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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 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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