Do iPads In The Classroom Boost Test Scores?

Last year, the school board in Auburn, Maine okayed the outlay of $200,000 for 285 iPad 2 tablets to be given to kindergarten students and teachers starting in the fall.

While experts question the use of digital resources, and their possible contribution to the rise in student plagiarism, Apple has already conducted a survey on their use amongst our youngest students. Here are the initial results:

A new study shows that students who use iPads in the classroom score better in literacy tests than those who don’t. As previously reported, educators in Auburn, Maine began instructing 266 kindergarteners using the iPad 2 this fall, and those who used the tablet scored higher on literacy tests and were more enthused about learning, according to Apple blog TUAW.

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.

Kids Using iPads Outperformed The Non-iPad Users

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

I hate to be a cynic here, but I can imagine that the excitement of those kindergartners getting new iPads would be enough to raise test scores. Not to mention the depression and frustration felt by the 137 students who were denied them!

So I don’t feel we should read too much into this “study,” although it certainly proves the overall appeal of iPads to young children.

The Rise Of iPads Still A Far-Flung Dream For Some


Apple debuted the holy grail of textbooks on Thursday in New York City. The books are undeniably cool: they will integrate videos, photos and interactive graphics, make taking notes a breeze and be easy to navigate — all features that will undoubtedly make Apple’s textbooks more enjoyable and engaging to students than the current dead tree versions. But the problem Apple ignored in their announcement is how to actually get their reinvented textbooks into the hands of students.

For the majority of schools, having cutting-edge technology in the classroom is still a far-flung dream. While ed-tech is a booming industry, if you’ve paid any amount of attention to education in the past few years, you’ll recall budgets have been slashed, teachers are losing their jobs and no amount of cookies sold at a bake sale will buy every kid an iPad.

Nevertheless, last month, Apple announced that it was expanding iTunes U for K-12 educators, teaming up with publishing giants McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to offer interactive textbooks. And, according to the New York Times, New York City public schools have ordered more than 2,000 iPads for $1.3 million. Meanwhile, the Virginia Department of Education is implementing a $150,000 iPad initiative at 11 schools, while Chicago public schools applied for $450,000 worth of 23 district-financed iPad grants.

So iPads are the technological tool of the moment.

“Little Evidence Kids Learn More, Faster Or Better”

But some teachers like Larry Cuban, a professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, are cautious of the educational value in iPads.

“There is very little evidence that kids learn more, faster or better by using these machines,” he told the Times. Will students grow to become too reliant on the iPad? Everything from three-dimensional graphics to functions like an on-hand glossary and digital flashcards transform learning into a simple tap of the screen.

“iPads are marvelous tools to engage kids, but then the novelty wears off and you get into hard-core issues of teaching and learning,” Cuban said.

It is exciting that these Maine kindergartners love their iPads, and that gets them excited about learning. But the jury is still out on how effective the iPad will be on long-term learning.

What do you think?


Related Stories

Are Digital Resources Causing A Rise In Student Plagiarism?

Thank you, Steve Jobs: iPads And Autism

The iPad, The Innovation Of The Year For Kids With Disabilities


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Sandi C.
Sandi C.3 years ago


Alexander B.
Alex Betser3 years ago

Not to discount the superior user interface and platform popularity of Apple's mobile products this particular case is dumb waste of taxpayers' money on trendy gadgets. Especially in the light of educational budget cuts, teacher layoffs and healthy nutrition issues.

There are handful of other tablet platforms as well as touch screen desktops and smart board devices to facilitate interactive learning process. But the main driver behind innovation should be the teacher (or school, district, department). While it's nice to have perfect interactive book on the superior mobile platform but sometimes it's cost prohibitive, limiting and plays to the publisher-manufacturer monopoly. With creativity and little computer knowledge teachers can create own interactive presentations on the computers that are already deployed in classrooms. Not to mention the power of cardboard, markers and scotch tape in making presentations ;-)

Also I would not trust Apple's study due to possible marketing bias.

About me: down to wires technical geek, web developer and ecologically obsessed activist. In technology appreciate openness and functionality over the brand name and aesthetic appeal.

Mandi A.
Amanda Adams3 years ago

I'm not sure how I fee about this. I guess I'm an old fashioned girl. I like school books.

Ra Sc
Ra Sc3 years ago

I doubt the iPads directly help with test scores, but they do make it harder to lose or forget to bring in your homework, if you can show your teacher a copy of it done on your computer. They also can let students have textbooks online, which can make for less heavy bookbags (when I was in Middle School my bookbag weighed 1/3 of my weight, since I was a small person). But most importantly, they can be useful in getting kids used to typing and using computers, which is a skill they will need. And they can learn it while they are learning other things, which is efficient.

jessy b.
Jessica B.3 years ago

i've been to a school were macbook were issued to every student and if it boosts test scores in any way it definitely boosts antisocial issues in a lot bigger way. so what would be better?

Danielle Lenz
Danielle L.3 years ago

As much as I use and rely on technology, I feel a lot of it is a mistake. I read some books on how it can actually have a narrowing effect on the mind and the natural creativity that is so precious to childhood. Schooling, in general, is a rather uninspirational word; I think the solution is some old-fashioned creativity. Standardized tests, expectations and enormous weight placed on percentages and increasingly arbitrary numbers are killing the hunger for knowledge and fantastic ways of developing it. Knowledge is viewed to the end of getting a good score on the SATs...I want to see a more important end. That's the solution.

Ina d.
Ina d.3 years ago

Why would you give small children an iPad when there are also cheap tablets available that have all the features these children need ?
Oh, Apple made the survey, how stupid of me !

I think technology has its place in the class room but should not be overrated. As technology usually is.
And I read articles how schools don't have the money to provide healthy meals so how could they afford iPads ?

Carol P.
Carol P.3 years ago

I don't mind seeing technology in schools at any age. People learn in different ways so a mix of different tools is not a bad thing.

That said, I wouldn't want to see any classroom anywhere become completely digital. No matter how much the younger generations may deny it, handwritten notes are superior to those typed into a computer when it comes to memory and understanding. Write it out once, and you won't even have to reread it in order to recall it!

And there are still plenty of skills, activities, and challenges that will never be replicated in a two dimensional world.

Ashley B.
Ashley F.3 years ago

It's like any other technology. You can use it in positive and negative ways. It would be inappropriate for ipads to become a replacement for another skill that students need to learn. It can be a beneficial tool, because it can improve a lot of efficiency. There are lots of programs that have students practice academic skills in fun ways and it tracks how they score in those skills. Teachers could easily use that information to inform their practice. There is a lot of potential for this to be powerful and positive. But, like so many things, they can't be credited to be all good or all bad. Definitely, teachers and parents with children using ipads should have some sort of training to figure out a balance and appropriate use. It's a little scary because so many kids are so inactive already and do struggle with interpersonal skills....

Susan T.
Susan T.3 years ago

iPads have it way over laptops because of the touch sensitive feature. Kids can "finger paint", manipulate images etc all very intuitively. I think they are great learning tools.

But I still stand by my previous statement that it's not a substitute for great teachers, and for interaction with others. Also kids need hands on experience- painting with real paints, working with clay, playing real musical instruments etc. There has to be a balance.