Review by Caryn Lix, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2014

Possible Worlds

Entertaining, well-researched games correct scientific misconceptions

Subjects & skills
  • Science

  • Critical Thinking
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.
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Pros: Lots of support materials and solid grounding in learning science.

Cons: Content is limited, and activities may take quite a bit of time.

Bottom Line: Offers a helpful supplement to teacher-led instruction backed by an expert understanding of how kids learn and the key scientific concepts they need to know but often misunderstand.

There are excellent supplemental materials and lesson plans designed to guide teachers through all the possible worlds. The best way to use these games is precisely as suggested because the lesson plans have a wide scope, even including pre-made slideshows. It would be perfectly feasible, however, for a teacher to use the games as review or to encourage critical thinking by students. Adventurous teachers could encourage students to come up with other ideas about common scientific misconceptions and design their own games or stories to address those issues.

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Developed by the National Research and Development Center on Instructional Technology, Possible Worlds is a collection of learning games designed to teach commonly misunderstood scientific concepts well by using best practices in pedagogy and conceptual learning. The covered concepts include photosynthesis, heredity, electricity, and heat transfer -- each tackled in a different game. The games are designed to be easy to play, with simple narratives and featuring different, familiar genres like adventure and platforming. Play is supported by useful extensions and activities that build critical thinking and that meld well with teachers' instructional needs.

The Possible Worlds website is well-researched and meticulously organized. Each game is accompanied by suggested lesson plans and supplemental materials to help teachers communicate the concepts as thoroughly as possible. The site's developers understand that many scientific concepts are difficult to comprehend and easily misunderstood. These games target those misunderstandings, helping students clarify common misconceptions rather than teaching core concepts. Games aren't designed to replace teacher-led learning, but to supplement it. When used in this context, they're engaging ways to help students understand difficult ideas.

Overall Rating

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

Fun games wrapped in a bright comic style open the door to difficult concepts.

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

Content and delivery are meticulously researched and tuned specifically to important conceptual misunderstandings and classroom needs.

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

Games are generally straightforward, and a helpful robot clues in kids if they need direction. Implementation is easy, with solid, ready-to-go lessons.

Common Sense Reviewer
Caryn Lix Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Sandy W. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Catalyst Charter Middle School
Ripon, United States
Possible Worlds Captures Attention, But Lacked Depth
The use of games in the classroom needs to serve a purpose and connect to the content that is being taught in an innovative way. I was disappointed in the actual game-play of Possible Worlds. I did not complete the game due to the difficulty of maneuvering through the challenges of jumping and running throughout the game. Additional teacher materials were excellent, but the game itself did not offer a strong connection to the science concepts being taught. Students that are avid gamers would probably ...
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