Using a Touch-Based, Computer-Assisted Learning System to Promote Literacy and Math Skills for Low-Income Preschoolers

Mark H McManis, Lilla D McManis
Journal of Information Technology Education: Research  •  Volume 15  •  2016  •  pp. 409-429
The use of touch-based technologies by young children to improve academic skills has seen growth outpacing empirical evidence of its effectiveness. Due to the educational challenges low-income children face, the stakes for providing instructional technology with demonstrated efficacy are high. The current work presents an empirical study of the use of a touch-based, computer-assisted learning system by low-income preschoolers. A description of the system’s design is provided with attention to young children’s interaction with touch devices, learner engagement, and pedagogically-based delivery of academic content. Children in 18 low-income child-care preschool classrooms were assessed on literacy and math skills in the fall and again in the spring. Target children used the iStartSmart learning system throughout the academic year, while control children did not have access to the system. Compared to controls, children using the learning system made significant gains on external standardized measures of literacy and math. Children who spent more time using the system and those who reached the upper levels of skill understanding showed the strongest improvement in test scores. The findings contribute to the currently sparse literature by illuminating that for at-risk early learners, touch-based, computer-assisted instructional technology shows promise as an educational tool.
computer-assisted, touch-based, instructional technology, literacy, math, preschool, student achievement, low-income
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