Are game-enhanced educational programs effective?

Are game-enhanced educational programs effective?

By Qiyang Zhang, Johns Hopkins University

Technology-assisted educational programs are gaining popularity due to their flexibility, scalability, and cost effectiveness. A recent research paper measured the effectiveness of a Brazilian mobile-based educational program called Escribo Play, which aims at enhancing preschoolers’ phonological awareness, word reading, and writing skills.

Using the gold standard in evidence-based studies, researchers from Escribo, Johns Hopkins University, Faculdade Pernambucana de Saúde, and Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina conducted a randomized controlled trial to examine the effectiveness of a 10-week Escribo Play intervention. Classroom-level randomization split 62 classrooms into an experimental group and a control group. The treatment group received 900 minutes of instructional sessions during the 10-week intervention, while the control group carried out business as usual.

The study included 749 four- to five-year-old preschoolers from 17 schools in five Brazilian cities. With Portuguese as the language of delivery, researchers collected pre-test and post-test performance data using both the Phonological Awareness Test by Oral Production (PAT-OP) and The Word Reading and Writing Test. At the end of the intervention, the control group had a 9.18 point gain and the experimental group had a 15.45 point increase in reading test scores. Further analysis using multilevel models showed that Escribo Play had statistically significant effects on word reading (ES  =+ 0.40) and word writing (ES = +0.20), but no significant results on phonological awareness. The research results encourage the use of game-enhanced educational programs in preschool settings in Brazil.

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