Last week, the TUAW back room got into an incredibly extended debate regarding the merits of iTrace (US$3.99), a kid-centric app that teaches kids basic letter-writing skills. In the end, I pinged the developer and requested a promo code to give the app a try.
I'm glad I did, because even though the app centers around finger-drawing, it offers a good learning tool for new writers. Dotted animations guide the student through each stroke, enabling them to learn to shape each letter.
The app is brightly illustrated and well designed, certain to appeal to young students. Meant for the core 3-7 age group, kids can learn to trace uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers.
A series of adult-targeted settings are hidden behind a math-based CAPTCHA system (although I suppose in this case, CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) should really be CAPTKAA (distinguishing Kids and Adults).
There, you can choose between left-handed and right-handed drawing, optional letter customization (although not the two-strokes-down "v" that I grew up using -- iTrace only does down then up), control background music and sound effects, and reach an adults-only tutorial that explains the app in more detail.
The app was built for educational environments. It automatically tracks each user, so parents and teachers can view milestones; see daily, weekly, and monthly usage; and see how much effort each child is investing.
The interface is easy to understand, use and fun to play with. Although the $4 price tag may strike some as premium, I found the app well worth the cost. If you're an early education teacher or a parent to young children, I think you'll find this a good tutorial. I do, however, suggest that children try using a stylus while playing with the app instead of using it exclusively with fingers.
A developer-supplied promo video follows below: