Word Wizard 2.0 for iOS-Talking Spelling App for Kids New and Noteworthy

Sophia Antipolis, France – L’Escapadou today is pleased to announce Word Wizard 2.0.1 for iOS, an update to their New and Noteworthy Education app that lets kids hear the sounds of letters and words, and provides spelling practice with a customizable Word List of more than 1,300 questions and answers. Featuring advanced text to speech capabilities, the app can pronounce an unlimited number of original words and spell-check more than 100,000 words.

Word Wizard has won many accolades including:
* Editor’s Choice Award for Excellence in Design from Children’s Technology Review
* “…Powerful language-learning tool that is ideal for a child learning to read” – The New York Times
* “…A fantastic app for young children” – GeekDad Blog, Wired Magazine
* ”…I love the talking alphabet…I will certainly recommend it to early educators.” Mary Ellin Logue, Ed.D, Early Childhood Education, University of Maine
* Featured by Apple as ‘New and Noteworthy’ for iPad and iPhone

There is no clear distinction between learning and playing. This is immediately apparent to the casual observer, who may witness young children enthusiastically engaged in the classroom. Clearly, not all classroom activities stimulate the natural curiosity of kids no matter how young they are. Word Wizard, however, nearly always attracts and holds the attention of children. It provides an expertly planned and exuberantly realized world in which children are encouraged to experiment with all the letters of the alphabet. There are two interrelated modes of operation: Movable Alphabet and Spelling Quiz.

In Movable Alphabet kids see all the letters in two rows at the bottom of the landscape oriented screen and hear the name or the sound of each letter aloud when they touch it. This multi-sensory approach, made famous through the writings of physician and educator Maria Montessori, engages the child completely. Each sense reinforces the other, and a wide range of cognitive styles is accommodated. Using the technology of the iPad/iPhone, Word Wizard enhances and amplifies the experience of seeing, touching, and hearing letters that young children have had in Montessori classrooms for more than 100 years. The app can be seen as taking the best of the Montessori method and making it still better.

The talking Movable Alphabet lets kids drag one letter at a time on to a grid (that automatically aligns the letters) or a blank page. As each letter is added to a word-in-progress, Word Wizard speaks the name of the letter aloud (or optionally, its phonetic sound) and then pronounces the proto-word, demonstrating how each additional letter alters the pronunciation of the whole. The child may never create a word in the English language, but he or she is completely free to get to know the building blocks of words on their own terms. When the last letter of a correctly spelled word is put in place, the entire word is surrounded by white light, all the letters grow to remove the spaces between them, and the word is clearly pronounced.

Touching any letter of the newly built word repeats the highlighting animation and pronunciation of the word. Add words to create a sentence, and touching any letter still repeats the animation and pronunciation of the word. But touch the Speak Aloud button in the top left, and the synthesized voice reads the sentence aloud, altering the inflection with which it reads some words so that they make sense in the sentence. This is natural language processing at its best (and the user’s iOS device can now pronounce such random neologisms as “kjedrwy”).

Talking Movable Alphabet Highlights:
* Spell checker highlights unrecognized words
* 2 American voices and 1 British voice
* Optional magnetic grid to ease letters placement
* Reads all the words as a sentence
* Uppercase or lowercase letters
* Phonics or letter names when a letter is touched in the alphabet
* 2 backgrounds
* Voice Transformer (speed, tone) for added fun

Familiar and at ease with letters, phonemes, syllables, words, and pronunciation, children can leave Movable Alphabet mode and visit Spelling Quiz, where they can put into practice all they have learned and play a semi-formal game with rules and scoring. Each spelling quiz consists of 10 words. Word Wizard prompts “Spell ‘chair’,” and the child drags each letter as they did before to spell the word. If necessary, they can touch the Hint button to receive hints one letter at a time. When all 10 words have been spelled, the app displays the number of correct answers and the number of hints used.

The Built-In Word List of more than 1,400 words is organized into 12 categories: Numbers, Colors, Animals, Body, Clothes, Family Members, Food, Sports, Nature, Shapes, 1,000 Most Frequently Used Words, and Dolch Words. Dolch Words are a list compiled in 1936 of 220 “service words” that are not easily sounded out but are essential to basic literacy (the list excludes nouns), e.g., “show,” “six,” “seven,” “small,” “start,” etc.

Spelling Quiz Highlights:
* 189 Word Lists of 10 words: Dolch Words, 1000 Most Frequently Used Words, Body Parts, Family Members, etc.
* Create custom Word Lists by entering custom words and sentences, and even share lists
* Hints are available if kids do not know how to spell a word
* A variety of colorful animations are displayed when a word is completed
* Once a quiz is completed, a report is displayed and fun, interactive animations are available as a reward

Children, parents, and teachers can quickly and easily create custom Word Lists. Type in a list of words separated by commas, or even sentences. Though the word may not be in the app’s Word List it will properly pronounce it and go on to score the quiz. This expansion capability makes Word Wizard a flexible tool for learning special vocabularies and terms, practicing words challenging to particular students, and challenging super-spellers with spelling bee favorites.

New Features & Options in Version 2.0 (as requested by users):
* QWERTY or alphabetic layout
* New voice added (3 voices available now), and a new version of the speech engine
* Keyboard emulation (dragging letters is now optional)
* 4 letter sizes available (allowing more letters on the board)
* Option to turn off the vocalization until the speech bubble button or a word is tapped
* New caps lock key to make typing capital letters easier
* 16 new Word Lists for beginners (CVC words)
* Recognition of words that break at the end of a line
* Erase All Letters button is now accessible on the board
* Add a friend’s Words List
* Add custom words to the profanity list (Settings option to prohibit some words)

“The overwhelmingly positive response we have received to version 1 of Word Wizard has been very encouraging and gratifying,” offered Pierre Abel. “We are very thankful to all those users and reviewers who made such useful suggestions, many of which have been included here in version 2.”

Device Requirements:
* iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch
* Requires iOS 4.0 or later
* Universal app optimized for display on all iOS devices
* 221 MB

Pricing and Availability:
Word Wizard 2.0.1 is only $3.99 (USD) and available worldwide exclusively through the App Store in the Education category. Review copies are available upon request.

Word Wizard 2.0.1
Purchase and Download
YouTube Video
App Icon
Press Kit (.zip)

Based in Sophia Antipolis, France, L’Escapadou is an award-winning, family, design studio dedicated to creating fun, creative, and educational apps for iPad and iPhone, and it was recognized as an Editor’s Choice by Moms With Apps. Montessori Crosswords, L’Escapadou’s top selling app, has won the Children’s Technology Review Editor’s Choice Award for Excellence in Design. Pierre Abel holds a PhD in computer science and has worked extensively on user experience design. His wife, a translator currently busy home-educating their daughters, helps in the design of their educational apps. Watching their kids – 5 and 8 years old – learn and play is their main source of inspiration for the apps they make. The studio was founded in 2010 after the launch of the iPad, with the belief that the iPad can be a great tool for learning and creativity. Copyright (C) 2010-2011 L’Escapadou. All Rights Reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, iPhone, iPod, and iPad are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.