Pora Ora is the latest addition to the children’s virtual world market, offering parents an alternative online play space to educate and entertain their kids. Developed by Caped Koala Studios, all the games In-world are currently mapped directly to the UK national curriculum and detailed progress reports can be provided to parents and teachers outlining the child’s strengths and weaknesses against national expectations.
Harnessing the power of Unity Technology, the virtual world is actually in 3D and expands to full screen completely immersing children in a 3D environment. The journey begins in Samura Valley one of the five worlds in the Pora Ora universe. Kids create an avatar and select a Pora Pal virtual pet to be their constant companion. Pora Pals need knowledge to stay happy and healthy and will eventually evolve as you acquire more knowledge. Different games will award points for three different types of knowledge – Wisdom, Exploration and Creativity and your Pora Pal will tell you which one is needed most.
Throughout the city there are non-playing characters that will talk to players and tell them where to go next. The first set of quests involves finding specific characters and answering questions on Internet Safety, Chatting and Cyber bullying. The idea being to educate kids on how to handle any potential incidents that might occur, such as someone asking for their email address or another player using bad language.
The games are really entertaining, so much so you barely notice you are learning at the same time. One of the math games ‘Farmyard Frenzy’ involves saving a flying chicken from being killed by answering math questions correctly. There is also a spelling game ‘Spell Fire’ where you must type the correct spelling of a word that is spoken to defend your avatar from a fireball. When a child plays a game, appropriate recommendations and suggestions are made as to which games they should play next, based on their performance. Games are also listed according to age, so it’s easy to choose the best one for kids.
Parents can manage their child’s account through a user-friendly dashboard displaying all the activity that took place In-world. Subjects scores from games are viewable along with recommended games and the child’s favorite games in Pora Ora. New friendship notifications are automatically emailed to parents and there is an option to choose friends for a child through a parents own friends list in the dashboard.
Teachers are encouraged to incorporate Pora Ora in the classroom as a lunchtime club or after school activity, or by providing In-game rewards for completion of homework tasks. Learning through games is a key element of Pora Ora and is closely aligned to the UK national curriculum with an emphasis on maths. Caped Koala, the company behind the virtual world is keen to establish partnerships at schools with over 50 schools already participating. Pora Ora was launched in February 2011 and is still in Beta, so there has been no mention of subscription fees just yet. The world is free to play at the moment and is definitely worth having a look at for kids age 5-12yrs. Check it out at: www.poraora.com