iPad improves Kindergartners literacy scores

Apple has been involved in the education market for decades, but the release of the iPad could be the most significant contribution the company has ever made. A new research study shows that Kindergartner students using iPads scored better on literacy tests than students that didn’t use the device.

I spoke with Mike Muir, Auburn School Department’s Multiple Pathways Leader, about the program and specifically about the focus on the iPad initiative.

“The objective has to be learning, not just getting the technology out there,” said Muir. “We are paying attention to app selection and focused on continuous improvement — we aren’t just handing equipment to teachers.”

The study, conducted in Auburn, Maine, randomly assigned half of the districts 16 kindergarten classes to use iPads for nine weeks. In all, 129 students used an iPad, while 137 students were taught without an iPad. Each of the 266 students were tested before and after the iPads were introduced into the classroom.

“Too many innovative programs don’t prioritize their own research, and even if they collect observations and stories later, they don’t make the effort to do a randomized control trial, like we did,” said Muir. “We wanted to make sure we could objectively examine the contribution of the iPads.”

According to the literacy test results classes using the iPads outperformed the non-iPad students in every literacy measure they were test on.

It’s not just about the test scores, but about the way the kids interact with the iPad and apps that make this program unique.

“We are seeing high levels of student motivation, engagement and learning in the iPad classrooms,” said Sue Dorris, principal at East Auburn Community School. “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.”

  • While I don’t home school my kids, I do try to snatch up as many quality educational apps for them as possible. Would love to know what they’re using for Kindergarten literacy.

    • Same here but mine has her own iPod Touch. My daughter is 2.5 years and she now knows the entire alphabet. She can write the first 5 or 6 letters of the alphabet. She’s exposed herself to tons of concepts, creatures and ideas that I wouldn’t normally introduce her to at this point in her life. Of course, I do more than just install good apps on her iPod Touch for her. I read to her almost everyday too, and she’s seen every Dora the Explorer Episode. But I know the iPod Touch is allowing her to explore, learn and play by herself when her parents are busy. She even organizes her homescreen with folders!!!

    • Dan Schneider

      Hi Scott,

      Auburn indicated that they would be using Magic Penny1.  Its a great app for emerging literacy (4 & 5 year olds).  I have been told that Magic Penny 2 is coming out within a month.

      Dan S.

    • Scott – I can’t speak to what Auburn is using, but my company has an app called KinderTown that helps parents find the best educational apps for different subjects and concepts. We’ve essentially created an educational app store on top of Apple’s app store.

      It’s a free download and works with the iPad and iPhone. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kindertown/id463524703?mt=8 

  • Bible HD

  • CT

     I’d like to see a little more detail. How much of an improvement was observed? Was it statistically significant? They make the study sound so important yet leave out all the details.

    • It’s something you really have to experience for yourself with your own children or students that you are responsible for. Read my comment above.

    • 62Sparkplug

       Go to: http://www.auburnschl.edu/education/components/whatsnew/default.php?sectiondetailid=4&itemID=2884&viewType=detail

      The also provide a couple of PDF files that have the “nitty-gritty” details, graphs, slides, etc. of the study.

    • Splante

      I agree..would like to see data, and what apps used

    • Jaco

      My understanding is that the results were not statistically significant in 9 of the 10 tests. This article seems quite misleading, and I wonder if the quotes are taken out of context.

      Source: http://www.edtechresearcher.com/tag/audrey-watters/

  • Dylan MacDonald

    This is really interesting but of no practical use.  Nowhere have I found which apps they used in the study, how much time students spent on each app, etc.  And yes, I followed the link to Auburn School’s website. Come on.

    • 62Sparkplug

       I’m sure if you email the school contact that’s listed on the Auburn School website, somebody there could provide you with more detailed info if you are sincerely interested in obtaining more info about the study.

  • lucascott

    Pity that this study is too limited to really be considered a study rather than yet another anecdote. 

  • Engagement is the key factor to improvement, not a specific new tool. I often think that these anecdotes are the result of both student, teacher and parent becoming more engaged with learning as a result of a fascinating new tool. When the tool becomes normalized the uptick settles back to historical levels. 

  • Miles
  • Dr. Peter Salamandych

    What about screen time and young kids? The research from doctors is much more solid than this fluff.

    • beluga

      I have noticed that when my children are interacting with the iPod.  They are not watching television nor do they use the computer. Plus it is more ergonomic than using the computer. There is no clicking the mouse and less repetitive movement.  It is important that the parents select appropriate apps which should not be difficult as the child needs the password to buy apps. and the password to access the internet.  Diversity and significant other being involved is the key. Balancing physical activity, pretend play and academic learning opened to the world is also a good thing. These apps are quite cheap in price compared to any educative games bought on a CD format.

  • Robert Bob

    Can you update the article to include links to detailed data on this fascinating trend?

  • Dylan MacDonald

    I talked to Auburn’s point person on this and he directed me to his blog where he links to the apps.  Circuitous but the information is available:


  • Scott Fisher

    I would like more information regarding the pre and post assessments.

  • buhusky

    i’d love to know the breakdown of how kids did with parents who were active in their learning process at home at night & those whose parents just gave them the ipad to learn on their own. 

    • That is one of the problems with studies like this – there is no data comparing other methods that might improve children’s learning. Is giving children an iPad more effective than greater parental involvement combined with different teaching methods?

      I’m a big believer in the iPad as a valuable extension to in and out of the classroom learning, but I wonder if the money wouldn’t be as well spent on resources and continued training for the educators (I have no clue about this school district so these are guesses).

      • mama M.

         I agree completely with the above. Also, we should remember that the ipad is a TOOL, not a teaching method and not a set curriculum. It’s unclear as to what kind of training the teachers got before they went through this intervention. I’m actually more interested in that – the training for how to use the ipad in the classroom. Think of it like this: we could say “calculators improve math education in the 5th grade” and test two classrooms (one with and one without calculators) and find that we are correct in our hypothesis. This still doesn’t indicate how the tool is used.

  • I think this is a good observation. When I was in KG, I could not even control the television properly. Today’s kids are so fast!

  • tarbis

    shouldn’t they teach kids first how to write than how swipe?

    • mattias73

      You don’t have to teach them how to “swipe”. Are you saying we should not let them “swipe” until the know how to write?

      • Megan

        thats not really true

  • India can’t adopt this solution since it is costly. In developing nations, they ought to ensure same language subtitles on cartoon shows for the same results, like in Finland. http://t.co/siYE1OLqLY

  • Megan

    this is a very interesting topic that most parents would find appealing 🙂