In the shadow of Apple Computer’s 1 Infinite Loop headquarters, an initiative requiring public middle schoolers to use iPads in class and at home has spawned a growing battle over education in the digital age.

District officials and many teachers tout the iPads as innovative learning tools. Students, it seems, are thrilled to have them. But many parents in the affluent district—including some software engineers, Apple employees and a brain researcher—question the benefit of the devices, and hundreds have signed a petition to limit their use.

They say the iPads have introduced new worries, from privacy to video-game distractions, sowing family discord over screen time. And they resent being asked to pay hundreds of dollars for school equipment that state law says is the district’s responsibility.

“iPads are entertainment devices,” said Noemi Berry, a network engineer and mother of a Lawson Middle School seventh-grader and two other children. “They’re not designed for education, and they’re very hard to restrict. I have a 12-year-old boy who has a horrible screen addiction problem.”

But so far, the iPad proponents are winning, and soon hundreds more Cupertino middle-schoolers will be expected to use iPads linking them to their lessons, resources and the internet.

Cupertino Union School District spokesman Jeff Bowman insists placing iPads in every middle-schooler’s hands has improved students’ quality of work, language ability, behavior and organizational skills, though the district has no quantifiable evidence of better learning. He said principals talk to parents about how to rein in excessive video-

Apple Computer had no comment on Cupertino’s program, and Bowman said the company didn’t influence the district’s decision to use its product.

(Next page: Who is expected to supply the devices, if choice is not an option?)

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