As an educator, I recently took it upon myself to evaluate a few software programs for my students. One of them is called Missing Links (shown was M_ss_ng L_nks) and it is recommended for students in grades 3 to 8. It is published by Sunburst Technology.

This software program has only one activity, “M_ss_ng L_nks”. You are supposed to fill in the “missing links”. A passage is displayed and the student must read the passage, typing in the missing letters. All the missing letters are vowels. An example is ‘Th_ p_nn_ w_s m_d_ _nt_r_l_ _f c_pp_r’ (The penny was made entirely of copper)

Since the only missing links are vowels, I believe a skill targeted here is vowel and consonant recognition. Using context clues is important as well, for that is the main way for the reader to figure out what the word they are solving is. Additionally I believe spelling skills are being taught here, to a certain extent. Of course the children are reading, too.

Installation of the program was quick and easy. Directions were clear.

The activities in Missing Links were balanced. The player is required to fill in the missing letters from passages from novels, science information, and encyclopedias. The literature puzzles include passages from young adult novels like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

There is some music playing when the game starts up as well as when you complete the game. There is some animation but the graphics are primitive looking (as in a ’90s computer program). The game ran smoothly, without any glitches; however overall it was an uneventful program. There was no real competitive edge to the program and once you complete a few passages, boredom sets in.

My opinion of the program, if I was a child, is that, I am not very sure how much he or she would enjoy this game. There are no goals to strive for, no levels to attempt to beat, etc. When a puzzle ends the game tells you “Congratulations!” but then you must go back and start a new puzzle. I think students who enjoy reading would like this game though because you are essentially reading chapter books as you fill in the passages.

A benefit of this game is that it is easy to play alone, without adult guidance. I think it would maintain interest for short periods of time, like perhaps once a week in a computer class. It is an easy game to play if you only have 15 or so minutes, because it takes only a few to beat the puzzle. I also think this can maintain interest because the topics of the puzzles are very broad. There is something for everyone, whether it be history, science, fantasy, or realistic fiction.

As a teacher, I might use this program as an educational game, but I would not rely on this to teach new skills. This game did, however, reinforce learned skills. It can help the student improve his spelling, reading, and typing skills. This game is good to aid in fluency and speed. It could be used at school during free time. This game could be played at recess. It is definitely best played alone, since all students read at different speeds.

Missing Links is equally valuable in a school computer class or at home. It would be a good at-home activity because it does not feel like work, but the child is getting access to literature and encyclopedias.

A main disadvantage is that this game is quite easy to beat. Once you complete a puzzle, there is no desire to go back and try it again. A major advantage is the game’s simplicity. A child can learn how to play without having to read the instruction book.

Overall, I will give this game a 6/10. It is an OK program, but I do think it needs better graphics. It would benefit from being a race-the-clock kind of game, with a time limit, too.

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