What Time Is It, Mr Wolf?

Teacher’s Pet have brought to the iPad their first-ever educational iPad app, and it’s looking good. It’s a fun way to get youngsters engaging with that age-old problem – how to tell the time. First we had the sundial, then the hourglass, the waterclock and the mechanical clock. Now we have Wilfred, a friendly Wolf, to help us on our way. Let’s see what Teacher’s Pet and Wilfred have in store for us…


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First Look

Coming to terms with an analogue clock is not the easiest thing to do in life. I’ve even seen some adults counting forward on their watches to work out the time. You probably have digital, right?

At some time in your life, though, you were taught to tell the time. It’s not intuitive to know that “the big hand pointing up” is “o’clock”, or what “twenty to seven” looks like, and that’s where this app comes in.

It takes a little while to get started (just over 16 seconds before you can hit “Play”), but then we get a cool Jazz sample to greet us, and a furry menu nicely fades into view:

Opening Title Screen

The opening Title screen.

From this opening screen you can toggle Sounds on/off for the game, and select to hear the music or not – a little disappointing is that the music sample is quite a short loop, and once you press play, it stops anyway. It’s a shame it doesn’t simply fade to a quiet pleasant background volume. Also a little troublesome is that the music does not silence when you click the hardware sound button to OFF.

To get started, you can just press play and have a go with the most basic level, but lets take a look at the options screen first:

Game options

The game options.

The time options are in 5 minute intervals around the clock, and consist of a digit or words, then “past” or “to”. You can select up to 8 possible answers for your youngster to choose from. Curiously, to “OK” these choices we are given a red X (top right) – perhaps this should be a tick, as I wasn’t sure if it would save my settings or not. It does, of course.

Selecting “Play” and you are first prompted for your name, and each fresh restart of the game prompts you for a new name. It would be nice, of course, to have the name remembered and progress tracked over time, and perhaps for the name to be automatically capitalised:

Name

Entering your name...

Pressing OK starts the game, and there are some lovely animations noteable here – the moon swooshes out from the top right to almost fill the screen, Wilfred motions magically to the moon-clock, and its hands spin wildly round till they land on a time, then your chosen number of answers satisfyingly swish in from the right:

Simple Gameplay

Simple but educational gameplay.

The animation of Mr wolf is entertaining, and if you poke him his eyes go a bit screwy.

Interaction

Considering the target age-range, a four+ year old should have no trouble in mastering the simple drag and drop process needed to drag an answer to the question-mark space.

A simple “that one!” select method would have been a nice addition to just point at an answer and have it jump to the answer box.

Given that the iPad has such a lot of screen acreage, perhaps more animated playtime with Mr Wolf, or the moon/clock, wouldn’t have gone amiss. I wanted to play with the clock hands to match the time on the analogue clock with a suggested time. I think a lot of fun could be had just simply spinning those hands around accompanied by the excellent “ticky-whirr” sound of the clock hands moving.

Telling the time for a four year old is quite an abstract idea, big hand and little hand, quarter to this and twenty to that. It’s helpful, then, to also have answers available as a digital readout too:

Lets get digital...

Digital readout for the modern age...

Recognising the digital numbers is probably a much more advanced learning aim, but if you were just matching number shapes there is a slight difference between some digits on the answers and some on the clocks in font style – a 9 with a curl across the bottom instead of the straight-backed nine, and an open-top number “4” instead of the closed-top as seen in this article. This, of course, could be seen as another helpful addition to varying number styles. I wonder if there’s perhaps room to suggest a Roman Numeral option later?

It’s great to be able to select only “o’clock” to start out with, and then gradually add more options as the learner gets used to the concepts of telling the time.

Suprisingly, rotating the screen doesn’t rotate to portrait or even upside-down landscape. I’ve contacted the developer with the few minor glitches I came across, and am assured that those in their control will receive a code update soon. Great stuff!

One extra I would love to see is a “Quit” option somewhere in the main game, to return back to the main menu quickly. Otherwise you have to labour through your ten clocks or restart the game entirely from the task-switcher.

What IS the Time Mr Wolf?

Of course, in the tag-based playground game, children chant together “What’s the time, Mr Wolf?”, and Mr Wolf tells them the time. I was hoping that Wilfred would actually speak the time, at some point in the game. And where is the famous phrase “Dinner time!!!”? – so much more could be done with the concept, I feel, perhaps just to keep slightly older children entertained.

The iPad has great potential as a learning tool, the best apps are those that have given careful attention to appropriate use of the screen real-estate and opportunitiesĀ for interaction, whilst still being resilient to random tapping of small inquisitive fingers.

Its not an easy combination to get right, but I’m excited that Teacher’s Pet are scheduled to release 20 more apps across a whole range of educational areas in the coming year. We look forward to sharing their new content with you soon.


Summary

A simple and educational application that's ideal for teaching young children how to tell the time.

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