iPads to be given to kindergartners
Over the past few decades, technology use in the classroom has become increasingly more common. Student assignments must be typed, the use of word processing programs is fundamental and interactive education programs have taken the place of more traditional forms of teaching.
According to Union University’s Department of Education, the use of technology in the classroom has completely revolutionized the learning process. When students are using technology as a learning tool, they are playing an active role rather than being the passive recipient of information transmitted by a teacher, textbook or broadcast.
The nature of technology forces students to truly engage with the material; in doing so, the student is actively making choices about how to generate, obtain, manipulate or display information. The integration of technology into the learning process also allows students to be actively thinking about information and making choices - more so than in a traditional classroom setting where the teacher is the only venue for information transmission.
The Auburn School District of Maine plans to purchase approximately 300 iPads in order to integrate their use into the current kindergarten curriculum. School Superintendent Tom Morrill is spearheading the district’s efforts.
The local school administration has historically advocated for the use of technology as part of the learning experience. Former Governor Angus King (I-Maine) introduced laptop computers into each of the Auburn seventh grade classrooms. This was the first time that the government provided computers to an entire grade in Maine.
According to King, the integration of the laptop computers into the school curriculum has been tremendously successful. He finds that students are far more engaged with the material and he adds that the test scores reflect his theory.
The Auburn iPad project is estimated to cost the school district approximately $200,000. The first 80 iPads are being purchased through local school funding and they will be introduced into kindergarten classrooms in May.
However, the school district hopes to also receive grant money from the state government in order to cover the remainder of the bill. Morrill contends that if grant money were not made available, official school funds would be used to subsidize the rest of the project.
Proponents of the project believe that the introduction of iPads into Auburn kindergarten classrooms has the potential to do marvels.
"If your students are engaged, you can teach them anything," King said in a press release. "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."
Morrill also believes that much like the laptop computers, the iPad will improve standardized test scores.
However, not everyone is as sold on the idea as King and Morrill. Larry Cuban, professor of education at Stanford University and the author of Oversold and Underused: Computers in Schools, says there is no quantifiable proof that computers bring learning benefits to pupils at such a young age.
"There's no evidence in research literature that giving iPads to 5-year-olds will improve their reading scores," he said in a press release. According to him, it would be unwise to invest $200,000 into an experimental program.
Other school board members also find the allocation of funds into the program to be an unwise decision. Concerned parents have argued that there are other areas in the school that could use the money, such as a new science lab or athletic equipment, instead of experimental technology.
There is also a growing concern on students’ overall dependence on technology. Parents contend that children are overexposed and overly dependent on technology. Many believe that kids need to learn the value of picking up a book and to stray away from the idea that everything is a mere keystroke away. By introducing the iPad as part of the core curriculum, the technology dependency could be increased.
As an educator, Morrill recognizes that reliance on technology is a legitimate concern. However, he assures concerned parents that the iPad will only be used as a learning tool and not as a source of entertainment.
Morrill also emphasizes that the introduction of the iPad does not mark a phasing out of other learning tools, such as books, teachers and the outdoors; the iPad is merely a supplement.
"I'm not saying they should be on this 24-7," he said in a press release. "The students still need to move, get up, dance, socialize.”