Smiles, tears and iPads on first day of school


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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.