Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Review & Giveaway of Laureate First Words, a highly customizable app that teaches first words developmentally

Purpose of App: Introduces children to 50 nouns common in early learning in developmental order.
Strengths: Unbelievable customization and statistical reports. Detailed instructions including a helpful hints section. Ability to create multiple profiles. Well laid out developmental track, using groups of five words in developmental order to progress
Weaknesses: Can be a little overwhelming when first starting. Cannot view Zot's animated clips using the words separate from lessons.
Suggested Audience: Children working on early speech development. Beneficial for home use or group and individual therapy sessions.

Bottom Line: Laureate First Words aims to teach children, especially those with special needs, 50 common first words in developmental order. This highly customizable app is able to be tailored to fit a child's specific needs. With the ability to create unlimited user profiles and generate detailed reports this app would be perfect in speech therapy, but could also be highly beneficial in a home setting.

Meets Intended Goal
Worth the Price
Ease of Use
Educational Value
Level of Customization

If you would like to download Laureate First Words ($9.99, iPad Only), please show your support by using our link:

Links to developer website and iTunes

Laureate First Words by Laureate Learning Systems, Inc. is an amazingly robust early language app. Teach 50 nouns common in early language development to build expressive language skills. Words are introduced five at a time to help reinforce learning and not overwhelm young children. Through in-depth customization options and detailed reports it is easy to tailor and monitor progress in this app.

The words included in developmental order are: Dog, Ball, Book, Cup, Car, Juice, Nose, Shoes, Banana, Keys, Cookie, Bathtub, Milk, Telephone, Bed, Cat, Mouth, TV, Bird, Eyes, Spoon, Teddy Bear, Foot, Socks, Door, Toothbrush, Hair, Brush, Balloon, Apple, Chair, Ear, Rabbit, Hat, Toes, Flower, Doll, Hand, Shirt, Stairs, Window, Horse, Bread, Tree, Airplane, Cow, Truck, Fingers, Fish and Swing.

The concept seems simple enough--a child is shown two cards with pictures on them. The pictures can be either drawings or photographs. The narrator pronounces a word and optionally the text is displayed on the screen. The child must then select which picture matches the given word. The layout changes slightly as the child's level progresses and details for each level are clearly laid out within the app.

The app tracks and progresses the child's level as he advances. Progress for each word can be viewed on the Vocabulary section on the main menu as well as within the Reports section. In the Vocabulary section, users can also remove specific words from being used within the lessons.

Children are given a set amount of time to select the correct picture. If a selection is not made within the set time, then the response is not marked as correct and the child is shown the correct response. Also, anytime the incorrect picture is selected the correct picture is displayed along with the text and audio pronunciation. There is no buzzer or negative reinforcement given for wrong answers. The correct response is provided and the lesson moves on. This is a great benefit for children who find it fun to make buzzers or big X marks appear and purposefully select the wrong answers.

After a session is complete, Zot, the little animated stick character gives short animated skits showing different words. The narrator asks something along the lines of, "What is Zot up to?" Zot then states a given word multiple times while interacting with a picture of that noun. This reinforces not only the name of a given object, but what it is or how it can be used in complete sentences. "This is a picture of my bed. I sleep in my bed."

The animations starring Zot are only available after a lesson has been completed. I wish there were a way to watch Zot and specify which word groupings he reviews at any time. Though this is a great little incentive for completing a lesson, it could also be an informative session on its own. Also, it would be nice to pause Zot to give a chance for an adult to prompt the child to also use the word in a complete sentence before moving on to the next skit.

Lessons can be paused or exited by tapping twice in a lower corner of the screen. There is no visual prompt for this on the screen once started. As long as the user knows of this option, it is easy and there is nothing to distract or prompt a child to exit on their own. There is a popup explanation before each session begins to inform and remind users how to pause and exit a lesson.

When a session is completed the adult can view the session status. Statistics include how long the session lasted, what the duration was set at, number and percentage correct, the words presented with a breakdown of correct responses as well as the overall statistics for the child. It even breaks down what words have been mastered in pretesting and in training.

Going to the Reports section on the main menu offers even more statistical breakdowns. Reports can be viewed for each profile, for all or specific sessions, and for specific words. Pretty much if there is information you are needing, there is a report available. Reports can also be emailed or printed from the app.

Settings are able to be modified with each profile. Users can personalize how long a session lasts, how long the child has to respond and the type of picture (a drawing or photograph) to best suit the child's needs. Visual text can also be removed, and the background changed to gray and animations minimized for those needing less stimulation on the screen. There are even more customizations available making this app easy to customize to best benefit the child's needs.

With so many options and customizations available, everything can seem a little overwhelming at first. A new user can begin playing right away without making any mandatory modifications, however all the menu items and small print can overload the home screen a little. There are plenty of instructions and frequently asked questions available to help guide users and help in setting up the app exactly as needed.

If a child turns on this app without an adult, even after it has been set up, he may find if difficult to start a lesson. The lesson screens are highly child friendly once started, but selecting the user name, and clicking "start" on two different screens may hinder a child from playing. Perhaps displaying a list of the last five profiles in a larger font as buttons on the main screen would make the home screen a little less clinical in appearance. Though the lessons do not seem like therapy at all, getting the app started does.

Overall this is a fantastic app for anyone working on early language development. For $9.99 there is tons of customization available to make sure the app is working in the most optimal manner for each child. There are also plenty of statistics to easily track progress. The lessons themselves are informative and fun. Parents and therapists alike will find many benefits from Laureate First Words.

Sorry, you missed the chance to win a free code for this $9.99 app. The winner was be chosen and contacted on April 29,  so anyone that didn't win but that still wants it will be able to purchase at the discounted price before the end of the month.

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Rachel H feels very out of control when it comes to her calendar for the next month. She does not handle "out of control" well.

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