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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: Let's do some math:
By aliasfox on 4/14/2011 1:43:20 PM , Rating: 2
Assuming they're tax free (as any non-profit purchase is supposed to be), I'd assume it would go towards an iPad case, extended warranty, insurance, and likely miscellaneous supplies for the teacher (an iPad for him/her, cleaning supplies, spare power adapters).

I think putting the iPad in kids' hands is a good thing, if only because there's less to go wrong than with a laptop (hinges, keyboards, etc all break pretty easily). And with touch, accelerometer, gyroscope, and GPS interfaces, there are opportunities for different types of multimedia and engagement, especially for little kids who have short attention spans.

That said, I would probably have tried to put these on mobile carts in the school first. That gets them in front of more kids, and allows more teachers to demonstrate actionable learning plans/agendas that can incorporate new tools. I'd rather have 50 teachers finding ways to incorporate iPads into the classroom rather than just 10.

I would probably also have picked up first gen iPads on clearance, too. There's not much more a full price 2nd gen can do in the elementary classroom that a discounted 1st gen couldn't.


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