Sunday, October 19, 2014

This Works Like Magic

Have you seen this guy?  He is a toy by Hasbro called Magic Jinn.  This is basically a 20 questions toy, but with a few changes.  First, this version is only about animals.  Think of an animal.  Then Magic Jinn will ask you questions and try to guess what you're thinking of.  You can answer "yes," "no," "I don't know," or, my favorite, "It depends" and then he will come up with another question.  Also, he talks.  With a strange but charming accent and says very funny things.  It's hard to listen without smiling.

I first heard of Magic Jinn when I picked my daughter up from Girl Scouts a few weeks ago.  She wouldn't stop talking about how we HAD to get one.  This week I helped her troop with some water activities, so I got to see them use Magic Jinn during their circle time.  It was great to see the group of 15 third graders so quiet and attentive as they passed him around the circle, answering his questions, and dared him to guess "a snake."  They helped each other and worked as a team.  It seemed, at first glance, to be a silly toy, but the girls loved the activity and I was impressed at their use of teamwork as they played.

My daughter's persistence prevailed and we bought her a Magic Jinn to bring on a long car trip we took this weekend.  My daughter played with him a lot in the back seat, but when it was finally my turn, I thought I would stump him for sure with Triceratops.  At first the questions were simple enough:  Is it bigger than a microwave?  Does it mostly eat plants?  Does it have four feet?  Then came the question that let me know he was on to me:  Does this animal still exist?  It was just a couple more before he guessed it!  After a weekend of Jinn, I think he has only been stumped four or five times.

As we all played with Magic Jinn on the trip, I thought of use after use of this toy in a classroom.  Learning about animals?  Play Magic Jinn to test your knowledge of biomes and animals habitats.  Have students in a class compete against him to see if they are smarter than Magic Jinn.  Encourage good listening by asking the class to play as a team the way the Girl Scout troop did.  You could hear a pin drop as they passed him around.  Work on dichotomous keys.  Create some and then everyone can be Magic Jinn.  In fact, I like to use Google Forms to make dichotomous keys and I might get a Magic Jinn for me to take to PD sessions to help encourage teachers to use Forms that way!  For older students, talk and learn about the programming that makes Jinn work the way he does.  If nothing else, he is a fun reward for a job well done.

There is a Magic Jinn for animals and a Magic Jinn for foods.  There is an iOS app that will connect with the toy.  I might download that tomorrow.  I hate toys that talk.  And use batteries.  And don't allow for kids to DO something.  I can forgive all those things because this Magic Jinn really does seem to work like Magic.  This is one to put on your teacher gift list.  Like so many things that are not created for classrooms, this toy has great classroom potential.

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