App review by Leslie Crenna, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2012
Word A Day Visuals And Audios By VocabAhead
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Word A Day Visuals And Audios By VocabAhead

Cool multimedia approach to daily vocab study slightly limited

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Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
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Grades
7–12 This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Cartoon graphics are engaging, and the content is presented through video and audio.

Cons: Limited content with few customization options gets repetitive and is sometimes socially questionable.

Bottom Line: Word A Day exposes teens to challenging vocabulary words with plenty of helpful context.

Word A Day Visuals and Audios is one in a series of vocabulary-building apps from VocabAhead. Meant for teens who may be studying for the SAT or looking to expand vocab skills, it gives kids a chance to learn in a few different ways. Quirky cartoons depict each word, and audio recordings present "short stories" or usage examples at the touch of a button.

The main menu allows teens to view favorites (in some versions of the app) or select the daily word. For the word acclivity, which is defined as an upward slope (as of ground), a young man is shown at the bottom of a steep grade on his bike, with cartoonish sweat or anxiety lines emanating from his head. If kids select the audio button (right arrow), a narrator reads the definition and usage text (though usage text does not display). Selecting the heart symbol with the plus adds words to favorites (in some versions of the app). Kids swipe left and right for other available words.

 

Graphics are crisp, navigation is intuitive, and the fully formed, coherent audio feature is great for teens who struggle with reading or have other learning challenges. Entries also feature spot-on definitions and parts of speech, sometimes left out of competing products.

Even with all these great features, nothing's perfect. As with other VocabAhead products, settings don't always seem to work, and the cartoons or "short stories" are sometimes a bit questionable, as in the case of the word uxorious, (meaning excessively devoted or submissive to one's wife): "... No one knew why [Glen] spent so much time doting on her because she wasn't really a nice person and certainly wasn't attractive." Yeah, it illustrates the definition, but the message is troubling.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

Design is nearly flawless. Cartoons and audio teach while entertaining, but saving favorites is not quite enough to keep kids fully engaged. The quizzes in the iOS version are a boost.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

The multimedia approach reinforces learning and is particularly important for kids with auditory or visual learning styles. More activities and better customization options could extend learning.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

There's no tutorial, but navigating the app is fairly intuitive. Some extension activities would give the app a boost.


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