Review by Seann Dikkers, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2013

Quantum Spectre

Bounce laser beams to learn light's properties

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Grades
5-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Grows in complexity, progressively adding new ways to play.

Cons: When a students gets stuck, he or she will be really stuck.

Bottom Line: Challenging puzzles with lasers and mirrors can act as a virtual lab space for lightwave physics.

There's an embedded tutorial, and it's played on the Web, so there's no need for explicit instruction or setup. Because the game is broken into short levels, students can learn at their own pace. This flexibility makes Quantum Spectre suitable for either at-home or classroom play. In a class, it can be used as a supplemental bonus for individuals or small groups, or even as a large-group activity. Some of the levels are tricky, and having a larger group of players will transform individual frustrations into impetus for collaborating in class to solve levels. Treat this like a science lab; students need time to do the lab, talk about it, and ask a few questions, but the modules are basically structured. Do not expect the game to prepare them for a prose-based test, however. Students will get a feel for how light behaves but will need some lecture, discussion, and/or study to make the right connections and acquire the appropriate terminology.

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In Quantum Spectre, the player uses mirrors and lenses to redirect the paths of straight, multicolored laser beams toward color-coded targets. Initial levels make this easy since they feature single beams and flat mirrors. Complexity is added gradually, with different colors, beam splitters, concave mirrors, double-sided mirrors, and absorption blocks creating more possible combinations and solutions. After the first hour of relaxing play, this complexity might catch up to some students and eventually result in unsolvable levels. Still, it's a compelling, fun experience that's deep enough to grab a student's attention even outside of the classroom. Students should get a kick out of it and will learn from its accurate representation of light physics.

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Quantum Spectre is a baked-in experience where learning is embedded naturally in play and not tacked on. Students learn as they solve puzzles, figuring out how light works and then using that knowledge to reach the target. In a class focused on optics, Quantum Spectre can function as a mini-lab, allowing for discovery of reflection and refraction. Since there's no vocabulary included during play, it's a nice complement to -- but not a replacement for -- book-based study where students can dig into terms and concepts.

And since complex problem-solving spaces like Quantum Spectre have benefits beyond their subject-specific learning goals, small-group play can lead to all sorts of social learning benefits. As the game gets tough, students are likely to want to work on levels together, and can even develop and publish walkthroughs.  

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Overall Rating
4

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

The core task of directing lasers to targets lasts a snappy few minutes per level, and subsequent levels add enticing incremental additions like barriers, new mirrors, light splitters, and different-colored lights.   

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

Players use light redirection to solve puzzles, so learning about light's properties is effectively embedded within play. Players can experiment but are incentivized to be efficient. A level creator would be a welcome addition.

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 initial instructions are clear and understandable. The game falls short in the middle and late game challenges by leaving the player with no options to get help on a tricky level.  


Common Sense Reviewer
Seann Dikkers Researcher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Katie L. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Mark Sheridan Math and Science Academy
Chicago, IL
3
Game that uses laser beams to explore light's properties

I would use Quantum Spectre as either an inquiry activity or reinforcement activity. I do not feel comfortable giving this to students for homework as I could see my students getting very frustrated with certain levels and giving up at home. Instead I would make sure to give in-class time and also pair them up with another student so they can work together if/when they get stuck. I was disappointed to see that there wasn't a help/hint section for students.

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