22 February 2013

Graceful interface scaffolding - Learning from Letter School

Letter School, an app by Dutch game maker, Boreaal, is one of the several apps on the market created to leverage touch-screen advantages for supporting preschoolers in learning to make letter shapes.  Like the others, kids use their finger to trace and write letters of the alphabet.  

The animations and sounds in Letter School are delightful, but what I found especially notable was the app's excellent design for gracefully fading scaffodling (akin to seemless contextual help)...   

Kids can choose any letter of the alphabet.  Then they are encouraged to move through a sequence to: 
1) Hear the letter name along with its sound and see it in a word 
2) watch the letter being drawn, 
3) Trigger the start of each line to be drawn to create the letter 
4) Trace the letter 
5) Write a letter by themselves. 

The beauty of it is, if they struggle to correctly draw a letter, subtle visual cues (like arrows and tracer lines) appear. If they continue to struggle, these cues gradually increase. As soon as all goes well (the child no longer needs the extra help), they disappear entirely.   

I was also pleased to see that they were careful to require the child to start writing the letter in the right place (from the top) - which kids commonly learn to do incorrectly with pencil and paper.  They have described a list of other well-onsidered educational design decisions on the app website.