Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978



Spring 2006 Software
Ages: 9 - 14 yrs.
Publisher: Fablevision
Price: $89.00
Platform: win 98/2000/Me/ Xp; Mac Os 9.2.2 OSX;Tiger
Do not try this at home! Science knows that certain learning skills can help people remember better, organize easier, prioritize more efficiently, and study more effectively. Students can learn smarter, in other words. This program borrows from that research and attempts to teach cognitive strategies to students, grades four to eight, by separating a dozen or so skills into five categories of “brain cogs”—remembering, organizing, prioritizing, shifting and checking.

Each cog kicks off with a short animated film that introduces the strategy and explains how it works. The program's attempt to be hip and connect with its young audience is an animated rock band called “Rotten Green Peppers” whose members serve as guides in activities that apply, practice and reinforce each skills.

Example: In one remembering cog activity, students learn how to think up crazy phrases to remember a list of names, places, items, then practice the technique in recalling a song list. In other remembering strategies, students learn to sketch simple pictures that are supposed to jog the memory and create acronyms from letters in a word to be memorized.

Other strategies include mapping to organize ideas, red-flagging hard questions on a test to return to later, note-taking charts for reading assignments, finding meaning of tricky words in their context, etc.—all of which really do work. There's even a strategy for learning to relax before taking a test.

But the program is pedantic and comes off about as flat as its sparse 2-D graphics. That doesn't bode well for keeping the attention spans of students this age in line—unless it's used in a classroom or homeschool setting where a teacher can provide guidance and motive. And that's where this program belongs—in school. It's schoolwork after all—just a more systematic and intelligent kind of schoolwork.

If you're at all concerned about the flash appeal, try the publisher's 30-day free trial at

Don Oldenburg   ©2006 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

Look for this product at:
CCV Software
Academic Superstore
Specialty Stores

Share This