This app has a lot of potential to be used both in school and also outside of school in the home setting to help improve both reading and writing skills: especially with those students that struggle with their literacy.
There are 3 different versions of this app and they relate to the ways that the user can access them. This is the student or home version and is therefore more directed towards to individual. There is also the lite version which is a slightly ‘watered’ down version, as you would expect, and finally a classroom version, coming in at the more expensive end of £69.99. The classroom version includes a getting started guide as well as the ability to set up 30 users on the system. However, you cannot delete users so these 30 licenses must be used sensibly. The developer also has a website which contains some FAQs about the app and also some further information to help guide usage.
On opening the app the user is immediately given 3 different options; An Introduction, Let’s Go, and Results. On clicking on the Introduction tab the user is taken to a different window where there is an explanation and guideline on how to make the most out of the app. This is an extremely formative guideline giving over lots of information which includes the recommended length of the test as well as the research behind the product. Probably the most informative part though is the section on working with the learner. This gives a real good basis for using the test with the individual and how to structure the session as well as how to get the most out of each of the sessions. There is also information in this section on the types of help that a user can access in completing the tests and further information on the sentences themselves.
The app is extremely easy to use and the user can quickly and simply move through the menus and back to the homepage and navigate through the rest of the app. This is helped by the simple design and usability where the content is the most important feature rather than the look of the app.
The next option on the home screen menu takes you into the main content of the app. This is preceded by a small window where you can select which level you would like to go from. This ranges from 1-8 with the higher the number indicating the difficulty level. Once this is selected then a new window opens where the main content of the app is. In the window you are given the sentence that the user will be reading and spelling as well as some further information. For instance at the top of the screen you can see clearly which level you are currently on and which group of sentences you are also on (the sentences are grouped 4 at a time). You are also given the number of attempts it has taken you to get the sentence correct. At the bottom of the page there is also further guidance on how the user can use certain ‘interventions’ to help them get the sentence correct. These include thinking about the look of the words, whether they sound right or whether the user has any prior knowledge of similar words that may be able to help them. This is perfect in helping the user become more independent in their reading and writing and instilling in them strategies they can use to guide their work and the importance of reflection in their work too.
The sentences are the main part about the app and the aim is for the user to listen and read to the sentence and then attempt to spell it. To help them access the sentence they can have it read out loud to them. This is where my main criticism lies with the app. The app utilises the text to voice application but the speed and pronunciation can be really unclear. This can result in some words sounding very different to what they should be such as ‘did’ sounding like didn’t. However, on their website the developer is clearly aware of this and states that they are looking at ways to slow the speed the speed of the text down. Once the user feels they have an understanding of what the sentence is and that they are confident in attempting to spell it they click on the ‘spell’ option. This hides the original sentence so the user has to remember and use the suggested strategies to attempt to get the sentence correct. Once they have done this they can submit their version. In the app guide it goes into detail about how the user should use the strategies to make sure they are confident with their answer before they submit. Again, this is really good in teaching students strategies to help them proof read and correct their work.
Once the user has submitted their answer they can then compare the sentence they have written to that of the original sentence. If they need to they can also have the sentence played out to them again. When the user gets the sentence correct they can then move onto the next one.
Once the user has finished they are able to go back to the main menu where they can click on the final tab, the results one. This window allows them to see each of the sentences and the success as well as the number of attempts for each one. This is a really useful guide in helping to target and personalise the learning for the user. They can clearly see which ones they either got incorrect or which ones they struggled on, highlighted by a higher number of attempts. These can then be revisited to maximise the usefulness of the app and the learning of the individual.
Overall this app has many excellent uses but importantly is a real good app for students in helping them to improve their reading and writing. There is plenty of support within the app to help users make the most of all the features. Although there are 8 different levels of difficulty within the app I would certainly suggest that there could be a higher level version created to help older students who are struggling with their literacy. With the usability of app and the structure being so good I could see an app like this being used with students through KS2&3 if the sentences were created at the correct level.