The Sounding Out Machine – Assistive Reading Device by FizzBrain – Review

The Sounding Out Machine – Assistive Reading Device by FizzBrain – Review



iPad Screenshot 2

What we love…

allows kids to “read on their own” and become more comfortable with hard words by using their decoding skills to learn them.

What we’d love to see…

parental gate to protect the teacher and my word so kids can’t send an email by mistake or delete a student

Summary

A great app to practice word decoding skills in a fun way that doesn’t have the pressure of making a mistake in front of the teacher or let’s kids practice on their own.  I have seen great improvements especially in “hard words” and my son is asking to read now rather than being “forced” to.

Our Rating

The Sounding Out Machine - Assistive Reading DeviceThe Sounding Out Machine – Assistive Reading Device by FizzBrain is an iPad only app that helps kids who are reading to focus in on specific words that they may not know.  The app allows you to take words in three forms and then sound them out.  This app can be used with preschool through elementary school and is great for emerging readers.  By learning how to break a word down, they are more successful and ultimately that leads to more reading because it is fun rather than “something they have to do”.

The three modes of the app are:
•Camera mode – take a picture of the page of the book using your iPad
•Library mode –  Take a picture ahead of time, save it on your camera roll and open it when reading
•Typing mode – Type in your own word

It presents with a screenshot of the different types of reading modes.  You also create a profile for each child so that you can track the types of “hard” words on a daily, weekly and monthly basis so you can see change over time in reading comprehension.  You can also send the reports via email to parents or even teachers.  There are “teacher settings” – I put my own email here.  You can either have the app read phonemes as one unit or read every letter and ignore phonemes.  I tried it both ways, however, since my son is working on phonemes in school we primarily did it that way.  A quick tip – if you are going to use the library mode I found it much faster to photograph the pages of the board books and other books we were reading ahead of time without “help” as the pictures were clearer and there wasn’t the frustration if they were blurry.  Also, by making the library ahead of time, he knew the books that his brother liked or the ones he liked and could practice them on his own when he had time with the iPad.  I liked knowing that he was reading, and so I gave him some extra time with the iPad so he could practice. The app also allows you to track a photographed page with a box to cover up the extra words so if your child has trouble focusing on a specific word due to too many on the page this can help as well.

After getting the photo of the page either from the library or taking it on the fly, a colored box comes up that you move to the word that you need help sounding out.  Once the box is on the right word, you click “read my word”.  You are brought to another screen where you can see the word you put in the box and then have to type the word in using the on-screen keyboard.  After you type it in, you are prompted to see if you have spelled the word correctly.  I tested it both with the correct and incorrect spelling – and if the word was misspelled then the app said it “wasn’t in the dictionary” but you could use your card to try to sound it out again.  Once the word was spelled correctly or was in the dictionary, you could see the word and cover up parts of it to sound it out – in this case “roaring”.  You could either use a card and cover it up as you worked with your child or hit “teach me” which covered up the word and showed it letter by letter as it was sounded out.   There are different types of cards you can use which include “regular”, “see through”, “double”, “peekaboo”, and “teach me” which you can also change the colors of.  When I sat with my son, we used our own card to sound out words and then would use the teach me mode as well.    The word is also color coded into sections to make it easier to sound out.    The typing mode was harder for him, because even though he had the book in front of him sometimes he would make mistakes copying it down to be sounded out.  The app has great directions which explain how to use each function and button and even let you change the word from phoneme/syllable to blending on the fly.

My son struggles with word “decoding” which means that at times he can look at a word and even though he might know it, he can’t figure out what it means. We pretended to be an investigator as we sounded out the words and looked for clues like an ending or broke it apart as we read.  I can do that when I read with him, but when he reads on his own, he is more likely to look at the picture and make up a word if he doesn’t know one (which is developmentally appropriate at this time).   This is the perfect app to help him with that and I have seen based on the words in the library an improvement.  The app’s dictionary has over 80,000 words including multiple forms of the same word like “roar”, “roared”, “roaring” and they welcome suggestions from people on new words that should be added.  My son has even started to when reading use his fingers to chunk the word and sound it out – especially if it’s been one he practiced within the app.

I loved this app – my seven year old has started reading to his brother via board books and sometimes the words are too hard.  I photographed all the pages on my camera roll of “Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear” by Bill Martin Jr. and then my son and I practiced reading them using the app.  By photographing the pages and putting the blue box around the hard words – he was able to sound them out and begin to recognize them so he could read the story to his brother more easily.  I loved that it encouraged him to read – we tried both with the camera photographing them ahead of time and photographing them as we read.  If I photographed them and put them on the iPad in the camera roll, he could then go back independently if he had trouble reading or we could do it together.  I also loved the “my words” so I could see the words he was having trouble with and then as time went on how the words changed.  I could also see it when my son reading to his younger brother – reading was cleaner and more fluid as he got better at chunking the words himself rather than just saying “I don’t know this word – tell me”.  To be fair, I know he’s working hard on reading in school as well and I’m sure that was a big help.  My son also told me he liked practicing on his own, because he could practice by himself without worrying that he was doing it “wrong”.

In terms of enhancements, I would like to see the “my words” email function protected by a parental gate.  My son figured out how to go in there and send out multiple emails when he was supposed to be reading.  The teacher settings area wasn’t protected either and my son tried to delete his profile, luckily it came up with a display box and he clicked he was not the teacher so we did not lose his progress. All other links including app store links in the “info section” are protected with a complex math problem.  It would also be nice if there was a “library” that stored your old words so you could tap on those to see them sounded out without having to find the photographed page again or take another photograph.

Overall, if your child has trouble decoding words or is struggling with reading this is a great tool to add to your app library.  I have many reading apps that I have used with my son, and one of the reasons we liked this one so much was that it broke things down into manageable chunks and let him read on his own.  Seeing my older son read to his younger brother in a more fluid way is a huge win in my book.  I’ve noticed other improvements in his reading skills as well – and when you compare the cost of this app to the hourly cost of a reading tutor, this is a great purchase to help carry over skills at home.  Another example, my son is starting to like to read for pleasure rather than it being a “have to do”.


The Sounding Out Machine - Assistive Reading Device
The Sounding Out Machine - Assistive Reading Device
by FIZZBRAIN LLC

Category: Education
Requirements: Compatible with iPad2Wifi-iPad2Wifi, iPad23G-iPad23G, iPadThirdGen-iPadThirdGen, iPadThirdGen4G-iPadThirdGen4G, iPadFourthGen-iPadFourthGen, iPadFourthGen4G-iPadFourthGen4G, iPadMini-iPadMini, iPadMini4G-iPadMini4G, iPadAir-iPadAir, iPadAirCellular-iPadAirCellular, iPadMiniRetina-iPadMiniRetina, iPadMiniRetinaCellular-iPadMiniRetinaCellular, iPadAir2-iPadAir2, iPadAir2Cellular-iPadAir2Cellular, iPadMini3-iPadMini3, iPadMini3Cellular-iPadMini3Cellular, iPadMini4-iPadMini4, iPadMini4Cellular-iPadMini4Cellular, iPadPro-iPadPro, iPadProCellular-iPadProCellular, iPadPro97-iPadPro97, iPadPro97Cellular-iPadPro97Cellular, iPad611-iPad611, iPad612-iPad612, iPad71-iPad71, iPad72-iPad72, iPad73-iPad73, iPad74-iPad74
Size: 331.74 MB

$3.99USD

Screenshots for iPad
(Click to enlarge)

NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.

Alison, the American iMum is from Massachusetts. She lives there with her two sons and husband. In their spare time, they enjoy playing outside, enjoying nature and of course testing apps and fantastic products on their devices. My older son loves technology and loves testing out the “latest and newest” apps and tech. I love sharing information about apps and products with others to help them make decisions without feeling overwhelmed with all of the choices.
 The Smurfs: iTalk by Cupcake Digital – Review

The Smurfs: iTalk by Cupcake Digital – Review



What we love…

the repeating smurf as well as making berry chains and fantastic animations

What we’d love to see…

more mini-games to enhance content, less rotation of the tablet while playing the mini games

Summary

Overall, this app is fun but it has limited playing time due to the number of mini games included in it

Our Rating

The Smurfs: iTalk The Smurfs: iTalk by Cupcake Digital is a universal app for iOS which has you feeding your smurf, dancing with him and playing three mini-games.  The Smurf will even allow you to record your voice and have him repeat everything you say!  You can poke, tickle, make your Smurf jump all as you play with him while making music using a xylophone; playing a tetris like Berry Chain game where you have to chain a variety of different fruits; Smurfy Spins in this game you have a slot machine where you pull the lever to score, you can spin up to three times per day;  Flappy Smurf where you guide your smurf through a variety of holes in the tree to grab berries and win.  Once you have collected berries from the mini games you can buy a variety of “foods” to feed your Smurf.

I liked the repeating that the smurf would do although at times, it wasn’t exactly what I had said.  I also liked the Berry Chain game and trying to get as many fruits in a row as possible.  I thought it was good for practicing language skills where I would ask my son to say a word to the Smurf and have him repeat it back. I also found the graphics were crisp and the animation was well done especially for the dancing smurf.

In terms of enhancements, I would like to see more mini games included.  The Smurfy Spins game is limited to three spins in one day, and that really brings it down to two mini games as well as the food.  Having another mini game or two would add more content and value to the app.  My son at times didn’t understand why the Smurf would get angry that he wasn’t played with – I wished you could have turned that feature off.  I also found myself constantly rotating my tablet, for the main screen of the app it required the tablet to be one way, and then for the games it required it to be another way.  There was a helpful screen that showed you the way that the game had to be played, but it would have been nice for the tablet to be held in one direction only.  The Flappy Smurf was a bit too hard for my son, and it does seem like it would be great to practice fine motor skills involved in flying him.  Perhaps a “trainer” mode might be helpful for the first few flights.  Also, as a parent I would like to see more healthy food choices included to feed the smurf.

Overall, this app did not hold my son’s attention as much as I thought it would.  When I asked him why he said that he wanted more games included.   The has a parental gate and does not have external links on the main screen. This may be better suited so slightly older kids and adults who use it for those few moments that you have while waiting in line at the grocery store as it has a rather short playing time for most of the mini games.

The Smurfs: iTalk
The Smurfs: iTalk
by CUPCAKE DIGITAL INC.

Category: Entertainment, Games
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone4-iPhone4, iPad2Wifi-iPad2Wifi, iPad23G-iPad23G, iPhone4S-iPhone4S, iPadThirdGen-iPadThirdGen, iPadThirdGen4G-iPadThirdGen4G, iPhone5-iPhone5, iPodTouchFifthGen-iPodTouchFifthGen, iPadFourthGen-iPadFourthGen, iPadFourthGen4G-iPadFourthGen4G, iPadMini-iPadMini, iPadMini4G-iPadMini4G, iPhone5c-iPhone5c, iPhone5s-iPhone5s, iPadAir-iPadAir, iPadAirCellular-iPadAirCellular, iPadMiniRetina-iPadMiniRetina, iPadMiniRetinaCellular-iPadMiniRetinaCellular, iPhone6-iPhone6, iPhone6Plus-iPhone6Plus, iPadAir2-iPadAir2, iPadAir2Cellular-iPadAir2Cellular, iPadMini3-iPadMini3, iPadMini3Cellular-iPadMini3Cellular, iPodTouchSixthGen-iPodTouchSixthGen, iPhone6s-iPhone6s, iPhone6sPlus-iPhone6sPlus, iPadMini4-iPadMini4, iPadMini4Cellular-iPadMini4Cellular, iPadPro-iPadPro, iPadProCellular-iPadProCellular, iPadPro97-iPadPro97, iPadPro97Cellular-iPadPro97Cellular, iPhoneSE-iPhoneSE, iPhone7-iPhone7, iPhone7Plus-iPhone7Plus, iPad611-iPad611, iPad612-iPad612, iPad71-iPad71, iPad72-iPad72, iPad73-iPad73, iPad74-iPad74, iPhone8-iPhone8, iPhone8Plus-iPhone8Plus, iPhoneX-iPhoneX
Size: 1166.3 MB

$1.99USD

Screenshots
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Screenshots for iPad
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NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.

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Alison, the American iMum is from Massachusetts. She lives there with her two sons and husband. In their spare time, they enjoy playing outside, enjoying nature and of course testing apps and fantastic products on their devices. My older son loves technology and loves testing out the “latest and newest” apps and tech. I love sharing information about apps and products with others to help them make decisions without feeling overwhelmed with all of the choices.
 Messy Mia & The Tale of Ancient Tech by AvatarGeneration – Review

Messy Mia & The Tale of Ancient Tech by AvatarGeneration – Review



screen messy

Can your kids (or even yourself) have fun without internet or technology? How do you usually entertain yourselves? Do we depend so much on technology that losing it, even for a moment, irritates us and causes disruption to our lives? That’s definitely the case for Mia’s mom. She was angry when she couldn’t find the television remote and ordered Mia to tidy her messy room and look for the remote. But Messy Mia & The Tale of Ancient Tech by AvatarGeneration is more about how technology has evolved over the past generation than how we have become more reliant on technology in our daily lives.

What we love…

Fun comparison of the old and new technology.

What we’d love to see…

Ability to toggle between the old and new technology in the story. Addition of a page menu and text highlighting.

Summary

A rare book for kids to learn about old technology and a great conversation starter for parents and kids to talk about the impact technology has on our lives in the past, present and future.

Our Rating

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While searching for the remote, Mia met a knowledgeable robot who told her the kind of home entertainment and telecommunications technology that her mom had in the past. Mia listened in disbelief that there were no TV remotes, DVDs, CDs, mobile phones, MP3 players nor laptops when her mom was young. She felt sorry thinking about how deprived her mom was as a child and promptly went to find the remote.

I enjoyed reading this storybook app as it brought me back to my youth – the era of CRT TVs, VCR recorders, video tapes, cassette players, cassettes, Walkmans, phone booths, rotary dial phones and internet dial-ups. I can so relate to the mom’s outrage when someone called in while she was on the internet because you couldn’t use both the phone and internet at the same time! I love to bring my kids to the museums, vintage shops and other establishments that showcase items from the past. I would reminisce about the old days and marvel at how much technology has progressed in just one generation.

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Messy Mia & The Tale of Ancient Tech offers the perfect opportunity for parents like us to talk about the old and new technology to our kids. To them, it is inconceivable that we could live without the current conveniences (think iPhones) and they become somewhat appreciative of what they have. Seeing what once seemed impossible is now possible, I hope they will be inspired to dream about the future possibilities and think of new ideas and inventions to further improve our lives.

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This storybook app even has a section for kids to think about how the past technology has impacted the adults, what present technology means to them and imagine what future technology would be like. There are 11 guiding questions to start them thinking. While this section is also suitable for older kids, the rest of the book is appropriate for children up to lower elementary levels. The 4 mini games (Color Mia, Match the Tech, Tidy Mia’s Room & Memory) included in the app are however suitable for preschool children.
 

Overall, this is a wonderful book touching on a topic that is rarely discussed with children but one that carries a timely reminder that we can live without high-tech communications and entertainment technology (and not being so reliant), and an appreciation of life changing technology.

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Messy Mia & The Tale of Ancient Tech HD – AvatarGeneration iPhone – , iPad –

Messy Mia - Tales and Stories of Ancient Tech with Trivia Picture Quiz for Kids Messy Mia - Tales and Stories of Ancient Tech with Trivia Picture Quiz for Kids by AvatarGeneration
Category: Books, Education
Requirements: Compatible with iPad2Wifi-iPad2Wifi, iPad23G-iPad23G, iPadThirdGen-iPadThirdGen, iPadThirdGen4G-iPadThirdGen4G, iPadFourthGen-iPadFourthGen, iPadFourthGen4G-iPadFourthGen4G, iPadMini-iPadMini, iPadMini4G-iPadMini4G, iPadAir-iPadAir, iPadAirCellular-iPadAirCellular, iPadMiniRetina-iPadMiniRetina, iPadMiniRetinaCellular-iPadMiniRetinaCellular, iPadAir2-iPadAir2, iPadAir2Cellular-iPadAir2Cellular, iPadMini3-iPadMini3, iPadMini3Cellular-iPadMini3Cellular, iPadMini4-iPadMini4, iPadMini4Cellular-iPadMini4Cellular, iPadPro-iPadPro, iPadProCellular-iPadProCellular, iPadPro97-iPadPro97, iPadPro97Cellular-iPadPro97Cellular, iPad611-iPad611, iPad612-iPad612, iPad71-iPad71, iPad72-iPad72, iPad73-iPad73, iPad74-iPad74
Size: 95.35 MB

$FREE

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NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.

Grace was working in the fields of early childhood education and staff training before quitting to attend to her 4 children full time. She and her family live in Singapore, which is well known for her highly competitive education system.
 Abaquest by Rajnikant Rao – Review

Abaquest by Rajnikant Rao – Review



abaquest

What we love…

Comprehensive curriculum that allows you or your child to practice math skills using an abacus and encourages learning at their own pace

What we’d love to see…

More natural “narration” especially of US English, clicking sound when beads are moved into place on the abacus

Summary

Comprehensive learning curriculum designed to teach math to all ages

Our Rating

.

Abaquest by Ranjnikant Rao is an abacus based learning course designed to teach or enhance fundamental math skills using an Abacus.  The first four levels (A – C) are free allowing you to try the app before purchasing the remaining content via in-app purchase.  The app starts with basic concepts including an introduction to the abacus and then continues through addition, subtraction, multiplication and division all using the beads on the abacus to complete the steps.  The app allows for multiple users meaning it can be used in a home school situation as well as in a more traditional classroom.

Using a six step methodology it provides an understanding and then allows you to observe examples, identify errors, guess various expressions, do the physical movement and then challenge yourself with math problems.

learning_method

The app provides a huge amount of content that will allow you to practice learning basic and more advanced math skills – I enjoyed trying out the harder levels and honing my skills.  There is also a parent dashboard which allows you to see how your child has done as well as allowing them to earn a “certificate” for successfully completing each level.  If your child has trouble with a level, it continues to drill you on the content to ensure that you have learned it prior to moving on to more complex problems.  There are three narrated voices including American English.  The voices within the app are: US English (computer generated), UK English (human narrated) and Indian English. For purposes of the review I used “Lisa” the computer generated US voice to provide narration. The voice can change between levels if you wish – although if you switch you may have Lisa on one level and Emily on another. As a parent, I suggest testing out the voices yourself and then picking one and staying with it for the entire app. My son was confused at times when I was trying out the different voices. I also liked that the app would move as fast or as slow as necessary to ensure that concepts were taught and learned within it.

In terms of enhancements I would also like to see rewards somehow incorporated as my son when using the app at times felt like the “level” was taking a bit too long especially when he was struggling to complete a section. I would also like to see more natural narration of the voices in a future version.

The app contains a parental gate which requires the solving of a math problem to ensure that the parent gets access to the IAP or other parental locked areas.  The gate works well and will not allow your child to “guess” the answer.  The developer is continuing to add new content to the app as well as enhance it providing more educational content.  

This app provides a comprehensive math curriculum designed to teach or enhance math skills for all ages.  I would recommend trying the first four levels (A-D) free first to ensure it is a good fit, and then purchasing the remaining content if it is a good fit for your child/children.  In addition, I would suggest that you work with children first to help them understand the physical abacus before using the app as my son at first had a hard time grasping the concept. As a parent, I also liked the app as it allowed me to “brush up” on my fundamental math skills and encourage my son to continue learning math concepts.


Abaquest: Mental Maths Abacus Course
Abaquest: Mental Maths Abacus Course
by RAJNIKANT RAO

Category: Education
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone4-iPhone4, iPad2Wifi-iPad2Wifi, iPad23G-iPad23G, iPhone4S-iPhone4S, iPadThirdGen-iPadThirdGen, iPadThirdGen4G-iPadThirdGen4G, iPhone5-iPhone5, iPodTouchFifthGen-iPodTouchFifthGen, iPadFourthGen-iPadFourthGen, iPadFourthGen4G-iPadFourthGen4G, iPadMini-iPadMini, iPadMini4G-iPadMini4G, iPhone5c-iPhone5c, iPhone5s-iPhone5s, iPadAir-iPadAir, iPadAirCellular-iPadAirCellular, iPadMiniRetina-iPadMiniRetina, iPadMiniRetinaCellular-iPadMiniRetinaCellular, iPhone6-iPhone6, iPhone6Plus-iPhone6Plus, iPadAir2-iPadAir2, iPadAir2Cellular-iPadAir2Cellular, iPadMini3-iPadMini3, iPadMini3Cellular-iPadMini3Cellular, iPodTouchSixthGen-iPodTouchSixthGen, iPhone6s-iPhone6s, iPhone6sPlus-iPhone6sPlus, iPadMini4-iPadMini4, iPadMini4Cellular-iPadMini4Cellular, iPadPro-iPadPro, iPadProCellular-iPadProCellular, iPadPro97-iPadPro97, iPadPro97Cellular-iPadPro97Cellular, iPhoneSE-iPhoneSE, iPhone7-iPhone7, iPhone7Plus-iPhone7Plus, iPad611-iPad611, iPad612-iPad612, iPad71-iPad71, iPad72-iPad72, iPad73-iPad73, iPad74-iPad74, iPhone8-iPhone8, iPhone8Plus-iPhone8Plus, iPhoneX-iPhoneX
Size: 4.75 MB

$FREE

Screenshots
(Click to enlarge)
Screenshots for iPad
(Click to enlarge)

NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.

Alison, the American iMum is from Massachusetts. She lives there with her two sons and husband. In their spare time, they enjoy playing outside, enjoying nature and of course testing apps and fantastic products on their devices. My older son loves technology and loves testing out the “latest and newest” apps and tech. I love sharing information about apps and products with others to help them make decisions without feeling overwhelmed with all of the choices.

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