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Kindergarten iPad 2 program causes rift between parents and school officials in Maine

Recently, the school board in Auburn, Maine decided to launch a pilot program which would place an iPad 2 in the hands of the district's 300 kindergarten students. While school officials hail this program as "a revolution in education," some parents are questioning this decision.

Spearheaded by Tracey Levesque of Auburn, the Auburn Citizens for Responsible Education are mounting an opposition to the school board's iPad 2 program. The group questions the effect of handing iPads to children who are not ready for the technology and objects to the use of taxpayer money to fund this experimental program. Read on for more information about the objections to a program some think is the future of education.

The parent-led group questions the financial merits of the pilot program which will cost the school about US$200,000. This money will be used to equip students and teachers with the necessary iPad hardware and training to deploy these devices in the classroom. Auburn Superintendent Tom Morrill is seeking grants for this program, but will take the money from the school budget if a source of alternative funds cannot be found. The group also criticizes the school board's decision which was made without supporting research or public debate.

Besides financial concerns the parent group questions the rationale for giving children an electronic device like the iPad in the classroom. The group points out that children get adequate screen time at home and don't need another tool to zone out on in the classroom.

Levesque is also concerned that attempts at teacher-directed instruction will be lost when an iPad is placed in the hands of a five-year old. "If my teacher is talking to me and I have an iPad, I'm going to completely tune her out, tune out my surroundings, because I just got this thing."

She and others assert children need face-to-face interaction and the fine motor skills development that comes from hands-on activities and creative instruction. The group plans to argue its case against the iPad 2 at an upcoming School Committee meeting to be held Wednesday, April 27.

For a different (positive) perspective on iPads in primary education, be sure to check out Mac developer & school IT director Fraser Spiers' blog.

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