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O'Brien, B. A., Habib, M., & Onnis, L. (2019). Technology-based tools for English literacy intervention: Examining intervention grain size and individual differences. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, Article 2625. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02625
Technology plays an increasingly important role in educational practice, including interventions for struggling learners (Torgesen et al., 2010; de Souza et al., 2018). This study focuses on the efficacy of tablet-based applications (see Word Reading, Grapholearn, and an experimental word-level program) for the purpose of supplementing early English literacy intervention with primary grades 1 and 2 children. The children were identified for learning support programs within Singaporean schools, which follow a bilingual policy, meaning children were learning reading in English plus an additional language. One hundred forty-seven children across seven schools participated (Mean age = 6.66). Within learning support classrooms, triplets of students matched on basic reading skills were randomly assigned to one of three groups: (1) phoneme-level, (2) rime-level, or (3) word-level focused interventions. All groups performed reading skills activities on iPads, across two phases over a 14-week period. Assessments for word reading accuracy and fluency, pseudoword decoding accuracy and fluency, and spelling were administered at four time points, pre- and postintervention. Additional baseline measures were taken to assess individual differences in phonological awareness, orthographic awareness, general cognitive ability, statistical learning, and bilingual vocabulary knowledge. Mixed model analysis was conducted on the pre- to post-test measures across the two phases of the intervention (focused on accuracy then fluency). All groups made gains across the different literacy measures, while the phoneme-level intervention showed an advantage over the rime-level intervention, but not the word-level intervention, for decoding. There were also moderating effects of individual differences on outcomes. The general pattern of results showed an advantage of the word-level intervention for those with poorer phonological awareness for reading fluency; and a phoneme-level intervention advantage for those with poorer statistical learning ability. Children’s bilingual group (English plus Mandarin, English plus Malay, or English plus Tamil) also showed differential effects of the type of intervention (e.g., phoneme- or word-level) on different outcome measures. These results, along with data collected from the tablets during the intervention, suggest the need to examine the interplay between different types of technology-based interventions and individual differences in learning profiles.
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