AUBURN — Auburn parents Tracey Levesque and Stella Gammaitoni are not happy that kindergarten students will get iPad 2s this fall.

They and other parents are organizing iPad opposition with a Facebook page, Auburn Citizens for Responsible Education, they said Friday.

Among their concerns are that iPads will stifle development of students’ school skills, iPads will mean too much screen time, and the lack of research on the long-term impact. They said they’ve talked to occupational therapists who don’t favor giving iPads to kindergarten students.

Responding to their concerns Friday, Auburn School Superintendent Tom Morrill said there’s not a lot of research since the technology is new. He insisted the technology will boost learning and reiterated kindergartners won’t be using iPads all day, maybe 20 minutes to a half-hour to start.

Those who favor, or oppose, iPads for kindergartners will get their say at Wednesday night’s School Committee meeting. It starts at 7 p.m. at Auburn Hall.

Gammaitoni is the mother of five children, ages 5 to 14. Levesque is the mother of three, ages 2, 5 and 12.

Levesque’s 5-year-old son will be in kindergarten this fall. “I don’t want an iPad given to him in school,” she said.

She agrees iPads will help children with autism. “But it’s not a good fit for everyone,” she said.

Levesque said her son is a typical 5-year-old with a minor speech delay. “He has a hard time sitting in a chair.” She and his preschool class have worked with him, teaching him to hold a book, write on paper and hold a pencil.

“Just doing this,” she said, demonstrating correctly holding a pencil, “creates an abundance of muscle strength in a child’s hand. You’re not doing that if you’re holding an iPad and touching a screen. This is where I’m coming from, the developmental standpoint.”

She’s concerned that students won’t learn to maintain eye contact with others because they’ll be dazzled by their iPad2. “If my teacher is talking to me and I have an iPad, I’m going to completely tune her out, tune out my surroundings, because I just got this thing.”

Levesque and Gammaitoni said they’d favor introducing the iPad2 to kindergartners, sharing one device during circle time. But they object to each child having one.

Gammaitoni complained the School Committee’s decision was rushed and the public had little notice. While Morrill is working on getting grants, Gammaitoni said she’s concerned the $200,000 a year cost will end up in the budget.

Morrill agreed Friday that research was not a part of the decision to give out iPad 2s this fall. Because it is new technology, the research isn’t there.

But, other research on technology in schools “underscore with any tool, if it’s implemented well it will provide great benefits in literacy and math,” Morrill said.

Auburn’s decision was based on multiple factors, including one teacher’s successful use of the iPad2 in which a student struggling to learn his letters zoomed ahead when he started using an iPad2.

Success with technology in classrooms depends on teachers getting the right training, Morrill said. That professional development will be given to teachers, and teachers will collaborate with each other on techniques that work best. Five kindergarten teachers will pilot the iPad in May. “They’re excited about the potential,” Morrill said.

This fall, kindergarten students will still work in groups and “exercise development of social skills, which is so important,” Morrill said. They’ll continue to learn how to hold a pencil.

“Although those fine motor skills are important, we’re beginning to see a shift in how students write.” As hand-held devices become more prevalent, “the actual opportunity to sit down and write longhand is becoming less and less.” Writing on laptops has boosted writing test scores, Morrill said.

Research also shows that when high-tech devices are sent home from school, screen time at home tends to be more educational, he said.

In the next few years “there’ll be a tremendous shift” with technology and learning, Morrill predicted. “It will be seamless between home and school.”

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