Archive for February, 2014

Why did we make a version of Verbal Volley for iPad?

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Mindfull Games released Verbal Volley for iPad in January 2014. What is our rationale for using the iPad as a medium to play Verbal Volley? First, we would like to stress that we were never interested in making Verbal Volley into a laptop game for one person, since language learning must occur during interactions between two or more individuals. The iPad was the first digital format that allowed for face-to-face interaction during game play and allowed us to make requested improvements. Here are some things that teachers wanted that using an iPad allowed us to do:

Thesaurus link:  Our app automatically links to an online thesaurus for immediate reference during game challenges or when a word is unknown. Using such references is a classroom learning goal. We have allowed teachers and families the freedom to choose whichever thesaurus they prefer and put that thesaurus’ URL into our app.

Record keeping:  On the iPad, a teacher, literacy specialist or speech pathologist can keep track of which Verbal Volley words were targeted in a game and whether students were successful naming synonyms and antonyms for them. The lists of won words and lost words can be labeled and emailed or downloaded for reference. Comparing lists allows for assessment of learning over time.

A new classroom board mode:  Teachers can mirror the iPad on their classroom whiteboard, or hold the iPad set to classroom mode in front of a group. This gives the flexibility of playing as a large class before assessing progress individually in the tabletop card game replica mode.

New evidence-based expanded spaced retrieval feature:  When a word is presented and a synonym or antonym can’t be named, players look up the word in the thesaurus and study it. Then Verbal Volley for iPad presents the word that was just studied again immediately, after several intervening words, and again after an even larger number of intervening words, etc. There is research evidence that this sort of requirement for expanded spaced retrieval of newly learned verbal information helps store it in long-term memory.

Word lists:  We have pre-selected several word lists of the type that teachers need to target in the classroom. There is a word list that has players use prefixes and suffixes, a word list that is easiest for the youngest players, and separate lists for the first and second halves of Fry’s high frequency word list.

Auditory presentation of stimulus words:  Students who don’t know how to pronounce the words they see will hear them spoken every time they play, unless they choose to turn off the sound.

Background color change option:  In classroom play mode, players with dyslexia can choose to alter the background color of the text presentation, in case they find a certain color is easier on their eyes.

A built-in timer:  For those who choose to play with time pressure, the rounds of the game are timed automatically. As always, players may choose to use turn-taking, manually advance rounds and keep the timer off.

We arrived at the above Verbal Volley for iPad features by beta testing our app in several schools and in a research university department of communication sciences and disorders. We hope that teachers will appreciate the way we have tried to make it easier for them to target vocabulary for literacy.