Evidence for effectiveness of our apps

Chicago class study of PocketPhonics Stories

For common words taught by the app, students were almost twice as likely to have learned them.
In 2016, we conducted a study with a class of EAL (English as additional language) kindergarten students in a Chicago school.  The main difficulty with this kind of study conducted over several months is trying to tell apart what children have learned using the app from what they’ve learned during class.
The key finding was that for common words taught by the app, children were almost twice as likely to have learned them. The teacher was introducing letter sounds in a different order in class, and thus different common words were introduced during class. On average, students were using the app for just 5 mins per day during the study. Obviously considerably less than the time the teacher was spending teaching literacy.
To conduct the study, students were tested on their ability to identify 40 common words before using the app and after completing each of the first three phonics levels of the app. Here’s how the teacher tested their ability to recognise the 40 common words.
  • Each word was spoken, and the student had to choose it from a list of four similar words. For example, “which word is ‘cat’?” and the child had to choose from “can, cat, bat, mat”
  • Given they had to choose the correct word from a list of four alternatives, you would expect them to get 1 in 4 (25%) words correct just through random guessing.

Seven EAL Kindergarten students with very limited English completed the study. They were tested initially before they had used the app, having been at school for just a few weeks. Not one of the students scored better than if they were just guessing. They had very limited English.

After completing the third phonics level in the app, on average, they scored 52% better than guessing for words taught by the app  and only 30% better than guessing for words not taught by the app. Thus they had improved nearly twice as much at the words taught by the app.
The study started in Oct ’14 and finished in May ’15.

 PocketPhonics small-scale study in UK in 2012

Independent research found children learnt nine times as fast using PocketPhonics as compared to a classroom lesson. Keher 2012

A+ rating of PocketPhonics Stories by Balefire Labs

Balefire Labs ratings measure how well an app is likely to teach based on whether an app consistently follows ways of teaching that research has shown work. It’s essentially an assessment of well an app follows established teaching principles. PocketPhonics Stories met these principles so well, it merited the top A+ rating. One of only two literacy apps out of thousands to get this accolade. Here’s how the app met these key principles:
 Adapting difficulty
  • every quiz, gets progressively harder
Mastery-based progression
  • child masters a group of letter sounds then tackles a set of books that use them
  • children can only move on from one set of books, when they have mastered all the quizzes for that set of books
Clearly stated learning objectives
  • learn to recognise letter sounds
  • write letters
  • blend letter sounds into words (key step in reading)
  • segment words into letter sounds (key step in spelling)
Frequent, meaningful interaction
  • at every point, the app supports and checks the child’s understanding
Performance reports
  • online for both schools and parents – detail what the child has learned

Evidence for effectiveness of synthetic phonics approach

PocketPhonics and its big brother, PocketPhonics Stories, both follow the synthetic phonics teaching method. The evidence for this method is well established. The best-known piece of research for it is the longitudinal study of the effectiveness of synthetic phonics in Scotland: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/Doc/36496/0023582.pdf

Third-party research into the effectiveness of apps teaching handwriting

This research published in 2016 found that, “There was a benefit of practicing writing with one’s finger on a tablet computer.” Interestingly,it was more effective to use your finger than a stylus on the tablet. This was attributed to the greater tactile feedback from using your finger. Patchan & Puranik 2016

Recent awards and press mentions

Best Kids’ Learning Apps & Games of 2015 Awarded by EdTech Service Balefire Labs

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