AUBURN — The Auburn School Department's experiment of enhancing lessons by giving every kindergartner an iPad has reached a new phase.
As of this week, the last kindergarten class that didn't have iPad tablet computers now has them. That means all of the city's 295 kindergartners, plus teachers and a few more students, are supplied with iPads.
“It's going really well,” Auburn School Superintendent Katy Grondin said Thursday. Students using iPads “seem to have a level of engagement that's much higher."
Auburn has 16 kindergarten classes. Eight classes received iPads in September and the remaining classes got them over the past two weeks.
The idea of rolling out iPads in two phases is to compare and analyze how the two groups learned and to determine whether the iPads made a difference.
Test data have been forwarded to a Boston College researcher working with Auburn schools. “We're waiting for his response,” Grondin said. The test comparison report is expected to be given to the Auburn School Committee in January, she said.
A quick glance at the preliminary test data is promising, Grondin said Thursday. “We're pleased with the results.”
Giving iPads to kindergartners has fetched Auburn national attention because the district is one of a few in the country to take such action. The goal is to boost the students' grade three test scores from 60 to 63 percent meeting standards to 90 percent by 2014-15.
Carol Miller, technology coach for grades K-6, said she's happy with how students are using the iPads.
“I find that many of the kids I work with have skills beyond what kindergarten students normally have this time of year,” Miller said. She's seen kindergartners “sounding words out so they can write them.”
She has watched 5-year-olds who have been given free time in class use iPads to “write all the words that they know. It's amazing,” Miller said. “They could be playing a game; instead, they're doing work, but they're not looking at it as work.”
Grondin said less time is wasted in classes.
Without an iPad, a student could be working independently on letters or numbers incorrectly and not know it. The student could work for 20 minutes before a teacher corrected the mistake.
“With an iPad, you get immediate feedback,” Grondin said. If a student is counting and has the wrong answer, “the iPad would immediately show them.”
Despite some opposition from taxpayers, the Auburn School Committee spent $228,000 from the School Department budget to buy 409 iPads, cases, headphones and technology support.
The hope is that test data will help the department gain grant money to buy iPads for future kindergarten classes.