learning, but there aren't many options for deviating from the script.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

The action and a blinking orange outline guide students toward their next steps, but there are no help options. Any incorrect answers chosen receive gentle guidance to the correct ones, without much of an explanation.


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