This report presents in-depth reviews of nine promising online reading and writing tools for ELA classrooms. Overall, reviewers found these new resources mostly reflect the instructional shifts called for by Common Core (such as including a balance of text types and text-dependent questions for reading and writing). They also lauded the innovative nature and usefulness of text sets as instructional tools, as well as online resources’ student assessment and data reporting capabilities. However, our reviewers cite a lack of information regarding accessibility and accommodations for students with learning disabilities.
The Right Tool for the Job: Improving Reading and Writing in the Classroom
Melody Arabo, Jonathan Budd, Shannon Garrison, and Tabitha Pacheco (March 2017). The Right Tool for the Job Improving Reading and Writing in the Classroom. Washington, DC: The Thomas Fordham Institute.
Integrating Technology in Early Literacy: A Snapshot of Community Innovation in Family Engagement
Cook, S. (July 2016) Integrating Technology in Early Literacy: A Snapshot of Community Innovation in Family Engagement. Washington, D.C.: New America.
As a growing number of young children across the country are using media and interactive technology on a daily basis, the conversation has shifted from whether technology is appropriate to use at all to how it should be used to best support children’s early language and literacy development. This brief analyzes the impact of early learning and family engagement programs around the country. The Integrating Technology in Early Literacy (InTEL) map, available through New America’s Atlas tool, has been updated to show where innovative programs are located, how the programs are designed, and what “evidence of impact” they are able to share.
How Listening Drives Improvement in Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension
Kylie Flynn, Bryan Matlen, Sara Atienza, and Steven Schneider. How Listening Drives Improvement in Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension: A Study of Promise Using Tales2Go (March 2016). San Francisco: WestEd.
WestEd, an educational research nonprofit, conducted this study on the use of audio books in a San Francisco Bay area school district. Students using Tales2go audio books attained 58% of the annual expected gain in reading achievement in just ten weeks, putting them three months ahead of control students. The increase in annual gain corresponds to a 33% improvement in the rate of learning for the period. The study evaluated the effect of just listening (i.e., no paired text). The treatment group outperformed the control group across all measures, by 3.0x in reading comprehension, nearly 7.0x in 2nd grade vocabulary, and nearly 4.0x in reading motivation. Greater impact on reading achievement is possible if Tales2go is used on a regular basis, both in a classroom literacy rotation and at home.
Literacy app improves school readiness in at-risk preschoolers
Neuman, S.B., New York University (April 19, 2015). Literacy app improves school readiness in at-risk preschoolers. Science Daily.
Using mobile apps in preschool classrooms may help improve early literacy skills and boost school readiness for low-income children. "Guided use of an educational app may be a source of motivation and engagement for children in their early years," said the study's author. "The purpose of our study was to examine if a motivating app could accelerate children's learning, which it did."
Getting a Read on the App Stores : A Market Scan and Analysis of Children’s Literacy Apps
Vaala, S., Ly, A., Levine, M.H. (2015) Getting a read on the app stores: A market scan and analysis of children’s literacy apps. New York, NY: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.
In 2014, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and New America conducted a scan of the market for language and literacy apps targeted for young children in the Apple, Google Play, and Amazon app stores. This 2015 report analyzes the descriptions of the apps as well as their content to learn more about what parents are likely to encounter as they search for educational apps for their young children. The report covers recent trends and surfaces some recommendations for developers who are creating apps for children, as well as for parents and teachers looking for quality apps to teach foundational language and literacy skills to young children.
Association of the Type of Toy Used During Play With the Quantity and Quality of Parent-Infant Communication
Sosa A. V. Association of the Type of Toy Used During Play With the Quantity and Quality of Parent-Infant Communication. JAMA Pediatr. Published online December 23, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.3753.
Researchers gave families three different kinds of toys to play with: books, traditional toys like stacking blocks and a shape sorter, and electronic toys. Results indicated that play with electronic toys is associated with decreased quantity and quality of language input compared with play with books or traditional toys. To promote early language development, play with electronic toys should be discouraged. Traditional toys may be a valuable alternative for parent-infant play time if book reading is not a preferred activity. Blocks and puzzles stimulated more conversation than the electronic toys, and books outscored them all.
Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth
Campbell, C., Haines, C., Koester, A., and Stoltz, D. (March 11, 2015) Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth, Chicago, IL: Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC).
The role as media mentor is a core function of supporting the lives and literacies of children and families in a twenty-first-century library. Equipping youth services practitioners to serve as media mentors is the shared responsibility of library training programs, creators of professional standards and professional development opportunities, and decision makers and practitioners at every level of library operations. Theis white paper recommends the following: (1) Every library have librarians and other staff serving youth who embrace their role as media mentors for their community. (2) Media mentors support children and families in their media use and decisions. (3) Library schools provide resources and training to support future librarians and youth services practitioners in serving as media mentors. (4) Professional development for current librarians and youth services practitioners include formal training and informal support for serving as media mentors.
Learning at Home: Families' Educational Media Use in America
Rideout, V. Learning at Home: Families’ Educational Media Use in America (2014) Joan Ganz Cooney Center
This comprehensive analysis of parents' experiences with the educational media their children use tries to answer the following questions: Which subjects do parents feel their children are learning the most about from media? Which platforms do they perceive as being most effective? And what are some of the obstacles to greater use of educational media? All of these issues are explored by age, gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. The report measures the degree to which children and parents use media together, overall and by platform, and looks at how this joint media engagement changes as children get older. The study also examines children's reading behaviors, especially online or on electronic reading devices.
Can Babies Learn to Read? A Randomized Trial of Baby Media
Neuman, Susan B.; Kaefer, Tanya; Pinkham, Ashley; Strouse, Gabrielle (2014) Can Babies Learn to Read? A Randomized Trial of Baby Media, Journal of Educational Psychology, Feb 24, 2014.
Targeted to children as young as 3 months old, there is a growing number of baby media products that claim to teach babies to read. This randomized controlled trial was designed to examine this claim by investigating the effects of a best-selling baby media product on reading development. One hundred and seventeen infants, ages 9 to 18 months, were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. Children in the treatment condition received the baby media product, which included DVDs, word and picture flashcards, and word books to be used daily over a 7-month period; children in the control condition, business as usual. Examining a 4-phase developmental model of reading, we examined both precursor skills (such as letter name, letter sound knowledge, print awareness, and decoding) and conventional reading (vocabulary and comprehension) using a series of eye-tracking tasks and standardized measures. Results indicated that babies did not learn to read using baby media, despite some parents displaying great confidence in the program’s effectiveness.
Leading In and Beyond the Library
Is Google Making Us Stupid? The Impact of the Internet on Reading Behaviour
This study explored the impact of the Internet on our reading behavior. Using an exploratory survey, it examined the online and offline reading behavior of individuals, and determined the underlying patterns, the differences between online and offline reading, and the impacts of the online environment on individuals’ reading behavior. The findings indicated that there were definite differences between people’s online and offline reading behaviors. In general, online reading has had a negative impact on people’s cognition. Concentration, comprehension, absorption and recall rates were all much lower while reading online than offline.
Moving Beyond Screen Time: Redefining Developmentally Appropriate Technology for Use in Early Childhood Education
Lindsay Daugherty, Rafiq Dossani, Erin-Elizabeth Johnson, and Cameron Wright (October 2014) Moving Beyond Screen Time: Redefining Developmentally Appropriate Technology for Use in Early Childhood Education. Rand Corporation: Arlington, VA.
Conversations about what constitutes "developmentally appropriate" use of technology in early childhood education have, to date, focused largely on a single, blunt measure — screen time — that fails to capture important nuances, such as what type of media a child is accessing and whether technology use is taking place solo or with peers. Using screen time as the primary measure of developmentally appropriate use has become increasingly inappropriate as new technologies are ever more rapidly introduced and integrated into all aspects of life, and as we learn more about the potential benefits of technology. The authors challenge the traditional emphasis on screen time and discuss how to move toward a more comprehensive definition of developmentally appropriate technology use for young children.
Screen Sense: Setting the Record Straight. Research-Based Guidelines for Screen Use for Children Under 3 Years Old
Lerner, C.; Barr, R. (2014) Screen Sense: Setting the Record Straight. Research-Based Guidelines for Screen Use for Children Under 3 Years Old Zero to Three: Washington, D.C.
This resource—developed in partnership with leading researchers in the field of media and young children — describes what is known about the effect of screen media on young
children’s learning and development. Rich, interactive experiences between parent and child are the most beneficial for babies and toddlers. The report warns that many of the the "2-D" experiences provided by TV, tablets, and smartphones don't provide the kind of social interaction and real-world learning that proves especially beneficial to infants and toddlers — unless parents are engaged in that activity.
Technology in Early Education: Building Platforms for Connections and Content that Strengthen Families and Promote Success in School
Guernsey, L. (2012). technology in early education: Building platforms for connections and content that strengthen families and promote success in school. The Progress of Education Reform, 14(4), 7-14.
This report looks at trends in digital media use by young children, how to effectively use parents and librarians as partners in early learning, and recommendations for building integrated technology platforms for early education.
T is for Transmedia: Learning through Transmedia Play
New Media Consortium Horizon Report: 2013 K-12 Edition
The New Media Consortium collaborated with others to identify technologies that have "potential impact on teaching, learning and creative inquiry." In a 1-3 year time-to-adoption phase, here's what to expect: (1) BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) where students bring their own laptops, tablets or mobile devices to class; (2) Cloud Computing; (3) mobile learning, which relies more on cellular networks and wireless power; and (4) online learning, with movement towards MOOC classes. Looking into the distance (2-3 years), the Horizon Report predicts we'll be engaged in electronic publishing, using learning analytics, relying on open content and engaging in personalized learning. In 4-5 years, we will be looking at technologies such as 3D printing, augmented reality, virtual labs and wearable technology.
Print Books vs. E-books
Chiong, C., Ree, J., & Takeuchi, L. (2012). Print books vs. e-books. Joan Ganz Cooney Center.
This initial small-scale study explored parent–child interactions as they read print and digital books together. How do adults and children read e-books compared to print books? How might the nature of parent-child conversations differ across platforms? Which design features of e-books appear to support parent-child interaction? Do any features detract from these interactions?
Pioneering Literacy in the Digital Wild West: Empowering Parents and Educators
Guernsey, L., Levine, M., Chiong, C. Stevens, M. (2012). Pioneering Literacy in the Digital Wild West: Empowering Parents and Educators. Washington DC: The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
Digital apps designed to teach young children to read are an increasingly large share of the market, but parents and educators have little to no information about whether and how they work. Produced as part of a collaboration between the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the New America Foundation, and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, this report scans the market of digital products and shares promising practices and programs.
Technology for Developing Children's Language and Literacy: Bringing Speech Recognition to the Classroom
Adams, M.J. (2011). Technology for Developing Children's Language and Literacy: Bringing Speech Recognition to the Classroom, New York, NY: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), about fifty percent of low-income fourth graders in our nation's schools are unable to read at a basic level. In this report, Brown University's Marilyn Jager Adams, a pioneer in literacy research and practice, points to evidence that speech recognition technology — which is widely used in telephone call-routing and directory assistance — can be tapped as a cost-effective and technically viable means to advance early childhood literacy, particularly fluency. When coupled with effective pedagogy, voice recognition tools can provide valuable assessments that reach beyond the human capacities of the average public school classroom teacher. Adams argues that this emerging technology has the potential to offer real-time literacy support to every student by helping young children learn reading with the fluency needed to compete and cooperate in an increasingly complex age.
Take a Giant Step: A Blueprint for Teaching Young Children in a Digital Age
Barron, B., Cayton-Hodges, G., Bofferding, L., Copple, C., Darling-Hammond, L., & Levine, M. (2011). Take a Giant Step: A Blueprint for Teaching Children in a Digital Age. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.
In January 2010, the Cooney Center and the Stanford Educational Leadership Institute convened a Digital Age Teacher Preparation Council to look at current practices for teaching young children and to design a professional development action plan for integrating the effective use of technology in preschool and the primary grades. This report describes the Council's action plan to enhance teacher education and a higher quality, 21st century approach to the learning and healthy development of children in preschool and the primary grades. The report sets forth several goals for the nation to meet by 2020, including advancing technology integration and infrastructure; a more robust professional training program for early education professionals; the expanded use of public media as cost-effective assets for teachers; and the establishment of a Digital Teacher Corps.
Game Changer: Investing in Digital Play to Advance Children's Learning and Health
Thai, M.T., Lowenstein, D., Ching, D., Rejeski, D. (2009). Game Changer: Investing in Digital Play to Advance Children's Learning and Health. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop
Younger and younger children are becoming immersed in the new gaming culture. If you think this is an unhealthy trend, you are not alone. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center addresses this concern in this policy brief. The report proposes that a national investment in research-based digital games can help children learn healthy behaviors, core skills like reading and math, and 21st-century strengths such as critical thinking, global learning, and programming design.
Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile Technologies to Promote Children's Learning
Shuler, C. (2009). Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile Technologies to Promote Children's Learning. New York: Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.
Advances in mobile technologies are showing enormous untapped educational potential for today's generation. This just-released report from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop outlines mobile market trends and innovations, as well as key opportunities such as mobile's ability to reach underserved populations and provide personalized learning experiences. National strategy recommendations include establishment of a Digital Teachers Corps and a White House initiative on digital learning.
The Digital Promise: Transforming Learning with Innovative Uses of Technology
Wellings, J. and Levine, M. (2009). The Digital Promise: Transforming Learning with Innovative Uses of Technology. New York: Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.
This white paper, presented by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and Apple, describes how investment in technology tools, network access, professional development, and new personalized curricula can help schools address each of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's four reform goals and simultaneously modernize to meet the needs of 21st century learners. Innovative examples and related resources are offered on how technology can be used to promote literacy and to engage struggling learner.
iLearn II: An Analysis of the Education Category on Apple's App Store
Shuler, C. (2009). iLearn; A Content Analysis of the iTunes App Store's Education Section. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.
This week, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop released iLearn II: An Analysis of the Education Category of Apple's App Store, an examination of nearly 200 top-selling education category apps for Apple's iPad and iPhone with the goal of understanding this market's dynamics and trends. The analysis highlights industry best practices and future opportunities for developers, educators and researchers to influence this important, but under-scrutinized category by closely examining the content of children's apps within the education category.
Video Game Report Card
Walsh, D. and Gentile, D. (2008). The MediaWise® 13th Annual Video Game Report Card. Minneapolis, MN: National Institute on Media and the Family, www.mediawise.org.
Conducted by the National Institute on Media and the Family, the Video Game Report Card aims to provide a snapshot of the interactive gaming industry as it relates to children and teens. This twelfth annual report finds: kids know more about the ESRB ratings than their parents; few parents play the games their kids play; more parents understand TV ratings than video game ratings; and retailers and game makers are complacent, at best, about using and enforcing ratings. It also has a list of recommended games, and games to avoid.
Reading as Thinking: Integrating Strategy Instruction in a Universally Designed Digital Literacy Environment
Dalton, B. and Proctor, C. P. (2007). "Reading as thinking: Integrating strategy instruction in a universally designed digital literacy environment." In D.S. McNamara (Ed.), Reading comprehension strategies: Theories, interventions, and technologies (423-442). Mahweh, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers.
As reading content in a digital format becomes more important, a question emerges: How can digital reading environments be created to support all students? Here Dalton and Proctor discuss the variety of supports that could be included in designing a "Universal Literacy Environment" for students "in the margins." In particular, they focus on how to help build learners' comprehension.
Scaffolding English Language Learners and Struggling Readers in a Universal Literacy Environment with Embedded Strategy Instruction and Vocabulary Support
Proctor, C. P., Dalton, B., and Grisham, D.L. (2007). "Scaffolding English language learners and struggling readers in a universal literacy environment with embedded strategy instruction and vocabulary support." Journal of Literacy Research, 39, 71-93.
Today teachers are charged with including all students in literacy instruction, even those who have previously struggled in traditional school environments. One group that has struggled in the past is English Language Learners (ELLs). Proctor, Dalton, and Grisham discuss a 4-week study that used supported digital text to assist ELLs with reading comprehension. They found that embedding features did help promote learners' use of comprehension strategies.
Technology in Schools: What the Research Says
Fadel, C., & Lemke, C. (2006). Technology in Schools: What the Research Says. Retrieved March 13, 2008, from
This paper examines emergent research findings on the effect of technology on learning. It looks at both descriptive studies and rigorous research, providing trend data about technological innovations. The effect of various technologies on student learning are discussed, including: television, video, calculators, interactive whiteboards, portable devices, virtual learning, computer-assisted instruction, and 1:1 ratio of computers and students.
The Efficacy of Electronic Books in Fostering Kindergarten Children's Emergent Story Understanding
De Jong, M., & Bus, A. (2004). The efficacy of electronic books in fostering kindergarten children's emergent story understanding. Reading Research Quarterly, 39, 378-393.
A counterbalanced, within-subjects design was carried out to study the efficacy of electronic books in fostering kindergarten children's emergent story understanding. The study compared effects of children's independent reading of stories electronically with effects of printed books read aloud by adults. Participants were 18 four- to five-year-old Dutch kindergarten children in the initial stages of developing story comprehension but beyond just responding to pictures.
Electronic reading produced experiences and effects similar to adult-read printed books. Children frequently interacted with the animations often embedded in electronic stories, but there was no evidence that the animations distracted children from listening to the text presented by electronic books, nor that the animations interfered with story understanding. Findings suggested that children at this stage of development profited from electronic books at least when electronic books are read in a context where adults also read books to children.
Technology and Teaching Children to Read
Sherman, D., Kleiman, G., and Peterson, K. (2004). Technology and Teaching Children to Read. Education Development Center.
This article shares strategies for effectively implementing technology within K-6 reading programs. Research-based guidelines from the National Reading Panel report (NRP, 2000) frame the discussion about the potential uses of multimedia digital technology to enhance reading instruction.
Individual Differences in Gains for Computer-Assisted Remedial Reading
Wise, B.W., Ring, J., Olson, R.K. (2000, November). Individual Differences in Gains for Computer-Assisted Remedial Reading. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, pp.197-235.
Two hundred second- to fifth-grade students (aged approximately 7 to 11 years) spent 29 h in a computer-assisted remedial reading program that compared benefits from accurate, speech-supported reading in context, with and without explicit phonological training. Children in the "accurate-reading-in-context" condition spent 22 individualized computer hours reading stories and 7 small-group hours learning comprehension strategies. Children in the "phonological-analysis" condition learned phonological strategies in 7 small-group hours, and divided their computer time between phonological exercises and story reading.
Phonologically trained children gained more in phonological skills and untimed word reading; children with more contextual reading gained more in time-limited word reading. Lower level readers gained more, and benefited more from phonological training, than higher level readers. In follow-up testing, most children maintained or improved their levels, but not their rates, of training gains. Phonologically trained children scored higher on phonological decoding, but children in both conditions scored equivalently on word reading.
Computerized Self-Assessment of Reading Comprehension With the Accelerated Reader: Action Research
Vollands, Stacy R., Topping, Keith J., & Evans, Ryka M. (1999). Computerized Self-Assessment of Reading Comprehension With the Accelerated Reader: Action Research. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 15, 197-211.
This study was a quasi-experimental action research evaluation of a program for computerized self-assessment of reading comprehension (The Accelerated Reader). It looked at the formative effects on reading achievement and motivation in two schools in severely socio-economically disadvantaged areas. The results suggested that the program, even when less than fully implemented, yielded gains in reading achievement for these at-risk readers that were superior to gains from regular classroom teaching and an alternative intensive method, even with less time devoted to class silent reading practice than in comparison classes. Additionally, the program yielded significant improvement in measured attitudes to reading for girls.
Computer-based Phonological Awareness and Reading Instruction
Wise, B.W., & Olson, R.K. (1995). Computer-based phonological awareness and reading instruction. Annals of Dyslexia, 45, 99-122.
Elementary students (n=105) with problems in word recognition were given computer-assisted instruction involving either only reading words in context, or reading words in context and completing exercises involving individual words (to increase their phonological awareness). The latter group showed significant gains on tests of phoneme awareness and rapid word recognition.
The Effects of Computer-mediated Texts on the Vocabulary Learning and Comprehension of Intermediate Grade Readers
Reinking, D., & Rickman, S.S. (1990). The effects of computer-mediated texts on the vocabulary learning and comprehension of intermediate grade readers. Journal of Reading Behavior, 22, 395-411.
Investigates whether intermediate-grade readers' vocabulary learning and comprehension is affected by displaying texts on a computer screen that provides the meaning of difficult words. Concludes that the results support and help explain previous studies that found increases in comprehension when computer-mediated texts were used to expand or control readers' options for acquiring information.
Computer-Assisted Instruction in Initial Reading: The Stanford Project
Atkinson, R., & Hansen, D. (1966-1967). Computer-assisted instruction in initial reading: The Stanford Project. Reading Research Quarterly, 2, 5-26.
Always Connected: The New Digital Media Habits of Young Children
Gutnick, A. L., Robb, M., Takeuchi, L., & Kotler, J. Always connected: The new digital media habits of young children. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.
This report by Sesame Workshop and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center takes a fresh look at data emerging from studies undertaken by Sesame Workshop, independent scholars, foundations, and market researchers on the media habits of young children, who are often overlooked in the public discourse that focuses on tweens and teens. The report reviews seven recent studies about young children and their ownership and use of media. By focusing on very young children and analyzing multiple studies over time, the report arrives at a new, balanced portrait of children’s media habits.
Families Matter: Designing Media for a Digital Age
Takeuchi, L. M. Families matter: Designing media for a digital age. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.
A new report from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, focuses on two complementary studies that document how families with young children are integrating digital media into the rhythm of daily life. Results from a survey of more than 800 parents of children ages 3 through 10 reveal how parents nationwide feel about raising children in a digital age. In-depth case studies provide further insight into these statistics, probing how parent attitudes toward technology, along with family values, routines, and structures, are shaping young children's experiences using digital media.