Read with Phonzy by MeowTek is a free universal app for iOS which features speech recognition to understand how well kids pronounced words using a character named Phonzy who provides prompts on the words. The app requires that you opt in via email to use it and understand the terms and conditions. It utilizes speech technology which recognizes and assesses the specific word that you are focusing on in the sentence. It works best with children and does work well in a noisy environment like a busy home or a place where there is background noise. As children pronounce words correctly, they can unlock the word which is then put into a gallery. It also helps kids build confidence in reading (especially sight words) and improves skills of sentence building and thinking quickly. We tested the app in a variety of environments including with a television on in the background, at a local park and in a classroom with other children. Each time Phonzy was able to zero in and understand the words being spoken without picking up the ambient noise.
One of the great things for me about the app was that I could help my son focus in on specific word types which he would learn and then as he got better with the pronunciation we were able to go back and re-listen to where he might have previously stumbled. The app helps you correctly pronounce words and encourages children to read out loud – without a lot of corrections “in the moment” which then helps to build self confidence and sounding out skills. MeowTek collects the audio recordings to improve the speech technology of the app and increase recognition, but no personal information about your child is collected. Phonzy currently focuses on key words and important phrases, with the end goal of understanding the entire sentence. The app is PRIVIO certified which means that MeoTek has COPPA compliant privacy practices to protect your child’s information and the verification via email is the method of ensuring that a parent understands that their child is using the app.
To use the app, Phonzy presents the user with a simple sentence similar to the one above with one specific word highlighted. Your child reads and records the sentence and if the highlighted word is pronounced correctly, you get the object which is then placed in your gallery. The words presented are appropriate for children from late kindergarten through mid-elementary school or approximately end of grade 3 according to the ones that I saw. My son gained huge amounts of confidence when reading with Phonzy aloud because I wasn’t always trying to correct him and he didn’t feel “pressured” to perform on the spot. My son liked that Phonzy would recognize his words most of the time and that he could easily re-record them as needed.
Phonzy is currently working to understand additional speech and speech recognition technology. Currently, Phonzy is programmed to understand the specific highlighted words, very occasionally he will misunderstand a user however, as my son used the app more we found that Phonzy was correct in 18/20 trials. The data collected from the app is made anonymous and is used to build and improve on speech recognition technology, it is never shared with any third parties and neither are the actual recordings. I also loved that I could save the sentences that my son was saying and share them with his speech therapist to show his progress over time.
Overall, this is a great free app that encourages children to increase the number of words that they can read and earn some fun gallery prizes doing so. It was a great self confidence booster for my son who struggled at times reading out loud and now has built up some confidence as he works through using the app and practicing new words. We also liked knowing that we were helping Meowtek improve their speech recognition technology and perhaps, learn from some of the challenges that my son was having.