App Title: ABC Swap
Grade Level: PreK-2
Program Functionality: C
Overall Educational Value: B-
Recommendation: I found this app through one of the Free App of the Day Sites. It is still free, which in my mind always makes it worth taking out for a spin. It also doesn't raise expectations too high, however this app for it's simplicity yet variety surpassed the expectations I had.
When you open ABC Swap you see this screen with an Alligator and letters mixed up. Unless that is, the quiz mode is turned off, in which case you will see the word spelled correctly. Beneath the letters there are 4 icons. The first will take you back from any of the 26 screens (one for each letter) to the A screen. The second will speak the name of the picture. The third button flips the screen and allows the user to trace the upper and lower case letter with their finger. It also gives the pattern for creating the letter. This is my favorite aspect of the program. For children just learning how to write the alphabet I think this is pretty powerful. Although I did not check thoroughly, I do believe it uses the Zaner-Bloser styles.
The last button is for the preferences for which there are 4 setting you can change.
The first preference is for the Quiz Mode. You can turn the quiz mode on and off. With quiz mode on, the letters for the word are scrambled. This for me is what extends the use of the program a little beyond 1st grade. Some of the words are pretty simple, but others are a little more difficult, like alligator. In the quiz mode, the user drags the letters around until the word is spelled correctly. The app corrects you with each move of a letter, which is good in some ways, but gets tedious and is not specific enough in its correction. Each time is just says Try Again.
This impacts the second preference which is Auto Go To Next. If this is turned one, when a user spells a word correctly the screen will automatically advance to the next word.
The third preference is for the background music, which is basically bird and other nature noises. It can get a little irritating and distracting, but kids will like it.
The final preference is for the size of the pen you trace the letters with. the default is medium and seems to be the best size for the activity.
To move back and forth through the screens you simply swipe left or right.
Now, the test is how a child would react to this app, so I let my 5 year-old grandson have at it for awhile. He liked flipping through the screens and hearing the names of the animal. He flipped a few of the screens to trace letters, but that didn't hold his interest for very long. He did actually like having the quiz turned on and worked to get the words spelled. The longer ones frustrated him which I suspected they would.
Next I gave it to the 3 year-old. He didn't care at all about the tracing, but he loved flipping through the screens and hearing the names of the animals and repeating them. This leads to my biggest criticism of the program.
The app never gives the sound or name of the letter. It only speaks the name of the animal. It seems for an app called ABC anything you should probably here the sound and/or name of the letter. For this reason alone my wife (a kindergarten teacher) was not enthused about the app. This could be fixed in an update, but I don't know if the developer has the inclination to do so. This was previously a paid app, I don't know if the reduction to free is temporary or permanent. I will try to contact the developer to see if there are any plans for upgrades and what the pricing will be going forward.
All in all I think this app might have a place in some classrooms, but with a few refinements could be much more helpful in teaching the alphabet and sounds to children.
Classroom Use Examples / Ideas: I really like the variety of activities for such a simple app. For a K-2 teacher the handwriting aspect is interesting. I think this app would work pretty well in a center of 4-5 iPods/iPads in a K-2 classroom.
Developer Website: http://touchnology.blogspot.com/
ITunes Link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abc-swap-flashcard/id313357256?mt=8
Reviewer Name: Kelly Dumont
Reviewer Blog: http://www.theeducationalmac.com