In 2011, ten years after Maine began issuing laptops to all seventh graders, the Auburn School System launched an initiative to provide an iPad 2 for each of its students entering kindergarten. At a cost of roughly $200,000- representing a 5% increase in the school budget (Opinions Divided…) some taxpayers were less than pleased- calling it a complete waste of money. But in Auburn- and schools around the country- trends are emerging and showing the iPad to be a powerful learning tool and a necessary investment in our children’s future.
For over a decade, Maine has been at the forefront of integrating technology into public schools and there is no reason to stop now. Despite the high cost to institute this program, Auburn should continue to provide iPads to students entering kindergarten. Auburn is not alone in providing iPads to kindergarteners. In fact, kindergarten students in Maine, Tennessee, and South Carolina have received iPads to supplement their teacher’s instruction. While the iPad cannot replace the human interaction of a teacher, it is a great addition to the classroom, at a time when the teacher to student ratio keeps getting larger and larger.
Laura Shaw, principal of Sherwood Heights School recently said, “When you have eighteen kids in the classroom and you see ten kids, hands raised up, the teacher does her best to get around. But sometimes with the iPads and certain apps the kids get immediate feedback. They know what they’ve done is correct and they can move on, or they know ‘Oh, I need to ask for help,’” (Porter). For example, a child can play “Feed the Hippos Hot Peppers. ” In this app the child counts aloud while feeding the hippo.
The teacher can adjust the app difficulty to “count” or “add” peppers, depending on the child’s capabilities. When the child answers the problem correctly, the iPad responds with a round of applause; an immediate cue to the child that they were correct (Lemeshow). Initially, Auburn Schools split the children into two groups when first issuing the iPads in 2011. Half of the children received iPads during the first week of school, the other half received their iPads in mid-November; effectively creating a control group to gage learning.
Although the study lasted just 9 weeks, the results were promising. When tested, students who received their iPads in the first week of school scored higher in 9 out of 10 areas, compared with children who did not. One area in particular really stood out: recognizing sounds and writing letters. Kindergartners with iPads gained 13. 72 points, compared to an 11. 58-point gain for students who did not have iPads. That difference is significant, said Mike Muir, the Multiple Pathways leader for Auburn schools (Auburn Report: iPads). When pupils use iPads, more learning does not seem like a far stretch.
With 100’s of learning apps available for download, teachers are able to customize the iPad and tailor the lesson to the individual child’s needs. This way, advanced children can reach their highest potential without becoming bored while the rest of the class catches up. On the other side, if one or two children are struggling, the rest of the class can move on, while the child receives the help she needs. Sherwood Heights Elementary School kindergarten teacher Susan Lemeshow called the iPads “one of the most powerful teaching tools I’ve ever used.
… I can put her on one book, her on a different level book,” she said of two girls in her class. Pupils are doing the same lesson, “but at the level they need,” she said (Report Say Giving…). So what is the problem? Those who oppose the program site the cost- around $800 per student entering kindergarten- as a major issue and wonder if a kindergartener is responsible enough to handle such an expensive piece of equipment. Others worry children may not learn to read and write properly.
Auburn hopes the high level of testing done in the beginning of the school year will line them up for educational grants to relieve taxpayers of the burden from having to foot the bill. At the end of the year, the school system will also be able to compare this year’s kindergarten to previous years, with hopes of even better results. Regarding concerns of the students learning to write, it is important for people to understand that children are not using the iPads all day. The use of iPads is balanced. Students are still using crayons, markers, and traditional books.
They are still learning how to hold pencils or crayons, and how to write (3 Auburn Teachers…). The iPads are a “center-based” activity with the children using them in 15-minute increments 2 to 3 times per day. Each iPad has a protective case, and students are not allowed to bring them home (Lemeshow). Providing iPads to students as an educational tool is invaluable. With the iPads children have become excited about learning. “We are seeing high levels of student motivation, engagement and learning in the iPad classrooms,” said Sue Dorris, Principal of East Auburn School (NooNoo).
Children born in today’s world grow up bombarded by technology in every aspect of their lives- except school- so an iPad as a learning tool is appealing to them. It really gets their attention and keeps them engaged. The results are more learning and better test scores. With technology always evolving, newer apps, and programs, the possibilities really are endless. Auburn’s plan is to purchase and iPad for each new pupil entering kindergarten. The iPad will stay with the student from kindergarten through 6th grade. With this plan Auburn hopes to have an iPad in the hands of every elementary student in the district by 2017.
If every student is equipped with an iPad, the world of digital text books emerges- which could amount to huge savings. In this digital world, it is not really a question of if we can afford this; but more a question of if we can afford not to? Works Cited Lemeshow, Susan. Telephone interview. 27 Apr. 2012. NooNoo, Stephen, ed. “Kindergarten iPad Initiative Reveals Modest Literacy Gains. ” T. H. E. Journal. 1105 Media, Inc. , 2012. Web. 29 Apr. 2012. <http://thejournal. com/? articles/? 2012/? 02/? 17/? kindergarten-ipad-initiative-reveals-modest-literacy-gains.
aspx>. Porter, Tim. “A School System in Maine Gives iPads to Kindergartners. ” Voice of America. N. p. , 23 Nov. 2011. Web. 28 Apr. 2012. <http://www. voanews. com/? learningenglish/? home/? education/? A-School-System-in-Maine-Gives-iPads-to-Kindergartners-134428658. html>. Washuk, Bonnie. “Auburn Report: iPads Help Kindergartners’ Learn. ” McClatchy – Tribune Business News (Feb. 2012): n. pag. ProQuest Central K12. Web. 28 Apr. 2012. <http://search. proquest. com/? docview/? 921559906? accountid=40168>. – – -. “Opinions Divided Over iPads for Auburn Kindergartners.
” Sun Journal [Lewiston, Maine] 8 Apr. 2011, Lewiston-Auburn ed. : n. pag. Sun Journal. Web. 28 Apr. 2012. <http://www. sunjournal. com/? city/? story/? 1012022>. – – -. “Report Says Giving iPads to Auburn Kindergartners Increases Test Scores. ” Bangor Daily News 16 Feb. 2012: n. pag. BangorDailyNews. Com. Web. 28 Apr. 2012. <http://bangordailynews. com/? 2012/? 02/? 16/? education/? report-says-giving-ipads-to-auburn-kindergartners-increases-test-scores/>. – – -. “3 Auburn Teachers Give iPads High Grade. ” Sun Journal [Lewiston, Me. ] 20 Oct. 2011.