Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2017
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Sound Rebound

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Make musical contraptions with playful sound and physics sandbox

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4-8 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Free and easy-to-learn inquiry-based play can be used to demonstrate physics concepts.

Cons: Few slots for saving playfields and controls can sometimes be finicky.

Bottom Line: This engaging and open-ended sandbox app has limited functionality but will engross students for extended periods.

With Sound Rebound, there are many ways to approach playing and learning: Students can be given an objective (collect all the balls after making a certain number of notes, for example); use the app in freeform play; or can design an elaborate machine to deal with the deluge of falling balls.

Teachers can challenge their students to create their own pinball or pachinko machines or to create songs and beats utilizing the different sound colors and objects. By setting the app to tilt mode, students also can create a musical maze they can then challenge each other to navigate, where the goal is to play as few notes as possible. Use your imagination in this open-ended musical playground.

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Made by the Exploratorium, a science museum known for its high-quality and immersive exhibits, Sound Rebound is a sandbox-style app that focuses on inquiry-based learning. It encourages students to play with sound and movement through fixed and rotating elements as well as balls and other objects. Students design systems that cause the balls to bounce, bump, ricochet, and spin, creating musical notes with each hit. Four colors of objects each have a different musical sound, and combining those colored objects creates an original sound. Students investigate the combination of seeing and hearing, cause and effect, and playing with objects as they fall and flow in an ever-changing environment of two-dimensional shapes.

Students can begin with one of the included playfields, open a saved playfield, or start from scratch. After picking and placing objects, students can change the object color to change the sounds made on contact. Students can decide which shapes are to be static and which can rotate by placing a pivot point on the shape. Objects can also be rotated, moved, deleted, or changed in size. A special object can drop balls at a steady pace, or students can manually drop balls anywhere in the system. They can also drop barbells; squares, which don't make noise; lighted balls, which create light and shadow that interplay with the placed objects; and balls with rainbow-colored, comet-like tails. There's also a special shape that absorbs the falling objects, removing them from the system.

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Students of all ages -- and even some adults -- can play with Sound Rebound, but it will be most engrossing for its intended audience, those about age 9 to 11. Students younger than that may get frustrated with the interface, and older students and adults may grow bored. In general, this app allows learning through play, but teachers can create more structure for the learning that can address achieving goals, cause and effect, critical thinking, and musical expression. With different colored pieces making different sounds, students begin to associate color with sound, which can be an interesting mental exercise. Since there is no reading involved, it's also good for students with low literacy.

This app is a fantastic environment for exploration and experimentation, but it has a few drawbacks. There doesn't seem to be a way to pause the action, and it can be difficult to delete or move an item without accidentally adding a new one instead. So, it may take students some practice to get a feel for it. 

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Overall Rating
3

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

The game pulls in students who like to play in a sandbox environment. Adding colors, different kinds of sounds, and interesting physics-oriented objects creates a fun opportunity to experiment.

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

This game's appeal is all in the experimentation; by placing and interacting with objects, and by dropping balls and other shapes to bounce off those objects, students create music in fun and interesting ways.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
2

The first time students start the app, the help video plays, giving a tour of the app tools and functionality. Students can replay the video, but there is no additional help.


Common Sense Reviewer
Jenny Bristol Homeschooling parent

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