Using iPad Applications to Increase Literacy Skills for Children PreK to Grade 3 With Disabilities by Stone-MacDonald (2015) discusses the use of iPads as a piece of assistive technology to support students with disabilities, and the study focuses exclusively on young learners pre-k through third grade. The author investigates this in terms of developing literacy skills and only looked at iPad applications seeing that the iPad has the widest range of learning apps applicable for young learners and iPhones are not feasible for young learners to manipulate due to their inadequate size (Stone-MacDonald, 2015).
The author put all research findings in the context of helping Jonah, a five-year-old student with autism, who uses a Tech/Talk aid as his communication mode. While Jonah was doing well with this device, his parents noticed he really enjoyed using his siblings iPad and could manipulate it quite well. Jonahs parents asked his teachers if they could transition Jonah to an iPad making a strong case by stating it was easily transportable between home and school and more socially acceptable than his current device (Stone-MacDonald, 2015, p.
Included in the article is a section on current research that emphasizes the lack of research on the use of iPads with very young children with disabilities, yet shows research in support of using technology with children with special needs. For example, the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) have a position statement stating technology can support all children with various abilities to participate and access the curriculum in early childhood (Stone-MacDonald, 2015, p. 5). However, also mentioned was a study on iPad literacy apps for young children that found these apps do not provide anything except skill and drill and fail to use all that an iPad can offer (Stone-MacDonald, 2015). That being said, it is important for the reader to recognize that this study was conducted in 2012 and many improvements have been made since that time. More recent research found that STEM curriculum, digital storytelling, and literacy development apps were beneficial in showing growth and success in inclusive settings (Stone-MacDonald, 2015).
Several categorical apps are discussed as potentials in effectively meeting Jonahs IEP objectives and are summarized in Table 1 (Stone-MacDonald, 2015, p. 4). For instance, reading-focused apps that read books aloud and provide opportunities for students to interact, prove helpful in satisfying Jonahs goal of retelling a story. By using this type of app, a story is read to Jonah as many times as needed with the added bonus of highlighting words during the read aloud. Literacy skill-building apps, which focus on skills like building vocabulary, spelling, sight-words, and letter sounds, are more flashcard based. Although, they do have interactive capabilities and animations features making the apps more engaging to young children like Jonah. Reading and writing apps allow Jonah to create stories and participate with his peers during classroom activities. These apps help him with comprehension, vocabulary, phonics and phonemic awareness. Communication-focus apps, the last category investigated by the author, are the most expensive yet the most customizable, and support Jonahs communication and literacy development
For each of these categories, the author listed specific apps believed to be of high-quality to use with young children with disabilities in Table 2 (Stone-MacDonald, 2015 p. 7). The author mentions composing this detailed list by using a rubric created especially for evaluating literacy and communication apps created by Van Houten in 2011 (Stone-MacDonald, 2015, p. 8). In my opinion, this rubric checklist can be a valuable resource for educators and parents in determining if a particular app is of high educational quality and worth the investment.
The article concluded with Jonahs team determining the iPad, with its specifically tailored apps, as a significant way to improve his literacy growth and communication skills. Personally, technology via iPads is an excellent way to build the skills of young students like Jonah, while allowing them more opportunities to interact with peers and to use the same technology as they grow. I can see students increasing their confidence and self-esteem by being more comfortable and expressive, as Jonahs parents stated, an iPad is socially acceptable. That would certainly make students with disabilities feel like they fit in with everyone both inside and outside of school. Additionally, young children love technology and seem to learn best by being directly engaged. iPad apps do just that and can be customized to fit each students specific needs, allowing them to be successful. It is recognized that high-quality technology is expensive, but its benefits far outweigh any negatives, including the expense. I think all students with disabilities should learn through iPad applications in order to meet their personal needs no matter what their age, and this article supports this belief.
Division for Early Childhood/National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2009).
Early childhood inclusion: A joint position statement of the Division for Early Childhood
(DEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, FPG Child Development Institute.
Stone-MacDonald, A. (2015). Using iPad applications to increase literacy skills for children preK to grade 3 with disabilities. Young Exceptional Children, 18(3), 3-18.