Spotlight: Interland

I spent some time this week playing Interland, the new computer game Google released in order to help kids learn about digital citizenship and safety. In the game there are four different lands, each with a different challenge in hopes of teaching kids something about interacting with the digital world. Take a look at each of the screenshots from the end of each level to see what it seeks to teach. 

Tower of Treasure - Secure Your Secrets

This challenge involves weaving your way through a land, in a Mario Kart fashion, picking up different characters which you can use to create a secure password. Although your "Internaut" naturally moves forward, you need to direct it right and left to pick up the letters that are spewed throughout the course. However, the "hacker" wants to stop you. This means that if you run into something, you're going to drop two characters and the hacker is going to pick them up. Since we never really had video games growing up, it actually took me a while to make it through this level. I actually became really frustrated a few times. 

Things I loved: 

  • Shows students how to create strong passwords that include uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and symbols. 
  • Serves as a great introduction to the idea of a "hacker" and what they're trying to do. 
  • Great warm-up before helping students choose passwords.

Things I didn't:

  • It's the only "level" where spacebar means "jump"- that really messed me up in later levels.
  • Took too long to get through it (although, I'm sure kids would be much faster than me).

Mindful Mountain - Share with Care

In this level, you need to set your Internaut up to shoot a laser at a series of reflectors to ensure that you only share information with the intended parties (family, friends, no one). For each one it gives you a subject (i.e., an embarrassing picture of your little sister) and an intended audience (i.e., your family). You then need to work to avoid all other audiences on the board.

Things I loved: 

  • Helps to show students there is a time and a place for different types of information. 
  • Sometimes you send information (i.e., parent credit card information) to a secured safe, and nothing else.

Things I didn't:

  • Never forces the kid to think and decide which information is appropriate for the situation.
  • This was challenging for me - not sure which grade level they're aiming for here. 

Kind Kingdom - It's Cool to be Kind

This was the cutest level to me. You jump through the Kind Kingdom spreading love and stopping bullies. You start by spreading love to sad Internauts by sending them positive emojis. They quickly change from standing with slumped shoulders to standing tall and happy. It's precious. Then you start blocking the bullies (those making the Internauts sad in the first place) by putting them behind fences. But when that's not enough, you grab a megaphone and put it on the bully so that you're reporting their wrongs. Once your report them, they disappear from the scene. 

Things I loved: 

  • The whole idea of spreading kindness is just good. Precious.
  • Immediate visual change in response to your actions. 

Things I didn't: 

  • The way to tell on a bully is through a megaphone. That seems too easy to turn into bullying yourself.
  • That a big person = bully. I think it would be better to have them look just like everyone else. 

Reality River - Don't Fall for Fake

This level challenges you to choose the right answers to multiple choice questions in order to build a bridge across a river. It asks you questions about phishing, how to notice when something is spam, how to respond to chain emails, and more. Questions have two or three options to choose form: the wrong one puts you in the river, while the correct one gives you a new place to stand.

Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 8.44.52 AM.png

Things I loved: 

  • Real issues/scenarios that kids encounter on a daily basis.
  • Encourages talking with adults when kids don't know exactly what to do. 

Things I didn't: 

  • Assumes a large amount of background knowledge. I wonder how the game might also teach some of these things before quizzing them on them. 

Overall, I thought Google did a nice job of discussing these important topics in an engaging way. I can see using this in my classroom to start a conversation or even just to have students work through on their own. I do wonder, though, what age Google intended this for. I'd be interested to try it with kids of different ages to see what they can and cannot do. I also enjoyed taking a look at the other resources Google posted, including an educator guide that adds some more activities to do with students to continue the conversations from Interland.

Let's make the internet awesome together!