updated 08:35 pm EST, Fri January 20, 2012
App use help students be 'more engaged'
Backing up some of the arguments made by Apple during its presentation yesterday on the advantages of e-textbooks, publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) announced encouraging results from its pilot test of a digital Algebra I textbook running on iPads versus traditional textbooks. Following encouraging early results, the spring 2011 California Standards Test showed roughly a 20 percent improvement with students using the app over those using textbooks.
The HMH Fuse: Algebra I digital textbook, which is currently exclusive to iPads, was given out to students at Amelia Earhart Middle School in the second trimester of the school year. Initial testing pointed to a 10 percent increase in "advanced" or "proficient" ratings over those using traditional textbooks, but the spring standardized test showed a doubling of the initial increase, along with strongly positive comments from educators and administrators that students using the app version were "more motivated, attentive, and engaged" than those with regular textbooks. Some 78 percent of students using the iPad version scored "proficient" or "advanced" compared to 59 percent using books with the same curriculum.
One principal described the difference as more of a generational issue, saying that children who have grown up in a technological environment find interactive apps and the use of electronic devices for learning "more normal, more understandable for them" as opposed to traditional books, which offer the same content but in a more static presentation. The company noted that the app was also a benefit for teachers, allowing them to quickly assess student progress and tailor instruction as needed. Although only iPads were used in the pilot study, similar results might also be achieved with other tablets.
The publisher has made a white paper on the study available for download and has made the HMH Fuse: Algebra I app available for free on the App Store for other schools and students to use. The Algebra II module costs $60 -- considerably more than the $15 or less Apple has promised for e-textbooks going forward, and additional curriculums such as Geometry will be made available. HMH is also conducting other studies in New Jersey, Virginia and Nevada.