How to promote literacy skills in the digital age

By Laura Devaney, Managing Editor
December 19th, 2012

Apps that claim to teach deep literacy skills can be misleading.

Digital apps that claim to teach children important reading and literacy skills do not always impart higher-level abilities that children need to develop strong reading skills, according to a report from the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

Most of the skills these apps target are very basic, and parents and educators often do not have in-depth—or any—knowledge of how the apps work or if they work at all, claims the report, “Pioneering Literacy in the Digital Wild West.”

This past spring, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading asked the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and the New America Foundation to conduct a nationwide scan of technology-based products aimed at improving the early literacy skills of children from birth through age 8.

The researchers did not intend to evaluate product and program effectiveness, but instead focused on gathering information about what is currently available to parents, children, and educators.

The market for children’s apps is booming, the report notes—though it calls this market a “digital Wild West.” In a recent examination of Apple’s App Store, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center found that 72 percent of the top-selling apps in the Education category target preschool-age children.

(Next page: What the research reveals)

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3 Responses to “How to promote literacy skills in the digital age”

We are working increasingly with apps via iPads. The apps which I think offer real, deep learning potential are the apps which are open ended and more on the creative end of the spectrum. I can see some benefit in practice type apps, but most teachers will quickly recognise that they aren’t the main game.

January 3, 2013

My concern about tablet apps is validity and reliability. Schools should be using research based instructional materials during the instructional time. Most apps are not research based. If the classroom teacher gets into a litigation situation, the use of research materials is bound to be questioned.

Mike Sharpe, PhD.

Those of us new to iPads could use a list of the apps that meet the criteria discussed by both rhp123 and Dr. Sharpe. I have explored a lot of websites for both literacy and math that are free for teachers or offer a free trial period. This allows me to know if it meets my needs and the needs of my students. I can then recommend them to fellow teachers or to families that have access to computers and the internet.
One must often pay for an app before assessing if meets the specific needs of the teacher or the students. A review is not enough when one is working with the K-3 math and literacy levels.