Disclaimer: Mingoville Fun Clock has been an EDUKWEST sponsor in the past.
Last year, the New York Times reported that analog wristwatches were experiencing something of a fashion “renaissance,” as chic young urbanites, accustomed to checking mobile phones or other gadgets for the time of day, grew nostalgic for the stylish way a watch ties an outfit together. Few will deny the visual appeal of a shiny timepiece on one’s wrist. I have personally been wearing the same watch for several years. It’s analog, and actually rather difficult to read. In fact, it has only two vertical hash marks on its face: one at 12, and one at 6. I have been told on more than one occasion, “I can’t read your watch,” and I have even picked it up and tried to read it upside down before (very confusing). Could it be that we are now so habituated to reading the time in a digital numeric format that our skills for reading analog clocks are greatly suffering?
The Common Core State Standards Initiative, which has been adopted by the majority of the United States, recommends that children learn to tell and write time from analog clocks within five minutes of accuracy by second grade, and to be within one minute of accuracy by third grade. While telling time is certainly an important and useful skill, there is remarkably little research in developmental psychology on learning how to tell time. Case and colleagues (1996) found that while analog clocks are ubiquitous in classrooms and school hallways, children receive very little direct instruction in how to tell time.
As mentioned on a previous episode of C12, Stephan Stephensen and the team at Mingoville recognized a unique opportunity for teaching the important skill of how to read analog clocks by using digital touchscreen devices. Thus, Mingoville Fun Clock was born.
The app is available for several languages for both iOS and Android devices. The version I previewed included options for Italian, English, (Mandarin) Chinese, and French. With increasing levels of difficulty, an animated flamingo named Jonathan takes the user through the placement of numbers and hands on an analog clock, and asks them to identify times accurate to the hour, half hour, quarter hour, five minutes, and one minute, as the levels increase in difficulty. The game requires the player to show their time telling knowledge by indicating where hands should be either by placing a ball in the correct spot, or by moving the hands to the accurate time, and also quizzes them in a multiple choice format. An engaging character (Jonathan) and storyline (the clock is broken at the train station) guides the user through with humorous dialogue. Each round is untimed, but errors are taken into account when you are trying to advance through each level.
I think that Mingoville Fun Clock is an interesting way to teach kids a skill that is important and applicable to more than just reading analog clocks. As Chris mentioned in his interview with Mingoville CEO Stephan on C12, understanding the spatial layout of a clock also has implications for fractions as well as geometry.
One suggestion I have is to work on localization a bit. As Mingoville is a European company, I found certain phrases used in the English version relatively unfamiliar, though still understandable in American English. In my experience, “half past” the hour is used with far lower frequency than “three thirty,” and there are regional differences in using “quarter to” (sometimes “quarter of”) and “quarter past” (or “quarter after”). When it came to smaller increments of time, a phrase like “13 minutes to 7” also seemed a bit odd to my American ears. Interestingly, when using the Mandarin version, I found the opposite linguistic issue to be true for the “half hour” level. The Chinese speaking Jonathan would read times off like “八點三十分,” which roughly translates as “8 o’clock, 30 minutes,” but in reality I typically hear times spoken in Mandarin as “八點半,” or (approximately) “8 o’ clock half.”
Overall, I enjoyed exploring the Mingoville Fun Clock in both English and Mandarin, and certainly recommend it for youngsters who might need some help with their clock skills. Check it out on the App Store or Google Play!
- Case, R., Marra, K., Bleiker, C., & Okamoto, Y. (1996). Central spatial structures and their development. In R. Case & Y. Okamoto (Eds.), The role of central conceptual structures in the development of children’s thought. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 61 (1-2, Serial No. 246), 103-130.
- Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. Retrieved October 26, 2011, from Common Core State Standards Initiative from http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_Math%20Standards.pdf
- Williams, A. (2011). Watches Are Rediscovered by the Cellphone Generation. New York Times, Retrieved May 20, 2012, from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/07/fashion/watches-are-rediscovered-by-the-cellphone-generation.html?pagewanted=all