Smiles, tears and iPads on first day of school

A few short months ago, we wondered whether the wee ones should be learning their ABCs with iPads.

The answer appears to be yes: Fall 2011 brings a bumper crop of U.S. preschools launching iPad programs. From Maine to Tennessee, kids are saying teary goodbyes to their parents and being greeted in schoolrooms with sympathetic teachers (we hope) and Apple’s magical device. At Washburn Elementary in Maine, a pilot project is giving half the 5-year-olds iPads. The other half of the students will get them in November to see who learns faster. (It’s easy to imagine a few scuffles on the communal playgrounds between the iHaves and iHave-nots.) School officials hope results of the test will act as a magnet for grant money to pay for future iPads. The $240,000 for iPads this year came from last year’s school budget.

Probably the best argument for the scheme: the above video where a precious tot shows teachers how to use the iPad. The six-year-old plays a game with five teachers watching over his shoulder and explains: “It’s an iPad, it makes you learn. Kindergarten students that did not get an iPad, that’s quite a shame. But they’re going to get one soon.” (The kid’s so cute that a Dorothy Parker compendium died of spontaneous combustion, somewhere. Viewer caution advised.)

At Haynesfield Elementary in Tennessee, it’s being used for the first time specifically for reading skills. “It’s amazing, they honestly know exactly what to do when you put these iPads in front of them. It’s an instinct to them and it probably is from being around them at such an early age that these children can pick them up and go ahead and find their way through them to find the apps they want to go to,” teacher Kate White said.

At Westbrook Elementary School in Nebraska, three kindergarten classrooms started out with the iPad in the 2010/2011 school year. Following the successful experiment, Westside Community Schools will use the devices in all 10 district kindergartens this year. Each class room will be equipped with six iPads; one for the teacher and five for the students to share.

“When the kids go into their center to play, they can get on an iPad and play a game that reinforces what they just learned in large group (instruction),” said Glen Jagels, the teacher who pioneered the iPad project. “Would you rather do it with a magnet letter on a cookie sheet, or would you rather do it on an iPad where you can hear it and manipulate it?”

A quick search of Google news turned up a bunch of other U.S. schools launching iPad pilot projects for young children, including South Carolina, Michigan, North Carolina, Illinois, Texas, Massachusetts and, naturally, Apple’s home state of California.

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  • Christopher Seistrup

    I love the newb teachers trying to figure out the iPad.

  • WardC

    Next Christmas he will want a 12-core Mac Pro and a Thunderbolt display…gotta start ‘em young!

  • 300AShareMakesMeSmile

    No iHater comments yet on how schools are throwing away money buying iPads for students when they could be buying $200 ‘open source’ Android tablets that run Flash and have twice as many to go around.  I expect to hear that a lot for the rest of this year.  The only problem with the Android tablets is one which the Droidtards fail to understand.  Consumers, businesses and schools don’t want those cheap Android tablets, they honestly prefer iPads.

  • CharliK

    I have a friend with 4 kids in private school. All four, including the first grader, had to get iPads as part of their school supplies this year. Bought by the parents but apparently Apple cut the school a deal and gave them some kind of volume discount since all 1000 students were required to get one. My friend said she had to show the store her tuition receipt and I think it was like 5% off. Which doesn’t seem like a lot but she was happy for any thing she could get especially since she missed the memo about the discount and it was the sales person that told her about it. 

    Apparently the school did some kind of pilot last year with some of the upper classes that was considered a huge success and thus they pushed it through all the grades. They are using digital books and app in place of a bunch of their workbooks and some supplemental reading. 

  • WardC

    It is because the iOS is so intuitive and easy-to-use, there is like 1000x more content for the iPad, and the interface use with multitouch is much better implemented on the iPad and does not feel like some beta-phase copy-off that acts up half the time.

  • Menasian2002

    Lmfao Ward

About the author

Nicole MartinelliNicole Martinelli heads up Cult of Mac Magazine, our weekly publication available on iTunes. You can find her on Twitter and Google+. If you're doing something new, cool and Apple-related, email her.

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