The first iPad was released in April 2010, and since then, its potential as a learning device has been explored by educators, app developers, and the exploding ed-tech industry. These days, it’s not uncommon to read about school districts handing out iPads as textbook replacements.
Skeptics, though, don’t believe the hype. From a New York Times article in January: “There is very little evidence that kids learn more, faster or better by using these machines,” said Larry Cuban, a professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, who believes that the money would be better spent to recruit, train and retain teachers. “IPads are marvelous tools to engage kids, but then the novelty wears off and you get into hard-core issues of teaching and learning.”
Last year, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt released an iPad app for eighth-grade algebra, and conducted a study with 1,000 California students examining how those using the app perform compared to those who don’t. That study should be released next month, but early signs are pointing to favorable results.
Until that bigger study is released, another smaller one released today might provide some fodder for iPad enthusiasts. The app Motion Math, which teaches players about fractions, commissioned an independent study with 122 fifth-graders and came up with some encouraging results. According to the report, released by GameDesk, showed that fifth graders’ fractions test scores improved an average of over 15% after playing Motion Math for 20 minutes daily over a five-day period, a significant increase compared to a control group.
In addition, “students’ self-efficacy for fractions, as well as their liking of fractions, each improved an average of 10%, a statistically significant increase, and almost all students rated Motion Math as fun and that the game helped them learn,” the study reports.
All this gets back to Cuban’s criticism about “hard-core issues of teaching and learning.” Do improved test scores, even if within just a small group of fifth-graders, address that concern?
CLARIFICATION: The post was updated to reflect that the study was commissioned by Motion Math but conducted by an independent researcher.