Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Kumon Uppercase ABC's - Learn to Trace Letters

Kumon Uppercase ABC's was created by Kumon Publishing North America, Inc. Kumon is one of the largest after school math and reading enrichment programs. So they should know what they are doing when designing an educational app, right? Price: $3.99

Device Requirements: Compatible with the iPad. Rquires iOS 3.2 or later.

Developmental Appropriateness: In the last post, we talked about the beginning steps to learning the alphabet. This app moves us a few steps further in the process - recognizing letter-sounds and learning how to write uppercase letters. In the letter-sounds activity, you are presented with three letters and asked to pick the one that makes the target letter-sound. It is very clear and it has a nice repeating of the letter and letter-sound. In the tracing activity, there are three steps to tracing each letter. First, it shows you the direction of order of each line/movement. Then you have to do it again, with just the direction, but no ordering, and finally, neither direction nor order is given. This is a nice progression to make sure you know how to write each letter. It's a little finicky - as you MUST stay within the outline for it to be correct. However, at the same time, if you draw a zig-zag or squiggly line instead of a straight one, but in the right direction and stay within the lines, it still counts as correct. So maybe some finessing of the program is needed. You can choose to do the letters in order, in random order, or in "Kumon" order. The Kumon order puts it in what they felt are easier letters to write (i.e. "L") to harder letters (i.e. "S"). While the ordering may be true, I'm not sure if it's the best order for kids. As I mentioned in the last post, kids do not learn the individual letters sequentially, but rather by what they are familiar with, such as the first letter of their name or objects or words they see regularly. Thus, the order in which kids learn the alphabet is specific to that kid's surroundings and experiences. Wouldn't it be best to also learn to write the letters in the order that they learn the letters? Finally, at the completion of each letter, you are presented a picture that links to that letter ("A" for Ant). This is a good way to link further enforce the letter to letter-sound, but it never actually says, "A if for Ant" or in anyway highlight the letter A. Rating: 4/5 (aim for around 4 years)

Balance: The app is pretty simple. The pictures in the tracing part are even in black and white. Some you can move and some don't. I'd make this consistent. Also, in the letter-sound game, it would be nice to provide the sounds of the incorrect answers so we can hear the contrast. Otherwise, it's a very focused educational app. Rating: 4/5

Sustainability: There are basically no incentives here - it's a drill of these skills. You get a "certificate" that will be emailed to you with your child's name on it when he or she completes all 26 letters. There's no instant gratification for the child, and I'm not sure how many parents will follow through with printing out the certificate. A frustrating aspect is that it does not retain your progress. So you have to start over every time. In the tracing game, you cannot pick and choose what letters to trace, you only have the option of the three orders. This may be an app to do when you have more time, rather than a quick "while waiting in the car" app so that the child can get through all the letters and not just keep doing the same ones in the beginning - in which case will be boring. I guess you can choose the random ordering, but that still doesn't ensure that all the letters get covered. Rating: 2/5

Parental Involvement: Parents can watch over, but this is essentially a one player app. It would be nice for parents to know what letters their child struggled more with - maybe have some record of which ones took more attempts or more time to complete on the tracing or which letter-sounds they did not get on the first try. This way, parents can stay more involved and know where their child needs more help. Rating: 3/5

Total: 13 out of 20: 3 stars

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

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