Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Teach Me Kindergarten

Teach Me Kindergarten was created by 24x7digital LLC and was awarded 2nd place in education in the 2010 Best App Ever Awards. Mimi Mouse, the "teacher" aims to teach both basic reading and math skills. Price $0.99
Device Requirements: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad; Requires iOS 3.0 or later

Developmental Appropriateness: Teach Me Kindergarten presents kids with items that target addition, subtraction, spelling, and sight words. Let's start with the math - overall, these items are probably aimed for older or more advanced kindergarteners. While most kindergarteners can add simple math problems, they usually do not start learning subtraction until the latter half of the school year. A good usage of Mimi Mouse is that she provides help when a child is struggling with a particular problem. You can add or take away the number of objects needed to solve the problem and then Mimi Mouse will help you count the remaining objects when you tap on them. I wish she was as useful when it comes to the reading items. Mimi Mouse does not provide much help when it comes to choosing the right letter to complete a word or choosing the right word other than to say that you are right or wrong. She could provide the letter-sounds instead of repeatedly asking for the name of the letter. She could also break up the word once it's completed to reinforce the letter-sounds and phonemes. For the sight words, the creators use words for the Dolch word list, which is a very popular word list used in many curricula.

In terms of motor skills, it's all pretty easy to use. I just wonder why the creators chose to make you drag the answers on some of the items instead of just tapping on it. Although I think that most kids will pick up how to use it pretty quickly, research has shown that young kids have more trouble with drag and drop than just tapping on something.

So overall, these are all appropriate skills for kindergarteners. Another plus is that you can set the difficulty, by advancing the levels to suit the player. However, from the title, I thought there would be more. These two skills for math and two skills for reading are only a part of the kindergarten curriculum. Rating: 4/5 (aim for 5 years of age)

Balance: This is the first app that really made me notice that some apps are created with the intention of a game first and then making it educational while other apps are created with the intention of teaching first, and then adding in game elements. This is clearly the latter. While I am an advocate for "less is more", I think I actually would like "more" in this app! Mimi Mouse's voice is pretty robotic and as I pointed out already, I think she could be more useful and provide more support. Also, when a problem is solved, it could use more animation to reinforce the item, like highlighting the syllables as they are read, or repeating that 5+2 is 7 and highlighting each part of the math problem. Rating: 3.5/5

Sustainability: This app has a good amount of incentives. As you get more items correct, you collect coins that then allow you to buy stickers. The app provides a few backgrounds that can then be filled with stickers to create a fun picture that can be printed out. Many reviews mentioned how much their child loved collecting the stickers and creating the pictures. I could see adding features such as records of getting xx correct in a row and entering a mode that's timed to test math fluency and then having high scores just to break up the tasks a bit, especially since not everyone may be a sticker enthusiast. Rating: 4/5

Parental Involvement: Parents have a lot of control with this app. They can set the types of questions they want their child to focus on, the level of difficulty, when their child can get a coin, etc. There is also a general measure of how well their child is doing on each of the four types of questions. While this is a definite plus, as it encourages parents to check in on their child's progress, it could be more informative. A parent could see that their child may not be doing as well on the subtraction problems and then set the game to present more subtraction problems (I assume this is what the app means for parents to do). This may not work with all kids - some might get too frustrated (even with Mimi Mouse's help), or bored. Parents should think of other ways and activities to help their child with what they are struggling with. Rating: 4/5

Total: 15.5 out of 20 = 4 stars

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