Thursday, May 16, 2013

Endless Alphabet

First off, let me say that Endless Alphabet is a great app from Callaway Digital Arts Inc. It's a super creative and hugely popular app but here's my problem: the title. It's a way better spelling and vocabulary app than it is an alphabet app! In fact, I think it's a poor app for learning the alphabet, especially if used without further reinforcement and support. So parents - get this app, but be careful who you get it for and how you use it. Price - Free (beware of ads though - can purchase ad removal for $0.99)

Device Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 or later. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.

Developmental Appropriateness: This app covers a lot - Letters, phonics, spelling, vocabulary. I think it does a great job for spelling and vocabulary, and even phonics - for kids who have already started to learn phonics. For kids who are just learning their letters and phonics, this may not be so great. It's well, just too cute! It's too distracting. Sure, these younger kids may be engaged and even repeat the letters and sounds, but that does not mean they understand what they are playing with. Being able to repeat the sounds they hear is step one of many to actually learning and understanding letters. A better measure of if they "learned" the letters is to see if they recognize the letters outside the context of the app, in various forms. Kids don't fully understand the alphabet until about 6 years of age - when they are reading. Kids are able to repeat the sounds they hear not because this is a great app, but because they are kids who are at the ideal age where they are learning to produce sounds and talk in general. Do I think younger kids CAN learn from this app? Yes - but I think only with reinforcement from parents to connect the information from the app to other examples of the letters and letter associations and with repeated exposure. Do not get me wrong on this last point - I am NOT saying have your kids play with this app as much as possible, I am saying that they will learn better once the novelty of all the cuteness dissipates.

My fear is that parents of 3 yos or even younger are the ones getting this app - because it's called "Endless ALPHABET" when really it should be parents of around 5 yos who should be getting this app to help strengthen phonics, learn new words and how to spell them. Rating: 3 for 3yo (points for that this is in fact a highly engaging app for this age), 5 for 5yo, so an average of 4/5 stars.

Balance: I think it's ok for the older kids. They know their alphabet and that letters have sounds associated with them. They can get past the cutesy-ness and learn. But like I said, this is too much for the younger kids. Perhaps if the developers specified an age group and titled their app more appropriately (seriously, I think they are selling themselves short as it doesn't mention their best features!) I wouldn't have a problem. But they don't, and I think it's misleading. Rating: 3/5

Sustainability: Kids and even adults will find this engaging. The ever growing word bank also helps give this app longevity. Rating: 5/5

Parental Involvement: There's not much here to help parents be more proactive. Parents should take it upon themselves to play the app together and relate the letters and words to real world experiences. They can even have their own little spelling bees to practice the words they just learned. Rating: 3/5

Total: 15 out of 20 = 4 stars

And don't forget to take this super quick survey on parental gating! Case in point with Endless Alphabet - should the ads here have gating on it?
Click here to take the survey!!
The survey's for parents, teachers, developers, and whoever else. The more responses, the better the results - Help spread the word!

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