Manga High – A bit of an overview
Sunday, October 09th, 2011 | Author:

I wrote a few months ago about Manga High now that it was free and I thought I’d follow it up now that we have been using it for a bit. The last blog post was written just after the free launch and I have to say, prior to this I had never really looked at the site because of the cost. I remember seeing it at Bett a few times and thinking it was a lot of money to pay for online games and it didn’t look good enough for me to warrant exploring further. But now that we have dabbled a bit, I am quite impressed.

So, where to start? I probably should start with how easy it is to make classes and users, but I won’t, I’ll come back to that in a minute. We gave all of our children a log-in to the site in May of this year and we told them to go and play around. We have probably used the site for 1 lesson in two different maths groups. Many of the children are yet to see it or use it in school but have used it from home instead. This is an entirely free choice and we haven’t (yet) set it as homework. You can print out log-in cards for the children if you need to.

The main gist of the site is that the children log-in and can play a variety of maths games from KS2 (well, level 2) upwards. It is great for extending children as it includes year 7/8/9 objectives too. The children can play the maths games using a free-choice or the teacher can set challenges. The challenges can be assigned to a particular class or even one pupil. So I have just set some multiplication games for one maths group and they need to reach the silver badge to complete the challenge, but the more-able group might need to reach the gold level instead. The levels relate to points and sometimes the children can choose a harder game which is worth more points over an easier one which is worth less.

So from May-July we gave the children this free-choice and many went and explored. For each game, and for the whole school, there is a leaderboard. Now I have some doubts about this, as it could mean the less-able children never getting their name in lights, but I haven’t noticed that yet, all I have noticed is children playing more and more until they get on that board too. One of my favourite pastimes is to spend 10 minutes playing a game and setting a high score for the children to beat. They love the idea of beating the teacher! You also get challenges with other schools from time-to-time and the winner is the school with the most points over a few days. Not critical but it is a bit of fun.

Setting challenges is easy and you simply search by level or year group and you assign them to a class. It would be nice to choose from more games and not all of them seem to appear in the search options, but maybe that’s just me.

So for like-ability from the children, Manga High scores highly from the children. From the ICT coordinator in me it scores even higher.  Firstly it provides a school-based URL so that my children visit that URL and not just www.mangahigh.com, this helps because then it knows Bob Smith is MY Bob Smith and it doesn’t need a bunch of numbers after the log-in because there are 200 other Bob Smiths. Simple, but again not many providers give you this choice!

I discussed creating usernames and passwords before but Manga High sets the bar extremely high. Let’s start with the initial creation, it is all done simply using CSV files. It even gives you a demo one to edit. When you upload it asks you which column is the firstname, which is lastname and which is the class. **My tip? Also add a password column to provide children with a generic password, they can change this later, but it’s better than dolphin456 or whatever the site defaults to. When it comes to username creation, only 2Simple’s Purple Mash comes close for ease of use. I had 200 accounts created in seconds. However, last term we created them as year groups but this term we wanted to make them into maths sets instead. So, do I delete everyone and start again? Nope, it has it covered.

I started this term with a CSV of all the maths groups across the KS2 year groups (well I started with word docs from the staff, I had to make the CSVs myself but y’know). I had all of the children, I had the data and I used the same upload tool to create the accounts. Now, some children have left the school and others have joined but the tool manages this and shows a lovely graphical representation to show which accounts it thinks are new or not needed anymore. Better yet, it can link accounts so last year I had some Daniels e.g. Daniel Smith but this time I’d shortened it to Dan Smith and the system guessed they were linked, but then I had a Tom Smith in Y3 and a Bob Smith in last year’s y6 that it also guessed were linked, I told the tool it was wrong and the link was broken. Hard to explain, but amazing when you see it working. What it really means is that I didn’t get a new account for Dan because he had a Daniel account last year.

I’m sure it sounds baffling, but what it means is that usernames can be created or updated in seconds. When maths groups change later in the year, I’ll re-upload and it’ll shift everyone around for me and all of their achievements will have been saved. Which keeps them happy!!

My criticisms?

  • The leaderboards don’t refresh automatically, sometimes it can take a few hours (or days) before it changes. This is a shame as I’d love to be able to refresh the screen and make it a competitive maths lesson!
  • On a wireless system it can sometimes take a while to load the games due to their high quality
  • Err…the kids like the ‘shooty’ game a bit too much?
So give it a go and see if you can get on that top 10 schools leaderboard!