Race to the Tablet? The Impact of a Personalized Tablet Educational Program

Peer-reviewed Publication

Elizabeth Setren

March 2023

The presence of tablets and laptops in schools has burgeoned in recent years, with $4.9 billion spent on over 10.8 million devices in 2015. Despite the large and increasingly prevalent monetary and time investments in education technology, little causal evidence of its effectiveness exists. The author estimates the effect of a Math and English Language Arts tablet educational program that supplements core instruction using a randomized controlled trial in a Boston charter middle school. The author finds that the personalized learning technology can substantially increase end-of-year test scores by 0.202 standard deviation in Math, but find no effects for the summative English exam. For the quarterly formative exams, the author finds positive, but insignificant effects for Math and marginally significant effects for English. This paper demonstrates the potential of technology to enhance student learning in Math and could serve as a cheaper alternative to high-intensity tutoring for school districts without funding or labor supply for extensive tutoring programs.