Recently the school board in Auburn, Maine announced that it would be spending $200,000 to provide iPads for all their Kindergarten students. The District Superintendent, Tom Morrill
seem to inflame an already controversial decision by suggesting that iPads in Kindergarten will provide “improved student proficiency scores” by sustaining student engagement with the curriculum. (Huffington Post). The parents of this community have started a group called Auburn Citizens for Responsible Education and it is interesting to read their opinions and suggestions for iPad use in the classroom which includes a “gradual thorough research based introduction of iPads with a select group of students to monitor effectiveness of the tool before proceeding with wide scale implementation.”
Despite this clumsy decision making process I am cautiously celebrating this school board decision. It’s too early to determine what effect the iPad will have on student proficiency scores but there is evidence to suggest that computer tools provide students with extended, repeated, increasingly complex tasks that allow them to develop memory capacity and problem solving skills (Ray and Smith 2010). Environments that provide explicit, systematic and contextualized learning experiences can be enriched by computer assisted instruction because there is potential to foster increase of phonological awareness, vocabulary acquisition, and alphabetic knowledge in young learners (Macraruso and Walker, 2008) .
The key word here is “potential” because there are too many other variables that determine the successful use of technology in a classroom environment not the least of which is is the confidence of the teacher to use technical devices in creative and sometimes complex ways.
More often than not equipment such as iPads, Smartboards, laptops, iclickers are placed in classrooms and teachers are “strongly encouraged” to use these devices with little training and minimal time to learn, troubleshoot, and share their understandings and doubts about such tools. As a result, their unacknowledged investment of time and growing resentment forges a path of least resistance which can sometimes lead to mundane uses of the sophisticated tools that simply maintain a sense of order in a classroom and do not require a teacher’s undivided attention to troubleshoot unexpected technical issues. Do iPads belong in kindergarten classrooms? Given how diverse learning environments can be there is no conclusive answer- yet.
But despite the school board’s alienating decision making process I hope this initiative is successful and that the teachers and students in Auburn discover imaginative, stimulating, connections and approaches to learning with the iPad.