Auburn to roll out iPads in 2 waves this fall

AUBURN — For the past four weeks, kindergartners in Sue LaRue's class have used iPad 2 tablet computers.

Sun Journal File Photo, Amber Waterman

Lucius Rice, 6, uses an iPad during a press conference at which he distributed new iPads to five kindergarten teachers in April.

AUBURN — As Auburn School Committee members were given an update Wednesday about the iPads for kindergartners rollout this fall, three parents expressed doubt and concern.

Greg Cuetara asked why Auburn needed one iPad for every kindergarten student. “Why do we need 409? Why can't we back off to save money?”

Technology Director Peter Robinson said there would be times when the whole class would be using iPads. To get the most out of learning, a one-on-one ratio is important, he said.

Cuetara also asked why there isn't a curriculum plan outlining how teachers are to use the iPads. “It sounds as though it's, 'Here you go. Make it work.' That concerns me.”

Curriculum Director Shelly Mogul said the iPads are simply tools that will support established curriculums. “The integration of technology does nothing to alter curriculum,” she said.

Jeanett Reight said her biggest worry was security, “making sure all children are secure and safe” using iPads. In the cyber world, “there are predators; there are bullies. People hack into systems. Who's to say our children's personal information isn't going to be compromised?”

Robinson said the iPads would be safe. There won't be any personal information about students on the iPads, just first names and maybe unidentified student pictures. Youngsters won't be able to get to the Internet on the iPads, he said.

“Teachers have asked me to have the Internet browser completely hidden, so it's not accessible to students,” he said.

If and when students take iPads home, there will be control of which sites they can visit, Robinson said.

“They may not have an Internet browser,” he said.

The 13 students used the iPads for literacy, math and story time.

“It engages them so much; it keeps their attention," the Washburn Elementary School teacher said Thursday. "When I'm doing flash cards or reading books, they drift off.”

The iPads helped her tailor lessons to meet individual needs, she said. “Some children need a lot of repetition," and the iPads give them that, she said.

After hearing similar feedback from other teachers who used iPads in May and June, the Auburn School Department will continue with its plan to put iPad 2s into the hands of all kindergarten students in the fall.

The $228,000 to buy 409 iPad 2s, cases, headphones and technology support will be paid from the School Department budget.

The rollout will be in two waves, to compare how students do with and without the devices.

Half of the city's 285 kindergarten students will get iPads at the start of school; the other half will get them in early November, said Peter Robinson, the School Department's technology director, during a report to the Auburn School Committee on Wednesday night.

Five classes using iPads for four weeks this year gave good feedback but not the hard data needed to secure grants to pay for the iPads, Robinson said.

“The full picture will take some years to come,” Robinson said. "We are absolutely correct in continuing on as planned. We'll do the best we can to research it and make sure it really is right.”

Comparing learning between two groups of kindergartners — one with iPads and one without — will provide data on how iPads affect learning, Robinson said.

He said he was working with a researcher at Boston College who has a world-class reputation in education technology research. "It was his very strong recommendation we really need to have group comparisons.”

Test scores and progress reports will be compared. Those data will provide research "to unlock some funding, significant federal dollars, that could lead to funding this program,” Robinson said.

The cost this year will be paid from the 2010-11 budget in several areas, federal stimulus money, $96,000; unexpended balances, $92,611; day care and grants, $7,300; and unspent money in the technology balance account, $22,841.

Asked what happened to the plan to pay for iPads through grant money, School Committee Chairman David Das said the federal stimulus money is a grant that expires June 30.

“We used it for the iPads instead of math books or special ed,” Das said. “The iPads are not part of the 2011-12 budget."

Committee member Bonnie Hayes asked why the district was buying 409 iPads, when there are only 285 incoming kindergarten students.

Robinson said staff who work with kindergartners would also get iPads, as would students in multiage classes with kindergartners and first-graders.

 “You don't want to give iPads to just kindergartners and have first-graders looking at them with green-eyed jealousy,” he said.

He said students in the pilot group last month adapted to the tablets immediately. In one class, students interviewed each other using video cameras built into the iPads.

The devices are rugged, Robinson said. They've been dropped but did not break. Five-year-olds “are more careful than adults give them credit for.”

And Auburn is attracting national attention, he said.

“Apple is working with us to bring a national conference on using iPads in early childhood education to Auburn this fall,” Robinson said.

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

We are seen around the World

as leaders in getting technology to our students. Did you know that Mr. Lessard?
Yes, I am grateful to those courageous visionaries who keep at it, wanting to give the very best to our children.
I believe that even with what we offer, WE STILL ARE NOT GIVING OUR CHILDREN THE HIGHEST OPPORTUNITIES FOR SUCCESS. Some of that is due to the constant limited and low resources the School Departments in both cities work miracles with to date.
However, the other holdback is the fear and ignorance of people who just do not understand the longterm ECONOMIC implications of not having the most techno educated and informed students ( who are our FUTURE WORKFORCE)
Such short term, I only want to look down at my toes, thinking. We must prepare our children for JOBS THAT DO NOT CURRENTLY EXIST.
I was a substitute teacher in the Auburn and Lewiston School systems for 6 years. I can't do it as a profession. They are demonized, NOT appreciated, always accused of some selfish ulterior motive that really does not exist - they spend so much of their own money in the classrooms on a regular basis, what other profession who people just spend their own money on regularly -? CRAZY.
They are NOT paid what they are worth. Absolutely NOT.
This fear of technology, the restrictions, and those who hold it back, with be responsible for the stagnant future economy and vitality of our communities. But perhaps they really DON"T CARE...they want THEIR current needs met, who cares about the future, huh??? SAD..
Like any profession, ANY GROUP of people, there are those are not the best teachers, or perhaps who should not be there, I saw definite burn-out, that probably would not be there, with more respect for the profession. However, the vast MAJORITY are dedicated, caring and compassionate professionals who go above and beyond all the time for OUR CHILDREN.
People sacrificed for your education, Mr. Lessard and all the other naysayers...we must give our children EVERY advantage...it is CRUCIAL. it is not optional...it is required!! If you are not part of the solution, PLEASE GET OUT OF THE WAY of those who are doing/ living the solution. We have no time for your negativity and restrictions, Nor do our CHILDREN.

ALBERT CAMPOBASSL's picture

Robinson said. “They may not

Robinson said.

“They may not have an Internet browser,” he said.

"may not" also means they may have a Internet browser.
The school dept has to much of our hard earned tax money,
if they have enought to spend on ipads for six year olds.
Oh sorry about that,it's for the kids,how selfish of me.
NOT !!!!

 's picture

How was it proven?

Just wondering where it was proven laptops are a smashing success? Is there some study that was conducted regarding this methodology?

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