Mingoville: The safe virtual world

The other day, Letterbox posted an infographic about how young people grow up with social media. This infographic tells, among other things, that of all children using Facebook, nearly 42% of them are 12 years or younger, even though the sign-up age is 13. That’s about 5 million children. These children are growing up in a world where even the farthest reaches of the globe can be accessible through the computer and information is only a click away.Screen Shot 2013-07-25 at 10.02.17 AM

Despite the advantages, the Internet can also be unsafe
Parents’ fear of strangers exploiting their children is reflected in the answers given. According to the infographic, 72% of the parents worry that their children are revealing inappropriate information to strangers. Without keeping a watchful eye on their childrens’ web usage, which 72% do, it can be hard to keep completely updated on which sites are visited. Only half of the parents have installed parental controls on their computers, letting them fully control what is accessed on the Internet.

But wouldn’t it be nice if the children could visit a website and chat with other children, without worrying about who your children talks to and what they’re saying? So thought we. And when we made our Mingoville virtual world, where children can chat with other children from across the globe, this was something that required much planning.

The Solution
The solution we came up with was our Safe English Chat. This system allows the children to communicate, using only pre-approved words. Names aren’t in the database, neither are numbers. Certain combinations of words aren’t shown. If you try to write a word that doesn’t exist in the database, it shows up in red in your text field and won’t be sent.

Screen Shot 2013-07-25 at 8.53.56 AMIn a single stroke, the amount of inappropriate information being accidentally sent back and forth is eliminated. And if the child isn’t comfortable writing on its own, it can use several pre-defined phrases and sentences. Using the build-in dictionary, the children can pick phrases from ten different categories, like Numbers and letters and Sports and media. This ensures that the language and content discussed in the virtual world is completely safe and without inappropriateness.

If a word doesn’t exist in the database, we get a notice. In case it’s a word we’ve overlooked, it gets added to the approved list.

This system works and we’ve run Mingoville virtual world for four years where the safety and wellbeing of our young users were in the forefront.
We’re still working on Mingoville, improving it and making new features. Our ambition when we started is the same as it is now: Creating a safe game world where children can learn English alone or with others, having fun while they are doing so.

If you haven’t already done so, sign up for a free trial on Mingoville.com!

Save the Flamingo! Spell and Write English in the BallonBlast Game in Mingoville Virtual World

It’s time for the next post on English educational games in Mingoville Virtual World. I still miss to cover one more English game before I make the overview on all games in Mingoville. If you havn’t been following the recent posts, I’m writing about all the educational games of Mingoville Virtual World. Previous gaming posts are: Quiztalk, SuperStar, Lettergame, & Boat Race.

For some parents and teachers it’s not always easy to grasp serious gaming in virtual worlds because they do not spent most of their time playing games online as a lot of kids do. In these gaming posts I’m trying to give all grown ups an overview of the educational games in Mingoville as well as their learning element – how do kids learn English playing these games. No doubt kids are having fun but we can see a lot of teachers signing up schools at the moment so serious educational gaming is gaining ground among adults as well.

With these posts, I hope to inspire more teachers and parents to implement and use Mingoville for teaching their kids English. It’s easy and it’s fun for everybody. Try it out!

Balloon Blaster - Save the flamingo! This post covers the BalloonBlast game where the students can give the flamingo a save flying trip by spelling and writing the right English sentence. If they type a wrong letter, a balloon blasts which makes the trip a bit more dangerous. The BalloonBlaster is a modern edition of hangman.

The BalloonBlast game is developed to improve the kids’ skills of listening, writing and spelling English. Moreover, it also develops the coordination skills as the students have to comprehend what has been said and pass on the information by writing it. This Balloon Blaster - Save the flamingo!is how the game goes:

1.    In the beginning of the game, the student chooses if she wants to hear the English sentence from a male or a female voice. The different intonations of the voices teach the student to understand the English of different people.
2.    After listening to the sentence, the balloons take the flamingo on a tour in the skies. To keep the flamingo flying, the student has to reconstruct the voice message by writing it. The game constructs the sentence itself; all it needs is the right letters.BalloonBlaster - practice English spelling, writing and listening
3.    For every wrong letter, a balloon is blasted. If the student uses 6 wrong letters, there are no more balloons left and the flamingo falls to the ground and the game is over.
4.    Points are giving based on the time spent reconstructing the sentence.

In classroom, the game serves as complementary practice tool to the lessons in the different Missions. It’s not a game for the beginners though; the students need a basic knowledge of some English words in order to play the game. As always the incentive of the game are the points gained which are exchanged to coins and feather to be spent around the Virtual World.

As always, please give us feedback on your experience with using or implementing Mingoville into the kids English education.

Kids Learn to Spell through Fun Games in Mingoville Virtual World

To spell the words of a foreign language is not an easy task but it’s crucial in order to learn the language. Mingoville has developed different English spelling games where the kids through pictures, clues, sound and movement learn to spell English words by playing with them.

Lately, I have been writing about the different games and their educational purpose in Mingoville Virtual World. Some of you have commented that you find it hard to create an overview of the learning possibilities because the virtual world is not linearly structured and it has many maps (areas). However, it is fun for the kids to discover the different maps and what to do on these maps which is why we do not make English Letter Game an overview of where to find what. It takes too much of the fun away. Instead, I have written a short description of each game to give at least an overview of what games to find. In the end, after the last game post, the idea is to gather all games in one place and in that way try to give you an overview of the educational content in the virtual world.

So far I have covered SuperStar where the kids learn English singing, recording songs and giving concerts, QuizTalk where the kids practice English pronunciation and listening, and the Boat Races where the kids practice to recognize different words in a fun setting. Spelling is an important part of all language learning and we Word Searchhave of course also developed spelling games.

In the LetterGame, the kids see different images of words that he/she needs to spell by clicking on the image and listening to the pronunciation of the word. After the word has been  pronounced, the child begins to chase the letters to compose the word in writing. The letters have to be put together in a string to form the word. The letters have to be dragged around the board to put the word together. If the letter is wrong the string will turn red and break.

In the other spelling game, Word Search, the kids need to recognize words either horizontally, vertically or diagonally. The words are shown in images in the green sidebar to the right. When mousing over the picture, the word appears and the student is ready to find it in the puzzle. I personally like this game a lot, I can spend hours in there.

Both games develop the student’s ability to create an overview of complex content. In both games, the student has to detect specific words by resorting to the use of images. As in all the other games, the students earns coins based on how many words are spelled and the time it takes to spell them. After each game the score list will appear and the student can see his or her position on the different score lists, e.g. by country, the world, today, weekly, monthly or all times. The score lists make it possible to set up competitions based on, for instance, Country and Today to encourage students to improve their spelling skills.

As always we welcome comments and suggestions.


Are You the New Star? Sing Your Heart Out in Mingoville Virtual World

The Club where a student is giving a concertThis week we launched The Club in Mingoville Virtual World where the kids are the stars. They can go in the Studio to record their song and then play it to their friends from the stage.

This is the second blog post in the series about our virtual English learning games. Last blog was about Quiz talk, if you missed it, read it here. This current blog will give parents and teachers an impression on what Super Star is. How do kids learn English playing SuperStar? SuperStar is located at The Club.

SuperStar is a Social Learning Game
In SuperStar, the student gives a live concert using one of his recorded songs from his “My Book” repertoire or by going in the studio to record a song from the song catalogue. All songs are in English and they all relate to the different mission themes in Mingoville e.g. The Body or My family. The songs wrap up the vocabulary of each mission and set it into a context in the lyric of the songs.

Super Star is based on the content the students generate just as The Quiz Talk. Furthermore, it’s developed around social learning principle as it requires an audience to give a concert. The more people come to your concert, the higher possibility of a loud applause which generates many points. All participants in SuperStar earn points based on their level of participation. The idea of developing a social learning game based on the work the students produce results in a high interaction and thus intensive immersion into the English language because the students are having fun while using the language.

The GameSuperStar performing
To play SuperStar, a student needs to record at least one of the 10 sing-a-long songs from the Mingoville karaoke album. The recording of a song can take place either as part of a mission or directly from the Studio in The Club. All songs produced will appear in the student’s “My Book” as part of the portfolio.

The game starts when the student enters the stage and the audience has checked in. The student can either invite his buddies to the concert or other students can drop in. The concert is open to everybody. The higher applause from the audience during the concert, the more funky moves the performer can make on stage and the more points he gains. All participants in the game earn points based on their engagement thus the more you cheer as the audience the more points you gain.

Future Releases
The game in itself is designed to motivate the students to practice vocabulary and a good pronunciation in a fun environment using media which is already very familiar to them. Future development could be the possibility of dressing your flamingo in different wardrobes related to stars, the integration of cell phones to record and upload songs and maybe even some video clips.

Log in and try the game yourself. What do you think? Comments and suggestions are as always welcome

Mingoville is Launching a Virtual World with Focus on English Learning for Children

Hello World,

Recently, we have received so many great comments about our Mingoville program. Thank you. You have no idea how exciting it is to hear your positive feedback. We are so happy you love using Mingoville to learn English.

We wanted to take this opportunity and share with you the exciting news we’ve kept a secret for the last couple of months. In the form of a virtual world, Mingoville is introducing a new English learning product for our young English learners – Mingoville Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG). Internally, we call it MMOngoville.

MMOngoville (Universe)

There are three goals we want to achieve with MMongoville. Those are:

Massively Multiplayer Online Game - Mingoville Universe

  1. It has to be based on English Learning (as ESL) – Even though Mingoville is fun and entertaining, we still want to focus a great deal on education. Inside the Universe, there will be captivating games the main purpose of which is to educate through entertainment i.e. edutainment.
  2. It has to be built around Community – We will be highly rewarding collaboration and successful communication.
  3. We want to make MMongoville Addictive – As opposed to pure entertainment games out there our goal is to make the Universe where kids do not realize that they actually learn a new language by playing addictive, yet educational, games. We believe that it will be even more encouraging to parents and teachers.

The Mingoville Universe offers, but not limited to, the following maps:

Shop, Disco, School (Scool), Beach, Sport, Hospital, Pier, Deserted Island, Lady Butter, Nature, Station, Café, Airport and Goose Will.

Here are a couple of earlier drawings of Mingoville avatar. Of course they look much livelier now ;)

Mingoville Avatars

Children will love Mingoville avatars

We are going to post new drawings and other exciting things as the MMO gets ready for the launch in May.

We are so excited about it!

Stephan Stephensen

Mingoville team