Technology is growing exponentially in educational environments. Every day children and educators have access to volumes of resources that are provided in digital interfaces— computers, tablets and smartboards are all commonplace in classrooms across the nation. As opportunities to engage technology become more and more available in early childhood it is important on consider if the value added is worth the investment.
Early Learning Labs, Inc. recently introduced an iOS application to support its early literacy assessment suite. The myIGDIs iPad application is extrapolated from IGDI-APEL, a research project at the University of Minnesota’s IGDIlab. IGDI-APEL stands for “Individual Growth and Development Indicators- Automated application for Performance Evaluation of Early Language and Literacy”. This is an exciting new tool to support early educators, but just as with any new resource it is important to ensure the time and cost it takes to bring on the new tool is a value added. Here we offer five reasons for considering the myIGDIs iPad App as a solution to support early literacy and language assessment needs.
Top 5 Reasons to Consider the myIGDIs iPad App
- Efficiency. Gone are the days of manual scoring, managing a timer, flipping through flash cards and tracking errors. The new iPad application streamlines all of these factors into one seamless experience. The iPad app works via Bluetooth where two iPad devices are yoked to interact with each other. The child works on their iPad and the assessor controls the other. For receptive measures, such as Which One Doesn’t Belong, the child selects their response by touching the image and the response is communicated to the assessor’s iPad where he or she can confirm the child’s response as correct or incorrect and advance the items. In this way all response content is automatically recorded, but the assessor maintains complete control. Similarly, for expressive measures, like Picture Naming, the child views the image and states the response out loud, then the assessor swipes the image to confirm a correct response or selects the incorrect button if the child is not able to provide a listed response. In this way, all response recording, scoring and timing is provided right within the application. It is as easy as selecting the child from the classroom roster and beginning the assessment. Think of the time you’ll save not having to record or transfer any data!
- Increased Data Utility. The myIGDIs iPad app offers exceptional new utility because of its ability to summarize and analyze student data, instantaneously. After each assessment student scores are provided in the context of cut scores so that each score is scaled and color coded to provide context for understanding performance. Multiple utilities in the app, including graphs and summary tables, allow the user to examine trends across students and classrooms both by identified group membership (such as DLLs, students with IEPs or students at a specified Tier level) and across seasons to examine the degree to which universal instruction is supporting all students within a classroom. Further, each form of data presentation- tables, graphs, and summary screens can be exported for download and sent to your email so that you can print any required graph, table, or student summary and save it in the student’s file for use in IEP meetings, parent meetings or in professional learning community discussions.
- Real time information, right at your fingertips. One of the most significant assets the myIGDIs iPad app brings to the table is real-time feedback. This means that there is no lag between assessment and reviewing student scores, and potentially making a decision to support instruction. Assessment results are only useful if they are employed in a data-based decision making model and myIGDIs aims to facilitate this process by immediately summarizing student data at the end of the assessment for review. Educators are pressed for time, and the antiquated process of manually scoring an assessment, comparing it to a benchmark and then considering instructional changes creates a divided process that can separate knowledge of student performance from the actual changes that are made in instruction and intervention. When educators know exactly how a child is doing in real time, they can consider what can be done differently to improve performance in the same moment, potentially accelerating the match between what the student needs for success and what is being offered instructionally. The application offers in app alerts that let the user know when an intervention may be needed, flags to note intervention application and feedback regarding performance trends before and after interventions are in place.
- Engagement. Preschool is a fun an exciting time for young children. Every moment of inquiry is important, and developmentally, attention spans are short. We know that not all preschoolers can sit for lengthy assessments, and while paper-pencil IGDIs also honor this important facet of general outcome measurement, the iPad application expands on student engagement by making the experience interactive. iPads, in and of themselves, are exciting to preschoolers, so just by offering the opportunity to participate in a task on the iPad we increase engagement. Children are able to use an independent device and each image they touch “grows” to let them know their selection. The measures that require sounds now are automated so each sound is a recording delivered within the application, standardizing the sounds and facilitating the child’s direct interaction with the sound, rather than with the assessor. In addition, the IGDIlab team that designed the iPad application was also careful to consider the opposite end of the engagement spectrum as well, where too much stimuli can be distracting. Many early childhood iPad applications are full of exciting scenes, dramatic effects and storylines that are fun, colorful and mesmerizing. However, in an assessment platform, this type of distraction prevents the child from attending to the task in front of them. Therefore all measures are presented on a white background with only the relevant stimuli offered on each item. In this way we can ensure the child’s response is a function of their knowledge regarding the content and not their interest in the illustration, special effects or thematic attraction of the additional information on a screen.
- Computer Adaptive Testing. Finally, and potentially the most powerful asset in the myIGDIs iPad app, is the new deployment of Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT). CAT allows each child to receive an item set that is specifically tailored to their ability. If the child gets an item incorrect the CAT engine selects another item that is easier than the previous item. If the child gets the item correct, the CAT engine selects another item that is more difficulty than the previous item. In this way we reduce the error in our estimates of child ability, prevent practice effects on items and tailor each assessment experience to meet the needs of the child.