Name: Word Magic by anusen.com
Designed for iPhone and iPad
0.99 available in iTunes
As I explore more and more apps on mobile devices, I notice that many of the educational apps billed as instructional tools could actually be used as an assessment tool for teachers. Take for example, Word Magic. This little app could be a quick way for teachers to assess young students' phonological awareness and letter/sound correspondence. Phonological awareness simply refers to the ability to hear the sounds in words. Letter/sound correspondence is applying the correct letter to the sound in the word. Both phonological awareness and letter/sound correspondence are critical skills for young children to develop as they aid in the ability to decode words. Moreover, several studies have demonstrated that these skills are predictive of latter reading success. Phonological awareness skills includes such abilities as rhyming, blending, identifying syllables, segmenting sounds in a word, and hearing initial, medial (middle), and ending sounds.
Word Magic is an app that allows children to demonstrate their ability to identify the correct beginning, medial, and ending letter in a word. In this app, a colorful picture is presented to the child along with a voice over stating what the picture is. Below the picture is the correct spelling of the word however one letter in either the beginning, medial, or ending position is omitted (depending upon the level selected). So, for example, a picture of a wand would present along with a child's voice stating "wand". Below the picture, a random selection of four letters are provided and users choose the correct option.
Users have the option of having sound or no sound. If a child incorrectly chooses a letter, the voice over says "you can do it" and the child tries again. Likewise, the app has several features which include ability level (users choose level one or two; in the advanced level, two letters are omitted instead of one). Users also have the option of sound or no sound, word length (from 3-6), and challenge time.
The Good: Overall, I found this a decent app especially as a quick way for teachers to assess a child's ability to hear sounds in words and/or correspond those sounds to the right letter. However, if a child does struggle with this app, a discerning teacher will need to reassess and discover if it is hearing sounds that is giving the child difficulty or letter/sound correspondence. They are two distinct abilities. Students can also use this app to practice phonological skills and letter/sound correspondence.
The Bad: Unfortunately, this app is not instructional in my opinion. It merely allows a child to practice some emerging literacy skills. If this were an instructional tool, a child would be able to slow the app down and hear the sounds that were confusing. Likewise, the child would be able to press the list of letter options to hear the sounds they make and continue on with an appropriate guess. Also, it should be noted that a child's voice says the picture's name. Although most of the time, I found the words clear to understand, there were occasionally times when words were confusing to hear.
Overall, I give this app a sideways thumb. It has some potential for assessment when used properly. Is good for practice but is not meant for instruction.