Webkinz in Elementary Schools

Maria Knee commented on Online Gaming here to stay. Do you dare enter? post by Chreyl Oakes

As you already know, my kindergarten class has adopted a Webkinz – a frog they named Spikey Spike. We visit the site a couple of times a week, in class, for about 15 minutes each time. As a class, we make decisions about how to spend our money and what to feed our pet. We usually do the daily activities. Using this virtual environment in class provides opportunities to discuss online behavior with my students. I also enjoy having class discussions about how to care for the pet and using decision making skills/tools. My students also enjoy the soft, cuddly Webkinz as well.

The games are filled with strategy and build logic skills in order to solve them. The trivia questions are, first of all, differentiated for different ability levels, but also challenge the kids with using the context of the question to problem solve to find the correct answer. The vocabulary is challenging, which I find that schools do not emphasize as often as they used to do. I will admit that the site does not give a lot of opportunity for creative and divergent thinking, but that is the nature of computer-type games. There is some room for creativity, but within a limited scope, like when allowing the children to decorate the rooms where their pets live. All in all, I find the Webkinz site to be an excellent educational site for kids from elementary to middle school ages.

Here are some other links I came across regarding Webkinz.

Take a look at it and you’ll begin to realize how soon the kindergarten through junior high generation will leapfrog over adults in their ability to use the Internet, their understanding of e-commerce, their acceptance of online community, and the idea that one’s social life can be centered in a virtual world.
Publishers: this is how kids will learn instead of with already obsolete text books. Fashion, music, art and commerce online will be as natural a part of young digital natives’ lives as TV was to baby boomers. The Internet has indeed changed everything. We sure live in interesting times.

So, it’s a fun toy. But it’s much more than that, because their grandmother has one too. And so do their cousins. Their grandmother can invite the kids’ pets over to her virtual room. She sends them presents and notes. They play against each other in trivia and arcade games. My boys get a kick out of their grandmother being online and playing with them on their level. I think it’s a great idea. We live very far away. Even when we do visit, it’s hard to find time to just sit and play, because lots of relatives are around, too.
Their Webkinz animals have become a way for them to check in with their grandmother and cousins several times a week. I know they will always remember playing this way with their relatives.