Auburn residents blast iPads-for-kindergartners program

Posted April 28, 2011, at 6:39 p.m.
Last modified May 03, 2011, at 8:51 a.m.

AUBURN, Maine — Upset citizens filled the Auburn Hall council chambers Wednesday night to let the school committee know how unhappy they were about a decision to give iPad 2s to kindergarten students this fall.

For nearly two hours, person after person condemned the decision. Several said they are for technology in schools, but this was too much for students too young.

The majority of those who spoke demanded the committee change its direction and drop or alter the iPad 2 program for kindergartners.

The committee took no action.

It was announced that the pilot program would proceed in five classes May 12. From May 20 to 24 there will be pilot parent nights, and on June 15 the committee would hear how the four weeks went with kindergarten students using iPad 2s. If students don’t show promise, the program won’t continue, educators said.

That didn’t appease the audience.

James Williams told the committee they’ve gone too far and he didn’t care about “charts and graphs” showing how iPads would boost student learning. Charts and graphs can be manipulated to show anything, Williams said.

Kids today want to play computer games, he said. “They don’t want to work anymore.”

At stores kids can’t make change for $1 unless the machine tells them how much, Williams said. Kids who have access to computers too early “are afraid to make eye contact. … What you’re going to do is raise a bunch of computer geniuses, but illiterate idiots.”

Tracey Levesque, co-founder of the Facebook page Auburn Citizens for Responsible Education, said the group asked people to say whether the iPads for kindergartners was a good idea. “As of 3 p.m. today, 329 had voted yes, 6,722 voted no, and 133 were undecided.”

She blasted committee members for not consulting with occupational therapists and said the decision was rushed through without parents knowing about it.

“You’ve got to go back to the drawing board” and implement a plan with everyone on board, she said.

Jennifer Rombalski said she teaches kindergarten in a different school system. If this was a great budget year, “I’d be all for it,” she said. Touching a screen is not the same skill as learning to write and hold a pencil, she said. “We need teachers more than we need technology.”

Ian Reigh said he enjoys using an iPad, but giving them to kindergarten students “worries me. Our children would do better with more teachers.”

Shawn Fitzpatrick said his son would be one of the kindergarten students getting an iPad this fall. It’s not a substitute for teachers, but if used in moderation “it will help them in the long run,” he said.

Jason Levesque said the iPads are not a “silver bullet” to solving problems in education.

Elizabeth Shardlow said too much technology means “we’re raising a generation with the inability to communicate with each other. That’s a pretty sad state.”

Clara Bolduc, the mother of three young children, called the iPads “a terrible idea. I appreciate you guys are working on the literacy problem, but I don’t think this is the solution.”

Technology fosters a love of technology, Bolduc said. It will worsen problems of short attention spans and poor social skills, he said.

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