They say you should either go big or go home.
So we’re excited to see that the Auburn School Department has chosen to go big, not only with its iPad program for kindergarten students, but in becoming a training center for other educators interested in using the new technology.
More than 100 educators, some from as far away as Chile, will be here for three days beginning today to learn how local kindergarten students are using iPads to more effectively learn reading and math.
The event, called Leveraging Learning: The iPad in Primary Grades Institute, is exactly the type of ambitious high-tech thinking that can not only change L-A’s image but possibly create the high-tech spinoffs our area desperately needs.
Auburn teachers and administrators took a big risk last year when they sought $240,000 in the midst of a municipal budget shortfall to fund iPads for kindergarten students.
The proposal drew an angry response from some city councilors and many taxpayers.
It was a nervy move, but the district superintendent at the time, Tom Morrill, persevered and found a way to make a $240,000 down payment on the program.
Big risks are usually associated with big rewards, and we see that potential in this international conference.
Former Gov. Angus King launched Maine education to the front of the high-tech frontier 10 years ago when he pushed legislation to give all Maine public school seventh-graders laptop computers.
Many legislators originally opposed his plan, but today most experts consider the program a success.
We see an even greater potential for the use of iPads in elementary school programs.
The colorful, easy-to-use devices already have a host of “apps” for teaching basic reading and numbers skills. The best part is that students love using the tablets to supplement classroom instruction and socialization.
King, Morrill and Maine Commissioner of Education Stephen Bowen will address the conferees.
We’re sure Auburn schools are thinking about ways to build upon this experience.
But with four institutions of higher education in the community, and the University of Maine at Farmington’s well-respected education department nearby, are there other ways for our region to help grow this success?
Could we become a center of excellence for iPad education or for the use of technology in education?
The Auburn School Department has created a laboratory, and from laboratories spring the creative ideas for new products, training and instructional materials, advanced seminars, assessment tools and even educational apps.
Could we grow this ambitious iPad breakthrough into something that benefits the entire community?
On Sunday, by coincidence, we wrote about how some of today’s high-tech jobs are going unfilled because we don’t have the skilled workers to fill them.
Today, those skills nearly always have a digital component. Everyone from medical technicians to machinists must have a grounding in math, science and computing.
And that only comes through education.
The goal of Auburn’s Advantage 2014 program is to “increase students’ mastery rates in literacy and numeracy, as measured in grade 3, from 63 percent and 60 percent respectively in the spring of 2011 to 90 percent in 2014-15.”
That’s an ambitious goal that would certainly draw national and international attention.
Our entire community should now be thinking about ways to capitalize on that success.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.