March 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Touch Press’s “Word Runners” App | Touch and Go

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Viewers familiar with Twelve a Dozen will be interested to learn that Amplify and Touch Press have joined forces to produce educational, skill-building games, one per month, on a subscription basis. Our reviewer, Paula Willey, had some issues with one of these releases.

Screen from Word Runners (Touch Press, Inc.)

Every story is an adventure for Annie and Felipe in Word Runners (Touch Press, Inc. iOS. Free to download, additional levels by subscription, $4.99 per month; Gr 4–6), a reading comprehension app. As users play as one of these two characters they race down lines of text, encountering obstacles. The character must be sent back through the lines to pick up the object or action they’ll need to melt the iceberg, defeat the troops, or cross the lake.
On the plus side, the little animations are adorable. When Annie encounters a snarling beast, for example, she gives a little shriek and runs away—and then, when the user goes back and selects “meat” from the previous text, the toothy critter settles down happily with the treat, and Annie can hustle on past.
However, there are cultural concerns. Of the levels available in the free version, most are about people of European descent. Those stories highlight an athlete in ancient Greece, the U.S. Civil War, Charles Darwin’s voyage aboard the Beagle, and space exploration. The one level that features nonwhite people is called American Myths, and that’s where issues arise.
This level features a Raven tale, followed by a Quetzalcoatl story, two about Coyote, more Raven myths, and a story about Hummingbird and Heron. These tales are drawn from cultures thousands of miles, and, in some cases, hundreds of years distant from each other—from the Lenni Lenape of New Jersey to Mesoamerican Mexico to the Hitchiti tribe of Georgia (along with others). None of these cultures are identified in the app, leaving users with the impression that Native American culture encompasses one universal set of myths. Furthering that impression is the music that plays in the background of all the stories on this level—vaguely Plains-ish melodic chanting with flutes and drums—more like what listeners might hear while getting a massage than an accurate representation of music from any Native American culture.
By contrast, the music that plays during the Civil War level is a perky arrangement of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” performed on fife, drum, and bugle. This song and its instrumentation is historically accurate and thematically consistent with the content. VERDICT Cultural concerns, combined with game play that requires lots of repetition in order to successfully complete each level, warrant skipping this app.—Paula Willey, UNADULTERATED.US

For additional app reviews, visit School Library Journal‘s dedicated app webpage.


Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.

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  1. What an amazing app.. I just couldn’t stop playing it.. Very engaging and entertaining.. A must have app… Would recommend this to anyone..

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