Creative Education
2013. Vol.4, No.12B, 42-50
Published Online December 2013 in SciRes (
Open Access
Does a Creative Learning Medium Matter? Impact of Low Cost
Android Tablets on Elementary Students’ English Comprehension,
Perceived Performance and Memory Retention
Ibrahim El-Mouelhy1, Issac Hin Chun Poon1, Anna Na Na Hui2, Christina Sue-Chan3
1ThinkBlaze, Hong Kong, China
2Department of Applied Social Studies, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
3Department of Management, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
Received September 24th, 2013; revised October 24th, 2013; accepted November 1st, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Ibrahim El-Mouelhy et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Com-
mons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, pro-
vided the original work is properly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons Attribution License all Copy-
rights © 2013 are reserved for SCIRP and the owner of the intellectual property Ibrahim El-Mouelhy et al. All
Copyright © 2013 are guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
Introduction: Android tablet is a relatively newer and cheaper portal electronic device that can be used
as a creative learning tool in elementary school setting compared with laptop. However, the effect of An-
droid tablet on students’ learning performance has been rarely studied. Before encouraging schools to im-
plant Android tablet in teaching process, it should be ensured that tablet should at least do no harm on
students’ academic performance. This research aims to investigate the impact of an innovative medium—a
low cost Android tablet versus paper—on elementary students’ reading comprehension, perceived com-
prehension performance, and memory retention, and discuss about the implication of the finding and fu-
ture directions. Method: In Study 1, 18 fourth-graders and 36 sixth-graders read 2 grade-appropriate pas-
sages on either a tablet or paper and completed related comprehension tests, then assessed their perceived
performance. In Study 2, 16 first-graders attempted to memorize 25 pictures displayed on tablets while
another 12 first-graders attempted to memorize 25 pictures displayed on paper. After 1 minute filler activ-
ity, participants were shown 50 pictures and asked to identify those they had attempted to memorize. Re-
sults: In Study 1, results showed that fourth-graders comprehended better when reading on paper, where-
as sixth-graders scored similarly on both media. An interaction effect between “medium” and “gender”
was found in the perceived performance of fourth-graders, with boys reporting higher perceived perfor-
mance when using tablets. In Study 2, first-graders experienced better memory retention when they
viewed pictures on paper. Conclusion: The introduction of Android tablets in the classroom did not have
a significant negative impact on sixth-graders’ reading comprehension. However, some caution is re-
quired when introducing tablets to first-graders and fourth-graders because of the negative effect found in
this study. It should also be noted that the use of tablets may enhance the confidence of grade 4 boys dur-
ing comprehension tasks, but the confidence of grade 4 girls engaged in the same activities may be dete-
Keywords: Reading Comprehension; Perceived Performance; Memory Retention; ICT; Android Tablet
Technology is a part of all aspects of modern lifestyles, and
high technology is ubiquitous in developed countries. In Febru-
ary 2000, Bill Gates spoke to teachers in London about the
Microsoft project “Anytime, Anywhere Learning” (BBC News,
2000). The initiative recommended that every pupil in the
United Kingdom should have direct personal access to a laptop
computer in order to utilize the educational potential of the
technology. According to Mr. Gates, learning is no longer con-
fined within the traditional boundaries of the classroom (BBC
News, 2000: para. 8). Mr. Gates claimed that an e-learning
revolution would change the world of education (Lucas, 2001).
Today, technology is indeed used in the classroom with the aim
to enhance students’ learning processes. Technology in education
is commonly referred to as “technology enhanced learning”
(Dror, 2008) or, used in more general terms, “information and
communication technologies” (Bordbar, 2010). In a review of
the education reforms across four Asian Chinese societies, the
use of technology as an innovative medium for enhancement of
creativity in education and curriculum is well documented (Hui
& Lau, 2010).
Although the effect of technology on academic performance,
especially reading comprehension, has been studied for many
years, it is still unclear to what degree ICTs affect learning and
student performance. In the late 1990s, Kathryn Matthew con-
ducted a frequently cited study to establish the effectiveness of
TEL. Matthew (1997) recruited 30 third-grade US elementary
students (15 boys and 15 girls) as participants and measured
their comprehension scores by asking students to retell a story
after they used a personal computer to read stories stored on a
CD-ROM, and also after students read similar stories from print
books. According to Matthew (1997), “story-retellings pro-
vided an opportunity to analyze the active processing and uni-
que understanding of the texts created by students as they read
electronic texts” (p. 270). She found that students scored higher
in comprehension when reading CD-ROM materials than when
reading from a printed book. She offered the following expla-
nation for the difference in results between the two media:
“CD-ROM storybooks provide a multisensory learning experi-
ence that enables students to literally interact with the text and
illustrations and to actively process the text, both of which lead
to a personal understanding of the text” (Matthew, 1997: p.
269). Her study suggested that ICT had a positive effect on
students’ reading comprehension.
High technology evolves at a rapid pace, and it is possible
that its effects on various aspects of a student’s performance
have also changed in the 15 years since Matthew’s study. We
reviewed more recent research on the topic of how ICT affected
reading comprehension, and found that the positive impact
originally reported by Matthew (1997) seemed to have subsided
to a neutral or even negative effect. Grimshaw, Dungworth,
McKnight, and Morris (2006) conducted a study using 132
students aged 9 to 11 years as participants and concluded that
the reading comprehension scores of children who read stories
on CD-ROM were not significantly different from the scores of
children who read print versions of the same stories. Kang,
Wang, and Lin (2009) recruited 10 male and 10 female junior
college students for an experiment to test reading performance
when reading electronic books on personal digital assistants
(PDA) versus reading performance of the same content on
conventional printed books. The students in Kang et al.’s (2009)
study were assessed on reading performance using a combina-
tion of reading speed and accuracy. Reading speed was not a di-
rect concern in our investigation, so we focused on Kang et
al.’s (2009) reading accuracy results, which were similar to
Grimshaw et al.’s (2006) study: there was no statistically sig-
nificant difference in correct recall between reading electroni-
cally and reading on print books. More recently, Jones and
Brown (2011) conducted experiments with third-grade children
to measure reading comprehension when reading an ordinary
print book and e-books on computer delivered via the Raz- website; the researchers found that the “e-book for-
mat [viewed on a PC] did not significantly increase compre-
hension” (Jones & Brown, 2011: p. 19). Grace (2011) and
Stewart (2012) conducted similar experiments on third-graders
and second-graders, respectively, with even newer technology:
the popular Apple iPad tablet. Results pointed to neither a posi-
tive nor negative effect on reading comprehension when par-
ticipants read a text using an iPad instead of reading a text in
print. Our review of the recent literature suggests that electronic
media do not appear to be more effective learning tools or aides
than traditional print media.
Of serious concern is the existence of recent research indi-
cating that ICT may have a negative impact on reading com-
prehension among some students. Sheppard (2011) separated
46 sixth-grade participants aged 11 to 13 years into “three sepa-
rate groups (low, middle and high) based on their achievement
in reading comprehension” (p. 13) and found that using an iPad
was linked to a decrease in the reading comprehension scores of
participants in the low achievement group (no differences at-
tributable to reading medium were noted for the middle and
high achievement groups). Furthermore, a recent study con-
ducted by Jeong (2012) on 56 sixth-grade Korean public school
students aged 10 to 12 years noted a significant “book effect”
on reading comprehension scores; compared against reading a
text from a PDF file using a personal computer, “p-books [print
books] appeared to enable better reading comprehension” (Jeong,
2012: p. 400). Jeong (2012) gave a possible explanation that
“reading on a screen might require more concentration than on
paper, and e-book reading is more error prone than p-book
reading” (p. 402).
Most of the above studies compared the computer display of
a particular screen size with the paper display. The displays
included a PDA (8.5 inches diagonal in Kang et al.’s (2009)
study), iPad tablet (9.7 inches diagonal in Grace’s (2011) study),
and computer screen (17 inches diagonal in Jeong’s (2012)
study. In a study conducted by Ozok, Benson, Chakraborty and
Norcio (2008), participants completed 4 different tasks (reading,
writing/typing, direct manipulation, and form filling) using
computer displays of different sizes (both tablets and laptops)
or pen-and-paper. Results indicated that college students per-
ceived the laptop screen to be significantly better for reading
than the tablet screen. The perceived abilities to perform the
reading task effectively and efficiently were significantly higher
for pen-and-paper medium than for laptop and tablet displays.
Post hoc comparison further showed that college students per-
ceived their reading abilities to be significantly higher when
using pen-and-paper than when using tablet displays. Overall
satisfaction with the reading task and perceived low number of
errors were similar for the tablet, laptop and pen-and-paper
media. Ozok et al. (2008) concluded that the study of tablets as
a reading medium presented a promising area for investigation.
The reported beneficial effects of ICT on children’s reading
comprehension do not seem to have kept up with the progress
of technology since the 1990s, and in the recent decade ICT
appears to have a neutral or even a negative effect on reading
comprehension performance. We set out to investigate the ef-
fect of low cost tablet computing devices on elementary school
students’ reading comprehension, perceived performance, and
memory retention. Outblaze and Animoca, two Hong Kong-
based technology companies, sponsored the study with the aim
to kickstart “a social programme designed to reduce the digital
divide and assess the impact of tablet devices in the learning
environment” (Animoca, 2012: p. 1). Outblaze and Animoca
maintain that the key to bridging the digital divide is low cost
technology (e.g., see One Laptop Per Child and One Tablet Per
Child initiatives). The two companies donated 49 low cost An-
droid tablets to Chan’s Creative School (Hong Kong Island);
the devices (Ainol Novo 7 Paladin) cost HK$ 590 (about US$
76) each at the time and were selected and provided by the
sponsors, who suggested we study the effects of the technology
on the school’s students. The number of devices donated was
sufficient to allow every elementary student in the school to
have regular access to and utilize a current Android 4.0 (“Ice
Cream Sandwich”) 7-inch diagonal tablet device. The school
allowed us to observe and test the performance of students over
a period of a month and a few days.
After one month, during which students regularly used the
tablet in English class, we tested elementary students’ reading
comprehension performance to determine any effects associated
with the introduction of the tablets into the classroom. Because
the literature on this topic does not appear to be conclusive, we
Open Access 43
utilize the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 1—Elementary students’ English reading com-
prehension performance is higher when subjects read on print
media than when they read on low cost Android tablets.
We also measured how well the students thought they had
performed in the reading comprehension tests. In order to main-
tain consistency with hypothesis 1, and because the literature
predicts a positive effect, we utilized the following hypothesis
to identify differences in self-reported performance when read-
ing on the two different media:
Hypothesis 2—Elementary students’ perceived performance
in English reading comprehension tests is higher when subjects
read on print media than when they read on low cost Android
In addition to reading comprehension, we also explored the
impact on the students’ memory retention. The effect of ICT on
memory retention was investigated in 1998 by Dede, suggest-
ing that “the use of computers in education can generally help
to improve memory retention” (as cited in Wheeler, 2001: p. 8).
Ando and Ueno (2010) suggested, on the basis of a fairly com-
plex study, that the use of tablet PCs could improve students’
memory retention; specifically, they found that memory reten-
tion was improved when participants reading material on a per-
sonal computer used a pen tablet PC to take notes. Gasparini
and Culén (2012) found that when using an iPad both children
with and without prior reading difficulties showed a slight im-
provement in memory retention after reading a text, although
the sample size in that study was quite small. Based on the
existing literature, in this study we decided to examine the ef-
fect of low cost tablet devices on elementary students’ memory
retention with the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 3—Elementary students experience better mem-
ory retention when they view materials on low cost Android
tablets than when they view materials on print media.
Study 1
This study comprised grade 4 students and grade 6 students
from Chan’s Creative School (Hong Kong Island). Chan’s Cre-
ative School (Hong Kong Island) is a public elementary school
in Hong Kong. The school already possessed 50 aging com-
puters for student use and enjoyed a moderately high com-
puter-to-student ratio (about 1:3 for the entire school), but it
lacked additional funding for mobile information technology
equipment such as tablet computers. Outblaze and Animoca
donated 49 7-inch Android 4.0 tablets (Ainol Novo 7 Paladin)
to the school in order to update the school’s mobile ICT equip-
ment, which provided the opportunity to conduct this research.
There were 18 grade 4 students (11 boys and 7 girls) aged
between 9 and 12 years with M = 10.50 and SD = 0.92. There
were 36 grade 6 students (17 boys and 19 girls) aged between
11 and 16 years with M = 12.53 and SD = 0.97. All participants
had made regular individual use of the tablets for one month in
the course of daily class activities. The majority of participants
(about 70%) had never used tablet technology before, and all of
them were new to the use of tablets for classroom learning.
Four English reading comprehension tests were used in this
study, two for each grade. The contents and questions of the
two tests in each grade were different but they were similar in
reading level and difficulty, and contained the same number of
questions. The tests for each class were selected by teachers to
be grade-appropriate and of similar difficulty. For grade 4 stu-
dents, the passage in the first test contained 249 words, while
the passage in the second test contained 216 words; both these
tests contained five multiple-choice questions and three short
questions (question 6 in both tests included two questions). The
highest possible score for both tests for grade 4 students was 8.
For grade 6 students, the passage in the first test contained 213
words, while the passage in the second test contained 160
words; both these tests contained four multiple-choice ques-
tions and four short questions. The highest possible score for
both tests for grade 6 students was 8.
After a reading comprehension test, participants were asked
to complete perceived performance questionnaires (adapted
from Baker, 2010) to describe how well they thought they had
performed. The questionnaires consisted of five questions pre-
sented in a 6-point Likert scale to measure how well partici-
pants “believed they did on each of the formats [media] and
their emotional reaction to those formats” (Baker, 2010: p. 22).
The original questionnaire treats with the following media:
paper, iPod, and Kindle. To adapt the questionnaire to our study
we changed the word “iPod” to “tablet” and removed “Kindle”.
The questionnaire was translated into Chinese for the conven-
ience of participants. Cronbach’s α of the perceived perform-
ance questionnaire in this study were .76 and .82 for tablet and
paper, respectively, indicating a good level of reliability.
Before the experiment started, we obtained informed consent
from the school to perform the study with grade 4 and 6 stu-
dents as participants. All procedures discussed in this study
were conducted under the guidance of at least one teacher pre-
sent in the classroom at all times. For the first comprehension
test, all participants read a passage in English on the tablet and
answered questions about it on a printed test sheet. After fin-
ishing the first test, all participants were asked to fill out the
perceived performance questionnaire to assess how well they
believed they had performed. For the second comprehension
test, all participants read a passage in English on printed paper
and answered questions about it on a printed test sheet. After
finishing the second test, all participants were asked to fill out
the perceived performance questionnaire to assess how well
they believed they had performed. All received data were used
exclusively for the purposes of the current research and kept in
strict confidentiality; participating students remained anony-
mous to researchers. Students’ names were not recorded. Data
that included any personal identifiers (such as class or class
number or handwriting) were destroyed after the results of each
procedure were recorded.
Statistical Analysis
Two two-way mixed-design Analyses of Variance (ANOVAs)
were conducted to examine the effects of “medium” (tablet or
paper) and “gender” on reading comprehension score and per-
ceived performance, allowing us to examine the interaction
effect between “medium” and “gender”. In each ANOVA, ei-
ther comprehension score or perceived performance was en-
tered as a dependent variable, while “medium” was entered as
Open Access
Open Access 45
within-subject independent variable and “gender” was entered
as between-subject independent variable. An alpha level of .05
was used for all results; any p-values larger than .05 obtained
after conducting ANOVAs were considered to be non-signifi-
cant. Partial η2 is reported if the effects are found to be signifi-
Grade 4 Students
Table 1 shows the means and standard deviations of each score
in each condition.
Participants reading the passage on paper had significantly
higher reading comprehension scores than participants reading
the passage on tablet (F(1, 16) = 19.40, p < .001, partial η2
= .55). For the main effect of “gender” on comprehension score,
it was found that F(1, 16) = 3.59 with p = .076. Although this
p-value is smaller than .10, which could be considered margin-
ally significant, we utilized a limit of .05 to avoid potential
problems resulting from the limited sample sizes. Therefore,
since the observed p-value was larger than .05, we concluded
that there was no main effect for “gender”. The interaction
effect between “medium” and “gender” on comprehension
scores was also statistically non-significant (F(1,16) = 2.57, p
= .129), meaning that the effect of “medium” was not moder-
ated by the effect of “gender” and vice versa.
There were no significant main effects of “medium” and
“gender” on the perceived performance scores for grade 4 stu-
dents (for “medium”: F(1,16) = 0.11, p = .747; for “gender”:
F(1,16) = 2.75, p = .117). However, a significant interaction
effect was found on the perceived performance scores (F(1,16)
= 7.51, p = .015, partial η2 = .32). This significant interaction
effect suggested that the effect of “medium” was moderated by
the effect of “gender” and vice versa. Figure 1 shows the
means plot to illustrate the interaction effect visually. Boys
perceived themselves to perform better when reading on tablet
while girls perceived themselves to perform better when read-
ing on paper. However, both boys and girls had similar per-
ceived performance scores when reading on tablet.
Grade 6 Students
The means and standard deviations of each score in each condi-
tion are shown in Table 2. Results of the two two-way mixed
design ANOVAs showed that there were no significant main
effects of “medium” and “gender” and interaction effect on
both comprehension scores (for “medium”: F(1, 34) = 0.88, p
= .355; for “gender”: F(1, 34) = 1.29, p = .263; for interaction:
F(1, 34) = 1.75, p = .195) and perceived performance (for “me-
dium”: F(1, 34) = 1.01, p = .322; for “gender”: F(1, 34) = 0.09,
p = .769; for interaction: F(1, 34) = 1.55, p = .221).
Comprehension Score
Our Hypothesis 1 was confirmed for grade 4 students, because
their scores in English reading comprehension were lower when
reading on tablet than on paper. This result is consistent with a
number of previous studies that suggested that ICTs decrease
children’s reading performance (see Jeong, 2012; Sheppard,
2011). Apart from Jeong’s (2012) explanation stated in our
introduction, another possible explanation is that children were
more accustomed to reading on paper than on tablet (Kang et al.,
2009). Participants in our study had years of experience reading
and being tested on the medium of paper, whereas their expo-
sure to tablets in the classroom amounted to a month and a few
days. It is reasonable to speculate that students’ lower perform-
ance when using tablets may be partly attributable to lack of
habituation to the devices.
Hypothesis 1 was rejected for grade 6 students, who showed
no significant difference in comprehension scores when reading
on tablet or on paper. This result is similar to Grace’s (2011)
and Stewart’s (2012) studies, although those researchers util-
ized Apple iPads instead of low cost Android devices. Grace
and Stewart both found that reading on iPad had no significant
effect on comprehension versus reading on paper, which is
consistent with our results for grade 6 students.
The lack of consistency between results for grade 4 and
grade 6 students is puzzling. It is possible that, as students age
or advance to a higher grade, their performance in reading com-
prehension is diminishingly affected by ICT. Our study did
determine that gender did not alter the effect of tablet use on
reading comprehension among grade 4 and 6 students, but fur-
ther investigation is required to explore additional factors (such
as the roles played by a participant’s age and grade).
Perceived Performance
Although ANOVA results showed that there was no main effect
of “medium” and “gender” on perceived performance for
Table 1.
Means, standard deviations, and analysis of variance (ANOVA) results for comprehension scores and perceived performance as a function of gender and
medium for grade 4 students.
Gender ANOVA F(1, 16)
Boys (n = 11) Girls (n = 7) Between subjects Within subjects
Medium M SD M SD Gender (G) Medium (Me) G x Me
Comprehension Scoresa 3.59 19.40** 2.57
Reading on tablet 2.82 1.40 3.57 2.23
Reading on paper 3.82 1.25 5.71 1.80
Perceived Performanceb 2.75 0.11 7.51*
Reading on tablet 3.51 1.11 3.57 0.99
Reading on paper 2.75 1.15 4.17 0.88
Notes. aComprehension scores ranged from 0 to 8, higher score indicates better comprehension result. bPerceived performance ranged from 1 to 6, higher score indicates better
perceived performance. *p < .05. **p < .001.
Figure 1.
Means plot of perceived performance score by medium across two gender groups for grade 4
Table 2.
Means, standard deviations, and analysis of variance (ANOVA) results for comprehension scores and perceived performance as a function of gender and
medium for Grade 6 students.
Gender ANOVA F(1, 34)
Boys (n = 17) Girls (n = 19) Between subjects Within subjects
Medium M SD M SD Gender (G) Medium (Me) G x Me
Comprehension Scoresa 1.29 0.88 1.75
Reading on tablet 3.32 1.89 4.26 1.50
Reading on paper 3.94 1.75 4.16 1.77
Perceived Performanceb 0.09 1.01 1.55
Reading on tablet 3.88 0.65 3.79 0.73
Reading on paper 3.59 1.17 3.82 0.59
Note. aComprehension scores ranged from 0 to 8, higher score indicates better comprehension result. bPerceived performance ranged from 1 to 6, higher score indicates better
perceived performance.
grade 4 students, a significant interaction between “medium”
and “gender” was found. Figure 1 shows the means of per-
ceived performance by medium across two gender groups for
grade 4 students, and leads us to reject Hypothesis 2 for males
and accept it for female grade 4 students. The effect of “me-
dium” was canceled by the effect of “gender” because male
students thought that they would perform better in comprehen-
sion tasks when reading on tablet than when reading on paper,
whereas female students perceived the reverse. We speculate
this may be because boys tend to have higher self-efficacy in
computer skills whereas girls tend to have more negative atti-
tudes towards computers (Broos, 2005). Two pairs of re-
searcher, Barker and Aspray as well as Volman and van Eck,
have suggested that “boys have more opportunities to experi-
ence success with ICTs, and, therefore, they are more likely to
develop positive beliefs” (as cited in Vekiri, 2010: p. 17).
If the above explanation is valid, then the male participants
in our study ought to have scored better in perceived perform-
ance when reading on tablets than females, which was not the
case: boys and girls had similar perceived performance when
reading on tablets. We propose the following explanation to
account for these results: although boys tend to have higher
Open Access
self-efficacy in technology, girls tend to have higher reading
efficacy than boys of the same age (Smith, Smith, Gilmore, &
Jameson, 2012). Girls therefore experienced a higher perceived
performance in reading comprehension than boys when both
groups used printed paper as reading medium in our study. If
this explanation is correct, the effects of high ICT efficacy
among boys and high reading efficacy among girls canceled
each other, resulting in very similar perceived performance on
tablets, a fact which may have some application for educators.
Grade 6 students displayed no detectable main effects or inter-
action effects on perceived performance, as the participants all
received similar scores. Hypothesis 2 was therefore rejected for
grade 6 participants. Based on our results, ICT seems to have
no effect on performance and perceived performance in reading
comprehension among grade 6 students.
Study 2
This study comprised 28 grade 1 students from Chan’s Crea-
tive School (Hong Kong Island). Sixteen of them (9 boys and 7
girls) were from class 1A and 12 of them (7 boys and 5 girls)
were from class 1B. The average academic achievement be-
tween the two classes, as reported by the school, was similar.
After random selection, class 1A served as treatment group and
class 1B served as control group. The treatment group’s age
ranged from 6 to 9 (M = 7.56, SD = 0.96), while the control
group’s age ranged from 7 to 9 (M = 7.62, SD = 0.77). All par-
ticipants had made regular individual use of the 7-inch Android
4.0 tablets (Ainol Novo 7 Paladin) in the course of daily class
activities for a month. About 61% of participants had never
used tablet technology and all of them had never used tablets
for learning in the classroom.
A simple memory test was administered. There were three
stages in the test. In the first stage, all participants tried to
memorize 25 pictures during a period of 3 minutes. In the sec-
ond stage, the students performed addition and subtraction ex-
ercises for 1 minute as a filler activity to prevent rehearsal of
the pictures in their short-term memory. The arithmetic exer-
cises ensured that the participants would be accessing informa-
tion from long-term memory in the successive recall stage,
since information in short-term memory usually decays after
about 15 - 20 seconds without rehearsal (Goldstein, 2011). In
the third stage, the students were given sheets containing 50
pictures, which included the 25 pictures that they had seen in
the first stage and 25 new pictures. Students were asked to
identify the 25 pictures that they had attempted to memorize in
the first stage of the memory test. All images were chosen from
the “Standardized Set of 260 Pictures for Use in Experiments
Investigating Differences and Similarities in the Processing of
Pictures and Words” (Snodgrass & Vanderwart, 1980).
Before the experiment started, we obtained informed consent
from the school to perform the study using grade 1 students as
participants. All procedures discussed in this study were con-
ducted under the guidance of at least one teacher present in the
classroom at all times. Participants in the treatment group were
given 25 images to view on the Android tablets, while the con-
trol group viewed the same 25 images printed on sheets of pa-
per. All participants were asked to memorize the images during
a period of 3 minutes, after which they conducted addition and
subtraction exercises as filler activity for 1 minute. After that,
all participants were handed sheets of paper containing 50 im-
ages, which included the 25 previously seen images and 25 new
images. Students were asked to circle the images that they had
attempted to memorize earlier. Images that the students identi-
fied correctly counted towards their correct memory score,
while falsely recognized selections counted towards their false
memory score. The maximum possible score for both correct
and false memory for each participant was therefore 25. All
received data were used exclusively for the purposes of this
research and kept in strict confidentiality; all participating stu-
dents remained anonymous to researchers. Students’ names
were not recorded. Data that included any personal identifiers
(such as class or class number or handwriting) were destroyed
after the results of each procedure were recorded.
Statistical Analysis
Two two-way independent ANOVAs were conducted to
examine the effects of “medium” and “gender” and their inter-
action effect on correct memory scores and false memory
scores. The correct memory score or false memory score were
used as the dependent variable in each ANOVA. “Medium” and
“gender” were entered as independent variables. Any obtained
p-value larger than .05 was considered non-significant.
Table 3 shows the means and standard deviations of both
correct memory scores and false memory scores by “medium”
(tablet or paper) for male students versus female students. After
conducting two-way independent ANOVAs, it was found that
students reading on paper had significantly higher correct
memory scores than students reading on tablet (F(1, 24) =
15.55, p = .001, partial η2 = .39). The main effect of “gender”
was non-significant (F(1, 24) = 1.57, p = .222), meaning that
both boys and girls recalled better when the information was
presented through the medium of paper. The interaction effect
between “medium” and “gender” was also found to be
non-significant (F(1, 24) = 2.28, p = .144), thus the effect of
“medium” was not moderated by the effect of “gender” or vice
All main effects and the interaction effect were non-signifi-
cant when false memory was entered as dependent variable (for
“medium”: F(1, 24) = 1.63, p = .214; for “gender”: F(1, 24) =
1.92, p = .179; for interaction F(1, 24) = 0.02, p = .881).
Hypothesis 3 was rejected: students remembered materials
better when it was presented to them on paper than on Android
tablet. This result is inconsistent with the results of Ando and
Ueno’s (2010) study. This may be due to the difference in
methodology between our study and their study: Ando and
Ueno (2010) allowed the participants to take notes on-screen,
which can be expected to promote memory retention.
Another possible explanation for the lower memory retention
e found when reading on tablets is the mismatch in conditions w
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Table 3.
Means, standard deviations, sample sizes, and analysis of variance (ANOVA) results for correct memory scores and false memory scores as a function
of medium and gender.
Gender (G)
Boys Girls ANOVA F(1, 24)
Medium (Me) M (SD) nM (SD) nMe G Me x G
Correct Memory Scoresa 15.55** 1.57 2.28
Reading on tablet 15.67 (3.74) 915.29 (3.07) 7
Reading on paper 19.29 (5.50) 723.40 (1.14) 5
False Memory Scoresb 1.63 1.92 0.02
Reading on tablet 3.78 (4.90) 91.71(3.68) 7
Reading on paper 1.86 (1.67) 70.20 (0.45) 5
Note. aCorrect memory scores ranged from 0 to 25, higher score indicates more pictures were correctly recognized. bFalse memory scores ranged from 0 to 25, higher score
indicates more pictures were falsely recognized. **p < .001.
for memory encoding and retrieval. According to Goldstein
(2011), “retrieval can be increased by matching the conditions
at retrieval to the conditions that existed at encoding” (p. 184).
Our treatment group encoded memories by viewing materials
on Android tablets, but they retrieved the memories in order to
circle their answers on sheets of paper. The control group, on
the other hand, encoded and retrieved information in the same
medium of paper and could therefore be expected to perform
better in the memory test. This explanation can be tested in
future studies by comparing the memory test results when
reading and testing on tablets with the results when reading on
tablet and testing on paper.
General Discussion
To our knowledge, this is the first study that attempts to
meas- ure changes in elementary students’ reading comprehen-
sion and memory retention when they use the different media of
Android tablets and paper. Owing to limited access to the stu-
dents and time constraints, we were unable to conduct all three
types of tests on all participants; grade 4 and 6 students did not
take memory tests, and grade 1 students were not tested for
reading comprehension and perceived performance. Despite
these limi- tations, however, the results of Study 1 led us to
conclude that the introduction of low cost Android tablets in the
classroom did not have a significant negative impact on grade 6
children’s reading comprehension.
Statistical analysis of Study 1 results did not indicate any ef-
fect on grade 6 students, whose reading comprehension seemed
unaffected by regular exposure to the tablets over the course of
one month. Further study is required to establish whether tab-
lets have an effect on the memory retention of grade 6 students.
If tablets are found to have no negative effect on students’ me-
mory, inexpensive models would represent useful and cost-
effective additions to the classroom, since they offer a much
simpler and lower-maintenance entry point into ICT than con-
ventional personal computers and other apparatus; indeed, even
“villagers who have never used a computer before” can learn to
use touch-based devices relatively easily (Firth, 2012: p. 6).
Some caution, however, was indicated when considering the in-
troduction of tablets to grade 1 and 4 classrooms because in our
studies the tablets were associated with some negative effects:
compared with the paper-using control groups, grade 1 students
using tablets scored lower in memory retention, and grade 4
students using tablets scored lower in reading comprehension.
Educators should also consider that, although the use of tablets
in the classroom may enhance the confidence of grade 4 boys
during reading comprehension tasks, it may also negatively
affect the confidence of grade 4 girls engaged in the same ac-
We emphasized that most of the participants were new to
Android tablets, and they utilized them for academic purposes
in the classroom for only one month. According to Coll, Ro-
chera, and Colomina (2010), the technological characteristics of
ICTs would affect the characteristics of the performing task, so
in order to perform the task correctly, students need to techno-
logically master the ICTs. It is therefore possible that the nega-
tive results we obtain may be due to the children’s relative un-
familiarity with the devices, instead of any negative effects
inherent in tablet use in the classroom. It is also possible that
the particular tablets used in this research, being inexpensive
and lacking the features and processing/graphical power of
costlier alternatives, may be better suited to drawing, idea gen-
eration, and other creative tasks rather than reading comprehen-
sion or memorization. The possibility that tablets are more
suitable for different types of learning tasks than paper needs to
be explored in future research (Ozok et al., 2008). We also
recommend further research using tablets in different price
ranges, such as “mainstream” or more expensive devices, par-
ticularly as tablet technology is improving steadily while costs
are dropping. The Google Nexus 7 tablet, which came to mar-
ket as this paper was being written, was an attractive candidate
for future research, being powerful, fully-featured, easily avail-
able, and relatively inexpensive.
We would also like to emphasize some limitations in our re-
search. Firstly, as already stated, our access to the school and its
students was limited and we were unable to conduct compre-
hensive testing for all school grades. Secondly, all participants
were recruited from Chan’s Creative School (Hong Kong Is-
land), a fairly small school, and as a result we faced hard limits
on our studies’ sample sizes. The limited sample size, all drawn
from a single school, means that the generalizability of our
results to all elementary students in Hong Kong—and beyond—
is low. Thirdly, the experimental environment was not strictly
controlled: students participated in this research in the class-
room in the presence of their classmates and not in isolation,
which means they were able to discuss the assigned tasks with
other participants or use the tablets in various other ways, even
though teachers, upon request by experimenters, regularly is-
sued instructions on appropriate experimental conduct and de-
vice usage.
A detailed analysis of the economic and social opportunities
conferred by exposing young students to ICTs is beyond the
scope of this work, however, we consider the subject suffi-
ciently important to warrant some closing words. Investment in
ICT education results in children who are familiar with, and
develop a facility with, various technologies of ever-increasing
relevance. Such investments can be worthwhile, regardless of
the exact magnitude of the benefits to academic success if it
means that children will become better prepared to take advan-
tage of ICT later in life, academically, economically, and so-
cially. Other researchers have noted “the belief that such in-
vestments [in ICT for students] will pay off in the future be-
cause the use of technology will lead to educational attainment,
and this will lead to employment, earning power and economic
activity” (Plowman, Stevenson, McPake, Stephen, & Adey,
2011: p. 361).
Given the increasing role of social networking services
across almost all societies, it is crucial to recognize that the
value of ICT for children must not be a purely academic con-
sideration but also a social one: the ability and the skills to
safely and effectively utilize a broad range of devices, software
and services in a rapidly evolving and highly diverse techno-
logical landscape are increasingly important to all persons ex-
cept very young children, to whom screen-based ICT may be
harmful (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2001; House, 2012;
Ravichandran & de Bravo, 2010). As Vryzas & Tsitouridou
(2002) have noted, “in this modern society of rapidly develop-
ing technology, children’s ability to use ICT is increasingly
vital to their success, both in education and in their life after-
wards. The necessity of competence in this area is increasingly
being recognized” (p. 287).
While it is possible that ICT use in the classroom may in-
clude some undesirable effects, educators must weigh eventual
disadvantages against the extensive range of benefits conferred.
Indeed, it is our position that ICT education is becoming less
optional and more mandatory with every advance in the field of
high technology. Wheeler (2001) noted that “ultimately, the use
of ICT will enhance learning experiences for children, helping
them to think and communicate creatively, and work collabora-
tively. It will also prepare our children for successful lives and
careers in an increasingly technological world” (pp. 15-16).
This paper is one of the first empirical studies on the impact
of Android tablets on elementary students, providing an initial
understanding of the impact of low cost Android tablets on
reading comprehension, perceived reading performance and
memory retention. The extent of integration of tablet computing
into school curricula everywhere remains to be determined, but
we strongly encourage other researchers to investigate this sub-
ject. We also remind readers that, in spite of improving tech-
nology and dropping costs, the digital divide—which can be
addressed relatively easily at the elementary school level—re-
mains a serious global concern.
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