Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2019
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Wonderscope

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Interactive AR stories inspire wonder but need a teacher's touch

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Skills
N/A
Grades 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.
2–5
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Pros: The augmented reality makes kids feel like they're in the story.

Cons: The stories are of varying interest and are light on learning content.

Bottom Line: Watching the stories unfold around you is just plain fun, even if most of the stories themselves need some scaffolding to work in classrooms.

Teachers can use Wonderscope to support lessons focused on reading and storytelling. But since Wonderscope focuses more on the stories and less on the learning, teachers should round out the experience with tasks that assess comprehension and encourage analysis. For example, ask what motivated the characters, how the stories are similar or different to ones kids have heard before, and what the AR experience adds to the story. The stories can also be an engaging starting point from which kids can be inspired to write their own tales such as a sequel, the next chapter, or a story with similar characters or style. Kids will get some practice reading out loud and enunciating well, as they're prompted to say their lines to keep the story going. Teachers may want to be available to help kids who struggle to read or to speak clearly in English. To fully experience Wonderscope's stories, teachers will need to give kids space to move and let them be loud enough for the voice recognition software to pick up their words.

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Wonderscope is an augmented reality (AR) app that gets kids moving around and talking as a story unfolds all around them. When kids open Wonderscope for the first time, an animated character named "Blob" helps kids set up the device, which includes giving permission to access the microphone and the camera, and turning the volume up. Each Wonderscope experience is its own separate story; one is included for free and the others are available through individual in-app purchases of $4.99 each. When you tap into one of the stories, Blob helps kids find a well-lit, clear location to land the story "pod." Then, kids watch as characters jump out and scenery is placed around them. Kids need to be mobile so they can move their device around to follow the action, explore everything, and tap on objects when prompted. They need to speak loudly and clearly so that they can say their side of a scripted conversation with the characters and advance the story. Teachers should know that Wonderscope is not compatible with older devices, so check the requirements.

It's magical to watch a story unfold as animated characters and scenery pop up all around you. The developers of Wonderscope clearly thought through the details, including lovely graphics, great voice acting, and useful features like resizing and rotating the story pod. Things run and play pretty smoothly, but the story may or may not progress depending on how clearly kids enunciate their words. This voice recognition component can be turned off, though. Kids might also run into issues related to the lighting of the space they're in and how much they move around. Either can cause a story pod to lose its place in the room, or kids might just have trouble finding the action. The stories themselves are of varying depth and quality, and different ones are bound to appeal to different kids based on preference and interest. Some have more instructional content than others, but even the more "educational" stories are still relatively light on learning. For instance, Clio's Cosmic Quest taps into the solar system, but most of the information comes at the end of the story when kids can tap on planets to read little factoids. Wonderscope is mostly about engaging with stories and marveling at the latest and greatest of what technology can add to storytelling.

Overall Rating

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

Kids follow a story that unfolds all around them. If that magical experience doesn't engage them, text prompts draw them in as active participants. 

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

Other than prompts to read out loud and some creative storytelling, there's limited solid learning content to grab onto. Some stories introduce new concepts or offer select pieces of factual info for kids to explore.

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

A tutorial shows kids how to set up their device and place their story "pods." There's little accessibility support or support for extending learning beyond the app.


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