Common Sense Review
Updated September 2016

Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy

Hone powerful persuasive skills on a red-planet adventure
Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating (1 Teacher Review) 4
  • The game offers built-in tutorials for assembling argubot "cores," which consist of a claim and a supporting piece of evidence.
  • Duels pit argubots against each other in a battle for rhetorical supremacy.
  • Users explore Argubot Academy on a series of missions that grapple with the fate of the Martian colony.
  • Each mission is flexible enough to let the user choose their own arguments; it's less about which position the user takes than about arguing effectively.
Compelling visuals, feisty characters, and intriguing missions make for a rich learning experience.
Some features are still in development, and the app can have some battery life and stability issues.
Bottom Line
A visually appealing, pedagogically sound exploration of what makes a valid argument.
Patricia Monticello Kievlan
Common Sense Reviewer
Foundation/Non-Profit Member
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Engrossing missions feature imaginative STEM-themed issues. Meanwhile, it's exciting to discover that the game rewards users for making strong arguments -- not for picking a particular "correct" position.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

By teaching ELA standards through a STEM-themed storyline, the game is fundamentally interdisciplinary in all the right ways. Showing students how these skills bridge disciplines is a critical lesson, and that point is deftly delivered.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

Limited in-app support to track the number of missions remaining and the number accomplished, but the teacher support website (including the EDU edition support tools) and built-in helper robots make for a solid user experience.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Teachers might use Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy to encourage students to complete the different missions and experiment with gathering and presenting evidence. Teachers might have kids share the particular points of view they chose to take in their duels on each mission, from the initial argument about ice cream flavors to later missions that deal with a potential pet for the academy.

Teachers can also use GlassLab's substantial data-collection resources to sort their students into class sections and track each student's progress through the game across Common Core State Standards-aligned tasks. 

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What's It Like?

Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy is a slick, clever role-playing game that follows new cadet Zodiac Flynn through the first days of this earthling's life in a colony on Mars. Zodiac is the first native Earthling to join the Argubot Academy, a training facility otherwise populated by people born in the Mars colony of Bracket City. Zodiac's task is to learn the art of using argubots, the special robots that can be armed with argument cores and then engage in argument duels. Zodiac's task is to use argubots to explore a series of missions that grapple with key issues facing the Martian colonists.

There are several argubots: Authoritrons, Consebots, and Observatrons allow users to appeal to authority, cite consequences, and offer observations, respectively, in the course of their argument. As users amass evidence and progress through each mission, they consider important STEM-themed issues while learning key insights about the components of a valid argument. Users can download Mars Gen One on its own, and schools can sign up to use the Argubot Academy EDU edition, which features standards-aligned reporting, printable lesson plans, and classroom-management features for tracking students' progress.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Mars Gen One is the result of a partnership between game developer GlassLab, NASA, and the National Writing Project. The game was clearly designed with the Common Core in mind -- indeed, the teacher portal on the developer's website allows teachers to track and sort student progress through the different Academy missions according to various standards. Further, this partnership managed to produce an app that focuses as much on the STEM issues in the story (“What sort of protein should we eat? Do robots have feelings?") as on the important ELA skills needed to develop a successful argument.

The argubots at the heart of the game are a powerful metaphor, and they offer an illustration of the purpose and substance of making a solid argument. The take-home message of this game is that an argument is a tool that has to have certain components -- namely, a claim and evidence -- for it to work well. The game drives this point home as Zodiac trains with different types of argubots, learning how to build “cores” with complementary claims and evidence.

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See how teachers are using Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy

Teacher Reviews

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Lesson Plans

  • Argument Essay
    English Language Arts
    Grade 6
    Ann L.
    Van Wyck Junior High School
    Wappingers Falls, NY
    4 steps
    February 2, 2016
  • Position Paper
    English Language Arts
    Grade 6
    Stephanie T.
    Detroit Country Day School
    Beverly Hills, MI
    4 steps
    February 2, 2016