The school committee in the city of Auburn voted unanimously for a plan that would distribute iPad 2s to every kindergartener in this mid-sized Maine city. The program would give new iPad 2s for 285 five-year old students and an extra number for teachers involved in the program. The total cost to outfit the entire Kindergarten program would total $200,000. Money for this program is not yet available but outgoing Superintendent Tom Morrill pledges to glean the necessary money from the school budget and from grants.
The focus of this iPad initiative is literacy with Auburn hoping to boost its literacy rate from 62 percent to 90 percent by 2013. The iPad is the tool to help make this happen says Mauri Dufour, a K-6 interventionist. She tells the story of a five-year old who was struggling with his letters. After eight weeks with the iPad, the child knew all his letters and was back up to grade-level.
Supportive of the this decision is former Maine Governor Angus King who spearheaded a program that provided laptops for each seventh-grade student in Maine’s school system. King predicts iPads will eventually replace laptops for the middle-school students and say this about the kindergarten program, “It really is going to the next level. It gives us a chance to get a jump on the rest of the world. That’s what we’ve got to have.”
While many people are supportive of this idea, a growing group of parents and teachers question the rationality of giving a $500 device to a five-year old. Auburn city councilor echoed this sentiment when she said in a budget meeting, “Kids can’t keep track of their mittens or their school books. And you want them to have iPads? I’m at a loss. I’m at a total loss.” This comment kicked off a heated debate in the budget meeting that focused on money and the feasibility of handing iPads over to young children who have yet to learn how to read or write.