Watson Institute Pilots Program Using iPads to Increase Childhood Literacy

May 1, 2014

Trenton Head Start preschool student Jefferson Tejada prepares to sharpen his language skills with the help of an iPad containing child-centric software and his teacher, Pam Ezra.

Trenton Head Start preschool student Jefferson Tejada prepares to sharpen his language skills with the help of an iPad containing child-centric software and his teacher, Pam Ezra.

The John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy of Thomas Edison State College is using iPads to increase language skills and math literacy in New Jersey preschools that serve children from homes where English is a second language.

The project, which is administered by the institute’s English Language Learners (ELL) Summer Institute and Mentoring Program, is currently being piloted in Head Start programs in Trenton and Hunterdon, N.J.

“The iPads we have distributed in this first wave will be used as an interactive digital resource by educators to enhance early childhood language mastery,” said Ana I. Berdecia, senior fellow and director of the Watson Institute’s Center for the Positive Development of Urban Children, who is managing the pilot and leads the ELL Summer Institute and Mentoring Program. “We are delighted to be partnering with the Hispanic Information and Telecommunication Network’s Early Learning Collaborative (HITN-ELC) in providing these multimedia learning tools to classrooms.”

According to Berdecia, teachers do not always have the resources to link technology with early childhood learning. The Hispanic Information and Telecommunications  Network teacher’s guide, parent’s guide and the accompanying materials are expected to provide a clear map to link technology with learning while promoting early childhood English language literacy and reinforcing the children’s home language, Spanish.

“From my visits to the classrooms, I can see the pure enjoyment and engagement of children exposed to these interactive learning tools,” said Berdecia.

The transmedia materials provided through the program focus on English language development, early literacy and early math. The collaborative is funded through a Ready to Learn grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement. Teachers participating in the program will be asked to record how the children are using the devices and document what learning has taken place under the auspices of ELL’s Mentoring Program.