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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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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.

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!

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer
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