Kalan Andersen and Faculty Mentor: Barbara Culatta, PhD, Communication Disorders
A strong relationship exists between acquiring early literacy skills and attaining proficiency in reading (Catts, 1999, National Reading Panel, 2000). In order to create this connection with young readers, early success can be found through systematically teaching skills and motivating children’s interest in reading. When used appropriately, the digital delivery of early literacy activities may give teachers a practical and cost-effective way to systematically teach skills and engage children in learning (Moses, 2013).
Children experienced three recorded iPad apps in one-on-one sessions with their teacher. They were also asked to give their opinions about the apps at the end of the session. Teachers explored the same apps, were asked to evaluate the apps, and were asked about intensions to use them in their classrooms. Themes were identified in the transcripts and are recorded in the results.
Many results were found throughout the course of our study and shall continue to be analyzed and evaluated. At this point in time we have sufficient results to be able to categorize into two sections how both children and teachers interacted with the apps.
Children were observed to . . .
- Exhibit positive affective responses to Hideout and Endless Reader
- Repeat phonological patterns highlighted in Hideout
- Tap pictures in Rhyme Matching but without matching rhyme words
- Rate Hideout as the most engaging app
Teachers tended to . ..
- Doubt that the Preschool Rhyme Matching will keep children engaged
- Specify that some aspects of the apps were too advanced for three-year-olds and ELL students
- Acknowledge that exposure to rhyme is important even if children do not understand the task
- Believe that Rhyme Matching would work for four year olds.
- Want to adopt Endless Reading App and believe it would be most effective for teaching skills.
- Mention that rhyming is important to teach but that they struggle in doing so and want apps to fill that need
- Note that literacy apps are helpful for students with disabilities and ELLs
The main two points of discussion that we have concluded with our research are:
- Teachers did not identify the weaknesses in Endless Reader
- Children were engaged by Endless Reader but were being exposed to erroneous pedagogy (e.g., wrong letter-sound associations)
These points make us aware of the importance of helping both teachers and young readers make the connection with early literacy apps in the correct way in order to obtain the desired benefits.
While the study is too recent to publish any concrete evidence on which specific iPad app is the most effective or engaging for children, the above responses listed in the results section represent sufficient proof to say that digital media, like iPad apps, can be successful in engaging children in early literacy targets. Children, especially those in the critical period of early literacy development, are eager to learn and capable of using technology to expand their knowledge. This interest and desire should be cultivated in order to find the greatest success in reading, writing, and other powerful literacy skills for years to come.