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Sponsored App Review: Phonics with Nick

September 8, 2014 - Written By Tom Dawson

Description: Phonics with Nick is an Android app that aims to help children learn how to read at a natural pace as well as making it fun. The app hinges on Nick the Narwhal, a friendly character that will help you through picking up those pesky letters. Not only does the app make learning to read fun, it also allows for up to 10 students to use the same copy of the app, making it a good app for the classroom as well building a little competition with friends. A true educational app, Phonics with Nick even includes fonts for Dyslexic learners and is designed for those that cannot read, rather than being yet another practice type of app. It’s designed to teach to kinetic, visual and auditory learners, making this a fairly complete solution for those learning to read for the first time. Relying on the McGuffey reading method and symbols above each letter to help kids pick up which letters make which sounds it seems like a great way to help your kids start reading. So, just how good is it?

How it Works: There are two versions of Phonics with Nick, a paid version that appears quite costly, as well as a version that’s free to download but only features the first 10 lessons. Here, I’m going to be featuring the Lite version of the app so you can get an idea of what the full version has to offer.

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With Phonics with nick, you can have up to 10 children using the app, all you need to do is input their names and then have them click on their name the next time they open the app. It’s here you’ll first realize that the whole app has a voiceover guiding children through each and every step, a nice way of giving them a sense of independence when learning to read.

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While the interface did feel a little dated to me, it’s very easy for little ones to get around it on their own, which is more important than how it looks. While starting my first lesson, I noticed that the voiceover again took me through what did what, another great touch. As well, the controls are all clearly labelled and fairly obvious as to what they do.

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The first lesson is an excellent introduction into how Phonics with Nick does things, and right away we can see – and hear – how much attention to detail the developer has put in here. When looking at each letter, the phonetic sound is played out, along with another sound for kids to get an example of what animal or item Nick is talking about.

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Our friendly Narwhal, Nick, comes along to talk directly to the kids and there’s a good bit of fun, engaging voiceover work here again and I’m sure little ones will be hooked to his every word.

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The lessons quickly move into more advanced things like full sentences, and while I was spending a little time with Phonics with Nick, I noticed that while the interface isn’t the best, the voiceover work here is stellar and things really do feel like it’s a lesson on the move.

Opinion: While studying English Language at College in the UK, we had a module that covered ‘Language Development’ and we had to figure out just how kids pick up language in the first place, and learning to read was one of the bigger concerns. Learning to read has to be one of the most important things these days for kids. After all, the pen has almost gone the way of the Do Do, but we all need to read and while I am fairly oldschool, I think that using technology like this is excellent. Kids that are learning to read in this day and age will already know how to program the DVR, to put their favorite show on and how to sling birds from a catapult. So, it stands to reason that little ones will pick things up easier with technology such as Phonics with Nick. The interface isn’t to my taste, but the friendly Narwhal and voiceovers are really great. I can see children putting on a pair of earphones and listening to Nick help them along their phonetic journey from the bottom of the sea and I think this is all brilliant stuff.

Ratings

  • Speed (4/5) – Phonics with Nick loads quickly and there’s very little waiting around. The pacing is good for kids as well, allowing them to learn things at their own pace.
  • Features (5/5) – With Nick giving kids a character to admire and look up to, Phonics with Nick is an app that has all the bases covered, using the McGuffey reading method, parents or teachers will know their kids are getting solid, proven advice in a fun and engaging manner that encourages kids to love learning.
  • Theme (4/5) – While the interface does a feel little dated, the app itself is easy for little ones to use and I see no real problems here.
  • Overall (5/5) – The attention to detail at work in Phonics with Nick is a sight to behold and the voiceover work is excellent, a phonics app should be just like this and for kids just starting to read, I can’t recommend anything else.

Pros

  • Works great with Android smartphones as well as tablets.
  • Ability to have 10 children all accessing the same app makes it a viable tool in the classroom.
  • Phonics with Nick uses the McGuffey reading method, so it’s easy to see that kids are getting a good experience right from the get go.
  • Voiceover work here is phenomenal, with kids listening to high-quality audio recordings of Nick, the phonics themselves and other example sounds.

Cons

  • The UI could do with a fresh coat of paint, but it is easy for young kids to use.
  • The full version is a little pricey for an app, but there’s definitely a lot on offer here.

Conclusion: Phonics with Nick is one of those apps that does the rare thing of actually being a useful educational tool. Sure, there are lots of apps or games out there that help kids practice Math and Reading skills, but very few of them do what Phonics with Nick does. With this, you can help kids learn to read using the tried and tested McGuffey reading method and best of all; it’s fun. Our friendly Narwhal, Nick, talks directly to the kids and everything works just great to keep kids engaged and happy.

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