She also said her students loved the main character of Sammy Smart so much that several students wanted to repeat the program right away.
“With an animated character, there’s a little more to look at. It’s a little more fun, more pleasing to the eye,” said Jeff Campbell, a former Nickelodeon animator who designed, animated, and voiced Sammy.
He said that after testing Sammy as a superhero and as a cat, he intentionally designed the character to look unrecognizable.
“I just wanted him to look so different than anything anyone had ever seen, so kids would say, ‘Wow! What’s he all about?’” he said.
For the middle school program, Sammy Smart grows up slightly to be CyberSam. He loses his baby wings—in the same way that “baby teeth fall off,” said Campbell—and he acquires a ball cap and backpack. For the high school students, CyberSam changes into a flannel shirt and hipster jeans, speaks in a lower voice, and often says “dude.”
Sammy grows with the students so that they can relate to him as they complete the course year after year, Campbell said.
Although students sometimes repeat the same course material—for example, the lessons are the same for all four years of high school—Shigemasa said she did not anticipate redundancy being a problem.
Almost all of the questions have multiple possible answers, so “maybe next time [a student] will make a different decision just to see what happens,” she said.
Shigemasa said her students, whom she described as “very adept at multiple-choice tests,” enjoyed the difficulty of the questions.
Many of the questions were written so that “one might be better than the other, but the other might not be wrong. … You had to think about it,” she said.
Shigemasa praised the program as an effective use of technology: “You want [students] to create, to produce, to be engaged, to think and to make choices—this program is designed as [an opportunity for] higher-level, real-world, critical thinking.”
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