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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 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...


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