Interactive Alphabet by Pi’ikea St. is an app for young children that is both fun and educational. When you first open the app, you are presented with the alphabet spread across the screen. When you touch a letter, a picture is presented of an object that starts with that letter. Along with the picture is text, such as “Aa is for apple,” if the letter “A” was selected. Touching the text on the screen causes it to be read out loud. The letter is said the first time touched and then the sound it makes is given with the second touch. The pictures are also interactive. Touching, pinching or swiping might crack an egg, send a train chugging away or lift a hat off of a hamster.
Although I may often act like a child, I figured I wasn’t the ideal audience for this app, so I enlisted the services of my two-year-old nephew. From the fun my nephew seemed to have with this app, I can say that it will likely be a hit with the little ones. It didn’t take him long to figure out what to do for any given picture and he was overjoyed to sit there lifting the hat off the hamster again and again, crowing “I did it!” each time. I suspect this app would be appealing to kids in the 2-5 age range, although it may not hold the attention of the older kids as long as it might that of the younger ones. My four-year-old nephew popped onto the scene while I was playing with the app with his younger brother. He stuck around for a little bit, creating chaos by introducing a second pair of index fingers tapping busily away at the screen, but it didn’t take very long before he wandered away again, leaving his little brother to continue investigating the letters in peace.
What’s Macgasmic: In my opinion, teaching children through play is a great thing, and this is where Interactive Alphabet really excels. The interactive play that this app provides can hold the attention of the children while they learn to recognize letters. Maybe someday we’ll see iPads in every classroom, and if that ever does become a reality, I think apps such as Interactive Alphabet will take centre-stage, at least in the lower grades.
What’s Not: My nephew’s attention was almost entirely focused on the pictures. He rarely touched the text that accompanied each picture, so he would only hear “Aa is for apple” when he first selected the letter “A” from the main page. My sister-in-law, who teaches kindergarten, also pointed out that when teaching children their letters, pairing letters and sounds is the most critical thing, as opposed to pairing a letter with an object that starts with that letter. Instead of the focus on “Aa is for apple,” it would have been useful to have a greater emphasis on “Aa says ‘ah’.” With these two points in mind, I would love to see some audio worked into the picture interaction where the letters and sounds are being repeated. For instance, when you touch the apple once, you get the crunching noise, a bite disappears, and then you hear the letter. With the second touch, you get the sound the letter makes instead of the letter itself, and so on. This would help to increase the learning to fun ratio, and make this app just a little bit better.