Kindergarten iPad Programme Sees Positive Results

The initial results are in. iPads increased kindergarten literacy scores according to a new study from Auburn, Maine.
Auburn School Department made world news last summer when they announced they were providing all of their incoming kindergarten students with Apple iPads. As one component of their district-wide Advantage 2014 program, Auburn educators are promoting the iPad and its apps as a dynamic literacy and math tool for students. The Advantage 2014 program seeks to bolster 3rd grade literacy and math scores by 2015, and the first phase of their research study is making them hopeful of attaining this goal.
Sherwood Heights Elementary School Principal Laura Shaw summed up the district’s work to date, “Teachers have seamlessly blended the use of iPads into their everyday best practices. It has become part of the daily ritual of assessing students’ needs and targeting those needs in the most effective way possible. At times, they see that the need can be met best using the technology of the iPad. At other times, using paper and pencil, games, manipulatives and more traditional methods works best.”
Auburn kindergarten teacher at Fairview Elementary School, Michelle Green thinks, “Being part of the Advantage 2014 iPad project is very special. It has been an eye opening opportunity to watch children use a tool of technology to learn in a way I never did as a child.” Michelle’s colleague at Washburn Elementary School, Jess Prue, agrees, “We are not only giving kids a new engaging way to learn, we are also preparing them for technology in the future. It is exciting!”
Since Auburn is the nation’s first public school system to provide iPads to each of their youngest students, the district is closely examining the program through a yearlong research study. Dr. Mike Muir, Auburn School Department’s Multiple Pathways Leader, stated, “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. We wanted to make sure we could objectively examine the contribution of the iPads.”
During the Fall of 2011, the district provided iPads to half of Auburn’s sixteen kindergarten classrooms. The remaining eight classes used traditional resources. The eight iPad classes were selected at random to provide a better examination of the short term literacy impacts. Auburn kindergartners from both settings completed a series of standardized literacy assessments in early  September (pre-iPad) and in late November (post-iPad), which provide an objective measure on each groups’ emerging literacy skills.
On Feb 15th, Dr. Mike Muir, Sue Dorris and Dr. Damian Bebell presented the study results to the School Committee and the community at-large. The School Committee was pleased to learn that the study results were quite positive. In fact, students in the iPad classes outperformed non- iPad students, on average, across every literacy measure they were tested on. Most of the performance gains observed in the iPad classes were modest, however, the 129 iPad students showed substantial 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.
Why might the iPad classes do better? Sue Dorris, who serves as principal at the participating East Auburn Community School explained, “We are seeing high levels of student motivation, engagement and learning in the iPad classrooms. 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.”
Boston College Assistant Research Professor Dr. Damian Bebell, who helped organize and analyze the study results, summarized the findings for the School Committee via his Skype presentation Wednesday evening. Dr. Bebell, who has led educational technology studies for over a decade noted “how unusual it is to see results from any program emerge so quickly, and it will be very interesting to see how these kids continue to perform throughout their kindergarten year and beyond.”
“All our primary grades teachers are working hard to improve our students’ literacy levels.” Asserts Dr. Muir, “But, this study shows us that the iPad is a valuable tool, allowing good teachers to extend their impact on students.” He explains that Auburn is hopeful that investing early in the right educational tools might pay off in avoided future costs by reducing the number of students needing targeted services later. Muir explained, “We’re working hard to get it right with students right from the beginning!”
Superintendent Katy Grondin says, “As a district, we’re working to find ways to customize learning for all our students and help them succeed educationally. Advantage 2014, with the iPads, is a major way we’re doing this in the primary grades. The results from this study reinforce our belief that the iPad is a wonderful and effective addition to the collection of educational resources we’re providing our teachers.”
### If you would like more information on this topic, or to schedule an interview with the researchers or school program leaders, please call Mike Muir at  207-333-0450 or email Mike Muir at
Full Text: Auburn School Department – Latest News.

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