App Title: iTouchiLearn Words
Grade Level: Pre-K, Kinderbound, Kindergarten
Developer Website: http://www.staytoooned.com/
iTunes Link: Click Here
A student's knowledge of word meanings, or oral vocabulary, plays a key role in reading comprehension. The iTouchiLearn Words app for iPhone and iPod Touch provides young learners with an opportunity to engage in vocabulary building practice. Developed by Staytoooned, the cover screen indicates that the app is designed to "learn words through entertaining animations."
The iTouchiLearn Words app provides early learners with 2 game modes. The first is related to word identification, the second, receptive vocabulary. "ABC" mode is a "Touch the Word" game. In this mode, the child is asked to listen as a word is pronounced and then touch to identify that word.
Receptive vocabulary involves understanding of spoken words, and "Magnifying Glass" mode works in this regard. It is a "Touch the Picture" game where the child listens to a spoken word and then identifies the appropriate picture. "Magnifying Glass" mode reminds me very much of the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT), a norm-referenced measure of receptive language that is widely used in schools across the United States.
A third learning mode is also available in iTouchiLearn Words. This mode allows the learner to play each of the 15 animations. While it is not exactly a game, a nice aspect of this third mode is the way the animations help to add context to vocabulary instruction for the early learner.
At first glance, it seems like the purpose of this app is good. If you take a quick look at the ABOUT page of Staytooned website, it becomes quite apparent that the developers of the app are really trying to create an educationally beneficial learning experience for children. However, a more thorough inspection reveals that the purpose of the iTouchiLearn Words app could greatly benefit from some refinement.
The primary downfall of this app is the considerable disparity in the developmental levels required for a child to be successful in "ABC" mode versus "Magnifying Glass" mode. Identifying letters and words requires a much higher cognitive understanding of letters and sounds than receptive vocabulary tasks seen in the "Magnifying Glass" mode. I don't personally feel like a pre-K student who has a limited receptive vocabulary will be successful at all with "ABC" mode. I'd recommend that in future versions of the app that these two games be split and each become their own app.
Program Functionality: B
This app is easy to navigate from an interface standpoint and very user friendly for early learners. Other nice features include a prominent HOME icon that allows easy access back to the main menu and a nice set of written instructions.
I really like the way the Magnifying Glass game is set-up. The audio of the word is played while 3 different images are displayed. The images are slightly grayed out until the audio completes. Once the word is spoken, the images become accessible and the student can tap on the corresponding picture.
One functionality I'd like to see added to iTouchiLearn Words is some sort of record keeping mechanism. While the app provides visual and audio feedback to the user, it does not include a summative total. If there was some way for the app to record user and total score data for retrieval at a later time, I think this app would be far more valuable for a classroom, special education or ESL teacher.
Overall Educational Value: C
It seems that the app developers really had good intentions when they were designing iTouchiLearn Words. This is a good first attempt, but really an average vocabulary app. The animation/picture bank is extremely limited, so keeping students interested in coming back to this app again and again could be a challenge. Also, the number of vocabulary words you can teach or reinforce is limited by the animation bank.
I do feel like the app provides several indirect approaches to teaching vocabulary. This includes a third mode which allows the user to watch any/all animations in the bank while encouraging students to infer word meanings from context clues. A more robust picture/animation catalog would greatly improve this application.
I recommend this app for personal use and limited school use at this time. I feel this app would be most appropriate to supplement or enhance classroom instruction. Children will benefit from teacher or adult modeling of use, but most early elementary students should be able to operate independently after their first interaction with the app.
Classroom Use Examples / Ideas: I can see this app being used with 3-4 year-olds who are continuing to develop their receptive vocabulary. The "Magnifying Glass" activity would be great for use as a "Center" activity. Older children, in the 5-7 year-old range are probably best suited to use the app in "ABC" mode, as it requires knowledge of letter-sound correspondence.
I really see an area of growth for iTouchiLearn Words if the developers could come up with a way for teachers and parents to add their own vocabulary words and pictures via desktop computer and then sync that data to the iPod application. If this level of personalization was added to the app, I would feel much stronger about its long-term educational potential.
Be sure to check out our Ning (Online Community) devoted to helping teachers utilize iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad to the their fullest. Please leave a comment if you agree, disagree, or have other creative uses for this app in the classroom or at home.
Cross posted on Raised Digital