Angus King, the former Maine governor who launched the state’s laptop program, said the idea of iPads in kindergarten wows him. Anything that holds the attention of pupils will help in the learning process, he said.
“If your students are engaged, you can teach them anything,” King said. “If they’re bored and looking out the window, you can be Socrates and you’re not going to teach them anything. These devices are engaging.”
Morrill is convinced that in the end, using iPads to teach kindergarten will lead to improved student proficiency scores.
Heimerl, one of five kindergarten teachers in the district who got iPads on April 12, was impressed as she checked out apps for phonics, building words, letter recognition, and letter formation.
“The more education teachers have using these tools, the better we can enhance children’s learning and take them to that next level,” said Heimerl, a teacher at Park Avenue Elementary School.
Not everyone is sold. Larry Cuban, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University and the author of “Oversold and Underused: Computers in Schools,” said there’s no proof that computers bring learning benefits to pupils that young.
“There’s no evidence in research literature that giving iPads to 5-year-olds will improve their reading scores,” he said.
Peter Pizzolongo of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, based in Washington, D.C., said iPads can be an effective supplement to three-dimensional objects, whether they be books or building blocks.
“We can’t say whether what the school district in Maine or anywhere else is doing is good or not good, but what we can say is when the iPad or any other technological tool is used appropriately, then it’s a good thing for children’s learning,” he said.
The best use of iPads is probably in elementary and special-education classes because the devices are so easy to use, said Nick Sauers of Iowa State University’s Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education. There are hundreds of education apps to choose from with a touch to the screen.