Word games have long been heralded as a way of stimulating the brain, improve language skills, and help increase concentration and logic, and Futuba is no exception to this. This classic word game for the iPad uses both images and text to teach students new words and practice math problems. The game was originally conceived by teacher Dave Wingler, from Osaka Kunei Girls’ Junior and Senior High in Osaka, Japan. His idea was to design a simple and fun way for ESL (English as a Second Language) students to practice learning words in a classroom environment.
The game is targeted at 4-8 year olds and is simple to understand with no clunky set up. Players can simply select ‘Practice’ and they are launched straight into the questions. An image appears on the screen (e.g. a flag), and the player must select one of four options as the correct answer.
Futuba (the Japanese word for seedling) can be played in either single or multiplayer mode. The multiplayer mode has been innovatively thought out where players sit around the iPad and tap in to start. The game starts as normal, but the inclusion of a bit of competition can make the game even more exciting. The first player to match the word to the image scores a point, and by scoring three points a player is rewarded with a friendly giant seedling.
The key feature that sets Futuba apart from other question / answer type educational app games is its flexibility. Futaba uses ‘Game Playlists’ that can be created by using pre-loaded knowledge sets. There is a huge range of these sets from flags of the world, to math problems (multiplication, division, telling the time, counting etc…), to foreign language vocabulary (Spanish, French, German, Dutch, Swedish, Spanish and Japanese) to the Table of Elements. These sets can be filtered by grade, level, subject, language and countries allowing teachers to easily create their own tailored game for their students.
For example, a Spanish teacher could set up a ‘1st Grade Spanish Playlist’ using vocabulary for colours, numbers, shapes, animals and transport; or a Math teacher could filter the sets for 3rd Grade Math, and create a playlist to suit their students. Each item in the set can be turned on or off, so if there are certain images or questions that you don’t think are relevant, they can be easily removed.
As well as using the pre-loaded knowledge sets, Futuba’s flexibility really shines with the functionality for creating bespoke sets. Teachers can use the iPad’s built in camera, Dropbox or iTunes to import their own images and create image or text-based questions based on the images. In effect, you can design your own education game tailored for your students in line with your curriculum.
Futuba have written a handy iBook that gives some tips on how to tailor the app to your class and to create class-specific games. Some great examples such as getting students to create their own question sets and games, using Futuba at the beginning of the day to energize the classroom, and creating questions based on a reading comprehension show the potential of using the app for all classroom activities and subjects.