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20 TechTrends • May/June 2012 Volume 56, Number 3
Abstract
As part of a diagnosis and tutoring project
in an elementary education reading course, a
pre-service teacher was encouraged to use an
iPad as the vehicle for intervention strategies
with a fifth grade struggling reader with Atten-
tion Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The device
not only helped the student focus attention, it
facilitated his becoming much more metacog-
nitive in his reading. Comparisons of pre- and
post-assessments showed that the student had
gained one year’s growth in reading within a six-
weeks time period. The student also gained in
confidence and sense of being in control of his
learning. While generalizations to other strug-
gling readers with Attention Deficit Hyperactiv-
ity Disorder cannot be made, the success this
student experienced suggests that the use of this
device is worth serious consideration and re-
search in similar contexts.
Keywords: ADHD, eBooks, eReaders, in-
tervention, iPad, reading strategies, struggling
readers, tablet computers, educational tech-
nology, tutoring
ery early in the new century, Leu and col-
leagues (Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack,
2004) directed our attention to how the
new technologies have come to redefine literacy
in school, work and home. They believed that
information and communication technologies
(ICTs) are the most critical for schools to be
concerned with. Interestingly, they also point
out that these technologies are difficult to define
because they change so rapidly. Indeed, the par-
ticular device used in this account, the iPad, did
not exist when their article was written, but it
certainly qualifies as an ICT.
A Breakthrough for Josh:
How Use of an iPad Facilitated
Reading Improvement
By Barbara McClanahan, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Kristen Williams,
Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Ed Kennedy, Grandview Public School, OK and
Susan Tate, Swink Public School, OK
V
First author Barbara’s interest in the iPad
was generated shortly after its release in April
2010, and the opportunity for some hands-on
experience in early fall of that year convinced
her as a university professor working with pre-
service teachers that the device has huge edu-
cational potential. Designated in the trade as a
tablet computer, the iPad is based on the same
operating system as the popular iPhone. Its
standout features include comfortable size and
weight, touch screen, Wi-Fi data connection
and a plethora of affordable applications that
are easily downloaded. In the few months since
release of the iPad, school districts from Cali-
fornia to Virginia have adopted it to meet vari-
ous educational purposes, especially to provide
enhanced, interactive textbook access (Allen,
2011; Ash, 2011; Ferriter, 2010; Tatum, 2010).
Some high-profile educators, including Barbara
Ludlow, editor of Teaching Exceptional Children,
have suggested that the iPad and similar devices
are the future of one-to-one educational deliv-
ery, if not education itself (Allen, 2011; Ferriter,
2010; Ludlow, 2010). In an unexpected chain
of events, the opportunity to observe firsthand
the power of the iPad to impact a struggling
reader with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity
Disorder (ADHD) materialized that fall for Bar-
bara and Kristen, a pre-service teacher candidate
in a rural K-8 school.
Theoretical Framework
A report published by Chunzhen, Ried, &
Steckleberg in 2002 reviewed the research avail-
able on the use of technological interventions
to support students with ADHD in their aca-
demic efforts. Their conclusions were that “there
is currently little well controlled experimental
research on the effectiveness of technology spe-
Volume 56, Number 3 TechTrends • May/June 2012 21
cifically for children with ADHD” (p. 224). A
search of educational databases for such research
since their 2002 review resulted in only two ar-
ticles, one that studied motor control of boys
with ADHD during computer video game play
(Houghton et al., 2004) and one dealing with a
computer-assisted social skills program (Fen-
stermacher, Olympia, & Sheridan, 2006). These
two articles do not yet meet the research goals
that Chunzhen et al. (2002) identified.
Despite this dearth of experimental research,
there is extant research relating to students with
ADHD that has implications for the issue. A lon-
gitudinal study conducted by the MTA Coopera-
tive Group confirmed that the most productive
approach to use with students with ADHD was a
combination of medication and behavioral treat-
ment that included a school intervention com-
ponent; behavioral treatment alone had a posi-
tive but less significant effect (MTA Cooperative
Group, 1999a, 1999b; Sherman, Rasmussen, &
Baydala, 2008). Nevertheless, follow-up studies
showed the most enduring effects were achieved
by behavioral treatment alone (MTA Coopera-
tive Group, 2004a, 2004b). However, a review of
the literature by Raggi and Chronis (2006) ad-
dressing academic impairment of students with
ADHD determined that most of the school in-
terventions focused on targeting behavior dur-
ing academic lessons (e.g., DuPaul, 1991) rather
than planning specific interventions to address
academic deficiencies brought about by the core
symptoms of ADHD, i.e., inattention, hyperac-
tivity, and impulsivity. Nor did these studies in-
clude academic outcomes.
While Raggi and Chronis (2006) found that
most of the sparse research in this area had sig-
nificant design flaws or was difficult to generalize
because of small sample size or non-naturalistic
sites, they felt that there was sufficient evidence
to suggest that certain approaches held prom-
ise. Specifically they cited peer or parent tutor-
ing involving a one-on-one component, task
and instructional modifications including the
use of computer-aided instruction (CAI), strat-
egy training, self-monitoring, use of functional
assessment, and homework management pro-
grams. Nowacek and Mamlin (2007) reached
very similar conclusions. These discussions of
CAI provide support for the intervention de-
scribed in this article.
Although the research on CAI is often flawed
or conflicting, their review led Raggi and Chro-
nis to conclude, “CAI may be especially benefi-
cial for improving the academic performance of
students with ADHD” (p. 92). They also suggest
that CAI may be particularly useful for teachers
in general education classrooms to allow them to
provide individualized instruction for their stu-
dents with ADHD. They point to specific char-
acteristics of CAI that may promote sustained
attention and improved work performance of
such students; these include presentation of
learning tasks in multiple modalities, the ca-
pability of chunking tasks into more manage-
able pieces, and repeated trials with immediate
feedback. Additionally, CAI offers one-on-
one tailored instruction that is self-paced, of-
ten along with the novelty of game formatting
which promotes engagement and attention. All
of these characteristics directly address the core
symptoms of ADHD.
The use of technology, especially CAI, with
struggling readers has been investigated by re-
searchers for decades (e.g., Horney & Ander-
son-Inman, 1999; Horton, Lovitt, Givens, &
Nelson, 1989; Rhodes & Milby, 2007; Smith &
Okolo, 2010). Commercially developed pro-
grams, eBooks often with text-to-speech, and
computerized learning games all have research
to document their varying degrees of effective-
ness (Balajthy, 2007; Hasselbring & Goin, 2004;
Moody, 2010).
Although the iPad has eBook capability, it
is much more than an eBook. Even so, there is
insufficient research evaluating eBooks them-
selves in the classroom, much less as interven-
tions for struggling readers. The authors were
able to locate only one study (Larson, 2010) that
reported students using an eReader, specifically
the Kindle, to read eBooks in the classroom.
In the study, using the Kindle resulted in im-
proved engagement with text and deeper com-
prehension. Although the students in her study
were not struggling readers, Larson provided
a thorough explanation of how the features of
the digital reading device enabled students to
customize their reading experience in several
ways. They were able to change font size, write
notes in the text using a keyboard and utilize
an audio-enhanced dictionary. In addition, the
students were able to read in more comfortable
physical positions compared to reading on desk
computers or laptops.
Cavanaugh (2002) offered justification for
using eBooks to create specialized accommoda-
tions for students with reading disabilities and
described the creation of such accommodations
for a text in the public domain. However, no ex-
amples of the actual use of such accommoda-
tions with students were shared. Rhodes and
Milby (2007) provided teachers with detailed
instructions on how to create their own eBooks
to support learning disabled readers, but again
no documentation of the effectiveness of these
books was offered.
22 TechTrends • May/June 2012 Volume 56, Number 3
A tablet computer like the iPad has much
more functionality than an eReader such as the
Kindle. It is certainly too soon to expect well
designed studies of its usefulness with strug-
gling readers or students with ADHD, but as
new technologies become available, often the
leadership and direction for research come from
teachers trying out these technologies in their
classrooms (Leu et al., 2004). Such seems to be
the case with the iPad.
Context
One of the courses Barbara teaches at a
small regional university in southeastern Okla-
homa is reading diagnosis and intervention
for pre-service teachers. In this course each
teacher candidate is asked to complete what is
essentially an action research project. Action
research is generally thought of in terms of in-
service teachers identifying and studying issues
of teaching in their own classrooms (Ferrance,
2000; Mills, 2000). In recent years participatory
and reflective action research has also come to
be thought of as a valid form of professional de-
velopment and is therefore logically extended to
the field work engaged in by pre-service teach-
ers (Noffke, 1997). A typical design for an action
research project includes identifying a problem
or area of focus, collecting data, analyzing and
interpreting data, and developing a plan of ac-
tion (Mills, 2000). Ferrance (2000) adds a fifth
step—evaluating the results through reflection.
The purpose of the project in this course is
to provide practice for pre-service teachers in
identifying issues and concerns, collecting ap-
propriate data, analyzing that data, developing
an appropriate action plan, and implementing
the plan. The specific assignment is to assess a
fourth or fifth grade student who is reading at
least two years below grade level (problem) us-
ing an informal reading inventory and an inter-
est inventory (data collection tools). After ana-
lyzing the results of the assessments (analyzing
and interpreting data), the teacher candidate de-
signs a research-based plan of action (develop-
ing a plan of action) as well as structured lesson
plans for at least six tutoring sessions. At the end
of the tutoring sessions, the teacher candidate
re-assesses the student to determine whether
reading progress has been achieved and recom-
mends further instructional strategies for the
student (evaluating results through reflection).
Throughout the duration of the project Barbara
meets with each teacher candidate repeatedly, re-
views the work done, and guides in the planning
and conducting of the tutoring sessions. She ful-
fills the role of supervisor for the action research
project (Ferrance, 2000). Thus this project for
pre-service teachers follows closely the standard
procedure for action research. However, one of
the key advantages of the action research para-
digm is that when unexpected possibilities arise,
the researcher, in this case the teacher candidate,
is free to incorporate them into the action plan
(Mills, 2000).
Problem, Participants, and
Initial Data Collection
In early October 2010, second author Kris-
ten, one of Barbara’s pre-service teachers, came
to her with test results for Josh (a pseudonym),
a fifth grade boy with ADHD who was read-
ing on a second grade level. Sink Public School,
the tiny rural school he attended, was too
small to provide pull-out classes for students
identified as qualifying for special services. Josh’s
parents/guardians have decided not to use
medication to treat the ADHD, which was iden-
tified at age 9. Josh has been at Swink for his
entire school career.
Although his individualized education pro-
gram (IEP) requires specific accommodations
and modifications such as oral administration of
tests, reduced assignments, extra time, breaking
work into smaller pieces, frequent reminders,
etc., implementing these accommodations and
modifications is sometimes inconsistent due
to the high population of other students with
similar IEPs. Nowacek and Mamlin (2007) in
reporting two multiple-case studies found that
the elementary and middle school teachers did
not implement modifications consistently. Addi-
tionally, they tended to use “modifications that
could be performed without advanced planning,
that did not require differentiated instruction,
or behavioral intervention, or that could be ad-
dressed by another professional or support per-
son” (p. 34). Based on conversations with school
personnel, this probably describes the modifi-
cations Josh received in the years since he was
identified as having ADHD. Sherman and col-
leagues (Sherman et al., 2008) found similar
results in their review of the literature, but also
concluded that teachers’ views and behaviors
toward ADHD students directly influence the
behavior and consequently the academic out-
comes for these students. During the 2007-2008
school year when Josh was in second grade, his
STAR reading assessment showed approximate-
ly one year’s growth in reading, from an end-of-
year kindergartner (0.9) in the fall to an end-
of-year first grader (1.9) in the spring. STAR
assessments for other years were not available.
A review of Josh’s scores on the state reading
Volume 56, Number 3 TechTrends • May/June 2012 23
test shows that between third and fourth grades
Josh improved slightly but still scored “unsatis-
factory.” It was during the fourth grade year that
modifications and accommodations were imple-
mented, which may help to explain some of the
improvement.
During the testing session with Kristen, Josh
either rocked his chair back and forth on its two
back legs or stood with the knuckles of his fists
on the table top while the rest of his body swung
back and forth. He continually interrupted the
flow of the assessment by bringing up random
topics and questions. It was obvious to Kristen
that Josh was trying to cooperate but he just
could not stay focused.
Concerned that any tutoring she attempted
would likely be ineffective, Kristen consulted
Ed Kennedy (third author), superintendent of
Swink. He suggested that since Josh was already
familiar with the iPad from using it in his class-
room, perhaps Kristen could use it as a reward
for focusing on the tutoring assignments. In fact,
he even suggested using the iPad in the tutoring
lesson itself. Knowing that Josh would get little
parental support of the tutoring, his reasoning
was that, beyond the general allure that technol-
ogy has for most students, the self-paced, indi-
vidualized format that the iPad offered would be
beneficial for Josh, as Raggi and Chronis (2006)
have suggested. Kristen shared this possibility
with Barbara, who gave Kristen permission to
utilize the iPad in her tutoring sessions so long
as the applications used were consistent with her
approved plan of action and researched-based
reading strategies.
Data Analysis and Developing
the Plan of Action
When Kristen analyzed the data from the
IRI, she confirmed that Josh’s instructional level
was second grade. He did not read in phrases
or with expression and paid little attention to
punctuation. He, in fact, was not bothered by
his miscues and made no attempt to figure out
unknown words. He generally pronounced the
beginning of an unknown word correctly but
guessed at the rest of it. In terms of comprehen-
sion, he frequently missed detail, sequence, and
inference questions.
Kristen next drew up her plan of action,
which outlined Josh’s areas of need and the spe-
cific kinds of instructional activities she proposed
to address those needs. Her plan addressed word
recognition strategies for decoding, recognizing
compound words, and utilizing context clues to
decrease his miscues. To address comprehension
issues, she decided to focus on sequencing and
remembering details, drawing inferences, and
identifying cause and effect. She found several
applications for the iPad that she felt would be
useful, as well as strategies and graphic organiz-
ers on the Internet that she downloaded direct-
ly to the iPad.
Kristen and Barbara met to discuss her
findings, plan of action, and first lesson plan,
as well as Kristen’s use of the iPad to carry out
these plans. Kristen clarified how these strate-
gies supported her plan of action. Kristen and
Sidebar
Swink Public School is a tiny K-8 school located in
Southeast Oklahoma. It is situated in one of the most
economically depressed rural areas in the nation. When Ed
Kennedy arrived to take on the duties of superintendent
in 2009, he found a school with almost no technology
and little understanding of the need. Having a strong
background in educational technology himself, he quickly
developed a plan. During that first year, he rearranged the
budget and aggressively applied for grants that would allow
Swink to enter the Digital Age. By mid-year all teachers
had SmartBoard interactive systems, and teachers’ desktop
computers that were more than ten years old were replaced
with modern laptops. By the end of the school year in May
2010, Kennedy was able to provide every one of his skeptical
teachers with an iPad. Presenting them as “gifts” on the last
day of school, Kennedy in effect provided teachers with two
and one-half months of play/professional development time
with the iPads in their own homes at their leisure.
During that summer Swink also retrofitted a small
library into a technology lab, requiring new cabling, the
addition of SmartBoard interactive components, computer
tables, and 28 new laptop computers. A reorganized class
schedule for 2010-11 included daily technology classes for
all students, elective classes that integrated technology, and
after-school enrichment programs. Also offered were parent
technology training and family access to the technology lab,
critical to secure community buy-in.
Kennedy was convinced that for teachers to believe in
the impact that educational technology could have, they
had to feel confident using it and see examples of its impact
on learning. He contends the professional development
implemented throughout the year was the biggest factor in
the school’s progress. The training included basic computer
skills, internet teaching resources, Oklahoma Priority
Academic Student Skills, SmartBoard integration, and
finally, iPad training, both structured and self-directed. By
the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year, Swink teachers
had become knowledgeable implementers, with a newfound
level of commitment to educational technology. See their
story at the OETA website: http://www.oeta.tv/component/
video/908.html.
24 TechTrends • May/June 2012 Volume 56, Number 3
Barbara spent several hours in both face-to-face
and electronic consultation during the period of
time the tutoring was ongoing. After the tutor-
ing sessions ended, Kristen and Barbara met on
several occasions during which Kristen dictated
more detail of the events of the sessions, using
her notes to spark her memory. In addition,
Kristen’s assessment papers, plan of action, les-
son plans, and notes made during each tutoring
session became data from which much of this
article is drawn.
The lessons themselves were structured ac-
cording to research-based procedures (Gillet,
Temple, & Crawford, 2008) to include a mini-
lesson on a skill with which Josh needed help, a
reading passage that was implemented using be-
fore, during, and after reading strategies, a brief
assessment in the form of a running record, rec-
reational reading at the student’s independent
reading level, and journal writing.
On the advice of Susan Tate, one of Josh’s
teachers, Kristen broke the tutoring sessions into
two parts. In the first half of session one, Kristen
tried a traditional activity using sentence strips
to teach context clues, but it was unsuccessful.
At the end of the short session, Kristen let Josh
play a game on the iPad, one with which he was
familiar. She noted that while he was working
on the iPad, he sat perfectly still for at least 10
minutes and stayed totally focused on the game.
At that point she was convinced that the iPad
would play a major role in her intervention with
Josh. The second half of Lesson One took place
two days later. Kristen continued the lesson on
context clues, this time utilizing a game she had
downloaded to the iPad from an educational
website on the Internet. Josh was much more
responsive using this interactive method.
Kristen also used an eBook called The Won-
derful Palace that she had downloaded to the
iPad that was written at Josh’s instructional level.
This particular eBook allowed the student to re-
cord himself as he read aloud. Next he listened
to himself reading, following along in the text
with his finger. He began to realize that when he
was reading, he needed to slow down to say the
words more carefully. He commented, “Some-
times when I read, I read too fast and it doesn’t
make sense.” In other words, he was becoming
metacognitive about his reading. At the very end
of the session, he asked to read the story again
to “make it make sense.” When he read the story
this time, he slowed down too much in order
to pronounce each word correctly, but this time
he was intent on making sense of it. Josh had
a new understanding of what reading is sup-
posed to be.
Over the next five weeks, Kristen and Josh
met together at least twice a week for 20-minutes
sessions in which the iPad figured prominently
as a presentation method for content and strate-
gies. Sometimes the use of the iPad was student-
led. For example, when in the third lesson Kris-
ten tried to introduce the topic of compound
words using a traditional set of flash cards, Josh
said, “It’s hard for me to read when two words
are put together.” Then he asked if they could
do the flash card activity on the iPad instead.
Kristen found the FlashCards+ application and
quickly created several flashcards of compound
words. As they paged through the flash cards
on the screen, Kristen was able to demonstrate
for Josh how compound words are constructed.
After this mini-lesson, Kristen used a version of
the “Compound Boogie” game which she had al-
ready downloaded to the iPad from the Internet
to use for this lesson to provide guided practice.
In this application, two words are presented at a
time. The student taps on the word on the screen
that he thinks is the compound word. If he
chooses an incorrect word, the program (actu-
ally a PowerPoint) provides feedback and offers
an opportunity to make a correct response. Josh
played “Compound Boogie” at both sessions of
Lesson Three. This exercise helped Josh under-
stand for the first time that a compound word
could be broken into two recognizable words.
Next Josh read The Tortoise and the Hare,
a story on his instructional level, recording his
own voice just as he had in Lesson One. He was
very cautious in his reading, and Kristen felt it
was because he knew that at the end they would
listen to it and catch all his mistakes. By slow-
ing down he made significantly fewer mistakes
than in the first session, and seemed to com-
prehend more of the story. He listened to his
reading of the story and followed along with his
finger accurately.
To determine if it was his own voice that
made the difference, Kristen read the same story
to him from the iPad screen. He seemed to have
more difficulty following along as she read than
when he was listening to himself read. Thus,
she decided that having him record and listen
to his own reading was valuable. Since some of
the books they read were not available on the
iPad, Kristen used a tape recorder to achieve
a similar effect.
In subsequent lessons, Kristen and Josh
worked on word recognition and comprehen-
sion. They worked on word recognition skills
using Vocabulary Builder, Miss Spell’s Class,
and ABC Alphabet Phonics. Specifically, she
was teaching Josh to read all parts of a word and
Volume 56, Number 3 TechTrends • May/June 2012 25
demonstrating how changing one or two letters
changes the meaning of the word.
Kristen designed lessons on comprehension
including sorting out main idea and details, un-
derstanding sequence, and making inferences.
She used a combination of iPad applications and
activities downloaded to the iPad from the Inter-
net that were useful in teaching these concepts.
In one lesson, for example, she used the Stories-
2Go application to teach Josh how to sequence
main ideas in a story. In this application, the sto-
ries are read aloud by the device as the words are
presented on the screen. After listening to and
reading the simple story, Kristen had Josh give
the sequence of events in order. As a pre-read-
ing strategy for several stories downloaded from
an educational website, she used the prediction
guide available on the site, which automatically
generates a guide for making predictions about a
story. In addition, Kristen downloaded anticipa-
tion guides for several of the stories she and Josh
read, which Josh completed. To work on mak-
ing inferences she also downloaded a graphic
organizer called the inferencing poster. It uses a
drawing of an umbrella to help students sort out
main idea and details and make inferences based
on the sorting. This and other graphic organizers
were presented to Josh directly on the iPad.
Besides the specific applications and stories
downloaded to the iPad, other aspects of the de-
vice enabled Josh to use comprehension strate-
gies to aid his reading that he would have strug-
gled with in a paper text. For instance, Kristen
demonstrated the INSERT strategy (Vaughan &
Estes, 1986) using a paper text and then taught
Josh how to use a stylus to mark the text in the
same way on the iPad screen using the INSERT
markings. At the time, Kristen did not make de-
tailed notes as to the precise procedure and ap-
plications she used to do this, and at the time of
this writing is unable to remember how she did
it. However, the authors have noted that applica-
tions are now readily available that allow mark-
ing on the screen display.
INSERT involves using a few specific simple
marks to indicate response/reaction to the text;
for example, a check mark indicates something
already known, a question mark something
that doesn’t make sense, and exclamation mark
something that is very important. Josh found
this strategy much to his liking and quickly pro-
gressed from making simple markings to writ-
ing real notes in the text to help him find details
later. When Kristen questioned him about these
additions, he said, “Well, I know you are going
to ask me questions about this later, and this
way I can go back and find the answers.” After
the INSERT strategy was introduced in Lesson
Four, he used it consistently and independently
for every reading passage after that. In fact, he
commented that he felt this was going to help
his reading in his regular classes, suggesting
a genuine attempt at transfer of what he was
learning to new contexts.
As Kristen worked with Josh over the six
weeks, it seemed to her that he was definitely
making progress not only in his reading ability,
buthisattitudeaswell.Heseemedexcitedtoread
on the iPad; he seemed to have an improved at-
titude toward his schoolwork and toward him-
self. At one point he commented, “If I would
have learned [sic] how to do these things when
I first started school, I wouldn’t have had such
a hard time.”
Results and Evaluation
During the final session, Kristen adminis-
tered a different form of the informal reading
inventory she had used for the initial assess-
ment. On the initial testing at second grade,
Josh’s word recognition was 96% and compre-
hension was 75%; this was his instructional
level. At third grade, word recognition was 88%
and comprehension was 90%, indicating frus-
tration level (see Table 1). She began the final
assessment with his previous independent level
of first grade and continued through the fourth
grade. On the first and second grade assess-
ments, his word recognition scores were 100%
and comprehension scores were 75% and 100%
respectively, indicating that second grade was
now an independent level. On the third grade
level, word recognition was 98% and compre-
hension was 85%, meaning this was Josh’s new
instructional level. On the fourth grade level
passage he skipped four lines, which dropped
his word recognition score below 85% and his
comprehension score to 60%, indicating frus-
tration level. The results of the initial and final
assessments are displayed in Table 1 and sug-
gest that in a matter of six weeks, Josh had im-
proved one full grade level in reading ability.
Beyond the numerical data, however, it is
important to see the less tangible results re-
vealed in Kristen’s observations of Josh’s reac-
tions, responses, and comments. For example,
his request to re-read the story in Lesson One
“to make it make sense this time” strongly sug-
gests Josh now understands that reading should
be done to construct meaning. His explanation
of his rationale for making notes in the text
shows that he has developed some control over
his own reading strategies. His declaration that
he felt the INSERT strategy would help him in
26 TechTrends • May/June 2012 Volume 56, Number 3
other classes indicates an improved and more
positive attitude toward learning in general.
His poignant statement that if he had learned
these strategies earlier, he would not have had so
much trouble in school reveals a child who will
learn and can learn if given the appropriate tools
and instruction.
Reflection and Implications
Six months after Kristen’s tutoring ses-
sions with Josh, he is still a child with
ADHD reading below grade level, though his
teachers report that he has made noticeable
progress. To capitalize on that progress, how-
ever, Josh will need continued one-on-one in-
tervention based on ongoing assessment, and
the authors believe that use of the iPad as the
medium of that intervention will be important.
This article reports the experience of one
pre-service teacher with one struggling reader
who was also dealing with ADHD. Consequent-
ly, these results cannot be generalized to other
situations. However, the potential of transfer-
ability is real (Mills, 2000). It is important to ask
why the iPad enabled Josh to focus on academic
tasks and make such progress when five years of
schooling and remediation had not offered such
success. What was different?
In offering the following interpretations, the
authors are well aware of the impact of story as
a research tool, and the limitations that our own
lived stories have on these interpretations (Cart-
er, 1993). As Carter states, “A story…is a theory
of something. What we tell and how we tell it is
a revelation of what we believe. (p. 9)” Thus we
understand that we are interpreting the events
of the story we have told through the lens of our
own beliefs.
Certainly the fact that the tutoring sessions
offered one-on-one intervention may have been
a factor in Josh’s growth (Nowacek & Mamlin,
2007; Raggi & Chronis, 2006). However, Josh’s
inability to focus during the initial testing ses-
sion suggests that the tutoring sessions would
have been no different. Kristen’s lesson plans
teaching word attack and comprehension strat-
egies were well designed and supported by re-
search, but without some way to gain and hold
Josh’s attention, they would have been unlikely
to facilitate the academic achievement he expe-
rienced. The thing that seems to have made the
difference was the use of the iPad as a mediator
of the intervention (Raggi & Chronis, 2006).
As Kristen and Barbara discussed what as-
pects of the iPad seemed most likely to have
made the difference for Josh, several possible
explanations surfaced. The manipulative touch
screen promotes the use of several modalities
(Raggi & Chronis, 2006), especially visual and
tactile/kinesthetic. The added aspect of record-
ing his own reading and being able to play it back
and hear his own mistakes while looking at the
text (Chalmers, 1991) may have enabled him to
integrate the aural modality with the visual and
tactile/kinesthetic more readily and effectively.
This is supported by the fact that Josh’s teachers
had noted that his comprehension was greater
when someone else read a story or explained a
concept, and Kristen’s discovery that it was still
greater when he listened to his own reading. The
optimal stimulation theory of ADHD suggests
the possibility that the higher levels of sensory
stimulation using the iPad may have allowed
Josh to engage in the learning task in ways that
typical classroom experiences do not (Zentall,
1975). In addition, the touch screen and use of
the stylus may have added to Josh’s sense of be-
ing in control (Newton, Ard, & Horner, 1993).
The stylus promoted engaging in a note-taking
strategy in a multimodal environment, an ap-
proach supported by the work of Evans and col-
leagues (Evans, Axelrod, & Langberg, 2004; Ev-
ans, Pelham, & Grudberg, 1995).
Matt Dunleavy of Radford University is cur-
rently conducting important research on the
impact of mobile devices of all kinds, including
iPads, on learning for the general school popula-
Grade Level
of Assessment
Initial Scores
as a Percentage
Final Scores
as a Percentage
First WR 99
Comp 100
WR 100
Comp 75
Second WR 96
Comp 75
WR 100
Comp 100
Third WR 88
Comp 90
WR 98
Comp 85
Fourth WR*
Comp*
WR <85
Comp 60
Table 1. Josh’s Scores on Initial and Final IRI Assessments
Key: WR = Word Recognition; Comp = Comprehension
*Fourth grade test was not initially administered because it was
above frustration level.
Volume 56, Number 3 TechTrends • May/June 2012 27
tion (Allen, 2011). His work and that of others,
such as that being conducted by TimeLab2100 at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Al-
len, 2011) is fundamental to how we use such
technology in schools. However, we also need
to examine just as carefully how devices such
as the iPad do or do not positively impact the
exceptional student population that is at a dis-
advantage for learning in the traditional school
setting. Until actual research on the use of iPads
with struggling readers is published identifying
what these factors are, such stories as Josh’s can
provide direction just as Leu and his colleagues
(Leu et al., 2004) suggest.
In considering other important aspects of
the use of technology for students with ADHD,
Chunzhen and colleagues (Chunzhen et al.,
2002) specified two major practical concerns:
limitations of hardware and software availability
and teacher training. These are concerns when
technology is being considered in any education-
al setting. The iPad or similar devices may pro-
vide a solution to these concerns, first because of
the relatively smaller cost of tablet computer ap-
plications and licensing compared to PC applica-
tions and licensing. Secondly, since a tablet com-
puter generally utilizes the same or similar oper-
ating system as the ubiquitous smartphones—Ed
Kennedy called it a cell phone on steroids—very
little teacher training is required to become com-
fortable with how the device works. Research
is unquestionably needed to explore these pos-
sibilities. Certainly, from Kristen’s point of view
the availability of applications and the ability to
download Internet “finds” directly to the iPad
facilitated her planning and the implementation
of the lessons. Moreover, she was able to very
quickly master the use of the iPad virtually on
her own.
As we wait for the results of research, the
authors encourage more teachers to explore for
themselves ways that the iPad and similar elec-
tronic tablet devices can provide support for
struggling readers. We encourage teachers in-
volved in Response to Intervention programs,
for example, to consider experimenting with
tablet computers to allow students to gain in-
sight into their reading by hearing themselves
read (Chalmers, 1991) as more eBooks with such
capability become available, to improve compre-
hension with the use of electronic graphic or-
ganizers (Smith & Okolo, 2010), and to interact
with reading passages by making electronic nota-
tion in the text (Evans et al., 1995, 2004). Teach-
ers attempting to differentiate instruction may
explore using tablet computers to allow students
to work in the learning modalities in which they
are stronger (Beam, 2009), while simultaneously
offering them the opportunity to further devel-
op modalities in which they may be weaker. In
the 21st Century, teachers can indeed lead the
way for researchers, as one pre-service teacher
at Swink did.
Barbara McClanahan received her doctorate in education
from Texas A&M-Commerce and is currently an assistant
professor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, based
at the McCurtain County Campus in Idabel, OK. She teach-
es graduate and undergraduate reading courses and is the
Coordinator for the Master’s Reading Specialist Program.
Her research interests include teacher professional develop-
ment and struggling readers.
Kristen Williams completed her bachelor’s degree in el-
ementary education at Southeastern Oklahoma State Uni-
versity in 2011. She is currently focusing on her role as a
wife and mother in Hugo, OK.
Ed Kennedy is a former teacher, who also spent several
years working through a grant to the University of Idaho to
implement technology into public schools in Idaho. He cur-
rently serves as superintendent for Grandview Public School
in northeastern Oklahoma after two years as superinten-
dent at Swink Public School.
Susan Tate teaches technology and science at Swink Pub-
lic School in southeastern Oklahoma. She implemented the
technology program at Swink, which now boasts a 1:2 ratio
of computers to students and a 1:1 ratio of iPads to students
in the 3rd to 8th grade. She frequently presents regional
workshops on iPad use for teachers and recently was a panel
member at the Hawaii International Conference on Educa-
tion discussing “Teaching with iPads: Multiple Perspectives.”
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Copyright of TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning is the property of Springer Science
& Business Media B.V. and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv
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A Breakthrough For Josh How Use Of An IPad Facilitated Reading Improvement

  • 1. 20 TechTrends • May/June 2012 Volume 56, Number 3 Abstract As part of a diagnosis and tutoring project in an elementary education reading course, a pre-service teacher was encouraged to use an iPad as the vehicle for intervention strategies with a fifth grade struggling reader with Atten- tion Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The device not only helped the student focus attention, it facilitated his becoming much more metacog- nitive in his reading. Comparisons of pre- and post-assessments showed that the student had gained one year’s growth in reading within a six- weeks time period. The student also gained in confidence and sense of being in control of his learning. While generalizations to other strug- gling readers with Attention Deficit Hyperactiv- ity Disorder cannot be made, the success this student experienced suggests that the use of this device is worth serious consideration and re- search in similar contexts. Keywords: ADHD, eBooks, eReaders, in- tervention, iPad, reading strategies, struggling readers, tablet computers, educational tech- nology, tutoring ery early in the new century, Leu and col- leagues (Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack, 2004) directed our attention to how the new technologies have come to redefine literacy in school, work and home. They believed that information and communication technologies (ICTs) are the most critical for schools to be concerned with. Interestingly, they also point out that these technologies are difficult to define because they change so rapidly. Indeed, the par- ticular device used in this account, the iPad, did not exist when their article was written, but it certainly qualifies as an ICT. A Breakthrough for Josh: How Use of an iPad Facilitated Reading Improvement By Barbara McClanahan, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Kristen Williams, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Ed Kennedy, Grandview Public School, OK and Susan Tate, Swink Public School, OK V First author Barbara’s interest in the iPad was generated shortly after its release in April 2010, and the opportunity for some hands-on experience in early fall of that year convinced her as a university professor working with pre- service teachers that the device has huge edu- cational potential. Designated in the trade as a tablet computer, the iPad is based on the same operating system as the popular iPhone. Its standout features include comfortable size and weight, touch screen, Wi-Fi data connection and a plethora of affordable applications that are easily downloaded. In the few months since release of the iPad, school districts from Cali- fornia to Virginia have adopted it to meet vari- ous educational purposes, especially to provide enhanced, interactive textbook access (Allen, 2011; Ash, 2011; Ferriter, 2010; Tatum, 2010). Some high-profile educators, including Barbara Ludlow, editor of Teaching Exceptional Children, have suggested that the iPad and similar devices are the future of one-to-one educational deliv- ery, if not education itself (Allen, 2011; Ferriter, 2010; Ludlow, 2010). In an unexpected chain of events, the opportunity to observe firsthand the power of the iPad to impact a struggling reader with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) materialized that fall for Bar- bara and Kristen, a pre-service teacher candidate in a rural K-8 school. Theoretical Framework A report published by Chunzhen, Ried, & Steckleberg in 2002 reviewed the research avail- able on the use of technological interventions to support students with ADHD in their aca- demic efforts. Their conclusions were that “there is currently little well controlled experimental research on the effectiveness of technology spe-
  • 2. Volume 56, Number 3 TechTrends • May/June 2012 21 cifically for children with ADHD” (p. 224). A search of educational databases for such research since their 2002 review resulted in only two ar- ticles, one that studied motor control of boys with ADHD during computer video game play (Houghton et al., 2004) and one dealing with a computer-assisted social skills program (Fen- stermacher, Olympia, & Sheridan, 2006). These two articles do not yet meet the research goals that Chunzhen et al. (2002) identified. Despite this dearth of experimental research, there is extant research relating to students with ADHD that has implications for the issue. A lon- gitudinal study conducted by the MTA Coopera- tive Group confirmed that the most productive approach to use with students with ADHD was a combination of medication and behavioral treat- ment that included a school intervention com- ponent; behavioral treatment alone had a posi- tive but less significant effect (MTA Cooperative Group, 1999a, 1999b; Sherman, Rasmussen, & Baydala, 2008). Nevertheless, follow-up studies showed the most enduring effects were achieved by behavioral treatment alone (MTA Coopera- tive Group, 2004a, 2004b). However, a review of the literature by Raggi and Chronis (2006) ad- dressing academic impairment of students with ADHD determined that most of the school in- terventions focused on targeting behavior dur- ing academic lessons (e.g., DuPaul, 1991) rather than planning specific interventions to address academic deficiencies brought about by the core symptoms of ADHD, i.e., inattention, hyperac- tivity, and impulsivity. Nor did these studies in- clude academic outcomes. While Raggi and Chronis (2006) found that most of the sparse research in this area had sig- nificant design flaws or was difficult to generalize because of small sample size or non-naturalistic sites, they felt that there was sufficient evidence to suggest that certain approaches held prom- ise. Specifically they cited peer or parent tutor- ing involving a one-on-one component, task and instructional modifications including the use of computer-aided instruction (CAI), strat- egy training, self-monitoring, use of functional assessment, and homework management pro- grams. Nowacek and Mamlin (2007) reached very similar conclusions. These discussions of CAI provide support for the intervention de- scribed in this article. Although the research on CAI is often flawed or conflicting, their review led Raggi and Chro- nis to conclude, “CAI may be especially benefi- cial for improving the academic performance of students with ADHD” (p. 92). They also suggest that CAI may be particularly useful for teachers in general education classrooms to allow them to provide individualized instruction for their stu- dents with ADHD. They point to specific char- acteristics of CAI that may promote sustained attention and improved work performance of such students; these include presentation of learning tasks in multiple modalities, the ca- pability of chunking tasks into more manage- able pieces, and repeated trials with immediate feedback. Additionally, CAI offers one-on- one tailored instruction that is self-paced, of- ten along with the novelty of game formatting which promotes engagement and attention. All of these characteristics directly address the core symptoms of ADHD. The use of technology, especially CAI, with struggling readers has been investigated by re- searchers for decades (e.g., Horney & Ander- son-Inman, 1999; Horton, Lovitt, Givens, & Nelson, 1989; Rhodes & Milby, 2007; Smith & Okolo, 2010). Commercially developed pro- grams, eBooks often with text-to-speech, and computerized learning games all have research to document their varying degrees of effective- ness (Balajthy, 2007; Hasselbring & Goin, 2004; Moody, 2010). Although the iPad has eBook capability, it is much more than an eBook. Even so, there is insufficient research evaluating eBooks them- selves in the classroom, much less as interven- tions for struggling readers. The authors were able to locate only one study (Larson, 2010) that reported students using an eReader, specifically the Kindle, to read eBooks in the classroom. In the study, using the Kindle resulted in im- proved engagement with text and deeper com- prehension. Although the students in her study were not struggling readers, Larson provided a thorough explanation of how the features of the digital reading device enabled students to customize their reading experience in several ways. They were able to change font size, write notes in the text using a keyboard and utilize an audio-enhanced dictionary. In addition, the students were able to read in more comfortable physical positions compared to reading on desk computers or laptops. Cavanaugh (2002) offered justification for using eBooks to create specialized accommoda- tions for students with reading disabilities and described the creation of such accommodations for a text in the public domain. However, no ex- amples of the actual use of such accommoda- tions with students were shared. Rhodes and Milby (2007) provided teachers with detailed instructions on how to create their own eBooks to support learning disabled readers, but again no documentation of the effectiveness of these books was offered.
  • 3. 22 TechTrends • May/June 2012 Volume 56, Number 3 A tablet computer like the iPad has much more functionality than an eReader such as the Kindle. It is certainly too soon to expect well designed studies of its usefulness with strug- gling readers or students with ADHD, but as new technologies become available, often the leadership and direction for research come from teachers trying out these technologies in their classrooms (Leu et al., 2004). Such seems to be the case with the iPad. Context One of the courses Barbara teaches at a small regional university in southeastern Okla- homa is reading diagnosis and intervention for pre-service teachers. In this course each teacher candidate is asked to complete what is essentially an action research project. Action research is generally thought of in terms of in- service teachers identifying and studying issues of teaching in their own classrooms (Ferrance, 2000; Mills, 2000). In recent years participatory and reflective action research has also come to be thought of as a valid form of professional de- velopment and is therefore logically extended to the field work engaged in by pre-service teach- ers (Noffke, 1997). A typical design for an action research project includes identifying a problem or area of focus, collecting data, analyzing and interpreting data, and developing a plan of ac- tion (Mills, 2000). Ferrance (2000) adds a fifth step—evaluating the results through reflection. The purpose of the project in this course is to provide practice for pre-service teachers in identifying issues and concerns, collecting ap- propriate data, analyzing that data, developing an appropriate action plan, and implementing the plan. The specific assignment is to assess a fourth or fifth grade student who is reading at least two years below grade level (problem) us- ing an informal reading inventory and an inter- est inventory (data collection tools). After ana- lyzing the results of the assessments (analyzing and interpreting data), the teacher candidate de- signs a research-based plan of action (develop- ing a plan of action) as well as structured lesson plans for at least six tutoring sessions. At the end of the tutoring sessions, the teacher candidate re-assesses the student to determine whether reading progress has been achieved and recom- mends further instructional strategies for the student (evaluating results through reflection). Throughout the duration of the project Barbara meets with each teacher candidate repeatedly, re- views the work done, and guides in the planning and conducting of the tutoring sessions. She ful- fills the role of supervisor for the action research project (Ferrance, 2000). Thus this project for pre-service teachers follows closely the standard procedure for action research. However, one of the key advantages of the action research para- digm is that when unexpected possibilities arise, the researcher, in this case the teacher candidate, is free to incorporate them into the action plan (Mills, 2000). Problem, Participants, and Initial Data Collection In early October 2010, second author Kris- ten, one of Barbara’s pre-service teachers, came to her with test results for Josh (a pseudonym), a fifth grade boy with ADHD who was read- ing on a second grade level. Sink Public School, the tiny rural school he attended, was too small to provide pull-out classes for students identified as qualifying for special services. Josh’s parents/guardians have decided not to use medication to treat the ADHD, which was iden- tified at age 9. Josh has been at Swink for his entire school career. Although his individualized education pro- gram (IEP) requires specific accommodations and modifications such as oral administration of tests, reduced assignments, extra time, breaking work into smaller pieces, frequent reminders, etc., implementing these accommodations and modifications is sometimes inconsistent due to the high population of other students with similar IEPs. Nowacek and Mamlin (2007) in reporting two multiple-case studies found that the elementary and middle school teachers did not implement modifications consistently. Addi- tionally, they tended to use “modifications that could be performed without advanced planning, that did not require differentiated instruction, or behavioral intervention, or that could be ad- dressed by another professional or support per- son” (p. 34). Based on conversations with school personnel, this probably describes the modifi- cations Josh received in the years since he was identified as having ADHD. Sherman and col- leagues (Sherman et al., 2008) found similar results in their review of the literature, but also concluded that teachers’ views and behaviors toward ADHD students directly influence the behavior and consequently the academic out- comes for these students. During the 2007-2008 school year when Josh was in second grade, his STAR reading assessment showed approximate- ly one year’s growth in reading, from an end-of- year kindergartner (0.9) in the fall to an end- of-year first grader (1.9) in the spring. STAR assessments for other years were not available. A review of Josh’s scores on the state reading
  • 4. Volume 56, Number 3 TechTrends • May/June 2012 23 test shows that between third and fourth grades Josh improved slightly but still scored “unsatis- factory.” It was during the fourth grade year that modifications and accommodations were imple- mented, which may help to explain some of the improvement. During the testing session with Kristen, Josh either rocked his chair back and forth on its two back legs or stood with the knuckles of his fists on the table top while the rest of his body swung back and forth. He continually interrupted the flow of the assessment by bringing up random topics and questions. It was obvious to Kristen that Josh was trying to cooperate but he just could not stay focused. Concerned that any tutoring she attempted would likely be ineffective, Kristen consulted Ed Kennedy (third author), superintendent of Swink. He suggested that since Josh was already familiar with the iPad from using it in his class- room, perhaps Kristen could use it as a reward for focusing on the tutoring assignments. In fact, he even suggested using the iPad in the tutoring lesson itself. Knowing that Josh would get little parental support of the tutoring, his reasoning was that, beyond the general allure that technol- ogy has for most students, the self-paced, indi- vidualized format that the iPad offered would be beneficial for Josh, as Raggi and Chronis (2006) have suggested. Kristen shared this possibility with Barbara, who gave Kristen permission to utilize the iPad in her tutoring sessions so long as the applications used were consistent with her approved plan of action and researched-based reading strategies. Data Analysis and Developing the Plan of Action When Kristen analyzed the data from the IRI, she confirmed that Josh’s instructional level was second grade. He did not read in phrases or with expression and paid little attention to punctuation. He, in fact, was not bothered by his miscues and made no attempt to figure out unknown words. He generally pronounced the beginning of an unknown word correctly but guessed at the rest of it. In terms of comprehen- sion, he frequently missed detail, sequence, and inference questions. Kristen next drew up her plan of action, which outlined Josh’s areas of need and the spe- cific kinds of instructional activities she proposed to address those needs. Her plan addressed word recognition strategies for decoding, recognizing compound words, and utilizing context clues to decrease his miscues. To address comprehension issues, she decided to focus on sequencing and remembering details, drawing inferences, and identifying cause and effect. She found several applications for the iPad that she felt would be useful, as well as strategies and graphic organiz- ers on the Internet that she downloaded direct- ly to the iPad. Kristen and Barbara met to discuss her findings, plan of action, and first lesson plan, as well as Kristen’s use of the iPad to carry out these plans. Kristen clarified how these strate- gies supported her plan of action. Kristen and Sidebar Swink Public School is a tiny K-8 school located in Southeast Oklahoma. It is situated in one of the most economically depressed rural areas in the nation. When Ed Kennedy arrived to take on the duties of superintendent in 2009, he found a school with almost no technology and little understanding of the need. Having a strong background in educational technology himself, he quickly developed a plan. During that first year, he rearranged the budget and aggressively applied for grants that would allow Swink to enter the Digital Age. By mid-year all teachers had SmartBoard interactive systems, and teachers’ desktop computers that were more than ten years old were replaced with modern laptops. By the end of the school year in May 2010, Kennedy was able to provide every one of his skeptical teachers with an iPad. Presenting them as “gifts” on the last day of school, Kennedy in effect provided teachers with two and one-half months of play/professional development time with the iPads in their own homes at their leisure. During that summer Swink also retrofitted a small library into a technology lab, requiring new cabling, the addition of SmartBoard interactive components, computer tables, and 28 new laptop computers. A reorganized class schedule for 2010-11 included daily technology classes for all students, elective classes that integrated technology, and after-school enrichment programs. Also offered were parent technology training and family access to the technology lab, critical to secure community buy-in. Kennedy was convinced that for teachers to believe in the impact that educational technology could have, they had to feel confident using it and see examples of its impact on learning. He contends the professional development implemented throughout the year was the biggest factor in the school’s progress. The training included basic computer skills, internet teaching resources, Oklahoma Priority Academic Student Skills, SmartBoard integration, and finally, iPad training, both structured and self-directed. By the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year, Swink teachers had become knowledgeable implementers, with a newfound level of commitment to educational technology. See their story at the OETA website: http://www.oeta.tv/component/ video/908.html.
  • 5. 24 TechTrends • May/June 2012 Volume 56, Number 3 Barbara spent several hours in both face-to-face and electronic consultation during the period of time the tutoring was ongoing. After the tutor- ing sessions ended, Kristen and Barbara met on several occasions during which Kristen dictated more detail of the events of the sessions, using her notes to spark her memory. In addition, Kristen’s assessment papers, plan of action, les- son plans, and notes made during each tutoring session became data from which much of this article is drawn. The lessons themselves were structured ac- cording to research-based procedures (Gillet, Temple, & Crawford, 2008) to include a mini- lesson on a skill with which Josh needed help, a reading passage that was implemented using be- fore, during, and after reading strategies, a brief assessment in the form of a running record, rec- reational reading at the student’s independent reading level, and journal writing. On the advice of Susan Tate, one of Josh’s teachers, Kristen broke the tutoring sessions into two parts. In the first half of session one, Kristen tried a traditional activity using sentence strips to teach context clues, but it was unsuccessful. At the end of the short session, Kristen let Josh play a game on the iPad, one with which he was familiar. She noted that while he was working on the iPad, he sat perfectly still for at least 10 minutes and stayed totally focused on the game. At that point she was convinced that the iPad would play a major role in her intervention with Josh. The second half of Lesson One took place two days later. Kristen continued the lesson on context clues, this time utilizing a game she had downloaded to the iPad from an educational website on the Internet. Josh was much more responsive using this interactive method. Kristen also used an eBook called The Won- derful Palace that she had downloaded to the iPad that was written at Josh’s instructional level. This particular eBook allowed the student to re- cord himself as he read aloud. Next he listened to himself reading, following along in the text with his finger. He began to realize that when he was reading, he needed to slow down to say the words more carefully. He commented, “Some- times when I read, I read too fast and it doesn’t make sense.” In other words, he was becoming metacognitive about his reading. At the very end of the session, he asked to read the story again to “make it make sense.” When he read the story this time, he slowed down too much in order to pronounce each word correctly, but this time he was intent on making sense of it. Josh had a new understanding of what reading is sup- posed to be. Over the next five weeks, Kristen and Josh met together at least twice a week for 20-minutes sessions in which the iPad figured prominently as a presentation method for content and strate- gies. Sometimes the use of the iPad was student- led. For example, when in the third lesson Kris- ten tried to introduce the topic of compound words using a traditional set of flash cards, Josh said, “It’s hard for me to read when two words are put together.” Then he asked if they could do the flash card activity on the iPad instead. Kristen found the FlashCards+ application and quickly created several flashcards of compound words. As they paged through the flash cards on the screen, Kristen was able to demonstrate for Josh how compound words are constructed. After this mini-lesson, Kristen used a version of the “Compound Boogie” game which she had al- ready downloaded to the iPad from the Internet to use for this lesson to provide guided practice. In this application, two words are presented at a time. The student taps on the word on the screen that he thinks is the compound word. If he chooses an incorrect word, the program (actu- ally a PowerPoint) provides feedback and offers an opportunity to make a correct response. Josh played “Compound Boogie” at both sessions of Lesson Three. This exercise helped Josh under- stand for the first time that a compound word could be broken into two recognizable words. Next Josh read The Tortoise and the Hare, a story on his instructional level, recording his own voice just as he had in Lesson One. He was very cautious in his reading, and Kristen felt it was because he knew that at the end they would listen to it and catch all his mistakes. By slow- ing down he made significantly fewer mistakes than in the first session, and seemed to com- prehend more of the story. He listened to his reading of the story and followed along with his finger accurately. To determine if it was his own voice that made the difference, Kristen read the same story to him from the iPad screen. He seemed to have more difficulty following along as she read than when he was listening to himself read. Thus, she decided that having him record and listen to his own reading was valuable. Since some of the books they read were not available on the iPad, Kristen used a tape recorder to achieve a similar effect. In subsequent lessons, Kristen and Josh worked on word recognition and comprehen- sion. They worked on word recognition skills using Vocabulary Builder, Miss Spell’s Class, and ABC Alphabet Phonics. Specifically, she was teaching Josh to read all parts of a word and
  • 6. Volume 56, Number 3 TechTrends • May/June 2012 25 demonstrating how changing one or two letters changes the meaning of the word. Kristen designed lessons on comprehension including sorting out main idea and details, un- derstanding sequence, and making inferences. She used a combination of iPad applications and activities downloaded to the iPad from the Inter- net that were useful in teaching these concepts. In one lesson, for example, she used the Stories- 2Go application to teach Josh how to sequence main ideas in a story. In this application, the sto- ries are read aloud by the device as the words are presented on the screen. After listening to and reading the simple story, Kristen had Josh give the sequence of events in order. As a pre-read- ing strategy for several stories downloaded from an educational website, she used the prediction guide available on the site, which automatically generates a guide for making predictions about a story. In addition, Kristen downloaded anticipa- tion guides for several of the stories she and Josh read, which Josh completed. To work on mak- ing inferences she also downloaded a graphic organizer called the inferencing poster. It uses a drawing of an umbrella to help students sort out main idea and details and make inferences based on the sorting. This and other graphic organizers were presented to Josh directly on the iPad. Besides the specific applications and stories downloaded to the iPad, other aspects of the de- vice enabled Josh to use comprehension strate- gies to aid his reading that he would have strug- gled with in a paper text. For instance, Kristen demonstrated the INSERT strategy (Vaughan & Estes, 1986) using a paper text and then taught Josh how to use a stylus to mark the text in the same way on the iPad screen using the INSERT markings. At the time, Kristen did not make de- tailed notes as to the precise procedure and ap- plications she used to do this, and at the time of this writing is unable to remember how she did it. However, the authors have noted that applica- tions are now readily available that allow mark- ing on the screen display. INSERT involves using a few specific simple marks to indicate response/reaction to the text; for example, a check mark indicates something already known, a question mark something that doesn’t make sense, and exclamation mark something that is very important. Josh found this strategy much to his liking and quickly pro- gressed from making simple markings to writ- ing real notes in the text to help him find details later. When Kristen questioned him about these additions, he said, “Well, I know you are going to ask me questions about this later, and this way I can go back and find the answers.” After the INSERT strategy was introduced in Lesson Four, he used it consistently and independently for every reading passage after that. In fact, he commented that he felt this was going to help his reading in his regular classes, suggesting a genuine attempt at transfer of what he was learning to new contexts. As Kristen worked with Josh over the six weeks, it seemed to her that he was definitely making progress not only in his reading ability, buthisattitudeaswell.Heseemedexcitedtoread on the iPad; he seemed to have an improved at- titude toward his schoolwork and toward him- self. At one point he commented, “If I would have learned [sic] how to do these things when I first started school, I wouldn’t have had such a hard time.” Results and Evaluation During the final session, Kristen adminis- tered a different form of the informal reading inventory she had used for the initial assess- ment. On the initial testing at second grade, Josh’s word recognition was 96% and compre- hension was 75%; this was his instructional level. At third grade, word recognition was 88% and comprehension was 90%, indicating frus- tration level (see Table 1). She began the final assessment with his previous independent level of first grade and continued through the fourth grade. On the first and second grade assess- ments, his word recognition scores were 100% and comprehension scores were 75% and 100% respectively, indicating that second grade was now an independent level. On the third grade level, word recognition was 98% and compre- hension was 85%, meaning this was Josh’s new instructional level. On the fourth grade level passage he skipped four lines, which dropped his word recognition score below 85% and his comprehension score to 60%, indicating frus- tration level. The results of the initial and final assessments are displayed in Table 1 and sug- gest that in a matter of six weeks, Josh had im- proved one full grade level in reading ability. Beyond the numerical data, however, it is important to see the less tangible results re- vealed in Kristen’s observations of Josh’s reac- tions, responses, and comments. For example, his request to re-read the story in Lesson One “to make it make sense this time” strongly sug- gests Josh now understands that reading should be done to construct meaning. His explanation of his rationale for making notes in the text shows that he has developed some control over his own reading strategies. His declaration that he felt the INSERT strategy would help him in
  • 7. 26 TechTrends • May/June 2012 Volume 56, Number 3 other classes indicates an improved and more positive attitude toward learning in general. His poignant statement that if he had learned these strategies earlier, he would not have had so much trouble in school reveals a child who will learn and can learn if given the appropriate tools and instruction. Reflection and Implications Six months after Kristen’s tutoring ses- sions with Josh, he is still a child with ADHD reading below grade level, though his teachers report that he has made noticeable progress. To capitalize on that progress, how- ever, Josh will need continued one-on-one in- tervention based on ongoing assessment, and the authors believe that use of the iPad as the medium of that intervention will be important. This article reports the experience of one pre-service teacher with one struggling reader who was also dealing with ADHD. Consequent- ly, these results cannot be generalized to other situations. However, the potential of transfer- ability is real (Mills, 2000). It is important to ask why the iPad enabled Josh to focus on academic tasks and make such progress when five years of schooling and remediation had not offered such success. What was different? In offering the following interpretations, the authors are well aware of the impact of story as a research tool, and the limitations that our own lived stories have on these interpretations (Cart- er, 1993). As Carter states, “A story…is a theory of something. What we tell and how we tell it is a revelation of what we believe. (p. 9)” Thus we understand that we are interpreting the events of the story we have told through the lens of our own beliefs. Certainly the fact that the tutoring sessions offered one-on-one intervention may have been a factor in Josh’s growth (Nowacek & Mamlin, 2007; Raggi & Chronis, 2006). However, Josh’s inability to focus during the initial testing ses- sion suggests that the tutoring sessions would have been no different. Kristen’s lesson plans teaching word attack and comprehension strat- egies were well designed and supported by re- search, but without some way to gain and hold Josh’s attention, they would have been unlikely to facilitate the academic achievement he expe- rienced. The thing that seems to have made the difference was the use of the iPad as a mediator of the intervention (Raggi & Chronis, 2006). As Kristen and Barbara discussed what as- pects of the iPad seemed most likely to have made the difference for Josh, several possible explanations surfaced. The manipulative touch screen promotes the use of several modalities (Raggi & Chronis, 2006), especially visual and tactile/kinesthetic. The added aspect of record- ing his own reading and being able to play it back and hear his own mistakes while looking at the text (Chalmers, 1991) may have enabled him to integrate the aural modality with the visual and tactile/kinesthetic more readily and effectively. This is supported by the fact that Josh’s teachers had noted that his comprehension was greater when someone else read a story or explained a concept, and Kristen’s discovery that it was still greater when he listened to his own reading. The optimal stimulation theory of ADHD suggests the possibility that the higher levels of sensory stimulation using the iPad may have allowed Josh to engage in the learning task in ways that typical classroom experiences do not (Zentall, 1975). In addition, the touch screen and use of the stylus may have added to Josh’s sense of be- ing in control (Newton, Ard, & Horner, 1993). The stylus promoted engaging in a note-taking strategy in a multimodal environment, an ap- proach supported by the work of Evans and col- leagues (Evans, Axelrod, & Langberg, 2004; Ev- ans, Pelham, & Grudberg, 1995). Matt Dunleavy of Radford University is cur- rently conducting important research on the impact of mobile devices of all kinds, including iPads, on learning for the general school popula- Grade Level of Assessment Initial Scores as a Percentage Final Scores as a Percentage First WR 99 Comp 100 WR 100 Comp 75 Second WR 96 Comp 75 WR 100 Comp 100 Third WR 88 Comp 90 WR 98 Comp 85 Fourth WR* Comp* WR <85 Comp 60 Table 1. Josh’s Scores on Initial and Final IRI Assessments Key: WR = Word Recognition; Comp = Comprehension *Fourth grade test was not initially administered because it was above frustration level.
  • 8. Volume 56, Number 3 TechTrends • May/June 2012 27 tion (Allen, 2011). His work and that of others, such as that being conducted by TimeLab2100 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Al- len, 2011) is fundamental to how we use such technology in schools. However, we also need to examine just as carefully how devices such as the iPad do or do not positively impact the exceptional student population that is at a dis- advantage for learning in the traditional school setting. Until actual research on the use of iPads with struggling readers is published identifying what these factors are, such stories as Josh’s can provide direction just as Leu and his colleagues (Leu et al., 2004) suggest. In considering other important aspects of the use of technology for students with ADHD, Chunzhen and colleagues (Chunzhen et al., 2002) specified two major practical concerns: limitations of hardware and software availability and teacher training. These are concerns when technology is being considered in any education- al setting. The iPad or similar devices may pro- vide a solution to these concerns, first because of the relatively smaller cost of tablet computer ap- plications and licensing compared to PC applica- tions and licensing. Secondly, since a tablet com- puter generally utilizes the same or similar oper- ating system as the ubiquitous smartphones—Ed Kennedy called it a cell phone on steroids—very little teacher training is required to become com- fortable with how the device works. Research is unquestionably needed to explore these pos- sibilities. Certainly, from Kristen’s point of view the availability of applications and the ability to download Internet “finds” directly to the iPad facilitated her planning and the implementation of the lessons. Moreover, she was able to very quickly master the use of the iPad virtually on her own. As we wait for the results of research, the authors encourage more teachers to explore for themselves ways that the iPad and similar elec- tronic tablet devices can provide support for struggling readers. We encourage teachers in- volved in Response to Intervention programs, for example, to consider experimenting with tablet computers to allow students to gain in- sight into their reading by hearing themselves read (Chalmers, 1991) as more eBooks with such capability become available, to improve compre- hension with the use of electronic graphic or- ganizers (Smith & Okolo, 2010), and to interact with reading passages by making electronic nota- tion in the text (Evans et al., 1995, 2004). Teach- ers attempting to differentiate instruction may explore using tablet computers to allow students to work in the learning modalities in which they are stronger (Beam, 2009), while simultaneously offering them the opportunity to further devel- op modalities in which they may be weaker. In the 21st Century, teachers can indeed lead the way for researchers, as one pre-service teacher at Swink did. Barbara McClanahan received her doctorate in education from Texas A&M-Commerce and is currently an assistant professor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, based at the McCurtain County Campus in Idabel, OK. She teach- es graduate and undergraduate reading courses and is the Coordinator for the Master’s Reading Specialist Program. Her research interests include teacher professional develop- ment and struggling readers. Kristen Williams completed her bachelor’s degree in el- ementary education at Southeastern Oklahoma State Uni- versity in 2011. She is currently focusing on her role as a wife and mother in Hugo, OK. Ed Kennedy is a former teacher, who also spent several years working through a grant to the University of Idaho to implement technology into public schools in Idaho. He cur- rently serves as superintendent for Grandview Public School in northeastern Oklahoma after two years as superinten- dent at Swink Public School. Susan Tate teaches technology and science at Swink Pub- lic School in southeastern Oklahoma. She implemented the technology program at Swink, which now boasts a 1:2 ratio of computers to students and a 1:1 ratio of iPads to students in the 3rd to 8th grade. She frequently presents regional workshops on iPad use for teachers and recently was a panel member at the Hawaii International Conference on Educa- tion discussing “Teaching with iPads: Multiple Perspectives.” References Allen, R. (2011, February). Can mobile devices transform education? Education Update, 53(2), 2, 6-7. Ash, K. (2011, February 4). Calif. district pushes digital- text initiative forward. Education Week Digital Direc- tions. Retrieved February 9, 2011, from http://www. edweek.org.org Balajthy, E. (2006). Using text-to-speech software with struggling readers. 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  • 9. 28 TechTrends • May/June 2012 Volume 56, Number 3 Chalmers, L. (1991). Classsroom modifications for the mainstreamed student with mild handicaps. Intervention in School and Clinic, 17(1), 40-42, 51. Chunzhen, X., Reid, R., & Steckelberg, A. (2002). Technology Applications for Chil- dren with ADHD: Assessing the Em- pirical Support. Education & Treatment of Children, 25. 224-248. Retrieved from http://www.educationandtreatmentofchil- dren.net/index.html DuPaul, G. J. (1991). Attention deficit- hyperactivity disorder: Classroom intervention strategies School Psy- chology International, 12, 85-94. doi:10.1177/0143034391121007 Evans, S, W., Axelrod, J., & Langberg, J. M. ( 2004). Efficacy of a school-based treat- ment program for middle school youth with ADHD. Behavior Modification, 28, 528-547. doi: 10.1177/0145445503259504 Evans, S. W., Pelham, W. E., and Grudberg, M. V. (1995). 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