How I Use It
This is a engaging supplementary vocabulary resource. I used it as "when you are finished" activity and most students were enjoyed it and chose to play it when given a choice. They really liked the social aspect (being able to play against their friends and that they could "win." Still, students who don't like to read and have a limited vocabulary didn't enjoy it as much as students who have a much wider vocabulary. Many students wanted "the best" words, and students with a wide vocabulary were quicker and were more likely to come up with higher scoring words, which, in turn, discouraged the students who needed to practice the most.
I think that the game is fun and many students immediately engaged. Zynga tried to beef up the educational aspect and so there is a teacher dashboard, additional lesson plans that can be used, power vocabulary words ( high-value academic words as identified by WestEd) that, when a student uses it, he or she earns bonus points, and a dictionary that shares the meaning of the vocabulary word. I think that as a supplementary vocabulary resource Words with Friends Edu is a great resource. Still, if I wanted to really focus on vocabulary development (of all students), this would not be the app I would choose. The choice of words learned is student-driven (rather than by an algorithm based on how people learn vocabulary and what vocabulary is most useful to learn) and student controlled. Yes, this potentially will engage students even further ("I am learning the words that I pick") but as a teaching technique, learning random words based off which 7 letter tiles a student receives and then uses isn't sound. Yes, student vocabulary increased but students with limited vocabulary learned the least number of new words.