"Widget Workshop (WW) is designed to teach kids the principles of science." Or so claims the product's packaging. What our reviewers found was a totally interactive foray into the logic of how things work. WW is built around a widget assembly area ("the laboratory") which includes a tool bar with menus of objects. What's a widget? A collection of components the user cobbles together to attempt to solve a problem. Or just to have fun. Components include switches, counters, math operators, sounds, colors, numbers, timers -- and more than a few things we never did totally understand. The object of the program is discovery, either free form or in trying to solve one of the dozens of puzzle problems in the program. Our teachers found this a welcome focus, "Here's a program that really forces a student to think through the logic of cause and effect" noted one.
Ease of Install / Use
Installation was problem-free for our reviewers. Ease of initial use, however, is dependent on following along with a tutorial in the instruction manual. Our reviewers who attempted to use the program without taking this step, were uniformly frustrated. "Don't try it," said one father. The program is intuitive, but only after you learn about the components, and how they interact.
Maxis has taken the approach in this package, that learning comes from doing. There is no sitting back and just watching in Widget Workshop. Creating a widget that can achieve its design goals, is a hands- (and mind-) on experience. Simple examples include building a calculator, a color mixer, and musical instrument using the heartbeats of different size animals. If your child likes a challenge, this program will provide it!
Proxy Parent Value
'Proxy Parent Value' is SuperKids' measure for how well a title captured a child's interest, while providing a source of learning. WW was clearly captivating in our tests with older children, especially those with an interest in solving problems. (WW was also captivating for parents with a similar inclination, especially those with an engineering background.)
WW is labelled as being designed for kids 8 and above. We found greater interest in the "above" range, rather than the 8 year-old crowd. The younger children needed more parental hand-holding to work through the instructions, and then to tackle the more difficult problems.
Widget Workshop is one of the best programs we've seen, both in terms of interactivity and in its focus on stimulating thinking, rather than rote memorization and drills.
See also the:
Summary Rating Table for Science Software
|Operating System||Win95 or Windows 3.1 or higher||System 7.0 or later|
|CPU Type and Speed||386/DX or faster||68030 or above|
|Hard Drive Space||n/a||n/a|
|Memory (RAM)||8 MB||4 MB|
|Graphics||256 color monitor SVGA||256 color monitor|