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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 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?


"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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