Sarah Bright

Date of Award

Spring 6-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Education


College of Education, Doctoral Program

First Advisor

Marie Ann Donovan

Second Advisor

Roxanne F. Owens

Third Advisor

Gayle Mindes


Personalized learning technology is a quickly spreading and well-funded educational trend that is the focus of much discussion and controversy. The impact of personalized learning tools for reading in the general education population have been widely researched and hotly debated, but there is little research around the success and impact of its use with gifted students. Using a grounded theory methodology, my qualitative research study worked within the theoretical frameworks of critical technology and New Literacy to compare the assumptions and understandings about the reading process applied by the developers of Reading Plus, a personalized learning program for reading, with the experiences of gifted fourth-grade students using it. My research showed that Reading Plus matches the extant researched criteria for quality personalized learning tools for reading development. Overall, the product’s features fit with the experiences and learning needs of the students in the study; however, there was some misalignment in the areas of students’ motivation, challenge, and academic confidence. Although the student participants comprised a generally homogenous group, their experiences, preferences, and understandings of technology were quite varied. My key recommendations are that educators and curriculum as well as instructional technology developers should focus on the differences in the experiences, preferences, and abilities of students when building, selecting, and using educational technology tools. The need to more individually and holistically match a personalized learning tool with students is necessary and possible, given the increased adaptability of emerging software and hardware in the educational technology marketplace. In addition, researchers need to look more deeply into the impacts of technology on more diverse learner populations, including gifted students.