Early Learning Labs

Assess and analyze kindergarten readiness digitally
Opportunity

Assess and Analyze Kindergarten Readiness

The Individual Growth & Development Indicators (IGDIs) are a series of early childhood assessments, developed at the University of Minnesota, that lead the industry as one of the foremost early childhood assessment suites measuring early literacy and language skills to support kindergarten readiness. Using the tools, early educators can take an inventory of students’ skills using a variety of dimensions, some of which include: their ability to pair letters with sounds, identify words that rhyme, identify differences between objects and name pictures.

Solution

Custom iPad and Web Development

We designed and developed a custom iPad and web app for educators that allow them to administer the IGDI early literacy and language assessments and improve their capacities to make educational decisions that can, in turn, improve student achievement. The tools help educators determine whether students would benefit from additional instruction or intervention to build early language and literacy skills.

iPad App

With support from US Department of Education grants, researchers at the University of Minnesota contracted with MentorMate to design and architect the IGDI-APEL iOS iPad app enabling educators to administer the IGDI measures without pen and paper. A student interacts with the assessment on one iPad. The teacher evaluates student responses and views progress on the other. The devices are connected with Bluetooth.

Beyond simplifying the evaluation process, we also implemented a computer adaptive testing (CAT) engine that allows a more accurate measurement of student ability, with potentially fewer questions.

Web App

Continuing to further the success of the student-facing app, we rebuilt a second app to further equip Early Learning Labs and the myIGDIs program. The myIGDIs web app allows teachers to input the data, analyze progress trends over time or separated into student groups to help identify factors affecting development and cognitive readiness.

Approach

Rapid Roadmap Development

Before each major stage in the three-part process, we held a Rapid Ideation session with the Early Learning Labs team. We read documents the team shared and each unique piece of functionality on index cards along with any related questions for discussion and prioritization during the sessions. Transforming consumer-facing descriptions into technical requirements and user stories was the first goal. Creating a phased-development roadmap was the second.

Impact

Enhanced Reporting Drives Understanding

Using the technology suite, progress reports can be generated and viewed from any device. With student performance monitoring, educators and administrators can make informed, data-based decisions for classrooms as well as districts. Long term progress goals can be met and education practices can be better understood.

What’s Next?

Uniting the iOS and Web Apps

Following several years in use, the Early Learning Labs software apps we originally built and designed needed more comprehensive reporting capabilities, a cleaner layout and automated data transfer from the iPad to web app — eliminating manual entry to the myIGDIs web app. That’s what we’re working on now.

We’re grafting a clone of the APEL app onto the myIGDIs platform. We created a new API layer for the myIGDIs application. Then, we will adapt the APEL app to the API layer.

The API layer enables teachers to administer the tests using the iPads, as they have done. Instead of manually scoring and entering the data into the web app, the software uses a computer adaptive testing (CAT) algorithm to determine a student’s ability score. More accurate than the paper-based tests, it uses the difficulty value of each question to determine the student’s ability level. The iOS app captures the assessment data and transmits it to a secure .NET-based server application for storage and analysis by the research team.