Tablet-based apps for phonics and phonological awareness: Protocol for an evidence-based appraisal of content, quality and usability (Preprint) Academic Article uri icon


  • Background

    The use of mobile applications (apps) to manage and promote health is becoming increasingly popular. Mobile apps are gaining particular popularity in education and intervention settings due to their perceived advantages for supporting and engaging individuals with reading difficulties. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for technology-based tools has been even greater. For practitioners and educators wishing to use apps in their practice or recommend apps for use by individuals with reading difficulties, the challenge lies in being able to locate high quality apps in the app stores.


    This protocol describes a systematic search, selection and appraisal process for mobile apps targeting phonics knowledge and phonological awareness skills. The aims of this protocol are to: 1) provide a systematic method for identifying mobile apps targeting phonics knowledge and phonological awareness skills in the Google Play Store and the App Store and; 2) to describe an evidence-based approach for quality appraisal of mobile apps for phonics knowledge and phonological awareness skills using structured tools.


    This protocol describes an evidence-based method guided by the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) to systematically search, select and appraise mobile apps targeting phonics knowledge and phonological awareness skills in the two largest app stores; Google play and the App store. A systematic and comprehensive search process is described and a two-step process to screening is outlined: 1) broad screening (app titles) and; 2) narrow screening (marketing descriptions). Quality appraisal of included apps will use two structured appraisal tools; 1) the Mobile Application Rating Scale and; 2) the Appraising Apps for Reading Checklist.


    This method will enable identification of the number of apps available on the Android and iOS platforms targeting phonics knowledge and phonological awareness skills. The content, quality and usability of these apps will be determined using structured appraisal tools. Searching of Google Play and the App Store is planned for January-March 2021 with broad and focussed screening to commence from April 2021. Data extraction and quality appraisal is anticipated to commence in October 2021.


    This method provides the basis for locating and evaluating mobile apps targeting phonics and phonological awareness skills. Amidst a plethora of available apps, this will support practitioners, educators and families to make informed decisions when purchasing apps for instructional use.

    International registered report


publication date

  • January 15, 2021