Review: Nessy Learning Programme
Iain Laskey examines some software designed to give dyslexic children the extra help they need.
|Product||Nessy Learning Programme|
|Company||Net Educational Systems Ltd.|
£120-8 (Schools) depending on number of users
|We like||Highly structured approach, parent/teacher guides, friendly and easy to use.|
|We don't like||Needs CD to play, some spoken words indistinct.|
As any parent of a dyslexic child will tell you, it can be an uphill struggle getting the additional support and help needed to stop their children falling behind at school. In too many cases the assumption is the child is less able or just being difficult when the reality is just the opposite. Indeed, many dyslexics go undiagnosed because they are so smart - they find coping strategies to work around their difficulties . The good news is that there are an increasingly impressive lineup of tools to help parents give their children the additional coaching they need.
Nessy has been developed specifically in conjunction with dyslexia experts to teach reading, writing and spelling skills through a series of 120 highly structured lessons. The package comes in two versions, home (Nessy GamesPlayer') and school (Nessy Learning Programme) with the latter having support for tracking multiple children's progress. The home version was produced to allow children to practice the games and lessons at home but lacks extras such as the printables. The system as a whole is aimed at 7-14 year olds.
The Nessy system is based around a series of games that combine learning with fun and allows the child to develop their skills at whatever pace suits them. The school version of Nessy makes use of copious amounts of printables containing suplemental activity sheets, word lists and so on that a teacher can use to reinforce the eLearning side of things.
What we particularly liked was the level of parent/teacher support in the package with plenty of advice on approach, expectations and background information on the issues and problems dyslexia presents to a child.
For the purposes of testing, we were able to make use of a 7 year old tester, recently diagnosed with dyslexia. They enjoyed the games and there were lots of laughs, especially during the pig poking and fly swatting games where you have to hit as many as you can in a given time to be rewarded with a word to spell. The fly swatting one was quite a challange, even for the adults!
During the games, Nessy uses the PC's speakers heavily to interact with the child. Whilst most of these spoken words and phrases are clear, there were one or two that needed to be repeated (an easy thing to do, luckily) as neither the child nor the supervising adult could catch what the word was.
Much of the play value in the system is based around the child being rewarded for completing a series of tasks without error. The Nessy character itself is one such area where its growth is directly determined by the child's efforts. This means the child has to work for longer term goals as well as quick wins. This combination works well to extend the player's skills whilst keeping their confidence up through the inevitable failures they'll experience along the way.
It was a good sign that our tester asked for it to be run for them many times without prompting as they were enjoying using the Nessy software so much.
We could not say with certainty that Nessy on it's own produced a noticable improvement as our tester is currently using it as part of a bundle of products including the Toe to Toe book. However, over the weeks, they did progress through several levels which is both gratifying and reassuring for both the parent and child.
We think Nessy is a very well thought out system with a good balance of fun and learning. Any parent of a dyslexic child would no doubt feel £19.99 is well worth it for the difference it can make to their abilities and perhaps more importantly, confidence levels. Whilst the £120 price for the full school version may seem high, if you have the means, we would suggest it is worth it for the printables, especially if your child's school isn't using Nessy themselves. We didn't like the fact that it insists on having the CD in the drive to run and the need to repeat some words due to the occassionally indistinct delivery by the characters but that apart, this is a polished package that should pay dividends in any child's learning process. Highly recommended.