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Using digital devices in a first year classroom : a focus on the design and use of phonics software applications

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-01-01, 00:00 authored by Maria NicholasMaria Nicholas, Sophie MckenzieSophie Mckenzie, Muriel WellsMuriel Wells
When integrated within a holistic literacy program, phonics applications can be used in classrooms to facilitate students’ self-directed learning of letter-sound knowledge; but are they designed to allow for such a purpose? With most phonics software applications making heavy use of image cues, this project has more specifically investigated whether the design of the images used in such applications may impact on the effectiveness of their self-directed use in classrooms. Using a quasi-experimental study, we compared two types of pictorial mnemonics used in tablet applications, along with teacher-led activity in three first-year classrooms from the one school. The difference between teacher-led activity and integrated picture cues was significant, with teacher-led activity proving more effective. The difference between teacher-led activity and form-taking picture cues, however, was not statistically significant. Given that the outcomes of this small-scale study suggest that image design may be a significant design feature contributing to the educational value of using phonics applications in the classroom, we recommend that the design features of phonics software applications attract further research.



Journal of education and learning






267 - 282


Canadian Center of Science and Education


Toronto, Canada





Publication classification

C Journal article; C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2016, Maria Nicholas, Sophie McKenzie, Muriel Wells