Literacy App Improves School Readiness in At-Risk Preschoolers, Finds Study by Steinhardt Researchers

Using mobile apps in preschool classrooms may help improve early literacy skills and boost school readiness for low-income children, according to researchers at NYU Steinhardt.

“Guided use of an educational app may be a source of motivation and engagement for children in their early years,” said Susan B. Neuman, professor of childhood and literacy education at NYU Steinhardt and the study’s author. “The purpose of our study was to examine if a motivating app could accelerate children’s learning, which it did.”

Neuman presented her findings on April 19th with co-author Carolyn Strom at the American Education Research Association’s annual meeting in Chicago.

The average time young children spend using electronic devices has more than tripled in the last five years. Nevertheless, there remains a disparity in access to mobile devices and other technology for low-income children. In a recent study, 49 percent of middle class children reported downloading an app, 80 percent of which were educational, while only 30 percent of low-income children downloaded an app, 57 percent of which were educational.

This “app gap” was the focus of Neuman and Strom’s study. Recognizing that the preschool years are formative in developing children’s use of media, the researchers designed a study to examine the effectiveness of an educational app called Learn with Homer on low-income preschoolers’ school readiness skills. The Apple iPad app engages children in a systematic program that integrates word sounds and storybook reading.

The study was conducted in 10 Head Start classrooms with a total of 148 preschoolers. Children were randomly selected to use either Learn with Homer or an art and activity app. The preschoolers engaged with the apps for 10 to 12 minutes daily, guided by moderators during the 10-week study.

Using several tests of early literacy, the researchers measured changes in children’s phonological awareness as a result of daily uses of Learn with Homer, compared with the control group using the other app. Phonological awareness is the ability to detect sounds that make up words, and is an important predictor of later reading ability.

The researchers found measureable growth in phonological awareness and understanding the connections between speech and printed letters for the group using the Learn with Homer app, compared with the group using the art and activity app. They also observed significant differences in print concepts.

“Given the importance of phonological awareness and how it contributes to school readiness, using digital resources in a highly controlled setting, like a classroom, may substantially help to close the ‘app gap,’” said Neuman.


NYU Steinhardt Study Evaluates the Influence of College Experiences on Career Outcomes

Meaningful college experiences, including internships and studying abroad, may not matter as much as your major and what school you attend when it comes to job satisfaction and earnings, according to researchers at NYU Steinhardt.

“Our study adds important nuance to our understanding of the influence specific college experiences have on economic and attitudinal job outcomes in the years following college graduation,” said Gregory Wolniak, director of the Center for Research on Higher Education Outcomes at NYU Steinhardt and the study’s author. Wolniak presented his findings on April 18th with co-author Mark E. Engberg of Loyola University Chicago at the American Education Research Association’s annual meeting.

Gregory Wolniak

Researchers have long been trying to answer the elusive question: Is college worth it? Previous studies have focused on the relationship between college education and earnings upon graduation, but much less is known about college’s effect on non-monetary, attitudinal career outcomes.

A 2007 report from the Association of American Colleges & Universities highlighted a set of “high-impact” practices – such as internships, community-based learning, studying abroad, and research outside of the classroom – that cultivate the kinds of learning and development students need for success. Employers even seek college graduates with these experiences, finding that they are better prepared for the workplace.

Wolniak and Engberg’s study explores the connection between high-impact college experiences and career outcomes in the years immediately following college graduation, using 2012 follow up data from the Education Longitudinal Study, the most current and nationally representative data on students’ transitions from college to the labor market.

The researchers analyzed a set of high-impact college experiences – internships, research outside of class, studying abroad, community-based projects, and senior capstones – in relationship to career outcomes immediately following graduation. While earlier research focused on earnings, this study looked at both earnings and non-monetary measures: graduates’ attitudes toward their jobs (including a supportive work environment, job satisfaction, and job commitment) and continued learning and challenge in their jobs.

The results suggest that high-impact experiences have a relatively small and inconsistent influence on career outcomes in the years right after college graduation, and specific experiences seem to only predict certain outcomes.

For instance, internships and community-based projects appear to lead students into jobs that offer new challenges, serve a social purpose, and provide opportunities for continued learning. There was also a positive relationship between participating in a senior capstone experience and being employed in a supportive work environment. However, studying abroad was not related to any career outcomes, and none of the high-impact experiences measured affected job satisfaction or commitment.

Consistent with past studies, the researchers found that attending a selective institution, rather than a moderate or inclusive institution, substantially improves earnings in the years immediately following college, with graduates of selective institutions reporting on average 16 to 18 percent higher earnings. However, a college’s standing had no effect on attitudinal outcomes.

The researchers also found that college majors exert the largest effect on attitudinal measures, and also significantly influence early career earnings. While business majors enjoy comparable earnings to STEM majors, the former reported significantly lower levels of learning, satisfaction, and challenge on the job; in contrast, education majors earn substantially less than STEM majors but are more satisfied and committed to their jobs. In general, students working in jobs closely related to their majors reported more than 15 percent higher earnings.

“We had anticipated finding more consistent and stronger evidence that high-impact practices have a positive influence on earnings and other aspects of career success,” Wolniak said.  “Our findings suggest that to earn more and enjoy the attitudinal outcomes we examined, students would benefit from support in securing jobs related to their majors.”

The researchers said that these results should not be used to call into question the importance of high-impact college experiences in terms of student learning and development, but do recommend using caution before suggesting that the positive influence high-impact experiences have on learning will translate to career gains.



AERA Conference Highlights: Original Research by Steinhardt Faculty Members

AERAThe AERA Annual Meeting is the largest gathering of scholars in the field of education research. This year, NYU Steinhardt is proud to present the work of nearly 100 faculty, researchers, and students whose research is essential to broadening our understanding of how our community can contribute to creating a more just society through education research and practice.

The AERA Conference will feature presentations by:

Susan B. Neuman
Susan B. Neuman
Susan B. Neuman, professor of childhood and literacy education, is a specialist in early literacy development whose research and teaching interests include early childhood policy, curriculum, and early reading instruction for children who live in poverty.

Thursday, April 16, 12:00-1:30 p.m.
Presentation: Supporting Vocabulary Teaching and Learning in Pre-Kindergarten: The Role of Educative Curriculum Materials

Sunday, April 19, 10:35 a.m-12:05 p.m.
Presentation: Closing the App Gap: The Effects of Educational Media on Low-Income Preschoolers’ School Readiness Skills

Pedro Noguera
Pedro Noguera
Pedro Noguera, the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University, is a sociologist whose scholarship and research focuses on the ways in which schools are influenced by social and economic conditions, as well as by demographic trends in local, regional, and global contexts.

Sunday, April 19, 4:05-6:05 p.m.
AERA Presidential Session: Public Scholarship for Diverse Democracies: Making Education Research Matter

Jan Plass
Jan Plass
Jan L. Plass, the Paulette Goddard Chair in Digital Media and Learning Sciences, conducts research on the cognitive and emotional aspects of information design and the interaction design of simulations and educational games for science education and second language acquisition.

Friday, April 17, 10:35 a.m.-12:05 p.m.
Presentation: Round, Square, or Spiky: Deconstructing the Emotional Design of Video Game Characters

Christopher Hoadley
Christopher Hoadley
Christopher Hoadley, an associate professor of educational communication and technology, designs and builds educational technology and researches the connections between technology, learning, and collaboration. He has more than 35 years experience designing and building educational technology.

Friday, April 17, 4:05-5:35 p.m.
Presentation: From Half-Pipe to Full-fillment: Leveraging Interest-Driven Identities as a Strategy for Technology Learning

Gregory Wolniak
Gregory Wolniak
Gregory Wolniak, a clinical associate professor of higher education, conducts research that centers on advancing understanding education in society and the role of the higher education system in influencing student access, opportunity, and development.

Saturday, April 18, 2:45-4:15 p.m.
Presentation: The Influence of “High-Impact” College Experiences on Early Career Outcomes

Sunday, April 19, 2:45-3:45 p.m.
Presentation: New Insights on Athletic Participation and College Student Learning

Early Career Award Honoree

Michael Kieffer
Michael Kieffer
Michael J. Kieffer, an associate professor of literacy education, studies the language development of students from linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Sunday, April 19, 8:15-9:45 a.m.
Early Career Award (2014) Lecture: Reading Comprehension Development of Students From Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds: Integrating Evidence From Ecological, Developmental, Linguistic, and Cognitive Perspectives

Also Presenting


Dana Burde

Monday, April 20, 12:25-1:55 p.m.
Presentation: Violence Against Education: Exploring the Prevalence of This Tactic, Why Insurgents Use It, and How Governments Respond


Edward Fergus

Friday, April 17, 8:15-10:15 a.m.
Presentation: Building Data-Driven Capacity in Out-of-School Time Programs: New York University and the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families Research Partnership

Monday, April 20, 8:15-9:45 a.m.
Presentation: Diverse Perspectives on Race, Gender, and Identity Among Black Males in STEM Education


Okhee Lee

Friday, April 17, 8:15-9:45 a.m.
Presentation: Spontaneous Analogies in Elementary Student Writing: An “Untapped” Resource for Constructing Scientific Explanations


Sandee McClowry

Friday, April 17, 2:15-3:45 p.m.
Presentation: Getting a Good Start in School: Differential Effects of INSIGHTS on the Behaviors and Engagement of Children With Challenging Temperaments


Catherine Milne

Monday, April 20, 12:25-1:55 p.m.
Presentation: The Materiality of Scientific Instruments and Why It Might Matter to Science Education


Shondel Nero

Sunday, April 19, 8:15-9:45 a.m.
Presentation: Engaging Multiple Englishes: Anglophone Caribbean Students’ Translanguaging in Secondary School


Frances Stage

Thursday, April 16, 12:00-1:30 p.m.
Presentation: Pathways into College for American Indian and Alaska Native Students

Steinhardt Doctoral Student Wins Council of Learned Societies’ Dissertation Competition

Tamara Kneese a doctoral student in Steinhardt’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, has been awarded the American Council of Learned Societies’ Dissertation Competition Fellowship. She is among four NYU graduate students to receive this honor.

Kneese’s award-winning dissertation, “Digital Afterlives: Patterning Posterity through Networked Remains,” examines the status of digital assets after death. Knees earned an MA at the University of Chicago and a BA from Kenyon College.

The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) made 70 fellowship awards this year. The award, made to graduate students in their final year of dissertation writing, includes a $30,000 stipend and $8,000 for research and university fees. Fellows were selected from a pool of 1,000 applicants.

“Scholars at this critical juncture of their professional development need the uninterrupted time to write and complete their dissertations that this fellowship provides,” said Matthew Goldfeder, ACLS director of fellowship programs.


Steinhardt’s Environmental Education Program to Host Film Screening in Celebration of Earth Day, April 21st

The Wallerstein Collaborative For Urban Environmental Education at NYU and the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival (WCFF) will host a series of film screenings in celebration of Earth Day. The screenings will take place on Tuesday, April 21 from 7-9 p.m. at 19 University Place, Room 102 (between E. 8th Street and Waverly Pl.)

The three films, which focus on elephants and rhinoceros conservation in Africa, are:

  • “We Are Rhino” (South Africa, 23 mins.), a short film by Spencer Austin that explores three approaches to rhinoceros conservation;
  • “Boots on the Ground” (South Africa, 30 mins.), the story of filmmaker and anti-poaching ranger Matt Bracken’s quest to end African poaching; and
  • “Quiet Giants” (Zimbabwe, 30 mins.), a celebration of the African elephant by Ralph Stutchbury.

A discussion and Q&A with “Boots on the Ground” producer Matt Bracken, an anti-poaching ranger in South Africa, and WCFF founder Christopher J. Gervais, an environmental scientist, will follow the screening.

Tickets may be purchased ($6 for NYU students, $9 for the general public) through the event’s website. Seating is limited. Contact WCFF at 917-558-5205 or with questions or for more information. Reporters interested in attending must RSVP to Rachel Harrison, NYU Office of Public Affairs, at 212-998-6797 or

The Wallerstein Collaborative For Urban Environmental Education was established in 2000 in NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development to promote environmental literacy and sustainability by working with educators in K-12 classroom settings, graduate students, and faculty in colleges and universities.

The mission of the WCFF is to engage, inform, and inspire people on the importance of preserving global biodiversity through an annual wildlife conservation film festival and biodiversity conference, with year-round film screenings, field trips, receptions, and workshops.

(Image courtesy of Ralph Stutchbury)


Steinhardt Launches New Major in Education Studies

NYU Steinhardt announced the creation of a bachelor’s degree in education studies, and will enroll its first transfer students in the fall of 2015, and full class of undergraduates in the fall of 2016.

The Bachelor of Arts program in education studies provides students with a rigorous liberal arts curriculum that looks at education from sociological, cultural, philosophical, historical, and political perspectives. The program will have a specific focus on education in urban and international contexts, with all students studying abroad for a semester.

“The field of education studies is devoted to exploring the humanistic and social science dimensions of education,” said Jonathan Zimmerman, chair of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences in the Professions at NYU Steinhardt and a professor in the new degree program. “Like other interdisciplinary programs – urban studies, environmental studies, women’s studies, Africana studies – it focuses on a single subject from a wide variety of angles.”

The new major will prepare graduates for careers or graduate studies in areas including education leadership, law, government, policymaking, and education research. Unlike Steinhardt’s existing degree programs in teacher education, the B.A. in education studies does not directly lead to teacher certification and is not intended to prepare teachers for the classroom. However, graduates may pursue alternative routes to teaching, such as Teach for America.

“Education has become a hot topic among American undergraduates, whether they want to teach or are simply interested in educational topics and debates,” said Carol Anne Spreen, director of undergraduate programs the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences in the Professions at NYU Steinhardt and faculty adviser of the new major. “While NYU Steinhardt already has strong teacher education programs, we saw the need for a program critically examining education with a strong liberal arts basis.”

The school estimates that 20 students will enroll in the inaugural class, which could grow to 50-60 students in five years.

“We currently offer a minor in global and urban education studies, which has grown steadily and enrolls students from many different majors, and hope that the major in education studies sees similar popularity and growth,” Spreen said.

“The Sari Project” to Highlight the Beauty and Cultural Importance of the Sari – May 2

Few styles of women’s dress are as enduring as the sari – the classic, unstitched garment worn by women in India for more than 2,000 years. On Saturday, May 2, one of the world’s foremost historians of the sari, Rta Kapur Chishti, will present “The Sari Project,” a lecture and workshop highlighting the versatility, comfort, beauty, and cultural significance of a truly unique garment that evokes tradition and embraces modernity.

“The Sari Project” will take place from 1-5 p.m. at the Einstein Auditorium at the Barney Building (34 Stuyvesant Street). Visit here to register for tickets. The event, which will also feature journalist, art historian, and Indian cultural expert Louise Nicholson, is sponsored by the Craft Area of the Department of Art and Art Professions and the MA Program in Costume Studies at NYU Steinhardt.

“Saris constitute the very ‘fabric’ of India, demonstrating the timelessness of the hand loom and the beauty of color as they ‘weave’ their way into daily routines surrounding kitchen and family,” said Judith Schwartz, Director of Sculpture in Craft Media: Clay, Glass, Metals, Fiber. “In my travels I was continuously impressed not only by the range of colors and patterns seen throughout the country, but also the skill of the women who routinely wear seven yards of un-fastened fabric with elegance and beauty and a seeming magical ease.”

Nancy Deihl, Director of the Costume Studies MA Program, added, “In addition to its importance in history, the sari is now seen by many young women as a viable – and very current – fashion option. It’s a personal statement that also implies tradition and cultural continuity.”

Rta Kapur Chishti is the co-author and editor of the Saris of India and Handcrafted Indian Textiles –Tradition and Beyond. She has been involved with research and development of handspun-handloomed textiles and is founder of the “Sari School” which produces saris and organizes workshops and private classes for those who wish to learn more about saris and how to make them more relevant to their lives today.

Ed Policy Breakfast to Examine Pre-K Practices Around the World – May 1

New York University will host a panel discussion, “Affordability and Sustainability in Early Childhood Education: Global Lessons for New York,” on Friday, May 1 from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. The event, which will be held at the Kimmel Center for University Life (60 Washington Square South, 10th Floor), is part of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development’s Education Policy Breakfast Series.

Last fall, New York City launched an ambitious expansion of its pre-K programs, more than doubling the number of children enrolled last school year. This event will consider what New York can learn from other cities and countries that have undergone similar efforts. In particular, what are the different models for funding early childhood education? How have countries with less wealth succeeded in implementing pre-K?

Panelists for “Affordability and Sustainability in Early Childhood Education: Global Lessons for New York” include:

  • Maria Caridad Araujo, Lead Social Protection Economist, Inter-American Development Bank, who focuses on early childhood development and poverty alleviation issues internationally;
  • Miriam Calderon, Former Director of Early Childhood Education, Washington D.C. Public Schools, and Former Senior Advisor, Department of Health and Human Services; and
  • J. Lawrence Aber, Albert and Blanche Willner Family Professor of Psychology and Public Policy, NYU Steinhardt, who will moderate the event.

The theme of this year’s three-part Education Policy Breakfast Series is “Getting a Good Start: Research, Policy, and Practice in Pre-K Education,” examining key issues in early childhood education, including accessibility, quality, and affordability. The first event (video of Nov. 21 event) focused on closing the achievement gap in early childhood education, and the second event (video of March 6 event) considered quality and effectiveness of pre-K programs.

NYU and AT&T Launch Tech Challenge to Empower People Living with Disabilities

Nearly 25 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), how can mobile technology be used to enhance the lives of people with physical, social, emotional, and cognitive disabilities? That is the question NYU’s ABILITY Lab and AT&T put to developers around the world by launching the first-ever Connect Ability tech innovation challenge.

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Over the next three months leading up to the July 26th anniversary of the enactment of the ADA, developers will compete for more than $100,000 in prizes to design software, wearable and other technology solutions aimed at enhancing the lives of people with disabilities at work, home and play.

The Connect Ability Challenge will leverage the expertise of NYU’s ABILITY Lab, an interdisciplinary research center dedicated to the development of adaptive and assistive technologies for people with disabilities. The ABILITY Lab is a collaboration between three NYU schools: Steinhardt, Tisch, and the Polytechnic School of Engineering.

To best engage the user community, developing participating in the Connect Ability Challenge will have the opportunity throughout the competition to interface directly with four people, or “exemplars,” with diverse disabilities who will share the challenges they face and help guide innovators to find solutions. The exemplars are:

  • Xian Horn, a teacher, speaker and writer from Manhattan who has cerebral palsy, which impacts her mobility.
  • Gus Chalkias, an assistive technology specialist, career counselor and college student from Queens who is blind.
  • Paul Kolter, a lecturer and student from Philadelphia who has autism. Kolter communicates using computer-assisted technology and struggles with impulse control.
  • Jason DaSilva, a filmmaker from Brooklyn who has Multiple Sclerosis. DaSilva uses a powered wheelchair and has limited upper- and lower-limb use.

“As an occupational therapist in NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Occupational Therapy, I focus on helping people participate more thoroughly in activities in their homes and the community that are meaningful to them. Our expertise in disability and barriers to participation meshes well with the expertise of designers, developers, engineers and technology users and sets us up to perform meaningful research and develop comprehensive solutions to complex problems,” said Anita Perr, clinical associate professor of occupational therapy.

“We are so excited to see the solutions developed for our exemplars through this challenge and in partnership with AT&T and New York University’s ABILITY Lab.”

The challenge directs developers to solve for four functional categories and one category addressing public policy for the disabled community: people with sensory disabilities, people in need of mobility solutions, social and emotional solutions, solutions for people with communicative and cognitive disabilities, and solutions impacting policy and society.

 “The Connect Ability challenge rests on the idea that the developer community has a tremendous opportunity to leverage cutting-edge technology to improve the lives of persons living with disabilities. This challenge, and the work that will come from it, is a testament to NYU’s enduring advocacy on this issue and our role at the ABILITY Lab in researching and developing client-centered solutions in accessible technology,” said R. Luke DuBois, associate professor of integrated digital media at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering. DuBois also holds appointments in Steinhardt’s Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions and Tisch’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.

NYU and AT&T will tap national experts to attract the broadest base of developers. For example, the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) will advise on the formation of teams of engineers and persons with disabilities in at least six metro regions with large numbers of computer science, rehabilitation science, and engineering students. RESNA is a professional membership organization dedicated to promoting the health and well being of people with disabilities through increasing access to technology solutions.

These experts will also serve as a resource to developers, who will use off-the-shelf technology to design their solutions so that winning tech can be delivered more quickly into the marketplace.

A panel of experts from the engineering, technology and disability community, including Perr, has agreed to judge the submissions and identify the winning solutions.

Developers will have the opportunity to interact with exemplars and develop their initial concepts at a Hackathon sponsored by AT&T and NYU on Saturday and Sunday, April 18th and 19th, at NYU’s Media and Games Network (MAGNET) center in Downtown Brooklyn’s MetroTech Center.

Winners of the Connect Ability Challenge will be announced July 26th, the 25th Anniversary of the ADA. For more information or to register for the challenge, visit and follow the latest news on Twitter using the hashtag #ConnectAbility.

Inside Books: The Undersea Network by Nicole Starosielski

The Undersea Network
By Nicole Starosielski
Duke University Press, 2015

Despite our efforts to go “wireless,” we live in a world that is more wired than ever. Submarine cable systems — not satellites — are responsible for carrying 99 percent of all transoceanic digital communications, including phone calls, texts, emails, websites, and digital images and videos.

These little-known undersea fiber-optic cables are critical infrastructures that support our global network society, says Nicole Starosielski, assistant professor of media, culture, and communication and author of The Undersea Network.

“The book traces how today’s digital circulations are trafficked underground and undersea, rather than by air, through winding cables the size of a garden hose. The cables follow paths that are tried and true, often following the contours of earlier telegraph and telephone cables,” writes Starosielski.

A 2009 visit to Hawaii propelled Starosielski’s journey across the Pacific to track the telegraph, telephone, and fiber-optic cable routes from North America through islands that have been critical to transpacific networking and to economic centers across the ocean.  The reliability of these systems is seen as essential for business, the functioning of governments, and national security.

The Undersea Network illustrates the complicated relationship between media, the environment, and cultural history. Accompanying the book is an interactive digital mapping project (, where readers can trace cable routes and view photographs and archival materials.