Best Evidence in Brief: Is the pen mightier than the computer?

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief and this study received an interesting title, is the pen mightier than the computer:

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) in the UK has published a report assessing the impact of Abracadabra (ABRA), a 20-week online literacy program, on literacy outcomes for Year 1 students (kindergarten in the U.S.). ABRA is composed of phonic fluency and comprehension activities based around a series of age-appropriate texts and is designed to be delivered by a teaching assistant (TA) to groups of three to five students in four 15-minute sessions per week. The EEF evaluation tested the ABRA online intervention alongside a paper-based alternative using the same material.

Fifty-one schools were randomly assigned to receive either a version of the intervention or to act as a control school delivering business as usual. In the schools receiving the intervention, students were randomized to receive the online intervention (ABRA), the paper-based intervention, or standard literacy provision.

Positive effects were found for both the online and paper-based interventions. Students in the online treatment group (effect size = +0.14) and the paper-based treatment group (ES = +0.37) both showed an improvement in literacy outcomes. The impact was higher for children eligible for free school meals (FSM) for both ABRA (+0.23) and the paper-based intervention (+0.40). Students with below average pre-test outcomes seemed to benefit from ABRA, whereas the paper-based intervention seemed to benefit all students. Students that received normal literacy provision in the schools where the interventions took place did better than students who received normal literacy provision in control schools.

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