Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2015
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Koda Quest - A Fingerprint Network App

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Real-world missions inspire, but some questions left unanswered

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Character & SEL

Subjects
  • Science
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
1-4
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Pros: A fantastic way to introduce and encourage off-screen, real-life actions that address climate change.

Cons: More explanation around the why and how of what happens in the game could go a long way toward promoting the overall message.

Bottom Line: A great springboard for discussion and inspiration, but teachers should supplement instruction and provide support for meaningful learning around climate change.

Have your whole class play Koda Quest together. As you introduce new climate change-themed topics in class, have students play a new mission to supplement what they're already learning. Or, you can play as a class on one device while exploring each mission's topic more deeply with in-class activities and independent research. Be sure to ask kids the important questions implied in the app: "Why should we use cloth napkins instead of paper ones?" "What can we learn about Koda's home and why it's in danger?" You could also use a combination of whole-class and individual play, where kids can take turns playing with Koda and fulfilling the interaction requirements for each level. If kids want to download their own copies of the app, be sure to encourage parents to get involved. Better yet, get your whole school involved! Have your students act as ambassadors -- they can help other classes take simple steps to help care for the Earth and its resources.

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Koda Quest is a collaboration between Cool the Earth, a nonprofit organization aimed at educating K-8 students and families about climate change, and Fingerprint Network, an app developer. In the game, Koda is a polar bear on an ever-shrinking iceberg. In each of 20 levels, kids complete both on-screen and off-screen missions, like drinking tap instead of bottled water or using cloth napkins instead of paper ones. Depending on the mission, kids might need to let a certain amount of time pass before they can tap "did it" and move on to the next level. In other cases, kids must have a parent (or teacher) confirm via email that they've completed an off-screen mission.

Kids can also interact with Koda by giving the character food, exercise, baths, and naps to complete levels. Every activity awards points; if an adult has registered to monitor and play along, kids can rack up even more points. Kids will also play two mini-games to help stop Koda's iceberg from shrinking. Users can also participate in an unrelated internal social network.

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Koda Quest - A Fingerprint Network App has a very worthy goal: getting kids to adopt environmentally friendly habits. And the app's creative combination of screenplay and real-life activities may actually get kids taking some concrete steps toward that goal. For this fact alone, it could be worth checking out. This kind of change is even more likely if parents and teachers can play along and offer kids some support in understanding some of the bigger ideas behind what happens in the game. 

Yet, if played without the guidance of an adult, the app's coverage of climate change topics could be somewhat superficial. While kids embark on a number of meaningful missions to help reduce their carbon footprint, the app itself could do more to explain the "why" and "how" behind many of these actions. Why use a reusable water bottle? How do we recycle, and in what other ways can we reduce trash? The missions are introduced with just a simple message: "Complete this mission to stop global warming." Interactions with Koda are fun, but are often woefully unrelated to the missions. Overall, this is simple fun for a great cause, but teachers and parents will need to provide quite a bit of support and background information to help kids connect the dots.

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Overall Rating

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

Interacting with Koda, the cute polar bear, is fun. There are lots of real-world tasks in each level that are sure to get kids actively engaged. The built-in time delay helps kids complete off-screen missions. Completion is a long-term project.

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

Kids can learn from their experiences off-screen, but the app doesn't explicitly pose many questions on the topic. Nevertheless, through completing tasks, kids can gain a general awareness of some climate change-related issues.

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

Kids can learn by exploring on their own, but there are also a few tutorials. Kids will need good language skills and will need to read, or have someone read to them, to complete the missions. Progress through the levels is clearly tracked.


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