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Kindergarten iPad Initiative Reveals Modest Literacy Gains

After performing a small research study involving pre- and post-assessments, officials at the first public school system to institute a 1-to-1 iPad program for kindergarten students are crediting the use of the technology with modest gains in literacy.

Auburn School Department in Maine distributed the iPads as part of its Advantage 2014 program, which seeks to bolster third grade literacy and math scores by 2015. The district randomly selected eight of Auburn’s sixteen kindergarten classrooms to receive iPads in the fall of 2011, and followed student progress via a randomized control trial with help from Boston College Assistant Research Professor Damian Bebell, who helped organize and analyze the study results.

Auburn kindergartners from both settings--non-iPad classrooms continued using traditional resources--completed a series of standardized literacy assessments in early September (pre-iPad) and in late November (post-iPad).

Early results presented to the school committee assert “students in the iPad classes outperformed non-iPad students, on average, across every literacy measure they were tested on.” The performance gains were admittedly modest, but 129 of the iPad students showed improvement on the Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words (HRSIW) assessment, which measures a child’s level of phonemic awareness and ability to represent sounds with letters.

In a statement, Sue Dorris, who serves as principal at one participating school, reflected on the results. “We are seeing high levels of student motivation, engagement and learning in the iPad classrooms,” she said.The apps, which teach and reinforce fundamental literacy concepts and skills, are engaging, interactive, and provide children with immediate feedback. What’s more, teachers can customize apps to match the instructional needs of each child, so students are able to learn successfully at their own level and pace.”

The results are part of a yearlong study currently in progress.

About the Author

Stephen Noonoo is an education technology journalist based in Los Angeles. He is on Twitter @stephenoonoo.