Scaling Up Smart Pen Technology for Primary One Reading Assessments

Project Number
OER 31/08 SP

Project Duration
April 2009 - August 2011


The proposed research will be the culmination of three years of research at CRPP aimed to develop new reading assessments in Primary 1 (P1) classrooms. Paris and Koh (2005) designed and pilot tested a set of ''cascading assessments'' given to P1 pupils in the 2006-07 school year. The purposes of the formative assessments are (1) to screen P1 pupils for reading problems early in the year, (2) to diagnose pupils who are identified as having reading difficulties, and (3) to monitor P1 pupils' progress in reading midway and at the end of the school year. All of the assessments, except the diagnostic ones, were administered to whole classes in group-testing formats in two waves of data collection since 2006. Pupils listened to the teachers' instructions and marked their answers on answer booklets. The data revealed that the reading assessments have good psychometric properties and are accurate in screening pupils who have reading difficulty In the past year, Paris worked with LiveScribe to pilot test a new technology, that is, the use of smart pens for administering, scoring, and reporting data from the group-administered screening test. The smart pen, which is shaped like a chubby pen, has an infrared camera in the tip that records pen movements on dot-embedded paper. The unique configuration of dots allows all marks on the paper to be encoded in binary fashion and thus, the paper becomes the software and the pen becomes a tool for activating and recording encoded marks on dot-embedded paper. As our P1 reading tests are responded to in the same manner as a scantron form, a common educational testing format, the use of a smart pen to record answers has widespread applications. In February 2008, we conducted a beta test with LiveScribe pens and the Sing*Read Screening test. Our preliminary findings showed that pupils liked the novelty of the smart pens and teachers appreciated the immediate test scoring and availability of data reports. Due to some constraints, the initial pens had both hardware and software problems so the pilot test simply showed the feasibility of using smart pens with P1 pupils. Whether and how it could be scaled up across entire schools remained untested. Thus, this proposed research will provide (a) more extensive pupil training with the smart pens prior to actual testing, (b) removal of hardware and software problems before testing, (c) a simpler smart pen from a different company, and (d) improved data outputs for teachers based on the work of Prof M Mok at Hong Kong Institute of Education. The project will test the feasibility of scaling up smart pens for all P1 classes who desire to use the technology. By the end of the 18-month project, the data should reveal whether the smart pen technology can be scaled up across Singapore to benefit both pupils and teachers.

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