App review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2015
MedMyst: Animal Alert!

MedMyst: Animal Alert!

Science investigation simulation game puts students in the field

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Grades
5–9 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
Math, Science, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Students walk through real science experiments with scientific thinking applicable to other areas.

Cons: Activities are low on direction, and the mini-games don't add much serious learning potential.

Bottom Line: Informative science game teaches students about the spread of disease and about science careers.

Teachers can use this game as part of a greater lesson on infectious diseases and scientific inquiry. It can also give a glimpse into the kind of work that biological scientists perform, which is great for career development and research. Extensive printable materials are available on the game's website for creating context and additional lesson ideas. The extension activities include website links, additional materials, synopses, mission logs, vocabulary, activities, assessments, and a magazine for teachers.

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Students choose to embark on one of three paths (epidemiology, microbiology, or veterinary science) to help a team of scientists investigate the spread of the disease encephalitis in the disappearing jungle. Each path has its own set of tools and methods, but all are working toward the same goal. Following clues, students use experiments, deduction, and calculations to follow the evidence, resulting in a discovery of the disease's source. At the end of each path, students summarize their findings in a report.

As they play, students will travel around the villages, study the inhabitants, and collect and examine specimens. Mini-games break up the serious work. On each path, students use tools and safety equipment for that profession, extend their learning through optional apps, and refer to a glossary for important terms. The specialist acts as a mentor to guide students through the experiments and investigation as they study encephalitis. Sometimes, the next step in the process may not be clear, but trial and error works well in this case.

Students will learn three ways of investigating the source of a disease and how it spreads, learning from an epidemiologist, a microbiologist, and a veterinarian. Using teamwork with the scientists, they learn about case-control studies, disease transmission cycles, infectious disease careers, microarrays, nucleic-acid sequencing, quarantine, science process skills, the scientific method, and viruses. The game allows for some freedom of choice as it's played, but the game's instructions and restrictions keep students on the correct path. Though each scientist path plays through the story line, completing all three levels is recommended for the full learning experience. The extension materials and links on the website complete the lesson. Overall, this is an engrossing, interesting look at scientific inquiry; it would be even better if deeper learning were baked more evenly into all activities (like the mini-games).

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?

Students direct the action in this game, performing real science tests and calculations. The investigation is exciting, but students may try to rush through the calculations. Also, the mini-games don't add much to the experience.

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?

Immersive lessons involve students directly with the simulated but realistic science investigations. The lessons learned here are immediately applicable to other areas of science and other subjects.

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 game closely guides students through paths of scientific investigation, showing how to calculate data and make decisions. The extension activities on the website enable teachers to make the game part of a larger lesson.


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