[Updated: the study was recently accepted for publication after peer review by the Games and Culture journal.]
Very exciting news: today GameDesk has published the first experimental research on iPad learning. Professor Michelle Riconscente, an expert in educational technology and assessment at USC, studied 122 5th graders playing our iPad game Motion Math HD. The main findings:
• Students who played the game for 20 minutes for five days improved on a fractions test by an average of 15%. (The items on the test were taken from national and international standardized tests.)
• Students’ attitudes towards fractions improved 10%.
• Virtually all students rated the game as fun and that it helped them learn.
This is a very encouraging result that our engaged approach to math works. Read the full report, which includes an overview of how difficult it is for students to learn fractions, a description of the study’s rigorous design, some critiques of our game’s design, and recommendations for learning app producers and researchers.
What do you think is the best design and assessment of children’s apps? What do you think about the study? (please comment below) A few early reviewers have suggested to us that this study is overkill. Well, certainly not every kid’s app can afford the time and money it takes for a formal assessment. When designing an app, there are hundreds of design decisions to make, and certainly most of them can’t be guided by rigorous experimental data. A designer can follow his or her intuition, or listen to experts, or read about elements of good design, or read the learning literature, or, hopefully, do lots of user-testing to watch and see if students seem to be learning.
However, the history of educational technology is littered with many false promises and disappointing results, most recently given an overview by the NYT’s Matt Richtel. It’s easy to think, as you’re creating a learning game and as you watch a student use technology, that learning is happening. So it’s important that we sometimes hold our products up to scientific scrutiny.
We’re hoping this study raises the bar for learning apps, and encourages more studies, so that when parents and teachers buy our products, they can be confident they are getting a product that actually helps children learn. Read the study here! And then please comment below: What should the standards of evidence be for learning apps? How do you know if a learning app works?