iPads as Writing ToolsKenneth Ruth7202T.NETSeminar in Applied Theory and Research IIFall 2013
Table of ContentsAbstractStatement of the ProblemReview of Related LiteratureStatement of the HypothesisMethodParticipantsInstrumentsExperimental Design / ProcedureThreats to ValidityResultsDiscussion and ImplicationsReferencesAppendix (Data Analysis)
Abstract This action research study focuses on the use of technology, specifically the iPad, as a writing tool to help struggling first grade writers. It proposes that young writers who have difficulty with the physical production of handwriting will benefit from the virtual keyboard of the iPad and experience a more productive writing workshop experience as a result. It will utilize comparison of pre and post test writing exercises to measure the word production and word spacing mechanics of ten first grade writers in an elementary public school classroom in Brooklyn, NY. The results suggest the use of the iPad does not positively affect word production in a writer's workshop, but may increase compliance with use of spacing between words.
Statement of the Problem This research stems from work with a small group of 1st grade students in a public school in Brooklyn who have difficulty producing writing work as compared with their peers. These students have no difficulty formulating ideas or creating stories, but they do have difficulty either with the mechanics of handwriting or with focusing long enough to write down their ideas. A possible answer lies in technology. Specifically, the use of iPads as a tool in the classroom to work with this group of struggling writers. The interface of the iPad may circumvent the handwriting mechanics issues of some of the students. The interest generated by a new technology in the classroom may also grab the attention and spur the productivity of the students who have trouble focusing through a standard Writing Workshop.
Review of Related LiteratureVan Leeuwen and Gabriel (2007) studied the effects of word processing technology on writing instruction in the first grade. The authors found a preference among some students for the word processor as a tool for first draft composition because of the avoidance of handwriting and the tendency for their hands to get tired while writing with pencil and paper. However, they noticed from an observation perspective that composition rates slowed considerably after a short period of time when using the keyboard due to lack of or insufficient typing skills.
Edwards-Groves (2012) sees writing as a multi-modal exercise which is influenced by the highly technology-saturated culture of the modern student. She believes that classroom practices must shift to encompass the new writing styles and writing focus of the new interconnected social technology which is so pervasive in modern culture. The author suggests that classroom planning must begin to account for the influence of technology on writing experienced by students every day a technoliteracy which can not be ignored if the teacher wishes to fully engage the students.
Huang, Liang, Su, and Chen (2012) studied the use of e-book devices like the iPad as a learning system for elementary students. The researchers found the differences in reading accuracy were not significant between the devices and standard printed paper. However, they did propose that the ability of the devices to record and process data regarding the individual reader would be useful in tracking and monitoring the individual achievements of each student and could, therefore, prove a superior tool in that the educator could use the data to tailor instruction to the student.
Statement of the Hypothesis Utilizing the iPad as a writing tool to aid struggling 1st grade writers at a public school in Brooklyn over the period of one month will increase word production during Writer's Workshop.
MethodParticipants10 first grade Brooklyn public school students
InstrumentsConsent formsPre-testPost-testStudent survey
Experimental Design: OXO This research will be conducted in the pre-experimental, single group pretest-posttest design. The single (non-randomly selected) group of first graders will be administered a pretest (O). After the pretest, the treatment (X) will consist of small group and individual intervention utilizing iPads as writing tools. This period will be followed by a posttest (O) to measure the efficacy of the treatment. Pre-Test AdministrationIndividual iPad Writing Intervention (4 weeks, 4 sessions per student)Post-Test AdministrationStudent Survey AdministrationProcedure
Threats to Internal ValidityHistory. As a visitor to the classroom, history is a strong threat to validity. The researcher will have almost no control over the day to day operation of the classroom and will be at the mercy of the regular classroom teacher's schedule at all times. Controlling for historical threats will be a challenge.
Testing/Pre-test Sensitization. This threat is valid as the posttest will be similar to the pretest. The students may have expectations about what is required on the posttest because of their exposure to the pretest.
Instrumentation. The researcher will be creating the instruments used in this experiment. This could create some threats to validity.
Differential Selection of Subjects. This may be a threat to validity as the students will enter the study at different ability levels which could affect the level of growth seen by the end of the study.
Selection-Maturation Interaction. This may be a threat to validity as the sample group is of a young age. Small age differences among them could have a significant effect on maturity levels which might influence the research findings.
Ecological Validity. This should not be an internal threat to validity as all research will be conducted within one classroom setting.
Generalizable Conditions. This could be a threat to validity as different students may have different reactions to the technology used in this study.
Threats to External Validity/Participants EffectsPre-test Treatment. This is a valid threat as the pretest may influence the students' focus and performance on the posttest.
Specificity of Variables. This threat may be valid as some students might have prior experience with the technologies used in the study, which could influence the outcome of the experiment.
Experimenter Effects. There should be no passive threats in this category. However, an active threat could be valid as the researcher has a personal bias in favor of the use of and effectiveness of technology in the classroom. Every effort will be made to reduce this bias and its effect on the research.
Hawthorne Effect. This is a credible threat to validity. First grade students are likely to increase their attention and effort as a result of being viewed and interacted with individually.
Compensatory Rivalry Effect. This is a threat to validity. Not every student within the classroom containing the sample students will be receiving the intervention and some level of rivalry may emerge. This could influence students within the sample to either work harder toward writing goals or to back away from them.
Novelty Effect. This is a highly credible threat to validity as the technologies introduced for the intervention may carry their own novelty which could influence the effort exerted by members of the sample population.
Results The results suggest the use of the iPad does not positively affect word production in a writer's workshop, but may increase compliance with use of spacing between words. Eight out of ten students demonstrated negative impact on word production as a result of the intervention. Lack of familiarity with the keyboard structure was the most significant cause.
Discussion and Implications The action research study shows that simple implementation of iPads as writing devices is insufficient to support struggling first grade writers. The difficulties presented by inexperienced use of a keyboard structure overwhelm any positive influence in mechanics or student interest.
Further Study Four out of ten students demonstrated positive impact on compliance with use of spacing between words as a result of the intervention. Further study is needed to isolate any potential benefits in this and other specific writing mechanics which might be gained from the use of iPads as writing tools.
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