In April of 2011, the Auburn School Department decided to implement a radical idea: provide an iPad 2 for every kindergartener in the school. Not only did the local new stations and newspaper pick up the story, CNN did as well, and pretty soon the whole country knew about this plan to approach early literacy from a different perspective.
I remember discussing the story with my friends and family members; it was big news, especially in a small state (population wise) like Maine. Other than that, I didn’t think much about the iPads or the effect they would have on the incoming kindergarten class.
Fast forward to mid April 2012. I attended a workshop at Reading Round Up entitled “iPads in Kindergarten and More!” which thoroughly explained the details of the program in Auburn. I must say, I usually try to keep an open mind and form an opinion after I have heard plenty of evidence for both sides of an issue, but in this case, I was a little prejudiced against the idea of using this type of technology with five and six years old.
My reasons for not completely supporting the program are based on my own experiences growing up (much more on that in tomorrow’s post). I went into the workshop looking for something to change my mind. I wanted to jump on board and switch over to the iPad side.
To be honest, this didn’t happen. Although I didn’t do a 180, I did learn quite a bit about the program and I can now see how iPads could be beneficial for some children in the classroom. Below is an explanation of the iPad program, called Advantage 2014 in Q&A form. I got the information from notes I took during the workshop and then double checked the notes against the FAQ page about the iPad program (sometimes I scribble).
Who receives an iPad 2?
Every kindergartener in the Auburn school system received a iPad this year for school use only. Advantage 2014 is designed for grades K-3, so if the program receives adequate funding, an iPad will be provided to each incoming kindergarten class (in other words, this year’s kindergarteners would get to use their iPads for the next couple of years).
What is the cost?
The school is collaborating with Apple, so Apple provides the iPads at a discounted price for a total of $200,000.
How do teachers use the devices with students?
From the presentation, it seems that each teacher has his/her own style. The kindergarten teacher who presented at the workshop set up stations where her students were instructed to use certain apps. She would walk around, supervising and making sure that they were on the right track.
Which apps are the kids allowed to use?
The teachers had a few months to get comfortable using the iPads and then were asked to compile a list of apps for classroom use. Favorite apps include:
Word Wizard: an app that features a moveable alphabet with an audio component. Kids use this app to hear letter and word pronunciation.
Story Buddy: an app that allows kids to write their own stories and include a photo on each page.
What are the time restrictions for iPad usage during the day? Do the students have a problem with the time limit?
The iPads can be used for no more than 20 consecutive minutes, but there can be several sessions a day. The total iPad time varies depending on the day’s lesson plans. At first, the students were a little obsessed with the iPads and wanted to use them all the time (even during recess). Now that the novelty has worn off, it isn’t so much of an issue.
Why is it important to provide an iPad for each student? Wouldn’t it be sufficient to have one per classroom?
Each student learns at a different rate, and therefore each student needs his/her own iPad. It is more efficient to have a customized iPad for each student because there is no need to change the level of difficulty with each new user.
For more information about Advantage 2014, please check out their FAQ page.
Does your child use an iPad at home or school (or both)? What do you think are the benefits and drawbacks to using this type of technology with kids?
Stay tuned tomorrow for the second part to this post!