Mobile media; ipad; apps; early childhood; preschool; direct instruction; open ended; head start


The American Academy of Pediatrics (1999, 2011) recommends no screen time for children under two years and limited screen time for three- and four-year-olds. Despite these recommendations, most young children have easy access to various types of screens. In particular, children*s use of mobile media, including tablets and other touch screen devices, is increasing (Common Sense Media, 2013). Even though scholars have highlighted positive uses for mobile media (Christakis, 2014; Radesky, Schumacher, & Zuckerman, 2015) and there are recommendations in place for using mobile media with young children in active, open-ended ways (NAEYC & Fred Rogers Center, 2012), there has been very limited research conducted on the impact of mobile media on young children*s development. What is more, as early childhood professionals are beginning to incorporate mobile media into their classrooms, they are struggling with the ability to use these devices in developmentally appropriate ways (Marklund, 2015; Nuttall, Edwards, Mantilla, Grieshaber, & Wood, 2015). The primary purpose of the present study was to examine the efficacy of using different types of mobile media apps to increase the receptive and expressive vocabulary development of preschool children living in economically disadvantaged communities. Children and teachers in four Head Start classrooms participated in the quasi-experimental study, which included an eight-week intervention in which the children interacted with one of two types of apps: one classroom used direct instruction vocabulary apps (n = 16) and one classroom used open-ended vocabulary apps (n = 15). Two classrooms served as control groups (n = 18; n = 14) which used apps that were chosen by the Head Start program with no specific instructional method. Children*s vocabulary was assessed pre- and post-intervention. To assess receptive vocabulary, the PPVT-4 (Dunn & Dunn, 2007) and an iPad Receptive Vocabulary Assessment (Vatalaro, 2015a) were used. To assess expressive vocabulary, the EVT-2 (Williams, 2007) and an iPad Expressive Vocabulary Assessment (Vatalaro, 2015b) were used. Using a repeated measures analysis of variance with split plot analysis, children who used direct instruction apps performed statistically significantly higher on the PPVT-4 than children who used open-ended apps. Children in the direct instruction app group also performed statistically significantly higher than both control groups on the iPad Receptive Vocabulary Assessment. There were no statistically significant differences between groups for receptive vocabulary as measured by the EVT-2. However, when children were credited for describing a function instead of the iPad vocabulary word, the analysis of the iPad Expressive Vocabulary Assessment revealed that the children using direct instruction apps performed statistically significantly higher than children using open-ended apps and the children in one of the control groups. A secondary purpose of the present study was to examine the use of apps in mobile media by Head Start teachers. The teachers in the two intervention classrooms participated in weekly meetings with the primary researcher for support in using mobile media in their classrooms in order to ensure that the child intervention was carried out with fidelity. After analyzing data from teachers* self-report daily logs across the eight-week intervention, it was determined that the children received instruction on the assigned apps in both intervention classrooms. Although caution is given to the findings due to some limitations such as the quasi-experimental choice of a research design and the number of participants, the present study contributed to the early childhood research literature with the findings that interactive, animated apps which provide the meanings of vocabulary words in a direct instruction manner may have the ability to increase a child*s receptive vocabulary, and to increase a child*s descriptive definitions of iPad functions. This information increases the chance that teachers in Head Start will begin using direct instruction apps, in the hope of increasing a child*s vocabulary knowledge.


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Graduation Date





Culp, Anne


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Education and Human Performance

Degree Program

Education and Human Performance








Release Date

August 2015

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Education and Human Performance; Education and Human Performance -- Dissertations, Academic

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