The popular media is inundated with news articles and opinion pieces about whether or not learning can occur when young children use interactive touch technology. The results of our efficacy study demonstrate that the answer is yes. Several key elements are crucial however around designing and using educational technology in developmentally-appropriate ways. This means that the device itself must be child-friendly and easily used by children, the content must consist of research-based skills known to be essential for school readiness, and the system must include features that allow teachers to intersect with how children are progressing and learning.
The purpose of the current study was to investigate language/literacy and math outcomes for preschool children using the iStartSmart™ (iSS) over the 2011-2012 school year compared to children in classrooms without the iSS. iStartSmart is an educational technology learning system that brings language/literacy and math content based on the National Early Literacy Panel Report and National Research Council Committee on Early Childhood Mathematics Report to children in a scaffolded systematic manner. The iSS has progress monitoring which allows teachers to see at any time how children are progressing through the levels.
The results are based on nine classrooms with the iSS All-in-One computer and nine control classrooms without the iSS. The study was conducted with low-income children who are known to be at risk for school success due to lack of school readiness.
- The children using the iSS scored statistically significantly higher than control children on standard and percentile scores at the end of the study on both of the school readiness language/literacy and math measures.
- The control group was not significantly different than the national average on percentile rank at post-test; while the iSS group was performing statistically significantly above the national average after using the system.
- Improvement on the literacy and math scores was significantly correlated with time spent by the children on these types of activities in the iSS.
The iStartSmart is also a recent recipient of the Annual Education Software Review Award (EDDIE) in the early learning category for touchscreen solutions.
Many people have raised the call for more outcomes-based research in the area of interactive touch technology for early learners. We are proud at Hatch that this is a central component of our work and we have recently released positive results of a study showing that iStartSmart improves preschool literacy and math outcomes.
I also encourage educators in their local programs to conduct evaluations on the effectiveness of how they use technology with children and the outcomes they see as a result. I blogged about some additional resources you may want to check out, like The Need for Balanced Early Learning Educational Technology Research.