Friday, July 24, 2015

Smartphones may be detrimental to learning process - ScienceDaily

A yearlong study of first-time smartphone users by researchers at Rice University and the U.S. Air Force found that users felt smartphones were actually detrimental to their ability to learn.
The research paper "You Can Lead a Horse to Water But You Cannot Make Him Learn: Smartphone Use in Higher Education" appeared in a recent edition of the British Journal of Educational Technology. The research reveals the self-rated impact of smartphones among the users.
"Smartphone technology is penetrating world markets and becoming abundant in most college settings," said Philip Kortum, assistant professor of psychology at Rice and the study's co-author. "We were interested to see how students with no prior experience using smartphones thought they impacted their education."
The research revealed that while users initially believed the mobile devices would improve their ability to perform well with homework and tests and ultimately get better grades, the opposite was reported at the end of the study.
The longitudinal study from 2010 to 2011 focused on 24 first-time smartphone users at a major research university in Texas. Prior to the study, the participants were given no training on smartphone use and were asked to answer several questions about how they thought a smartphone would impact their school-related tasks. The students then received iPhones, and their phone use was monitored during the following year. At the end of the study, the students answered the same questions.
When participants were asked to rate their feelings on the following statements specifically related to learning outcomes, such as homework, test-taking and grades, they provided the following answers (one represents "strongly disagree" and five represents "strongly agree"):
  • My iPhone will help/helped me get better grades -- In 2010 the average answer was 3.71; in 2011 the average answer was 1.54.
  • My iPhone will distract/distracted me from school-related tasks -- In 2010 the average answer was 1.91; in 2011 the average answer was 4.03.
  • The iPhone will help/helped me do well on academic tests -- In 2010 the average answer was 3.88; in 2011 the average answer was 1.68.
  • The iPhone will help/helped me do well with my homework -- In 2010 the average answer was 3.14; in 2011 the average answer was 1.49.
Kortum noted that the study did not address the structured use of smartphones in an educational setting. He said that the study's findings have important implications for the use of technology in education.
"Previous studies have provided ample evidence that when smartphones are used with specific learning objects in mind, they can significantly enhance the learning experience," Kortum said. "However, our research clearly demonstrates that simply providing access to a smartphone, without specific directed learning activities, may actually be detrimental to the overall learning process."

Story Source:
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Rice UniversityNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
  1. Chad C. Tossell, Philip Kortum, Clayton Shepard, Ahmad Rahmati, Lin Zhong. You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him learn: Smartphone use in higher educationBritish Journal of Educational Technology, 2015; 46 (4): 713 DOI: 10.1111/bjet.12176

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Literacy app improves school readiness in at-risk preschoolers - ScienceDaily

Using mobile apps in preschool classrooms may help improve early literacy skills and boost school readiness for low-income children, according to research by NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
"Guided use of an educational app may be a source of motivation and engagement for children in their early years," said Susan B. Neuman, professor of childhood and literacy education at NYU Steinhardt and the study's author. "The purpose of our study was to examine if a motivating app could accelerate children's learning, which it did."
Neuman presents her findings on April 19 with co-author Carolyn Strom at the American Education Research Association's annual meeting in Chicago.
The average time young children spend using electronic devices has more than tripled in the last five years. Nevertheless, there remains a disparity in access to mobile devices and other technology for low-income children. In a recent study, 49 percent of middle class children reported downloading an app, 80 percent of which were educational, while only 30 percent of low-income children downloaded an app, 57 percent of which were educational.
This "app gap" was the focus of Neuman and Strom's study. Recognizing that the preschool years are formative in developing children's use of media, 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 program that integrates word sounds and storybook reading.
The study was conducted in 10 Head Start classrooms with a total of 148 preschoolers. Children were randomly selected to use either Learn with Homer or an art and activity app. The preschoolers engaged with the apps for 10 to 12 minutes daily, guided by moderators during the 10-week study.
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 the other 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.
"Given the importance of phonological awareness and how it contributes to school readiness, using digital resources in a highly controlled setting, like a classroom, may substantially help to close the 'app gap,'" said Neuman.

Story Source:
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by New York UniversityNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Computer game reduces issues associated with ADHD in children - ScienceDaily

Children diagnosed with ADHD can improve their behavior and social interactions in the classroom by playing a computer game that exercises their concentration, finds new research out today. The study marks the 1000th article published in SAGE Open, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal launched in 2011 which covers the full spectrum of the social and behavioral sciences and the humanities.
The software studied in the research syncs with a wireless headband that monitors brainwaves during game-play, and works by adjusting the level of difficulty and scoring system in order to target and train the attention control, working memory, and impulse-control. This neurocognitive training was administered in case studies of five elementary school students in China and resulted in overall improved behavior, assignment completion, and relationships with peers and teachers.
"The present study implies that the neurocognitive training can result in broader and more socially meaningful outcomes than improvement of ADHD symptoms," wrote study authors Han Jiang and Stuart Johnstone. "Two reasons possibly explain the side effect. First, the increased attentive behavior in class and improved quality of schoolwork improved these children's social status. Second, game-driven and task-directed features of the training increased the children's confidence in doing tasks."
Prior to the study, all of the parents gave their children ratings indicating problems in the categories of hyperactivity, inattention, and acceptance by peers and teachers. After the training, parents rated their children's behavior at the normal level and teachers reported less frequency of ADHD symptoms. Additionally, four of the five groups of parents saw improvements in their child's interactions with teachers and peers. The study found that increases in teacher acceptance, such as public praise and greater inclusion in classroom activities, resulted in improved peer acceptance.
Jiang and Johnstone commented, "These findings indicate that once the children have received positive support and technical aids, they can achieve dramatic improvements. The outcomes have provided the foundation for a large randomized control trial which is currently underway in Australia, as well as two further controlled studies in China."

Story Source:
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by SAGE PublicationsNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
  1. Han Jiang, Stuart J. Johnstone. A Preliminary Multiple Case Report of Neurocognitive Training for Children With AD/HD in ChinaSage Open, June 2015 DOI: 10.1177/2158244015586811

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Colleges Face Calls for Better Support of Students With Learning Disabilities



Colleges Face Calls for Better Support of Students With Learning Disabilities

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education, 07/02/15
View Original Article
By Mary Ellen McIntire

When Katherine J. Walsh was choosing a college, she wasn’t as focused on which college did best in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings or tied to living in a particular part of the country. One thing she did care about was finding an institution prepared to support the attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder she’d struggled with for most of her life.

She’s not alone. The number of students with learning disabilities has jumped in the past decade, said Lindsay E. Jones, director of public policy and advocacy at the National Center for Learning Disabilities. According to a November 2014 report by the center, 67 percent of young adults with learning disabilities had enrolled in some type of postsecondary education within eight years of graduating from high school.

But just 24 percent of students who received support for a learning disability in high school disclosed that disability in college, according to the report.

It’s an issue that has caught the eye of the U.S. Department of Education, which announced last month that it would fund a new center to share information and best practices to help students with learning disabilities make the transition to or attend a postsecondary institution.

The disabilities-support system at many colleges can make it difficult for students to prove they have a learning disability, Ms. Jones said. While students with learning disabilities were often first tested for them in elementary school, they could need to provide a college’s support-services office with a more recent test, which tends to be costly. Then, each semester, the students must show each of their professors a letter that says they require some sort of assistance.

"That’s a hard thing for any 18-year-old to do," Ms. Jones said. "It’s a very daunting experience for a young person who hasn’t had rock-solid self-advocacy training to get those accommodations."

Some students work with officials who have helped to draft their Individualized Education Program, which guides the assistance they need while they’re in elementary or secondary school, to prepare them to seek assistance in college. That could include additional time on examinations or having another person take notes in class.

In elementary and secondary schools, support for students with learning disabilities is governed by the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. But college students must seek support under a different law, the Americans With Disabilities Act. IDEA puts the requirement on teachers to identify a potential learning disability; in college, students must be more proactive about getting support for their disabilities.

The new information center that the Education Department is supporting will help students and their families understand how the support system at colleges differs from the system at elementary and secondary schools, while helping colleges improve services for students with learning disabilities.

Raising Awareness
Even though more students with learning disabilities are enrolling in higher education, colleges have been slower to raise broad awareness across their campuses, said Allison R. Lombardi, an assistant professor of educational psychology at the University of Connecticut.

Some institutions have started offering faculty-development programs for professors to learn more about how to work with students who have a learning disability, but that tends to be "the exception, rather than the rule," she added.

Four-year universities "have a whole staff of people in DSS offices doing good things," Ms. Lombardi said, referring to disabilities-support services programs. At some universities, those offices have tried to raise faculty awareness of how to help students with learning disabilities instead of just referring them to the DSS office, she added.

Some universities have gained recognition for specialized programs to accommodate students with learning disabilities. One of them is the University of Arizona, where Ms. Walsh decided to attend, largely because of a program it calls the Strategic Alternative Learning Technique Center, the SALT Center.

Students who are accepted to the SALT Center have access to a smaller community on the campus that includes upper-class role models and staff learning specialists, who meet with students individually each week to help with skills like time management, studying, and communicating with professors about their disabilities.

The program helps students gradually feel more confident about their situation, said Rudy M. Molina, director of the SALT Center.

"We find that most students who meet with us weekly, they’re able to discuss those things incrementally over time and not kind of in crisis mode," Mr. Molina said.

Still, those types of programs are costly and rely heavily on donors. The program costs an additional $2,600 per semester for underclass members, while access to the campus disability-resource center, which can help provide students with amenities such as extra time on exams, is free.

At East Carolina University, in North Carolina, a program called STEPP enrolls 10 students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia annually. The program is free for those students, who typically would not be admissible to the university based on its traditional application, but who prove they are "college material," said Sarah Williams, the program’s director.

The program supplements support already offered by the university’s disabilities-support services office, Ms. Williams said. By requiring freshmen and sophomores to use certain services, but offering them to all students throughout their time at the university, students are focused on the transition into college life.

"They need a set of supports, but they’re going to be just fine," Ms. Williams said. "The first couple of years, for some students, is a couple of years of confidence building. They come in, they use our resources, they do fine, but they begin to believe in themselves and become more and more confident."

The Education Department’s new center could help more colleges develop larger programs — and help students and families obtain support, said Ms. Jones, at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

"The reality is that in some cases it’s very clear," she said. "But in some cases it’s extremely difficult to find."