Much fuss has been made on Twitter recently about schools, such as one in Auburn, Maine, giving iPads to all students in kindergarten with former Assistant Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch (@dianeravitch) exclaiming on Twitter that she hoped the kindergarteners would break the iPads and that the students should be out playing instead of using technology.
Truth be told, if I were in charge of a school’s technology budget and could buy iPads for only one grade level, kindergarten would not be it. I think you get more bang for your buck by placing the iPads in a slightly higher grade, for example. However, the idea that putting iPads in kindergarten is evil and that introducing them into the curriculum means students will stop playing, pretending, and learning to socialize is ridiculous. I believe in play, pretend, and learning to socialize and all of those things can integrate technology. Witness Wesley Fryer’s classroom using iPad 2s for finger puppet videography. Dan Callahan describes a two week iPad trial as the “single best two weeks of [his] teaching career.”
When I taught kindergarten there was plenty of play-acting, block-building, dress-up, and running around at the same time that we learned the letters of the alphabet, how to create patterns, and developed a love of reading with books, songs, and poems.
In the middle of all that, students went to the computer for twenty-minutes a day to use the Waterford Reading Program. My kindergarten students were engaged in way that no other grade level I’ve taught has been. The computers were a part of the fun and added to my instruction by reinforcing and reteaching the same letters I was teaching to the class myself. It was great fun to see students in the back of the room with headphones on singing songs and forming letters with their fingers on the screen.
Not wanting to put computers in kindergarten classrooms is like not wanting to put books, blocks, or paint in classrooms. Students should be playing, reading, writing, and counting but not doing any of those things for the entire day. Technology too can be used in moderation. It’s hard to argue with anyone who thinks the choices are either playing out on the yard or using a computer. There’s a time and a place for both.
One of the big concerns I hear about using computers in all classrooms is that students will miss out on valuable socialization. In one-to-one laptop environments I’ve visited I’ve consistently seen students sitting with each other, talking, sharing, and assisting each other more than I usually see when visiting typical classrooms that feature a sage on the stage by the name of Mr. or Ms. The socialization that occurs around technology makes up for any opportunities missed.
I’m working on my own list of great educational apps and educational app review sites but you can’t go wrong by starting with iEducation Apps Review Site (IEAR) because the reviews there are written by really great teachers and used in actual practice.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is kindergarten too young? And how would you use the iPads in your primary classroom?