Common Sense Review
Updated November 2014


Overwhelming social virtual world explores science and citizenship
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Common Sense Rating 3
Teacher Rating (1 Teacher Review) 4
  • Create your avatar and register to enter Whyville and play games, hang out, or attend any of the public events listed on the right.
  • Click to go anywhere on the map, or take the bus to your chosen destination.
  • Games focus on science themes; some require multiple players.
  • Analyze DNA to determine what these dragon hatchlings will look like.
  • Work as an animal care technician and learn about attending to animals' needs.
  • Practice money management skills.
Kids are proactive players in an intricate virtual world.
That virtual world is huge and overwhelming with little guidance; many games are confusing.
Bottom Line
Though there are unique games and good opportunities for active participation, there are also significant issues to watch out for.
Mieke VanderBorght
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

There's no shortage of things to do in Whyville, from playing games and meeting up with virtual friends to going shopping. The site design can be overwhelming, though, making navigation difficult. Graphics also feel a bit outdated.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

Kids learn as active participants in this virtual world. Manage bank accounts, meet up for game competitions, and contribute to the ever-evolving world by joining the site's government. Most games touch on science themes. 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

Kids track their activities with scores and clams, the Whyville currency. The virtual environment is welcoming and may appeal to a wide audience, but there is little guidance for navigation. Many games can be confusing. 

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

Whyville has some neat games that can tie into a variety of science units. For example, in one game, kids examine the genetic makeup of embryos inside dragon eggs to determine what kinds of characteristics that baby dragon will have (e.g., boy or girl? Wings or no wings?). Game quality and relevance vary greatly, so teachers should search through and test out games to find the good ones. Teachers could also focus on the citizenship aspect. Have kids explore possible careers, "work" to earn clams, manage their earnings, set up a household, care for pets, engage in government, and more. Kids can experiment with playing different roles and report on their experiences. What was it like to be in charge? How did financial decisions last week affect what they were able to do today? How does the heavy advertising affect what they do with the clams they earn? Teachers will want to steer clear of the chat features, and they should certainly make sure that kids can't make any real purchases. Carefully monitor kids so they don’t wander off somewhere they're not supposed to be.

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What's It Like?

Whyville is a virtual world where kids play games, hang out, and interact with each other. Kids provide their birth month and year, and a parent's email address, and then create an avatar, username, and password to begin. There's a lot to explore in Whyville: Most games are science-related, though some have art or career education themes. Some games require multiple players, whereas others can be played solo. Kids earn "clams," Whyville's currency, to buy more features for their avatars, build houses, buy cars, and more. Kids can also purchase clams, or pearls, with real money. There's an event calendar, a Whyville government, and much, much more. 

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Is It Good For Learning?

Overall, Whyville is a fun place to be, where kids can immerse themselves in an intricate and complicated fantasy world. There's a lot to do here but there's little guidance, which makes it potentially overwhelming, confusing, and quite easy to get lost. There are interesting opportunities to interact in virtual government, manage bank accounts, care for pets, and many more opportunities to practice responsible citizenship. 

There are three main aspects to consider about the Whyville experience: games, social features, and citizenship –- all of which are a mixed bag. Many games are designed by respected organizations and uniquely explore science topics. However, many games are also complicated and poorly explained, so kids may get frustrated. There are some good guidelines to keep social interactions and chats safe and welcoming, but user feedback indicates that these measures don't always work. There are interesting opportunities to interact in virtual government, manage bank accounts, and care for pets, and many more opportunities to practice responsible citizenship. Unfortunately, there's a lot of advertising through corporate sponsorships, and a major emphasis on earning (or buying) clams and buying pearls to purchase as much as possible, which contributes to a highly commercialized and materialistic environment. 

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See how teachers are using Whyville