By John Painter on Tue, 11/30/2010
How can you help your child learn the English alphabet? How do you do that and keep track of their improvement? Why don't you give Akshara (.99), by Rega Interactive a try? In the mean time, I was given a copy of the app for evaluation by the developer and will give you a run down of the features. For the past few weeks I've been using the app on an iPhone 3G running iOS4 and it has been working great, though there are some issues, I'll go over them further on.
I've let a few friends and their kids play with the app too, and everyone likes the concept, lay out, and the ability to track how the learning is progressing, though this really is a feature parents or teachers will probably be more interested in than kids. One of the secondary possibilities for this app, because of how it's designed, I think, is to help people wanting to learn English as a second language. It's well designed for the adult learner too.
When you run the app you're treated by the alphabet song, which is really a good concept since it's still taught to children at home, Pre-K and Kindergarten, and is an important cultural cue in the U.S. this is actually one of the features which makes it good for children and adults in other countries. You are also given the menu of Learn, Play, More Games, and Help, which are self-explanatory. Actually there are there are a couple of activities within this app, the first one is just learning the order and pronunciation of the alphabet, this is very straightforward. The next activity is more challenging because you have to remember the order of the alphabet and tap the correct letter on the screen. When you do that you see a picture which corresponds with that letter and you get an audio cue whether your selection was correct or not. This is timed and accuracy recorded. The app is well laid out, with buttons, which might be a tad small for an adult with thick fingers, but I was able to use it without a hitch, and children will have no problem.
But here is where things are a little off. There are four letters in which pictures are confusing, and one, and basically everyone I showed this app to had the same comments that these letters seemed a bit off, so let's start there. The letter G shows the picture of a pistol (which I assume represents gun) and while a lot families might have a gun it's also something a lot of families don't have and might not want to associate with learning at an early age. The next letter which has an issue is J, which shows a video game controller that I assume stands for joy stick, while the letter N has an image of an acorn (which is technically a nut but every kid who tried it said acorn) for nut, then the letter R has a bunch of what looks like parsnips but I'm guessing is actually white radish (but the adults called it Daikon), then finally X shows a picture of a Christmas tree, which is undoubtedly in reference to often used slang X-Mas.
I think these are fairly easy fixes in future versions of the app, and hope the developers select some images less confusing e.g. G for grapes, J for jam (like you put on your toast), N for nut (but the nut you screw onto a bolt), R for rat, and X for Xylophone or similar less confusing words.
I like the app, and am even more hopeful for its potential for teaching English as a second language. I just wish some of pictures and the letters of the alphabet they represent were a bit less confusing.