Review by Melissa Powers, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2017

Sugarcane

Remix studying with simple do-it-yourself games

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking
  • College & Career Prep

Subjects
N/A
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6-12
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Pros: Short, simple games support memorization with a little critical thinking thrown in.

Cons: Quality of user-created content varies, and there's no progress monitoring or support for struggling readers.

Bottom Line: While this study tool promotes fun fact practice, it's most effective when students make their own games.

Sugarcane's greatest potential is as a study tool. Teachers can create games to help students practice spelling, vocabulary, or basic facts. Unlike basic flash card platforms, Sugarcane games can also involve ordering data, like creating a timeline of events. Teachers can assign data sets to students and ask them to create games to share with the class. Every game has a unique URL that students can easily share with each other (Sugarcane has a Google Classroom quick-share button). Though game creators, including teachers, cannot see the scores of other players, teachers could require students to take a screen capture of their score. However, this tool is better for studying than for formative assessment because of the lack of data available to teachers.

Keep in mind that anyone can create games on Sugarcane, and there's no way to rate or flag a game for accuracy or inappropriateness. Look carefully at data sets uploaded by others before playing their games.

 

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Sugarcane is a website that allows you to create simple games from data sets. To make a game, you must create an account (Google and Facebook login optional). With an account, you can load your own data set or remix a data set already on the site. Data sets can include text, images, and symbols. For example, a data set about famous landmarks can include images of those landmarks. The data set is then turned into a game where the player matches the landmark name with its picture. There are 18 game types; some are simple, like matching, listing, or spelling, while others require more complex thinking, like creating a timeline or identifying which doesn't belong in a group.

Students don't need an account to play a game, but by logging in, players can see their own play history. All games are automatically public and searchable; you can't make a game private.

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Sugarcane is a good fact practice and study tool if you are willing to upload your own content. There's a limited library of games created by Sugarcane, which may be useful in some classes. You can search by subject or keyword to find existing games, but watch out for inaccurate data. To make the most of Sugarcane, think carefully about which game is the best fit for your data set. Games that require ordering or sorting may tap into higher-order thinking skills than a matching or listing game.

The interface is simple, and it's easy to remix games. Gameplay works well on all devices, including mobile, so students can access Sugarcane from any internet-connected device. Because instructions are in English with no audio or video support, it may not be a good fit for ELL and struggling readers. Also, some of the text and images display very small in some of the games, which may be frustrating for learners with poor vision or small screens.

Sugarcane is really a tool for the learner, not the teacher. There are no progress monitoring or data collection opportunities for teachers. While teachers at all levels could use Sugarcane to generate games for their students, the tool is most effective for middle and high school students who can create their own games.

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Overall Rating

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

Self-motivated students will want to beat the clock and their previous scores, but there's no cooperative gameplay and no way to compare scores with other players.

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

Learning can go deeper than the typical matching or multiple-choice game. With a little extra thought and effort, users can create quality games that go beyond memorization.

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 simple to create and play, and the help center is very detailed. However, all instructions are offered in English text only, with no audio or video support for diverse learners.


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