“Guided use of an educational app may be a source of motivation and engagement for children in their early years,” said study author Susan Neuman, professor of childhood and literacy education at New York University.
“The purpose of our study was to examine if a motivating app could accelerate children’s learning, which it did,” Neuman noted.
The researchers designed a study to examine the effectiveness of an educational app called Learn with Homer on low-income preschoolers’ school readiness skills.
The Apple iPad app engages children in a systematic programme that integrates word sounds and storybook reading.
The study was conducted in 10 classrooms with a total of 148 preschoolers. Using several tests of early literacy, the researchers measured changes in children’s phonological awareness as a result of daily uses of Learn with Homer, compared with the control group using another app.
Phonological awareness is the ability to detect sounds that make up words, and is an important predictor of later reading ability.
The researchers found measurable growth in phonological awareness and understanding the connections between speech and printed letters for the group using the Learn with Homer app, compared with the group using the art and activity app. They also observed significant differences in print concepts.
The findings were presented at the American Education Research Association’s annual meeting in Chicago.