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Can Handheld Devices Improve

Reading Scores For Elementary Aged


Natalie Clark
Western Oregon University

In our society today you are not able to go twenty-four hours without seeing some type of
handheld device. Even if you are not using one yourself, you notice others in the grocery stores,
coffee shops, and even waiting for the bus, using handheld devices. The age range for users of
handheld devices spread the spectrum from children less than a year old, to older people in their
nineties. According to Pew Research Center, 44% of adults own a smartphone, and the number
of tablet owners grew by about 50% since the summer of 2011. (Mitchell, A., Rosenstiel, T., &
Christian, L., 2004).

What is a handheld device?
Lets look at what is considered a handheld device. A handheld computer is a computer
that can conveniently be stored in a pocket (of sufficient size) and used while you're holding it.
Today's handheld computers, which are also called personal digital assistants (PDAs), can be
divided into those that accept handwriting as input and those with small keyboards.(Rouse,
2005) At the rate in which technology advances, there are new handheld devices introduced to
the public every few weeks. Our society has embraced these small handheld computers.
Apple released the iPod in October 2004, to the public. (Apple, 2012) These small devices
surprised people with all the capabilities it had with such things as timers, games, and the ability
to hold thousands of songs. Since the iPod came out, many companies have now created their
own version of a small handheld device with many different capabilities. As years go by these
small devices continue to impress the public with the variety of different tasks they can do.
Many of these devices have the capabilities of playing games, taking photos and videos,
recording audio, storing thousands of songs, sending messages, browsing the Internet, and being
able to make phone calls. As the new generations of children grow up with these technologies, it
becomes second nature to use these handheld devices every day.

What are the negatives aspects of using hand held devices in schools?
Research studies were conducted by Patricia Greenfield, UCLA Professor of Psychology.
Her studies showed "by using more visual media, students will process information better.
However, most visual media are real-time media that do not allow time for reflection, analysis or
imagination. "Among studies Greenfield analyzed was a classroom study showing that students
who were given access to the internet during class and were encouraged to use it during lectures
did not process what the speaker said. Nevertheless, Mouza (2008) found students using laptops
acquired a sense of pride and empowerment. They displayed increased intrinsic motivation and
persistence in completing school work and often went beyond the requirements of assignments,
therefore improving the quality of the finished product they turned in. They directed their own
learning and engaged in higher level activities.

How can schools fund the purchase of handheld devices?
We all know that the education system is always lacking funding. So a huge obstacle for
schools to get the quantity of handheld devices they need is the amount of money the devices
costs. The opportunities for schools to apply to receive grants or scholarships are unlimited. It
does take time and dedication to apply to receive the funding needed to purchase the devices. If
the need and want is there it can be done. The Intel Foundation has donated approximately $3
million to Oregon K-12 schools, community colleges and higher education institutions and
programs in 2007. These funds were used to achieve several objectives to improve the use of
technology in the classroom and broaden access to technology. (Weil, 2014)

How is updating the devices manageable?
Technology is changing constantly and being able to update the devices continually is an
issue. Having a staff member or teacher given the time necessary to update the devices is very
unlikely. Companies have created technology carts that are able to automatically update these
devices during the evenings so it does not interfere with student usage. While the devices are
plugged in and updating, the battery is also charging. The average Ipad offers 10 hours of charge
while being used. Software updates occur on the average of every month.

How is security handled?
Every night on the news there are stories of break-ins and burglaries for different
technology devices. Theft can be a huge issue when you have young students being able to use
these small handheld devices. Applications are easily downloaded to track these small handheld
devices. When an item is taken off campus and is turned on, it sends a GPS signal to the master
computer on-campus. This way the staff is able to physically locate where the device is and ask
for its return.

Can Handheld Devices Improve Reading Scores For Elementary Aged Students?
The education system began to realize it was necessary to also adapt the usage of
handheld device technology into classrooms so the students could benefit from them. We need to
teach our students how to use these handheld devices in a positive way to help them learn more
efficiently. In the article titled Getting Past the Digital Divide,' "I was drawn to the story of the
5th grade teacher, Matt Cook from Keller, Texas. He actually used a smart phone with the
texting and phone features disabled. So, I believe that a teacher could do what he did using a
smartphone, an iPhone, an iTouch or an iPad. Matt got a grant for the phones and the internet
connectivity. In 2009, he piloted a mobile learning device initiative in the 5th grade. All 136,
5th graders received a smart phone with a stylus-sensitive touch-screen and a small retractable
keyboard. The devices were incorporated into math, science, and language arts classes.
Matt Cook also sought out the donation of software. The software was
specifically designed for handheld devices. This enabled his students to use their smartphones to
write, crunch data, record their science experiments and create podcasts to share with other
students. The software allowed students to create a diagram of the Solar System and animate the
planetary orbits. Matt shared that he found the technology useful by allowing him to explore
subjects with greater depth and complexity that he previously had done and that this made
learning more exciting and relevant for his students.

I think the thing I find most surprising is the way some educators are viewing
smartphones. I love that they are thinking outside the box. Ill bet Matts phones were less
expensive than an iPod Touch. So, he got funding for an inexpensive technology and modified it
(no text/no calling) to connect learners to each other and to the greater world to access
information about science and other relevant subjects.

I wanted to see firsthand how these handheld devices actually worked in a school. I am
fortunate enough to work at Kennedy Elementary School where we now have 3 technology carts:
one for grades K-1; 2-3 and 4-5, with approximately 90 iPads and 75 iPod Touch devices, as
well as about 20 iPod Shuffles. These devices are used in listening centers, for home reading
interventions, or individualized student interventions. Parents and teachers read aloud and
recorded a set of non-fiction books. They loaded the new audio files onto the Shuffles and sent
both the iPods and the books home with students. The students were directed to listen to each
book three times and then they would bring them back and get a new set. The following year, a
group of first grade students were targeted to continue the experiment using iPod Touch devices.
They improved their fluency by reading the books into the iPod and listening to themselves.

The results were better than anyone could have hoped for. The majority of students
finished the six-week regimen improving their reading and speaking skills four to six levels
according to the standard reading level assessments. Several students were reading better in their
native language, as well. In six to eight weeks, they had made huge gains. All over Kennedy you
will find students using the iPads and iPod Touches to record audio and videos of themselves
reading when they feel they have mastered the content. In addition to the devices being sent
home, students have access to the technology in school listening centers and teachers can use
them for one-on-one interventions with struggling students.
I was able to sit down with Mrs. Robb and go over her students data so I could see what
the results were after using the handheld devices. Mrs. Robbs 2
and 3
grade students
increased their reading fluency and comprehension by using 6 non-fiction audio books (with a
hard book companion). Students would listen to each title on an iPod for a minimum of three
times per title, over a six week period.
You can aggregate or disaggregate the data to better understand which students are
meeting with success. You can disaggregate by gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status or
in a multitude of ways to look at student groupings.

The Baseline Data revealed
Spring/ Winter
2012-13 DRA:
2012-13 EDL
In Levels
Student 1 3/10 16/20 7/4
Student 2 4/8 14/20 4/6
Student 3 4/8 10/20 4/10
Student 4 1/8 3/10 7/7
Student 5 6/10 16/20 4/4
Student 6 10/12 16/20 2/4
Student 7 16/20 16/20 4/4
Student 8 3/10 16/20 7/4
Student 9 16/20 16/20 4/4
Student 10 16/20 16/20 4/4
Student 11 ?/1 3/1*moved to
English only
Student 12 6/8 16/20 2/4
Student 13 16/20 16/20 4/4
Student 14 16 16 Moved To Auburn
Student 15 2/8 8/10 6/2
Student 16 16/20 16/20 4/4
Student 17 8/10 16/20 2/4
Student 18 16/20 16/24 4/8
Student 19 6/12 28/34 6/6
Student 20 12/14 28/34 2/6
Student 21 14/14 28/34 0/6
Student 22 1/? 3/4 Moved to ERC
Student 23 18/24 28/34 6/6
Student 24 6/12 28/34 6/6

Seven out of ten second grade ELL (English Language Learners) students in Mrs. Robbs
classroom grew between 4 and 6 levels on the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment)
between the fall iPod listening intervention and their winter DRA, with the average of 5 levels
gained. According to the district guidelines for benchmark achievement in a second language,
7/10 students are at or above the suggested target range zone of 12-16 for second graders and
4/10 are above, meeting the target expectation for the beginning of 3rd grade. It is interesting to
note these 2nd graders made these improvements in a Literacy Squared classroom. This means
that these improvements were in both English and Spanish.

Research findings suggest that mobile devices, such as the iPod Touch, can provide ELL
students with significant support for language and content learning and extend learning time
from classroom to home. Audio books, Internet access, and media creation tools are found to be
especially important for these ELL students.(Liu,Navarret & Wivagg, 2014, pp 115-126)

Technology is truly running the world as we know it today. We do not want our students
to be held back by not providing the opportunities for them to experience different technologies.
Teaching our students how to use technology, not just for entertainment purposes, but also for
educational purposes, can be an excellent benefit. Students can use handheld devices for
continual practice with relevant skills anywhere and anytime. Research findings suggest that
mobile devices, such as the iPod Touch, can provide ELL students with significant support for
language and content learning and extend learning time from the classroom to home. Audio
books, Internet access, and media creation tools are found to be especially important for these
ELL students.


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