"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," said researcher Courtney Blackwell from Northwestern University.

Blackwell worked with 352 students at a Midwestern suburban school district that was phasing in 1:1 iPads into their kindergarten classrooms, creating a natural experiment where classrooms in one school had 1:1 iPads. Classrooms in a second school had 23 iPads to share, where kids primarily used them in pairs, while and classrooms in a third school had no iPads.

Results showed that students in shared iPad classrooms significantly outscored their peers in 1:1 and non-iPad classrooms on the spring achievement test, even after controlling for baseline scores and student demographics. Blackwell found that shared iPad students scored approximately 30 points higher than 1:1 iPad students and non-iPad users.

"Shared 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, Blackwell observed.

"While schools and districts may still want to go 1:1 in all grades, they may reconsider how the tablets are used, especially in earlier grades, in order to make the technology most effective," the researcher added.

The findings are scheduled to be presented at the 65th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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