The upside of having an older brother is that things like homework suddenly seem very "cool," because it is something new! exciting! and most of all, something your older brother does. I certainly appreciate my youngest's desire to have homework and hopes he keeps that positive spirit into next year when he actually does have homework. The downside of having an older brother is that many of those "cool" things are still out of reach.
My youngest doesn't know how to read yet. He's four, and definitely Kindergarten-ready. He can identify all his letters, knows most letter sounds, and will be pleased to tell you that he can spell "cat," as well as his name and the names of his family members and friends. But no, he doesn't have the word-skills to play "Word Mole" on my phone like his older brother does. And he definitely can't do the same reading comprehension homework that his older brother does.
But thanks to Poingo, he can pretend pretty well. While my eldest son reads a book and answers questions using his pencil and paper, my younger son can "read" using the Poingo wand, and play comprehension games right on the page, using the same wand.
Poingo is an easy plug-and-play: just turn on the wand and go! In fact, my four year old was so excited he just started without any instruction from me. The actions are intuitive and are easy to figure out simply by exploring. This fosters independence in kids - they figure it out themselves and are happy to have done it "all by myself."
My youngest can choose to just "read" the book by letting the wand read the book aloud or he can touch characters or illustrations on the page to hear sound effects or learn more information. Playing games is intuitive, too.
Red-highlighted words can be defined by clicking on them. Touching little photos within the text will replay the sound effect. It is great to have this additional definition, but the downside is that the entire text starts from the beginning, rather than enabling the child to continue where he or she left off.
For example, in the book Cars, one sentence reads "In the lead is The King, followed by top competitor Chick Hicks." The word "competitor" is red-highlighted, so my son tapped it to learn the definition. But instead of returning to the sentence where it was defined, the wand began at the beginning of the page. This can be disorienting for kids, since they want to continue the story after the word definition, not listen to the entire page over again. The sound effect boxes should be used only after the entire text on the page has been read, for the same reason.
The technology behind Poingo is amazing. In similar systems, the user must touch the wand to each page to start. (Upon examination of these books, it is apparent that a different location of each "dot" signals a different page. Not so with this product.) For Poingo, once the wand knows which book is being used, it automatically senses the page or activity. For example, I touched the title page of Finding Nemo to orient the wand, but then jumped to page 22 and clicked on "Whale Tales," a box with four different whale graphics. The wand immediately defined whichever whale I touched. Other pages have illustrations, words, or graphics in that exact same location on the page, so it is amazing that the wand is able to distinguish between page 22 and any other page.
Given this amazing technology, there has got to be a way for the wand to resume the storytelling after a red-highlighted word if the user clicks the word immediately after. It is so important given kids' attention-spans to have the ability to pick up the story mid-sentence, or at least to the nearest sentence, without having to go back to the beginning of the page.
When the wand reads the book, the words are clear and spoken slowly. It is easy to understand, and thus easy for the child to follow along, viewing the written word as it is spoken aloud. This is so important so that the child can match what he is seeing with what he is hearing. Of course, this also means the child can read a book independently, just like his big brother.
Poingo can be connected to the computer to unlock additional content, such as music. There is no CD to lose; the device driver is embedded in the wand. Unfortunately, my particular wand was broken in this capacity. After I plugged it in, my computer declared that it was corrupted.
Fortunately, I was able to download the content management system at mypoingo.com after registering my device. Unfortunately, the download takes awhile, and the digital signature cannot be verified. Once I received the content management system, I attempted to log on using the credentials for which I registered, but it failed. The Poingo User Guide is a great step-by-step process for loading the content manager, but alas it doesn't mention the need to "log in" to the manager, so clearly something is wrong with my particular wand.
If everything had worked properly, it is the content management system that I would use to load new books onto my wand after purchase of those books.
Aside from this glitch, and my concern about the need to read the entire page's text all at once, Poingo is on its way to being a good product. It is still new, having come out just this autumn, so perhaps some kinks will be ironed out and some renovations made for further upgrades.
No mention of Poingo would be complete without acknowledging its similarity to LeapFrog's TAG system, which I reviewed this summer. TAG has more books, plus the "Learning Path," in which parents see what skills a child is working on, but Poingo will likely add more titles to their library as time continues. And let's be honest, as cool as "the Learning Path" sounds, I haven't been interested in analyzing my children's skills since I trust that they are developing at the right pace. And so, this particular feature is definitely optional, depending on your preference.
Both systems are educational. Both systems are fun. I urge you to take a look at both websites (MyPoingo.com and TAG headquarters) to see what product might be right for your family. TAG's product is $49.99, whereas Poingo's is $34.99. Additional books for both systems are $9.99 apiece.
It is a fun concept, and definitely a great idea for young kids who are on the verge of reading. The independence and extra emphasis on matching sight to sound are really wonderful.
Thank you to Poingo for giving my son such a fun toy!