Playtime Pad Research Project

Project Overview

In its second year in 2018-2019, the PBS KIDS Playtime Pad Research Project investigates the effectiveness of tablet-based learning initiatives in early childhood math literacy, while providing access to the latest digital learning tools for students, teachers, and parents. This year’s program will see the addition of a study surrounding literacy markers utilizing the iRead educational app, a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt tool, implemented by the Lansing School District to improve literacy skills with students. Initiated by the College of Communication Arts and Sciences and WKAR Public Media at Michigan State University, the project is a unique partnership connecting PBS and PBS KIDS content, researchers in the College of Education at MSU, and teachers and families in the Lansing School District. The project launched in November 2017.

Playtime Pad Research Project

The Playtime Pad Research Project investigates the effectiveness of tablet-based learning initiatives in early childhood math and literacy, while providing access to the latest digital learning tools for students, teachers, and parents.

Initiated by the College of Communication Arts and Sciences and WKAR Public Media at Michigan State University, the Playtime Pad Research Project is a unique partnership connecting PBS KIDS, the College of Education at MSU, and the Lansing School District.

Through a multi-year research project, kindergarten students across the Lansing School District will each receive a tablet to be used in class for math-based games and exploration. Researchers at Michigan State will study how the tablets are used and the effects on learning. New this year, just for students at Dwight Rich School of the Arts and Riddle Elementary, researchers will  also study literacy markers utilizing the iRead educational app.

The tablet students receive is a PBS KIDS Playtime Pad, designed to bring interactive educational children's programs and learning tools to young students using PBS KIDS learning initiatives.

PBS KIDS Playtime Pads used in the study are customized to include a special Math Games Study app designed by PBS KIDS software developers in consultation with early childhood education researchers at MSU.

PBS KIDS Playtime Pads for kindergarten students at Dwight Rich School of the Arts and Riddle Elementary also received the iRead educational literacy app, in addition to the Math Games Study app.

Lansing School District is the largest in the Michigan capital region. As of November 2018, almost 1,100 students are enrolled in kindergarten classes across 16 elementary schools in the district. Each of those students receives a PBS KIDS Playtime Pad as part of this series of studies.

In the second year of this longitudinal study, distribution of PBS KIDS Playtime Pads to all kindergarten students in the district was complete as of November 14, 2018.

The third year of this longitudinal study has been approved and will be implemented in the 2019-2020 school year. WKAR plans to purchase additional tablets and install updated apps during the summer and early fall of 2019. Delivery to all Lansing School District kindergarten classrooms is slated to take place in late fall 2019.

More About the Research

The initial research phase focusing on math literacy is headed up by Amy Parks, PhD, Laura Tortorelli, PhD of the MSU College of Education and Shina Alade, PhD of the MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences. The research around the iRead app is headed by Laura Tortorelli, PhD. Their investigations will focus on students who will use the Math Games Study app for 10-15 minutes at a time, two times per week across a testing period. Educator and parental attitudes and efficacy will also be key research components in year two where a select classroom will take the PBS KIDS Playtime Pad home with this for use outside the classroom.

Anonymous data will be collected from the Math Games Study app, periodic surveys of parents and teachers, data from the district's standardized testing program, and other measures to explore how the tablets are used and effects on learning. Details are still being worked out on how data will be collected and studied from the iRead app.

Families who opt out of having their child participate in the research study still receive a PBS KIDS Playtime Pad. No data will be collected from tablets of families who choose to opt out.

The project has been approved by the MSU Institutional Review Board and includes a data-sharing agreement with the Lansing School District.

More About the PBS KIDS Playtime Pad

The PBS KIDS Playtime Pad is 7-inch HD, COPPA-certified kid safe android tablet, available at retailers such as Best Buy and Walmart. The PBS Playtime Pads used in the study were acquired by WKAR and customized to include the Math Games Study app and the iRead app.

A full description on the exclusive PBS KIDS Playtime Pad can be found here: http://pbskidstablet.com/

More About the iRead App

iRead is a digital foundational reading program from global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt that provides prevention, intervention and acceleration to close the reading and achievement gap. Beginning with alphabet knowledge, print concepts and phonological awareness, iRead progresses towards increasingly complex skills in word recognition, spelling and  fluency to ensure children are reading by third grade. The program is organized around five main principles to deliver the very best foundational reading instruction:

  • A personalized learning path for each student
  • Embedded assessment that ensures children are taught mastery
  • The best thinking from cognitive science and gaming theory
  • Technology that complements what teachers to best and maximizes their efficiency
  • Engaging, supportive environment for children and their families

More information iRead can be found here: https://www.hmhco.com/products/iread/

About PBS KIDS

PBS KIDS is the #1 trusted brand on television. PBS KIDS is committed to making a positive impact on the lives of children through curriculum-based entertainment. With a 360-degree approach towards learning and reaching children, PBS KIDS leverages the full spectrum of media and technology to build knowledge, critical thinking, imagination and curiosity. By involving parents, teachers, caregivers and communities as learning partners, PBS KIDS helps to empower children for success in school and in life.

About Lansing School District

Lansing School District is the largest public school district in the Mid-Michigan region and is committed to offering a high quality education to students in a caring, collaborative and excellent learning environment. The Lansing School District has identified a real need for good research in the early elementary age group and in an urban district like Lansing – for research and academic purposes, and to help teachers make learning more effective and fun for kids. With these PBS KIDS Playtime Pads, kids will come to school ready to learn.

About WKAR Public Media

WKAR Public Media is the Michigan Capital Region source for award-winning original television and radio, and the best from PBS and NPR. WKAR is part of Michigan State University College of Communication Arts & Sciences and includes WKAR-TV, WKAR Radio, wkar.org, WKAR Radio Reading Service, and WKAR Family.

For more information, contact:

Julie Sochay, Content and Community Engagement Manager
WKAR Public Media
jsochay@wkar.org
517-884-4773

updated 1/30/19

#####