View from the Classroom
Mia's Reading Adventure
March 28, 2002
Early last month, I received an email from Kutoka Interactive's Stacey Masson, asking if I'd visit the Kutoka site and consider reviewing one or more of their edutainment software offerings. While I rarely do single product reviews in a column, Kutoka's Mia reading software caught my interest.
Stacey picked an especially opportune time to write, as I'm working hard at school with three new first graders with some challenging needs in reading. The Mia series from Kutoka is intended for children 5-9 years old and was right on target for my crew of eager young learners.
When the software package arrived, Stacey had sent along an informative Mia promo folder along with the evaluation box version of Mia's Reading Adventure: The Search for Grandma's Remedy! Sometimes software companies forget that the visual presentation of their product may be the first real impression formed by a potential customer or reviewer. Kutoka seems to understand that first impressions really count, both in packaging and presentation, and in the first few minutes of running the software.
I installed and ran Mia under Mac OS X's Classic environment and under straight OS 9.2.2 as well as Windows 95B and Windows Professional 2000 (NT 5). Kutoka's minimum hardware recommendations are for System 8.1 or better on a Mac that runs at a minimum of 275 MHz (Windows 95 and a 166 MHz Pentium or better on PCs). Unlike some minimum recommendations, Kutoka's are on the safe side, as I later ran the software easily on a Power Mac 5400/200! When I inquired of Kutoka's possible plans for OS X support, I was pleased to receive the following response, "Yes, we will be supporting OS X in future products and upgrades."
The storyline of The Search for Grandma's Remedy is Mia the mouse's search for "sparklies" with which to purchase supplies to make her Grandma well. While the plot sounds a bit thin, the execution of the story with excellent graphics makes it work. Along the way, young readers perform a variety of reading tasks to earn sparklies, including forming three-letter, consonant-vowel-consonant, short vowel words, matching words to pictures, using vowel teams, and following directions.
One of my young evaluators has already completed the whole 2 CD Mia story, but hasn't shown any inclination to repeat it at a different level. The others are still eagerly working their way through the story the first time. When they're all done, it will be interesting to see, probably next year, if they return to the software for another round at a higher level. My read so far is that the multiple levels extend the product's usefulness across a number of ages, rather than making it repeatable.
The included CD insert documentation does a good job of leading adult caregivers through the program so they may aid younger users of the program. At times, my kids were able to find their own way through the program from the hints included, but at times needed a bit of adult direction to find out where to go next.
Mia's Reading Adventure: The Search for Grandma's Remedy is just what Kutoka advertised it to be -- a good edutainment title for the younger set. It's definitely not an initial reading instructional program, but has a number of good exercises interspersed between the excellent graphics to strengthen young learners' reading skills. While the story line of Mia is a one-time thing, multiple levels of difficulty make it useable across a good age range, if not making it somewhat reuseable.
How good did my guys think Mia was?
We used the Mia program in my room as a reward for the kids when they got all of their work done properly. The only problem we experienced with this approach is that my first graders sometimes hurried too much getting their work done so they could get to the computer and "work" on Mia. (Note: We always work on a computer in my classroom. Even when we do an entertaining CD program like the Mia series, we work...at playing:-).
Mia's Reading Adventure: The Search for Grandma's Remedy and other Kutoka titles are available directly from Kutoka ($39.95) and from several storefront resellers in the U.S. and Canada. Amazon.com also carries some of the Mia series for $19.99 each.
Mia's Reading Adventure: The Search for Grandma's Remedy was the first of a number of successful software titles for Kutoka Software. Since the publication of this review, Kutoka has indeed added Mac OS X compatibility to their new titles and cranked out a whole series they now call the Mia Collection. I had reason to employ The Search for Grandma's Remedy in the classroom this week and found it to be just as delightful and effective as it was seven years ago. (Of course, I was in a classroom equipped with two old, but functional 400 MHz G4 Macs!)
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©2002 Steven L. Wood