In a move that is both progressive and controversial, a Maine school board has approved a plan to outfit every kindergartener in the district with an iPad2.
|Fairview Elementary is one of the schools that will be giving an iPad2 to every one of its kindergarten students.|
School leaders in Auburn, ME claim the plan will facilitate learning and help with reading and math, while opponents say the $200,000 price tag is too exorbitant. Auburn Superintendent Thomas Morrill said that he is confident the naysayers can be swayed.
“I think the proof will be once we can get it in the hands of the teachers and students, even in the pilot phase, people will begin to see the power of this particular interface and the learning growth that isn’t going to be incremental, but rather exponential,” Morrill said. “We will continue to respond to questions, etcetera, but once students show what they can do, and teachers start talking about what it’s done and what they can do with it, then the empowerment that comes with that will give people a clearer snapshot of what it’s all about.”
While adding $200,000 to a relatively small school district’s budget is no small feat, Morrill contends that the entirety of the cost can be covered through grants and private donations.
“We are looking at grant sources, federal grant sources, local grant sources, even sources beyond,” Morrill said. “We also have the Auburn Educational Fund that has begun to receive donations specifically targeting iPad2s, and so we’re trying to blend in those multiple sources to be able to do this.”
With 285 students expected to be in kindergarten this autumn, as well as the teaching and tech staff, there will be roughly 325 iPad2s purchased to fulfill the plan. Included in that 325 figure are several special education and speech teachers on the elementary level. All of the iPad2s will be the 16GB, Wi-Fi only model.
In the meantime, Morrill expects the five pilot classrooms to have the devices in their hands within a month.
“We can secure some grant funding for these initial ones,” Morrill said. “That will give us an opportunity to get it in kids’ hands, get it in teachers’ hands and chart some initial progress.”
The iPad2s will begin as a classroom-only resource, being handed out and collected by the teachers. Students may eventually be allowed to bring them home, however. Morrill said that if that happens, meetings will be held with parents regarding appropriate use, and app filters will be implemented. He added that he is not concerned about the devices sustaining excessive damage.
“We have a teacher who has one personally,” Morrill said. “And she accidentally dropped it nearly six times in a week and it looks and works great. Yes, we’re talking about five- and six-year-olds, but they take care of things that are important to them, and I think these will be important to them.”