Kindergartners who shared iPads with their classmates got significantly higher scores on achievement tests compared to kindergartners in classes with no iPads or in classes with an iPad for each student, according to a new study by a researcher at Northwestern University.
The findings suggest that it’s the collaborative learning around the technology, and not necessarily the technology itself, that increased learning among kindergartners. School districts may want to reconsider the way they use technology in the lower grades.
Researcher Courtney Blackwell, a doctoral candidate at Northwestern University, will present her findings at the 65th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
For the study, Blackwell worked with 352 students at a Midwestern suburban school district that was slowly phasing in pairing an iPad with each kindergarten student. This created a natural experiment in which classrooms in one school had one iPad for each child; classrooms in a second school had 23 iPads to share (in which children primarily used them in pairs); and classrooms in a third school had no iPads.
She investigated the effects of using 1:1 iPads for one academic year (nine months), compared to the other two situations, on student literacy (as measured by the STAR Early Literacy Assessment).
Her findings revealed that students in shared iPad classrooms significantly outscored their peers in 1:1 and non-iPad classrooms on the spring achievement test, even after controlling for baseline scores and student demographics. In fact, Blackwell found that shared iPad students scored about 30 points higher than 1:1 iPad students and non-iPad users.
There has been little quantitative research done measuring the effects of young children’s academic achievement and this is the first study to examine the effect that sharing iPads can have on young students.
“1:1 tablet computers may not be the most effective way to use technology for all grades and from a policy standpoint, we need to rethink what developmentally appropriate technology use is for young children,” said Blackwell.
“Shared iPad students significantly outperformed both the 1:1 and non-iPad condition, suggesting it’s the collaborative learning around the technology that made the difference, not just the collaboration in and of itself. While schools and districts may still want to go 1:1 in all grades, they may reconsider how the tablets are used, especially in earlier grades, in order to make the technology most effective.”