Paper: Kindergarteners Learn Better with Shared iPads


A new study by Courtney Blackwell in three Chicago elementary schools shows that kindergarteners sharing iPads in the classroom learned better than students with no iPads or those having an iPad all by themselves.

The study looked into the learning habits and practices of kindergarteners that had one tablet per five students, one tablet per student and a third group of learners with no iPads at all. At the end of the 2013-2014 school year Blackwell discovered that improvement in literacy tests was 28% higher for students sharing an iPad, 24% for those having their own iPad and 20% for those not using an iPad at all compared to a baseline.

As Blackwell reveals, sharing an iPad urged students to discuss their activities and lessons with their peers which contributed to reinforcing their learning experience. She also says that the higher test scores for students sharing devices is attributed to “the collaborative learning around technology” that students engage in.

Blackwell refers to an incident where students had to identify various shapes and report what they found through the iPad’s recorder function. She discovered that in the shared device groups there was significantly more discussion and negotiation among students, Allie Gross of Mother Jones writes.

“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,” Blackwell Ph.D candidate from Northwestern University says.

A total of 352 students at a Midwestern school district participated in the study. The school was introducing for the first time the 1:1 iPad structure which presented itself as a natural, unforced way to study the impact of such a major Ed Tech breakthrough on students’ learning.

Blackwell says that “[s]hared 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.”

She argues having one iPad for every student might not be effective in all grades, pointing out that sharing technology might promote learning more than having one’s own device will. Gross wonders who is served better by having 1:1 in classrooms across grades:

“It’s not clear yet whether the one-device-per-student approach is in the best interest of kids—or just the companies that make the devices and supply their content.”

This is the first study to focus on the use of shared iPads on kindergarteners’ academic achievement. The paper will be presented in May at the International Communications Association’s annual conference.

“Teachers, school districts, and policymakers would do well to take note: Given the cost of providing every student with a tablet computer, it’s probably better for everyone to share,” says Nathan Collins Pacific Standard Magazine author on the study’s findings.

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