nsquared letters ($1.99) by nsquared is a free form language app for the iPad. The app is aimed at helping parents and teachers work with young children to teach the basics of literacy. The app is broken down into different activities with upper and lowercase letters, vowels, consonants, and mixed letters with extra vowels. These five activities are the premise of the app. In addition, the app is accompanied by background music; the second movement from Sonata No. 3 in B Flat Major by Mozart.
Each activity offers the option of choosing from three sizes of letter tiles. Once you have chosen the size and activity, you are brought to a new window. The new window shows the letters scattered across a wooden surface. You can pick up letters individually or multiple ones at the same time. When a letter is being held you have the option of rotating it so that it is right side up. This is a useful feature for teaching students the correct orientation of a letter. The letters are designed to drag and drop, allowing students to choose different letters and rearrange them as they see fit. There is no snapping or magnetic feature to the letters, so when spelling a word they are often a little off-center.
The app definitely brings a new style of teaching to the iPad. Though the idea of playing with letter blocks is not new, the ability to do so on an iPad has many advantages. In a classroom setting where there are multiple students, each student can have their own set of letter blocks and a working surface. Parents and teachers can also choose to have children work with only vowels or consonants, allowing students to learn the differences between the two.
The idea behind this app is simplicity and free form, but I feel that it should allow little more customization. The app allows changing tile size, and choosing between upper or lowercase letters, vowels or consonants. This might be all you need to teach the basics of literacy, but for $1.99 I believe the app should offer a little more.
Overall, for parents and teachers, this is a great tool for teaching young children literary basics using the alphabet. The nsquared app does a great job of bringing the old idea of letter blocks to the new technology of the iPad.