The Science

7spell is scientifically designed, and utilizes principles based on decades of research in learning, retention, and psychology. Here is a summary of the theory and research behind 7spell's effectiveness.

Craik, F., and Tulving, E. "Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic memory." Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 104(3) (1975): 268-294. Print and PDF.

In this seminal study performed at the University of Toronto, Canada, the authors performed a series of tests in which they gave the study participants a sequence of words to learn, with information related to each word as it appeared in order. They discovered that when the information provided stimulated the participant's brain to process the word on a more involved level (referred to as "deep encoding" or "degree of elaboration" in the study), that word was more effectively learned and remembered. With 7spell, the user is given a wide range of additional information about each spelling word, including the word's definition - one of the key factors in enhanced memory, according to this study - as well as usage examples, synonyms, and antonyms.

Garcia, S.M., Tor, A., and Schiff, T.M. "The Psychology of Competition: A Social Comparison Perspective." Perspectives on Psychological Science, November 2013, 8(6):634-650. Print and web.

Each person is influenced by a unique set of factors related to their own status and progress towards goals, but is also affected to a greater or lesser degree by the achievements and perceived standards of the people around them. This analysis of past and current studies looks at the way people view and are motivated by individual goals as well as societal achievement (competition). The authors conclude that effective use of motivational strategies must take both into account. This is something that 7spell accomplishes by providing each user with the ability to set personal goals, earn reward points, and view their own progress tracking reports, and also to publish all of those results on public social media platforms.

Kivetz, R., Urminsky, O., and Zheng, Y. "The Goal-Gradient Hypothesis Resurrected: Purchase Acceleration, Illusionary Goal Progress, and Customer Retention." Journal of Marketing Research, February 2006, 43(1):39-58. Web.

In a study focusing on the influence of reward-scheme programs on behavior, the authors found that when people see visible progress towards their goals they are more likely to increase the activity required to reach those goals. The study also confirms that most people are also motivated by receiving rewards for completing specific activities, even if those rewards are not immediately transferable to actual material or monetary benefits. Status points, rewards, and real-time progress tracking are all methods used in 7spell to encourage frequent spelling practice by awarding points for the completion of exercises and activities. Because the user can access their progress charts at any time, they will always be able to see how close they are to achieving their personal spelling goals.

Buton, M., Winterbauer, N., and Todd, T. "Relapse processes after the extinction of instrumental learning: Renewal, resurgence, and reacquisition." Behavioural Processes, May 2012, 90(1): 130–141. Print and web.

Instrumental learning, also called "operant conditioning," is a method by which behaviors are learned in connection with a stimulus, a reward, or both. In this research done at the University of Vermont, the authors studied the ways in which the information connected to a specific behavior is retained when the stimulus is removed, and how subsequent repetition or reward reinforces information recall and a resumption of previously learned behaviors. They conclude that there are two primary methods of reinforcing active memory and behavior: by creating a different way to test the subject's memory, and by providing the opportunity for intensive focused repetition of that stimulus-behavior response. These two methods are widely used in the 7spell activities and games to create the link between instruction and memory that is so crucial in effective spelling learning on the student's part.

Xue, G., Mei, L., Chen, C., Lu, Z-L., Poldrack, R., Dong, Q. "Spaced Learning Enhances Subsequent Recognition Memory by Reducing Neural Repetition Suppression." Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 2011;23(7):1624-1633. Print and web. http://doi:10.1162/jocn.2010.21532

In this study comparing long-term and short-term memory, the study authors tested the neural activity of participants as they memorized a set of images. Half of the study participants used massed learning techniques, in which each new image was presented multiple times in a row; the other half were given the images in a spaced repetition mode, where the images were shown in alternating order. Although each participant saw each image the same number of times, the people in the spaced-repetition exercise were able to accurately remember more images, and for a longer period of time. Repetition is a key technique in learning spelling, and 7spell incorporates spaced repetition in two ways. First, the system uses randomized selection of spelling words from the user's current list to populate the activities and exercises, ensuring an interval between word reviews. Second, the system's Word Discover feature provides pop-up instant review of the words on that list, again in random order. By providing users with multiple opportunities throughout the day to read and review their words, 7spell provides all of the benefits of the spaced repetition methodology in its spelling instruction.

Blocki, J., Cranor, L., Datta, A., and Komanduri, S. "Spaced Repetition and Mnemonics Enable Recall of Multiple Strong Passwords." Cornell University Library, January 3, 2015. PDF.

Spaced repetition is a memory training tool that relies on frequent and consistent review of information; mnemonics is a memory technique that involves multiple ways of looking at that information, such as the incorporation of images or story lines. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University focused on the combination of spaced repetition and mnemonics in evaluating how best to train people to remember specific pieces of information: computer passwords. They found that by combining the two methodologies, the results in both ease of learning and retention were increased. 7spell uses each method separately and together to help users learn and remember new spelling words by using the same words in multiple exercises, presenting spelling words in a variety of formats, and encouraging users to add information related to each word to make a personal connection that helps them to remember that word and its correct spelling.


Studying Spelling is Fun With, Says App Developer Daniel Lambert

Categories: About Spelling, Spelling Resources |

These days parents are used to plugging kids into a DVD player during long car trips, or setting them up with a computer for some “quiet time” so that the parent can get work done around the house. With more and more children getting their own smartphones, they’re never far away from technology. Now it’s time to put that technology to good use. Daniel Lambert and his team have developed a great set of tools to help children learn English skills, and all using state-of-the-art fun-filled apps.

US: Your website tells a cute story about Study Cat, the young kitten who wanted a new and different way to learn. What’s the human story behind the website and the apps?

DL: The human story is surprisingly similar to the feline story. Just a few details are different. We are teachers. We have been teaching for over twenty years. We started with our own schools here in Taiwan. They were relatively successful, but we saw the much larger potential of online education. The next step was an online English course. This was slightly less successful, but we learned valuable lessons from this experience. We learned that kids love to play games more than they love to learn English!

The main focus when we moved into app development was primarily playing games, not learning. The fun had to be paramount in our plans, and then the learning would follow.

US: Why did you decide to focus on apps instead of other media approaches?

DL: We saw how apps were becoming a part of kids’ lives, more so than computers. They were being talked about, and shared with other kids, and used at all times of the day. We looked at the apps that were available and struggled to find any that combined fun and learning in the way that we knew kids would enjoy. We saw the possibility to bring much more fun teaching games to kids. The smartphone and tablet market was really starting to take off so we just jumped on board and started to make ‘Fun English’. Now we have about 1.75 million users so we know we made the right decision.

US: Your Fun English Course teaches vocabulary, pronunciation, and spelling, along with basic English grammar skills. How do you integrate games into the lessons?

DL: In fact, we did the reverse. We worked on creating really fun and engaging games, and then organising lessons around them. We focussed on basic vocabulary groups such as colors, numbers, and animals, then we added a simple sentence pattern or grammar rule and applied it to the lesson. Once we had the educational plan in place we went back and made an additional game that was designed specifically to teach this grammar point.

US: The course is designed for children as young as age 3, according to the website. If children start out with the apps and go through them all, do you offer more challenging lessons for kids who’ve learned everything from the basic courses?

DL: We would love to and that may happen in the future. At present though we are focused on making the existing apps as good as they can possibly be. At present we’re focused on making our existing apps as good as they can possibly be and developing complementary apps such as phonics and our soon to be launched reading app, Fun English Stories.

US: You’ve got other language packages available for downloading that teach Spanish and Chinese. Do you plan on adding more languages in the future, or will you focus on adding new content to the existing languages?

DL: We have many exciting plans. We will have to wait and see which ones come to fruition. At the moment we are expanding the Fun Chinese and Fun Spanish apps to add more lessons. Our users have asked for French and Russian so they may be next. We’re just about to launch a new English language app called ‘Fun English Stories’ which helps young kids to learn how to read and build sentences. It complements lessons learned in Fun English but is also great fun for kids who haven’t used Fun English. There are plans to make a phonics and spelling series too. There just are not enough hours in the day, or days in a week!

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