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Webkinz as Learning Tool January 29, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in e-learning, Learning, social networking, Web 2.0.
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Webkinz–the Social Networking Tool for the Youngest Set
For the past 6 months or so, I’ve watched over my daughter’s shoulder as she played in the world of Webkinz. If you’ve never heard of it, Webkinz is probably the most brilliant marketing scheme ever. Your child buys a stuffed animal for about $12 to $15 and can then participate in a whole online world geared toward those “pets” and their owners. While not a true social networking site, Webkinz is the first step in that direction. But what I’ve been impressed with, as I watched my child become totally absorbed in this world, is how much she’s learning.

What Can Kids Learn on Webkinz?
On Webkinz, my daughter “earns” KinzCash by playing games and doing jobs. And she can shop for virtual items she’d like to “buy” with her KinzCash. She has to take care of her pets or their health and happiness meters go down. She takes her pets to school where they work on various skills. And at Quizzy’s Question Corner, she can work on her own science, math, reading, and other academic skills. Also, scheduled events help her learn to keep an eye on and manage time. There’s no one telling her any of this, but the types of things she’s learning include:

  • The value of taking care of things
  • The value of a job well done
  • How to manage money
  • How to manage time
  • Not to mention all the little pieces of knowledge she picks up in games and quizzes

She’s learning in a very real way by the results of her own actions. And the good news is  that learning in Webkinz translates to the real world. For example, it isn’t such a large leap from saving KinzCash to buy virtual items to saving allowance money to buy real items.

Webkinz Motivates Reading
About the time that I was checking out Webkinz and composing this post in my head, I stumbled on an edublog post about how Webkinz motivates younger kids to read so they can do more in Webkinz world.

For the most part, the commenters, most of whom seem to be educators, agree that Webkinz is a powerful learning tool. One teacher even had her 10th graders use it to teach safety to younger kids.

What Ideas Can Translate to Adult Learning?
As a parent, I think WebKinz is a good learning tool. As an e-learning developer, I’m impressed as heck. And I’ve been looking at it pretty closely to see what strategies I can use to keep my learners as engaged as my daughter is on WebKinz.

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Comments»

1. Joni - March 4, 2008

I have watched my 4 year old grandson learn to type his user name (12 character user name) and password (7 character). He is also teaching himself the keyboard and is learning to read and add with various webkinz games and activities. He can manage the thank-you notes and random notes. He buys puzzles and games and can do all them alone. He looks forward to getting ready for pre-school so he will have a few minutes before leaving to play. Before we got the webkinz for him, he would fuss and refuse to get ready for school. Now a simple, “Let’s get up and get ready for school so you will have time to play with your webkinz for a few minutes…” gets him out of bed smiling.

2. cjescribano - March 4, 2008

Wow! Four years old! That’s amazing! I’ve read some other posts where people talked about how Webkinz really motivated their kids to learn to read so that they’d be able to play more games and do other things in Webkinz.

My daughter just bought me a LilKinz pig for my birthday. And I can see how addicting it is. The games are fun, and it’s nice to have characters like Mrs. Von Meow who talk to you. I think I’m going to learn a lot about creating a great user experience.

3. Joni - March 4, 2008

One more comment: My 24 year old son gave me a webkinz as a gift so I could interact with my 7 year-old granddaughter and 4 year-old grandson, send gifts and notes, etc.

I love the word game under the arcade, you can easily earn 300 points, I now do the word game instead of my daily sudoku or crossword. I will admit I enjoy decorating and creating rooms, also.

I have checked out games and activities to suggest to parents that seem especially geared toward reading, addition, etc. The most amazing thing I have learned recently is how many adults enjoy webkinz.

I have several friends who are teachers, many of them use webkinz in their classrooms or recommend webkinz for their students. What a fun way to learn!

4. cjescribano - March 4, 2008

Thanks, Joni. What is the name of the Word game? I’m going to have to try that one. Also, if you have any other recommendations for things to do I would appreciate hearing about those.

And you’re so right about it being a great way to interact with and keep in touch with your kids/grandkids. My daughter was so excited about me being in Webkinz last Saturday with her. We played some games together. And she really liked showing me how to do things–made her feel smart.


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