On average, the study found that children played with the iPod Touch for a total of five hours across the two weeks, with half that time spent playing the Martha Speaks app. The study didn’t actually require kids to play with the application; all play was self-initiated. At the end of the two-week period, the students were given another vocabulary test, which revealed an increase of as much as 31 percent.

“Mobile apps can be a great learning tool in the hands of children,” said Lesli Rotenberg, senior vice president of children’s media for PBS. “This research is important in helping to better understand and guide the development of new apps that improve the value of children’s screen time with significant educational outcomes.”

That is particularly relevant as smart phones and mobile devices have become increasingly popular among families, PBS said—and parents are faced with a proliferation of mobile apps designed for kids. According to a recent Nielsen study, smart phone usage is 12 percent higher in households with children than in other households.

The use of mobile technology to help teach reading is something that Recorded Books’ Walker said he understands.

“So much about what kids do is about what they can download and take with them. That’s how they operate now,” he said.

Recorded Books’ One-Click Audio Academic Collection is similar to an iTunes store for audio books.

“We operate on a multi-access model. So if a teacher wanted all of the students in his or her class to study one book, [the students] could all download it to their iPods” or other mp3 players, he said, emphasizing that One-Click Audio is a supplemental tool. “When the student can listen along while reading the book, it can be helpful” in developing reading skills, he added.

The library features more than 800 downloadable titles, with nearly 500 geared toward students in grades K-8 and another 300 or so geared for ninth through 12th graders. Titles include classics such as The Call of the Wild, as well as contemporary books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid.


Reading statistics from the National Center for Educational Statistics

One-Click Audio

Reading Assistant


PBS Kids mobile apps

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the How technology can help with language instruction resource center. Learning a foreign language is an increasingly important skill for success in the global economy—and learning to speak and read English fluently is vital to the success of ESL students. Fortunately, students and educators have more language acquisition resources at their disposal today than ever before.
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