Review by Amanda Finkelberg, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2012

The Carnegie Cyber Academy

Safe internet practices wrapped up in fun, illuminating games

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Teachers say (6 Reviews)
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5-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Well-designed games are challenging and address important cyber safety topics without being boring.

Cons: Game must be downloaded to use, and the Flash-based platform is a little dated already.

Bottom Line: A unique project helps kids learn about serious Internet safety while playing in a lighthearted virtual world.

In addition to the “Cyber Cadets” game, the site has a Fun Stuff area that includes dozens of games with a wide range of age appropriateness. Some games like “Whack a Ghost” and “Let It Snow” are seasonal and fun but don’t have a strong connection to the theme of Internet safety, so you may want to save those for special occasions. Still, classroom materials and video tutorials for teachers make this site a great resource for educators trying to find creative ways to teach kids about these serious issues.

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The Carnegie Cyber Academy is a densely packed warehouse of cyber security information for kids. The site features a downloadable (180 mb) Flash game called "Carnegie Cadets" that takes about 10 minutes to set up. Once logged in, kids become cadets in a virtual school that contains lessons, tours, and tests on a range of Internet safety topics such as cyberbullying, privacy, and safe Web browsing. As they complete missions and learn about the various subjects, cadets earn badges and points they can exchange for room décor for their virtual dorm rooms. The site is free to use, and many games are online in the Fun Stuff section. A Library section on the website hosts an extensive glossary ("cyberpedia") of related terms and offers suggestions for researching on the Internet safely.

One standout mission is the “Personal Information” game in the Clubhouse Chatroom. Kids first go through a lesson in privacy with the Clubhouse Supervisor, Betty, who explains concepts such as identity phishing and cyberstalking. Kids then complete the mission by moderating IM chat comments and deciding whether the "clubber" is maintaining safe privacy standards. Chatters who ask for details about people’s offline identities are kicked out of line.

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Kids can learn key online safety practices, including how to recognize spam subject lines, dangerous pop-up ads, sketchy chat comments, and cyberbullies. They're given detailed instructions on both identifying and dealing with potentially unsafe online elements; then they're able to play games and test what they've learned.

The game isn't networked, so kids won’t be able to show off their cool designs for each other unless they're working together in a physical classroom. While kids can review tips as often as they'd like, specific feedback ("What makes this ad spam?") would help them build even stronger safety skills. Overall, the site addresses these issues well, and rules and understanding about online safety will stick with kids even after the fun and games are over.

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Overall Rating

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

"Carnegie Cadets" takes 5-10 minutes to download and about that long for kids to get situated. Kids will enjoy the "training missions" and the cute Flash games that test their knowledge of Internet safety and privacy.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
The site and accompanying game tackle Internet safety from every angle, baking knowledge right into the games. The skills kids learn here should transfer into everyday computer use and keep them aware of dangers.
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 and missions have great tutorial help, but the first few minutes of “Carnegie Cadets” is a little disorienting while users work out the rules of the game. It’s also unclear how many missions there are to be completed.

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Wayne W. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Good game, but terrible installation process

The game itself is great and the kids love it, but I can't believe how hard it was to get it installed for everyone in the class! Regardless of computer (Mac or PC), we had so many glitches and errors that in every class there were about 5 kids who just couldn't get it to work at all. It was very disappointing for those students, as they just had to watch their friends play. As a result, I can't rely on using the game for homework or assignments.

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