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  (Source: iPads House)
Brings whole new meaning to the phrase "early adopters"

How young is too young to begin embracing personal computing technology? Are gadgets like smartphones and tablets valid educational tools? Are they worth the cost?

Those questions speak to the heart of a USA Today article, which reports that almost 300 kindergarten students in Auburn, Maine, will be receiving Apple iPad2's next fall along with their chocolate milk and crayons. 

"It’s definitely an adventure, and it’ll be a journey of learning for teachers and students," Auburn kindergarten teacher Amy Heimerl told USA Today.

But not everyone is thrilled about the proposition of spending $200,000 -- the cost Superintendent Tom Morrill plans to incur -- on the high-tech gadgets. "I understand you have to keep up with technology, but I think a 5-year old is a little too young to understand," Auburn mother Sue Millard says in the report.

The superintendent disagreed. "It’s a revolution in education," Morrill said, citing the iPad's hundreds of educational applications and simple-to-use touchscreen. 

Maine has been ahead of the curve when it comes to personal technology in the classroom. It was the first state to distribute laptops (Apple iMacs) to all seventh and eighth graders nearly 10 years ago. The former Maine governor who launched that initiative, Angus King, believes in the iPad program. "If your students are engaged, you can teach them anything," King says in the report. "If they’re bored and looking out the window, you can be Socrates and you’re not going to teach them anything. These devices are engaging."

But Maine is not the first state to give its tots tablets, either. "Schools in Omaha, Neb.; Columbiana, Ohio; Huntington, W. Va.; Paducah, Ky.; Charleston, S.C.; and Scottsdale, Ariz., are among the places where kindergarten pupils are using them," USA Today reports.

"We can’t say whether what the school district in Maine or anywhere else is doing is good or not good," Peter Pizzolongo of the National Association for the Education of Young Children told USA Today, "but what we can say is when the iPad or any other technological tool is used appropriately, then it’s a good thing for children’s learning."

Superintendent Morrill said that most of the criticism of the iPad plan has been of the plan's cost, not about the age-appropriateness. He plans to raise the money "from foundations, the federal government, the local school department, and other sources."

If nothing else, the development is one step closer to Bill Gates' vision of education in the future.



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meh
By Homerboy on 4/14/2011 10:25:17 AM , Rating: 2
My daughter has been using a computer since she's been about 3.5 (now almost 8 and in 2nd grade). She is LIGHT YEARS ahead of other kids (even her own brother who is 10 and sometimes even her mother) when it comes to proficiency in using a computer; whether it be for playing/finding games online, doing school work online, researching interests online etc etc.

It helps too that they have had laptops in her school (each kid) since 1st grade too. Tablets in kindergarten isn't that big of a stretch. I think it makes perfect sense to introduce technology to kids as early as possible nowadays. They will be immersed in it for the rest of their lives.




RE: meh
By kleinma on 4/14/2011 10:33:05 AM , Rating: 5
Too bad the iPad doesn't really teach you anything about technology other than how to overspend on it. Lets give our 6 year olds computer tablets so they can be disengaged from society from the very start.... good idea...


RE: meh
By linuxgtwindos3gtmucs on 4/14/2011 10:45:41 AM , Rating: 1
better learn to love it...
your tax money will be paying for it.


RE: meh
By MrBlastman on 4/14/2011 1:38:39 PM , Rating: 1
Speak for yourself. For every nutjob I see in office (that's in my district), I gladly step up to the polls and vote them right out.

At the very least, I attempt to do something about it, rather than bending over, lubing up and saying--"here, come get me!"... while shaking my tuckuss back and forth.


RE: meh
By Tony Swash on 4/14/2011 2:11:33 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
Too bad the iPad doesn't really teach you anything about technology other than how to overspend on it. Lets give our 6 year olds computer tablets so they can be disengaged from society from the very start.... good idea..


A perfect encapsulation of the dated techie perspective that the arcane, the complex and the difficult are features not bugs.

People don't want, or need to 'learn about technology'.

People only have to learn special, and in any sense challenging, skills to use technology because the technology is primitive and/or poorly designed. When the technology is advanced enough or good enough then it just gets out of the way and what people do is just stuff. Stuff like reading, painting, creating music, exploring culture, communicating, photography, editing movies, etc, etc.

That is why the current new period of technology we are entering is so exciting. The technology is now good enough to get out of the way and just let people get on with things.

People will look back at the period we are leaving and laugh at the idea that anyone should have to go on a special courses to learn about using a computer just as we would laugh if someone went on a special course about using an electric kettle.

It's also why Apple is now the largest and the most successful tech company in the world, because Apple have always strived to build technology that get's out of people's way. Sometimes they failed at doing that, sometimes Apple wandered way from that focus and a lot of time the underlying limits of the technology available stopped them, and anyone, from attaining that goal. But Apple was founded on the principal of technology getting out of the way and when Steve Jobs returned Apple aggressively re-embraced that commitment.

Of course technology that gets out of the way, that effectively just becomes invisible is very troubling to some on the the geekier end of the spectrum; hence the compete failure to predict or understand the attraction and success of the iPad or revolution that it has started.


RE: meh
By augiem on 4/14/2011 2:30:57 PM , Rating: 2
You have some valid points, but if everyone is just going to USE technology and not be involved or understand it, the future of the advance of technology is questionable. All this wonderful technology we have came directly from those you chide for having a "dated techie perspective." People DO NEED to learn about technology if we're to continue on this path of advancement.

I guess it's up to India, Russia, and China to support the west so everyone can be free to pursue worthwhile careers like becoming the next popstar. Seriously, we don't have to outsource our brains so completely.

The more complex a task you want to do, the more complex control you will need. Flying an airplane, running a dock crane, doing microscopic surgery, none of these things are intuitive tasks. Apple allows the average user to do the things the average user wants to do. Then when they decide to release a new OS or gadget, their users are suddenly allowed to do a few more things they now want to do which they never knew they wanted to do before.

Apple is not leading us into some kind of nirvana future of a dome city, floating cars, and tall Swedish women in white jumpsuits.


RE: meh
By Tony Swash on 4/14/2011 5:32:45 PM , Rating: 2
It appears you are responding to a point I didn't make. Of course those who are developing, inventing, perfecting complex computer device technology need to understand how complex technology works.

That much is obvious.

But what proportion of the population, of those who use computing devices, does that account for? A few percentage points if you really stretch it. Less probably.

Meanwhile 98% plus of people want to use complex computing devices to do other things, to be creative, to gossip, to find information, to have fun, to meet people, whatever. None of those people need to understand anything much about the underlying technologies they use and the more they have to do so the less well designed any given technology is.

It's like telephones. The vast majority of people want to use telephones to talk to other people. A tiny minority are so interested by telephones that they want to use telephones to have conversations about telephones (techies, geeks), and an even tinier (minute) number of people actually know how telephones work in detail.

I think the most empowering technologies a child can have access to are those that get out of the way and just let a kid explore and create in a way that is exciting and unlimited.


RE: meh
By Alexstarfire on 4/14/2011 7:50:54 PM , Rating: 2
And I don't believe that (Your last point). Considering how easily kids can pick up things I don't think they should be getting things that are too easy. I'm not saying it needs to be super complicated, but saying that a normal/regular/old fashioned/etc. computer is too complicated is quite false. Kids have proven that time and again.


RE: meh
By themaster08 on 4/15/2011 3:35:16 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I think the most empowering technologies a child can have access to are those that get out of the way and just let a kid explore and create in a way that is exciting and unlimited.
Learning stimulates the mind. Whether that's learning about something a person is interested in, or something as tedious as mathematics.

Learning in general allows those children to be more creative with expanded mental capacity. Nobody is saying that people should learn every minute detail about how technology works, but nowadays it seems people only want to consume and neither educate themselves about what it is they're actually using, or contribute to anything related to it. How are the next generation supposed to value technology and possibly contribute to it if they are not taught how to?

From your logic, almost everything could be fit into that category of "it's too complicated for the average user, it needs to be simplified to meet the constant consuming habits of the average person". How is any supposed to learn?


RE: meh
By snakeInTheGrass on 4/14/2011 7:37:18 PM , Rating: 2
So would you never have been interested in technology if you had a touch-screen device? People who look at things and think 'Damn, that's really cool! How does it work?' are the ones who learned and drove innovation in the past and will be the ones doing it in the future.

The fact that tablets provide* a simplified interaction for people to use a computer, including children, and make it easier to get past the interface to actually allow them to maybe learn instead of figuring out what's wrong with some driver / etc. I don't think people not having to figure out config.sys means nobody is going to do software / hardware development anymore.

Picture a nice app where they can drag together logic blocks and make things happen, like lego technic but on-screen. Maybe touch-drag connections, or 'rub' over a connection to erase it instead of having to carefully click on it with a mouse and then find a delete button / key / menu item - OK, now they can build something, have to think about it, and maybe even learn something. The tech. should get out of the way. It's actually really cool if applied well in a lot of ways, and I'm sure there's going to be a lot more interesting stuff showing up in the coming years since it's really just getting started.

I do totally agree that people should do more than just USE technology, but it's really only a subset that are interested (or maybe competent) to actually innovate / drive it forward. I suspect DailyTech is going to have a higher percentage of those than ESPN. The slack-jawed, well... they're already out there, and they aren't going away, but enabling more interactive education software on a device that has fewer configuration issues isn't what's going to screw up the world. :)

* Now, not really going to bother counting the older Windows tablets since they gave the same complicated interface with a pointy stick instead of a mouse...


RE: meh
By augiem on 4/14/2011 2:40:09 PM , Rating: 2
Hoh that last paragraph brought visions of the "Down Below", "The Lower City", the slums beneath Midgar, "Beneath the Surface" episode (Stargat SG1), etc. I guess that's our future. Better learn to love gruel.


RE: meh
By maven81 on 4/15/2011 10:18:30 AM , Rating: 2
"People don't want, or need to 'learn about technology'."

Not everyone wants to live in apple's utopia of mediocrity. They are doing this not just with technology but also music, film making, photography, design, etc.
Look at what they are essentially saying... No need to learn how to play an instrument! With garage band any idiot can pretend to be a musician! We'll even teach you how to play a couple of songs so you can impress your friends. And who needs to waste time learning about editing? With imovie you too can insert "professional" transitions into your home movies. And we'll even provide you with a million templates so that you can put out a polished result and pretend you did something creative.

What ever happened to doing things not because they are easy but because they are hard? For striving to achieve something great, not be like everybody else?

I'm told that in the old USSR there was this joke: One professional musician says to another "you know, under communism, everyone will be able to write a song!" and the other replies "Sure, but would anyone want to listen to it?"


RE: meh
By Tony Swash on 4/15/2011 1:27:13 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Not everyone wants to live in apple's utopia of mediocrity. They are doing this not just with technology but also music, film making, photography, design, etc.
Look at what they are essentially saying... No need to learn how to play an instrument! With garage band any idiot can pretend to be a musician! We'll even teach you how to play a couple of songs so you can impress your friends. And who needs to waste time learning about editing? With imovie you too can insert "professional" transitions into your home movies. And we'll even provide you with a million templates so that you can put out a polished result and pretend you did something creative.

What ever happened to doing things not because they are easy but because they are hard? For striving to achieve something great, not be like everybody else?

I'm told that in the old USSR there was this joke: One professional musician says to another "you know, under communism, everyone will be able to write a song!" and the other replies "Sure, but would anyone want to listen to it?"


I don't think anyone is suggesting that effort and commitment should be removed from learning but effort and commitment is not the same as forcing people to learn using inadequate, poorly designed or just plain old fashioned tools. Nobody says 'using a word processor makes kids lazy they should be forced to use a typewriter'.

The fact of the matter is that unless one is studying information technology itself nobody should have to devote a second of thought to using information technology in order to do something useful. The only reason that has been necessary in the past was because the old technology (i.e PCs) were primitive and required people to worry about all sorts of stuff that they don't have to when the technology evolves (like where files are kept).

People don't have to know how a pen works or is manufactured in order to write something interesting. Pens were once new technology and required a bit of understanding and maintenance - now they don't. That's progress.

This videos captures some of this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pyjRj3UMRM


RE: meh
By themaster08 on 4/17/2011 4:40:40 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
The fact of the matter is that unless one is studying information technology itself nobody should have to devote a second of thought to using information technology in order to do something useful.
How is one supposed to gain an interest in a subject they are not exposed to?

Computers have become necessities in many peoples' work and personal lives. No matter how simplified they are or become, there will always be difficulties and dangers.

Namely from the internet. That is where most computing issues occur. The internet will always be a dangerous place.

Malware creators, hackers will always find a way to dupe those that are ill informed. They will adapt to the computing climate and find new ways of making using a computer on the internet a dangerous prospect.

Common sense plays a huge part in safe internet usage and good practice. Of course one should not be forced to learn a subject they have little interest in, but that same subject will more than likely be a significant part of their lives, whether that's social networking, online shopping, business communications, and therefore could save a person many troubles along the way.

Comparing a complicated mathematical machine to something as simple as a pen is a poor comparison. Cars have become simplified to use over the years, however you must have a driving license to drive, thus learned how to. You may not have wanted to learn, however it is for the safety of others and yourself that you are required to do so. You are not required to learn any mechanical or technical details about how the car works internally, but you know how to use the machine properly and safely. How is that any different than being educated about how to use a computer, and the internet so that you are knowledgeable and safe?


RE: meh
By michael2k on 4/15/2011 5:55:22 AM , Rating: 2
Your scorn is misplaced. As the parent of a 4 year old and 2 year old, the iPad is wonderful.

My kids could operate the touchscreen at 12m; swipe, poke, etc. They couldn't use the trackpad until 18m, the keyboard at 2y, or the mouse until 3y.

The limitation? Learning the alphabet and the motor skills necessary to manipulate a pointer.

Giving iPads to kindergarteners is late, not early. Being able to trace letters and numbers, do math games, word games, blocks, etc, at the age of 15m is astounding! These babies aren't able to physically manipulate their physical world yet, my daughter hadn't even master talking yet, but she could learn the letters and words and sign language because the tablet was easily more accessible.


RE: meh
By FITCamaro on 4/14/2011 10:56:52 AM , Rating: 5
I'd rather them spend the money making sure kids are learning to read, write, add, subtract, divide, and multiply. Since those basic skills seem to escape many school children.

Granted that has to do more with parenting. No amount of money or technology will make for a parent who doesn't make their kid do their homework or study. Of course these days I hear about schools not even giving god damn homework!


RE: meh
By Homerboy on 4/14/2011 11:15:30 AM , Rating: 2
But they do learn to read/write/math/etc.

They aren't going and playing barbie.com on the laptop/ipads. The sites they are assigned/allowed to use are VERY educational and in-depth. I know it sounds like fluff, and I never really believed it myself until I saw the benefits in my own kids.


RE: meh
By mcnabney on 4/14/2011 11:50:11 AM , Rating: 2
You make a valid point. An iPad is a media consumption device, and a pretty good one at that. As long as the only media/content being consumed on the device is educational it is fine. However, if there are time wasters on there, expect those to be application of choice. Sorry, but three hours of Angry Birds isn't going to help Jr with his math and spelling.


RE: meh
By ImEmmittSmith on 4/14/2011 12:09:02 PM , Rating: 2
It all comes down to the school districts technology plan when they roll out the iPads. My wife's school district in Texas just rolled out the iPads with educational games and programs at her elementary school. It has been well received and the kids enjoy learning on them. Prior to that, they had early 1990's PCs and Macs, which had 5.25 floopy disks(PCs) and 3.5 diskettes(Macs) with very old programs. If schools kept up more with technology our kids would have a better chance of learning something new.
I will leave it at that!


RE: meh
By quiksilvr on 4/14/2011 12:35:21 PM , Rating: 2
I agree, but not with iPads. Just build a desktop for $200 for the kids that they can use at school. Saves hundreds of bucks and you get tons of more functionality (and easy upgrade as technology changes).

There is no reason to spend this much for so few students on a limited platform.


RE: meh
By Solandri on 4/14/2011 1:47:57 PM , Rating: 2
I actually think there is something to this. I had a pen-based tablet computer back before the iPhone came out with its fancy touch interface. I installed a crayon physics simulator on it just for fun.
http://www.algodoo.com/wiki/Phun

I let kids play with it a few times, and invariably they would try to grab the objects on the screen with their fingers. It was a chore to get them to use the pen, and even after showing them they had to use the pen they would still try using their fingers.

The mouse and pen are fine for precision work on the computer, stuff that adults do. But on computers for kids I think touch screens are the way to go. I don't know if iPads are long-term the best choice for kids (like you I'm very concerned about the closed computing environment they represent), but there's no denying that it's the reigning king of its market niche right now.


RE: meh
By michael2k on 4/15/2011 6:04:14 AM , Rating: 2
We're talking about 5 year olds here. You really expect a 5 year old learning how to read, write, add, subtract, and be 5 to know how to use a computer?

I'll give you a hint; they won't know how unless exposed to it before the age of 5. Why waste time teaching a 5 year old how to use a computer, in the first place, when they should be reading, writing, etc?

The flip side is that the iPad shortcuts all that. From experience, my kids were using my iPad at the age of 12 months; that's when they could swipe to unlock. By 15 months they were tracing the alphabet and playing letter games (think flashcards and such), and by 2 years they were (poorly, but trying) doing math games.

They couldn't even use a trackpad by 2 because they didn't have the hand-eye coordination to track the mouse pointer since they had to look at their finger to move it. They couldn't use the mouse until 3 because they had to look at their hand to move it. They couldn't use the keyboard until 3 because that's when they started figuring out words and letters.

I fully believe that even so my kids were ahead of the curve because of my iPad; why would they know how to use a trackpad at 2? How could they figure out a mouse at 2? Their physical coordination just didn't exist. Heck, my kids couldn't talk and they could learn the alphabet and sign language and such because of the iPad.

Save your PC centrism for learning to use a mouse, because there isn't anything else you can do on the PC that also isn't available for the iPad. Keyboards, colors, alphabets, animals, sounds, sign language, math, reading, writing, etc are already well represented on iPads, today, and for a quite reasonable pricepoint compared to PC software prices!


RE: meh
By Gzus666 on 4/14/2011 12:12:53 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Of course these days I hear about schools not even giving god damn homework!


Probably for the best. Homework does little to help learning. The old "learn through repetition" method doesn't actually teach you anything but how to do what is in the worksheet. The actual way to learn something is by understanding the concepts, the rest is just applying the concepts, which can be done more abstractly so as not to dig someone into a hole of only knowing how to do what they are shown instead of actually learning. I know someone will try to retort with application vs. concepts, but the reality is if you really understand the concepts, application is fairly easy and any pitfalls you encounter are simple to overcome due to a proper understanding of the concepts.

Basically, unless they are working on a sport or some other menial physical task, repetition doesn't actually teach you anything.

Honestly they need to start teaching logic early on so kids can actually reason things out. I am dumbfounded as to why this is never hit until you get to college as it would make life so much easier (would also make people in general so much easier to deal with, imagine if everyone had a basic understanding of logical axioms).


RE: meh
By FITCamaro on 4/14/2011 2:29:31 PM , Rating: 2
I disagree. If you never practice what you hear in the classroom, you quickly forget it or never fully retain it.


RE: meh
By Gzus666 on 4/14/2011 3:04:34 PM , Rating: 3
Anything backing this up? Most studies I have seen say homework does the opposite, makes them hate the subject and lose interest in learning. This seems on par with what I have seen throughout my schooling.

Remembering a formula or anything like that is useless to memorize unless you use it everyday anyway, that is why the brain cleans it out after periods of no use. As long as you get the concepts, you can easily pick things right back up. I am sure you, like anyone else in any field, looks things up from time to time cause you can't remember everything. I am sure you don't have to relearn it all, you just have to jog your memory and you are off and running. This is the difference between understanding something and memorizing it.


RE: meh
By kattanna on 4/14/2011 11:24:59 AM , Rating: 2
well part of the problem i have with this is the lack of teacher education with such devices.

it amazes me how in the college i am in i have teachers who have to call support to help them plug in their laptops to the overhead projector. REALLY??

and thats those who even have them, most dont.

so while its great we are trying to give new tools to students for learning, if the teachers dont have a clue as to how to use them or exploit their potential.. we are missing the point and are then only wasting money.

As someone who has worked in the IT field now for decades, its appalling how un technical our schools and teachers really are.

fix that first please.


RE: meh
By HrilL on 4/14/2011 12:29:44 PM , Rating: 2
I completely agree. I've been doing IT stuff since I was in high school. I've had to help teachers all my life. I find it immensely troubling that a professor has no problem wasting 10-20 minutes waiting for support at the start of a class. And they don't even want to learn how to solve such a simple problem. That is in fact not a computer problem but a USER problem.


RE: meh
By snakeInTheGrass on 4/14/2011 8:06:23 PM , Rating: 2
Look at the connector progression - we've gone from VHF/UHF adapter on channel 2/3 to composite to proprietary to VGA to DVI to dual-channel DVI to HDMI to Display Port to Mini Display Port to Thunderbolt... wait, which of these outputs on this system that the school handed me do I need to plug in to (thankfully they gave the prof a Dell that still has a serial port...), what Function-Some-Cryptic-Symbol key will actually put a signal ON the cable (there's a key combination that does that!?!?), then how do I select the input on the projectors screwy menu system...

My wife doesn't know how to set the signal path from the appropriate component input on my pre-processor to select the DVD player vs. Wii vs. XBox 360 vs. AppleTV vs. HTPC vs. PS2, switch the projector in the home theater to the correct input, and then figure out why there's no picture (or better yet, no sound) - and she doesn't even have to try connect cables on top of it. Imagine someone else has used the home theater and disconnected an audio cable in back to maybe try something out and forgot to put something back... home-IT-staff to the rescue. ;) Anyway, she doesn't care to figure it out, it's not interesting to her.

So unless the prof is tech-oriented or happens to be interested in the problem, that's why there's an IT person to figure it out - because the setup is still too complicated. Prof plugs the cable in, it still won't show a damned picture... sorry class, where's that friggin' IT guy who won't make this simpler?

Seemingly we're getting to where wireless or at least 1 standard interconnect cable can solve this, but of course it's going to take years for that to roll out, and by then there'll be a new, even better standard cable again. :)

Anyway, get the tech out of the way for most people - the majority just don't care how this all works. The geeks do, and will keep making it cooler.


RE: meh
By augiem on 4/14/2011 2:16:07 PM , Rating: 2
What happens when these kids drop it on the floor, jump up and down on it like a DDR pad, beat each other over the head with it, drop it in the fish tank, (and assuming they can take it from the classroom) give it to a friend, leave it on the bus, etc, etc.

Maybe Toshiba should make a ToughPad the rugrats.


RE: meh
By Boze on 4/14/2011 2:30:31 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. And learning games that are fun (keyword there) have been proven time and again to be the most effective way of teaching, that goes for kids to adults.

Everyone enjoys a good game, and if you can learn something while playing it, that's even better.

I would want to see a scientific study to go along with this though, maybe show how far ahead these kids are compared to kids without iPads. It would carry a lot more weight if this school district could show that their kids are operating a year or two ahead of their peers because of this investment.


RE: meh
By EricMartello on 4/14/2011 3:11:15 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I think it makes perfect sense to introduce technology to kids as early as possible nowadays. They will be immersed in it for the rest of their lives.


That's also a good reason NOT to introduce it as early as possible. Excessive immersion in tech creates a disconnect from basic human-to-human bonds that really should be present early in a child's life.

Using a computer is quite far from understanding how it works or why it works. It means nothing that you and your wife are less adept at using a computer than your progeny...the world has enough users - it's the ones who know how to actually create with the computer and use it as a tool that will matter.

I am fortunate that my experience with computers came at a time when using them required an in-depth knowledge of how they work...because if you didn't you wouldn't be able to keep them working. This was also a time when the internet did not exist as it does today, so finding answers meant figuring it out myself, reading books or talking (in person) with other people.

So, barring a genuine interest in electronics and computers, I'd hold off on saturating my children with "tech noise" until they're closer to teenage years.


"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007

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