To celebrate the beginning of the new school year, Zynga has released Words with Friends EDU, with the education edition of the popular vocabulary game being made available for iPad and Android for free. Targeted at students in grade 4 to 8, the Scrabble-esque app helps them increase their high-value English language vocabulary.
Vaibhav Sahgal, general manager at Words With Friends, wrote in an official statement:
“Working together with teachers and education experts gave us the opportunity to create a fun and engaging experience that also helps students to improve their vocabulary and educational outcomes. With students showing significant gains in the use of academic words in their first six sessions of Words With Friends EDU, we are proud to deliver this new learning tool to students, teachers, and parents as they start the school year.”
The game resembles the original Words with Friends, but it comes with several new features. “PowerWords” is one of them, which is focused on high-value academic words that show up on standardized tests such as Common Core assessments, writes Blake Montgomery of EdSurge. Students get bonuses for knowing the meaning of words, and if the students find it difficult, they may use definition hints to connect academic words to their meanings.
As the students progress and reach new levels, they earn badges and avatars that can be personalized. Teachers and parents can monitor the students’ performance and set goals through an interactive dashboard, writes Sri Ravipati of The Journal. Educators can make use of integrated lesson plans to supplement the game in classrooms. According to Abby Speight, Zynga Director of Product, the final goal is to help students increase their vocabulary knowledge more quickly.
Students may select opponents from within a closed classroom environment established by the teacher, and the game will still be played one on one.
According to its official press release, Words With Friends EDU has been developed in close collaboration with teachers to ensure that the game and the accompanying curriculum will increase students’ English language knowledge in alignment with Common Core Standards. As Nicole Gorman of EducationWorld notes, the beta version of the game was tested in more than 20 classrooms with more than 1,500 students. Teachers, students, and Zynga designers held weekly meetings to develop the educational feature set together. As Speight admitted, the game would not be the same without the teachers’ input.
Words with Friends was first launched in 2009 and was a chart-topping app. Now it ranks in 168th place, according to AppAnnie. According to Zynga, there are still a tremendous number of daily players, with 55 million matches taking place at any one time.
Words With Friends EDU may take off in the classroom for the reason that people are used to it, and they easily recognize it among the other competitors. It is been named one of the most popular mobile word games ever and one of the App Store’s best free games of all times.
The Q1 2016 earnings reports showed that Zynga’s profit increased by eight percent, or $182 million, compared to the same period last year.