MindWeavers Launch Phonomena Computer Game

Image from MindWeavers Launch Phonomena Computer Game News Article

28th September 2003

On the 25th September 2003, MindWeavers Ltd launched Phonomena, its computer game language development software to 20,000 delegates at the Special Needs and Education London Shows.

MindWeavers Phenomena

The launch follows trial results, featured in New Scientist (30 August 2003), which proved that Phonomena can dramatically improve children’s language abilities. Mainstream school children of average ability using the software over four weeks saw their word listening skill ages shoot up by 2.4 years.

The first Phonomena product is available on CD for use at home and in schools, and is aimed at the 20 – 30% of children who have language-based learning difficulties. Earlier trials with children with language impairments showed that they made even greater improvements than those achieved by children of average ability.

Bruce Robinson, Chief Executive of MindWeavers Ltd, said: “Listening skills are fundamentally important for developing literacy. Our recent trials showed that Phonomena training dramatically boosts listening skills in all children. This has generated tremendous interest, and anticipation for our range of products.

We have targeted the first version of Phonomena towards children with language-based learning difficulties, which are often related to sound discrimination. These children may be receiving support from teachers, SENCOs, or speech and language therapists, or may simply be falling behind at school.

Phonomena is a valuable tool that will enable professionals to deliver more targeted support to a greater number of children. It automatically adapts to each child’s level at every response so the child does not become frustrated. The professionals not have to constantly monitor each child throughout the game. Instead, they can use the results to gain a detailed view of the child’s progress and plan their future support.”

Oxford-based MindWeavers also expects strong interest from parents, who could use Phonomena at home to help children make progress with their language learning. The software is based on research conducted by Professor David Moore, MindWeavers’ Chief Technology Officer, while at Oxford University’s Physiology Department, and is designed to boost children’s ability to distinguish between different phonemes, the sounds in words that are the building blocks of speaking, reading and writing skills.

Mr Robinson explained: “The first CD version of Phonomena is sophisticated phonics training. It comprises a series of exercises featuring an animated teacher and two other computer-game characters who make word sounds. The child simply chooses which character produced the sound identical to the teacher. As the game progresses, the sounds between which the child must distinguish become more alike. The game automatically adjusts to each child’s level, keeping them working at their ‘edge of competence’ – the level at which Prof Moore’s research shows that learning increases dramatically.

Our game runs on standard computers so, in terms of mainstream education, it could be used to support the Government’s drive to improve literacy standards in schools. The children enjoy the computer game style and format so would happily play it at home as well.”

MindWeavers plans to launch further versions of Phonomena for wider use at home and in schools within six months. Phonomena is available directly from MindWeavers at www.mindweavers.co.uk.

MindWeavers is based in the Oxford Centre for Innovation, part of a network of 13 innovation centres run by Oxford Innovation, housing over 250 knowledge-based companies.

Dr David Kingham, Chief Executive of Oxford Innovation, said: “We congratulate MindWeavers on the launch of their first Phonomena game product, which they are well-placed to turn into a big commercial success. MindWeavers is a great example of the innovative companies that we support through our innovation centre and investment networks. Oxford University Innovation helped MindWeavers to get started by seconding someone to work on their initial business plan and by securing grant funding from the DTI and Europe.”

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