Nearly a year ago, in April 2011, we told you about a small town in Maine that was set to become the first town in America to give every kindergartener an iPad to be used in their education. Auburn, Maine, a town of 24,000, gave roughly 285 students iPads (staggered, but more on the later) at the start of the 2011-2012 school year.
“The more education teachers have using these tools the better we can enhance children’s learning and take them to that next level,” said one teacher involved in the initiative. The preliminary results are now in, and it looks like the iPad program was a success – at least in the short term.
According to Audrey Watters at Hack Education, the iPads have increased the Kindergarteners’ literacy scores.
While it’s true that the kids’ literacy scores have indeed improved, a researcher on the iPads to Kindergartners project warns that it’s not accurate to claim a direct, singular correlation. From Hack Education:
But as Damian Bebell, one of the project’s researchers argues, we can’t just act as though the devices “arrive on parachutes” into a classroom and suddenly and magically students perform better. “It’s really about pedagogy and teaching,” says Bebell. The iPads are “just a tool.”
They’re a new tool in the arsenal of the Auburn School District’s kindergarten teachers, for sure, but the district has been working for a number of years on improving its early literacy efforts. That has involved extensive training for the teachers and staff. It also means there’s several years worth of data in how well kindergarteners in Auburn have read and written — important when it comes to ascertaining how much impact these iPads actually make in the short- and long-term.
So, like many experiments, there are other factors to consider. But they can say, with certainty, that the kids in the classrooms with the iPads performed better mid-year. And the kids who had the iPads the longest performed better.
You see, half of the 16 Kindergarten classes got the iPads at the beginning of the year, and the other half had to wait until December. Although most of the metrics to judge progress showed no statistical significance between the two groups, one did: the “Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words” test. This measures a student’s ability to make connections between sounds and letters – a phonetical test. The kids who had the iPads since the beginning of the year performed better on this test.
So, do iPads help kids learn? That’s a broad question to be answered by a specific, short-term study like the one from Auburn, Maine. But the results there are interesting. They should probably make us glad that 7 out of 10 children under the age of 12 reported to using tablets in the home.