Collecting big data with small screens: Group tests of children's cognition with touchscreen tablets are reliable and valid.
Collecting experimental cognitive data with young children usually requires undertaking one-on-one assessments, which can be both expensive and time-consuming. In addition, there is increasing acknowledgement of the importance of collecting larger samples for improving statistical power Button et al. (Nature Reviews Neuroscience 14(5), 365-376, 2013), and reproducing exploratory findings Open Science Collaboration (Science, 349(6251), aac4716-aac4716 2015). One way both of these goals can be achieved more easily, even with a small team of researchers, is to utilize group testing. In this paper, we evaluate the results from a novel tablet application developed for the Resilience in Education and Development (RED) Study. The RED-app includes 12 cognitive tasks designed for groups of children aged 7 to 13 to independently complete during a 1-h school lesson. The quality of the data collected was high despite the lack of one-on-one engagement with participants. Most outcomes from the tablet showed moderate or high reliability, estimated using internal consistency metrics. Tablet-measured cognitive abilities also explained more than 50% of variance in teacher-rated academic achievement. Overall, the results suggest that tablet-based, group cognitive assessments of children are an efficient, reliable, and valid method of collecting the large datasets that modern psychology requires. We have open-sourced the scripts and materials used to make the application, so that they can be adapted and used by others.