Monday, February 13, 2012

Alphatots

Alphatots was created by Spinlight Studio and is designed to teach your little ones the alphabet by capitalizing on what digital media has to offer. When reviewing apps, I always ask, "Could I have done this same activity with traditional materials (i.e. books, flashcards, etc.)?" I look for apps that show me why I should spend my money on it instead of using what I may already have or buying the traditional version. Alphatots does so. Price: $0.99

Device Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later.
Android:  Requires 2.2 and up.


Developmental Appropriateness: The alphabet takes years for children to fully understand. At first children learn the sequence, usually through the alphabet song. Next, they start to learn the individual letters, but not in sequential order. They tend to learn letters that are linked to say their own first name or something they know, such as "K" for "Katie" or I think the most commonly seen in books is "A" for "Apple." This app presents both the alphabet song and each letter linked to a common word. Where this app differs from your typical alphabet book or activity is that the words they link to are verbs, adverbs, or adjectives like "quiet" or "grow" - words that are harder to demonstrate in static form. For each letter, children have to complete an interactive activity that demonstrates the linked word. There is also a voiceover that provides a bit of reinforcement with some humor. This app is great for young kids just learning the alphabet because it combines both a traditional and effective way to present the letters and also demonstrates how technology can help enhance that experience.



The app falls just a little short in a few places. First, although on the main screen, you can switch the letters from uppercase to lowercase, within each activity, both are present. The words only use the lowercase, and the uppercase letter is right next to the word. Children learn the upper case first. So the presentation of the word in the corner may be a little confusing to the younger kids and could in general be more prominent on the screen. Maybe present the word twice, with both upper- and lower-case?Second, the voice over could repeat and further reinforce the letter to word linkage so that the child does not shift his or her focus completely over to the interactive element. It's only said once for each activity. It should at least also be repeated at the completion of the activity. Or even show the letter and word again, emphasizing the first letter. Finally, some of the activities may be hard for the younger children. Rating: 4/5 (aim for around 3 years).

Balance: The overall presentation is very clean. Again, I would add in more repetition and emphasis of the letter and word so that the kids don't forget about them as they engage in the activities. Also, some activities present a tool to use (i.e. with "grow" you would tap on the shovel and drag it to start digging)  while other activities just require you to use your finger (i.e. to cut the strings on balloons, you would just drag your finger through the string - no scissors or tools are shown). This may be a little confusing for kids to know what to do at first. Rating: 4/5

Sustainability: The activities are fun and not only help with letter knowledge by vocabulary as well. You can go through them in sequence or select individual letters. Kids will probably pick favorites based on the letters they like (like ones related to their name) and activity. It would be great if there were different rounds with different words and activities. Having a library of words would be something an app could do that a more traditional format could not. Rating: 4/5

Parental Involvement: Parents should repeat and elaborate the letter linkage and meanings of the words so that it reinforces the purpose of each activity. Given the young age of the target age here, this is should be an activity to do together, so this is a nice and interesting change from a typical letter book or flashcards.  Rating: 4/5

Total: 16 out of 20: 4 stars


Disclosure: I received this app for review for free from the developers.

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